By Katrina Kallos
It is nearly impossible to describe in words just how much I love the Peloponnese. Nafplio is indeed one of its gems and among one of the most romantic towns in Greece. Geographically located on the eastern side of Peloponnese and only 2 hours drive from Athens, this is a popular weekend destination. The Old Town is a marvel to walk around with elegant neoclassical mansions and large squares, while on the hill above the Old Town is a fortress castle dating from the Venetian ages. There are some incredible beaches located nearby (even the town beach is excellent) and the Old Town is host to plenty of fabulous restaurants, tavernas, cafés, art galleries and museums. The twice weekly local farmers market is also a real delight and not to be missed.
Getting there →
There are no airports near Nafplio, but it is an easy 2 hour bus ride from Athens. There are regular buses from Athens to Nafplio every day. Buses from Athens depart from Kifissos KTEL Bus Station very frequently, about 4-5 times per day. The bus trip takes about 2 hours. There are also buses to Nafplio from other towns of Peloponnese and specifically from towns in the peninsula of Argolida, such as Ermioni, Kranidi and Epidaurus.
How to get to Kifissos KTEL Bus Station →
If you are arriving at Athens Airport, the bus route X93 will take you from there (the airport) to Kifisou avenue (KTEL Kifisou).
If you are arriving at Piraeus Port, then you will need to go to Omonia Square and take the number 51 bus (see below).
If you are leaving from the centre of Athens, you can get to the Kifissos KTEL Bus Station via bus or metro.
Bus: the OASA No 51 bus, which departs from Menandrou Street. To find Menandrou Street, head to Omonia square and then walk for 5-10 minutes along Agiou Konstantinou, this will bring you to Menandrou Street, which is the third road you meet.
Metro: Despite the fact that Athens has a great Metro system, there is no stop at the Kifissos KTEL Bus Station. The closest stop is “Eleonas” and then a 15-20 minute walk or around a 5-10 euro taxi ride.
Checking in →
The best place to stay in Napflio is in the heart of its historic, neoclassical centre. Nafplio’s history is discovered around every corner and the streets are filled with restaurants, tavernas and cafés, art galleries and museums. Staying in the centre will allow you to easily walk to sights including Syntagma Square, the Palamidi castle, the old city walls, and much more. If you do stay in the old part of town, it is worth bearing in mind that the room sizes are small. However, what these rooms lack in size, they do make up for in character and styling:
A lovingly restored and modernised family home, and offers luxurious bed and breakfast accommodation in a traditionally welcoming atmosphere. Rooms at Nafplion 1841 are furnished with beds from the prestigious Greek brand Coco-Mat. Other standard amenities include air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi. nafplion1841.gr
Omorfi Poli Pension
A charming renovated neoclassical building of 19th century, the 7 elegantly decorated rooms have their own names, which reflect the characteristics of the styling. Other amenities include private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi in all rooms, air conditioning and balconies. omorfipoli-pension.com
A quirky, characterful and inexpensive choice, the rooms in this small hotel are all wood ceilings, stone and in some cases – tree trunks. This hotel has a lovely family environment including private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi in all rooms and air conditioning. There is also a lovely roof terrace (which requires a bit of work on some stairs) but rewards with lovely views for breakfast, or an early evening drink. Pension Anapli is also very competitively priced. pensionanapli.gr
At the more lux end of the scale are:
Nafplia Palace Hotel and Villas
Complete with infinity pool, the Nafplia Palace Hotel and Villas is located with views over the Bay of Argolis, the old town of Nafplio and nestling under the ancient walls of the Palamidi. This hotel has been described as having a little ‘faded glamour’ but still provides a very luxurious stay. nafpliapalace.gr
Elegantly redesigned contemporary boutique hotel, guests can use the infinity pool at the Nafplia Palace Hotel. amphitryon.gr
Hotel Grande Bretagne
Not to be confused with the famous Athenian hotel, the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Nafplio is right on the square in the port and is all old world luxury. grandebretagne.com.gr
Getting around →
If you stay in the old town, then it is very easy to get around to the major sights such as Syntagma Square, the Palamidi castle etc on foot and within minutes. Additionally, you can rent bicycles in Nafplio (there is a program similar to the Velib program in Paris) to explore the old town. To head off to the beaches beyond the Old Town, a car is recommended. However, if you are only visiting the resort town and spectacular beach of Tolo, this is easily accessible by bus (around 20 minutes) . Similarly, local KTEL buses will also take you the ancient sites of Mycenae and Epidavros (around 45 minutes each). You can hop on a bus opposite the court house.
What to eat →
The land surrounding Nafplio is incredibly fertile. In spring, you will be intoxicated by the smell of thousands of orange trees in full bloom. Oranges are known as ‘Argolid’s gold’ and you can find them fresh in juices and salads, as well as in jams, spoon sweets and more. This region also yields lemons, apricots, grapes, olives, eggplants, walnuts and potatoes. It is also known for a sweet melon, called ‘Argitika.’ Further from Nafplio in Traheia you can try the kefalotyri cheese and in Iria, you can join an artichoke festival in May.
Beyond the produce itself, you can try the king of local specialites – milk lamb slow cooked for hours with potatoes in an earthen pot, called “bogana” (ΜΠΟΓΑΝΑ). There is also the tradition of baking “gouronopoula” (a small pig) for hours, which simply melts in the mouth. The region of Argolida is also home to a traditional handmade pasta, called “Gkogkes.” They are made from flour, water and salt and served with local manouromyzithra and hot oil.
Where to eat →
If you are self-catering, or keen for the odd beach picnic, then you have to visit the Nafplio farmers market or ‘laiki’. The farmers’ market in Nafplio is twice a week, every Wednesday and Saturday. It stretches from Kyprou Street (near the junction of Argos Street) and continues on 25 Martiou (25th March) Avenue. This is really one of the best farmers markets in Greece, filled with plenty of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, wine and grape products, such as homemade petimezi.
The best mezedopolio (Greek tapas) in Nafplio is called ‘O Noulis’. Here you can join all of the locals at this family-run restaurant. Owner and chef Andrianos Andrianopoulos will often point out what is fresh and available on the day’s menu. We feasted on freshly marinated anchovies that came with a punchy hit of garlic and paprika, a divine skordalia and some super crispy zucchini fritters, accompanied by a chilled carafe of local rose wine. A sweet hit from Mrs Andrianopolous’ homemade fruit spoon sweets and an aromatic Greek coffee saw us off to explore the late afternoon.
In the words of Shirley Valentine, if you would like to drink a glass of wine in a country where the grape is grown. Sitting by the sea, looking at the setting sun, then the best place to head is at the newcomer bar, situated around the old navy pool, attached to the restaurant ‘Agnanti’.
If you head to Tolo, there is a myriad of tavernas and restaurants to choose from. If you are looking for some very straightforward, Greek home-style cooking, then the beautiful family run “Taverna old house” on the beach is a great option. Also on the main road in Tolo is the brilliant “NERANTZATO” store, which is full of traditional local goods and products, such as handmade spoon sweets, jams, preserves, sour cherry syrup and ‘petimzi’ grape molasses.
Every Wednesday and Saturday
Kyprou Street (near the junction of Argos Street) to 25th March Avenue
Mezedopoleio O Noulis
22 Moutzouridou, 211 00 Nafplio
Near Miaouli Beach, 211 00 Nafplio
90 Sekeri, 210 56 Tolo
Taverna Old House
32 Aktis 210 56 Tolon
What to see →
Nafplio was the first capital of Greece, after Independence. Due to its strategic position, Nafplio has three fortresses: the massive principal fortress of Palamidi, the smaller Akronafplia and Bourtzi on an islet west of the old town. There is a beautiful walk around the headland along the seafront that brings you to the imposing Palamidi fortress, towering 216 metres above the town. If you don’t feel inclined to walk the 857 steps, you can take a taxi to the top for the impressive view of venetian and terracotta roof tops.
Close to the town is the lovely Arvanitia Beach, all white pebbles and aqua water. The beach offers spectacular views to Akronafplia Castle, Palamidi Castle and the Argolic Gulf. If you get there early enough in the day, you’ll be able to hang out with the towns elderly local residents, the best place to pick up a few recipe tips! Later in the morning Blublanc beach bar heats up and becomes one of the town’s undeniable hot spots. Blublanc offers free sunbeds and umbrellas to its customers – all you need to do is purchase your frappe and you are set for the day.
There is also Karathona beach, Nafplio’s ‘landmark’ beach beside Palamidi Hill. Getting to this beach requires a little bit of effort on foot, via the Arvanitia to Karathona trail. Alternatively you can also get there by bus or car.
Tolo beach is slightly built up, but it does offer beautiful clear, clean aqua waters. A perfect beach for families.
The best part of staying in Nafplio is simply to wander the Venetian streets and take in the restaurants, tavernas and cafés, art galleries and museums. The Komboli Museum (www.komboloi.gr) is definitely worth a look and the perfect spot to pick up a little gift to take home. The main platia called Syntagma (Constitution) Square, is paved in marble and is wonderfully grand, surrounded by historical buildings including a Turkish mosque. When in Nafplio, joining the locals for an evening ‘volta’ along the at the waterfront and the walkway is a must. You can enjoy the scent of summery, salty evening air and walk of your evening meal – or if you are still a tad peckish pick up some roast nuts or hot corn.
*This article first appeared- mulberrypomegranate.blogspot.com.au
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*All images taken by Katrina Kallos & Copyright.