places of interest
The Peloponnese is surrounded by numerous uninhabited islets, ideal for day trips, sailing excursions and swimming in secluded coves. Ten minutes across the water from Porto Heli by water taxi is the cosmopolitan island of Spetses, known for its sea-faring traditions, its heroic contribution to Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire, its Venetian and neoclassical mansions with pebble mosaic courtyards, and its horse-drawn carriages. A bit farther away, but still within easy reach by water taxi is the island of Hydra. Populated by historic sea captain mansions which evoke an ambience of centuries past, Hydra is renowned for its vibrant dining scene and nightlife.
Spetses: The island of Spetses has a long and rich history. One of the most interesting parts is the period of the Greek War of Independence and the Greek Revolution of 1821. Spetses was the first of the Greek islands to raise the flag of the Revolution on the morning of 3rd April, 1821 at the monastery of St. Nicolas. Laskarina Bouboulina of Spetses, a very important and influential person in the revolution, used her wealth to build and lead a navy after her husband’s death. Today, Bouboulina’s house is one of the most impressive places to visit in Spetses, amongst other mansions and museums.
Spetses does not just offer an inspiring past, but also natural beauty. It is cosmopolitan yet traditional, a charming combination of quaint streets, pine forests and local charm, where reminders of the rich history of the island lie around every corner.
Though the island suffered greatly after the two World Wars and a large part of the population moved away, thanks to the growth of tourism, Spetses recovered quickly. Sotirios Anargyros, a Spetsiote who made his fortune in America, returned home to help rebuild the island and its inimitable spirit. He built a road and reservoir, a prestigious boarding school, the first luxury hotel in the area, and started a reforestation and conservation programme that replaced all of the greenery lost due to years of war and neglect. While tourism is one of the island’s main resources, the local traditions and customs of Spetses remain the same and the locals proudly maintain them despite changing times.
Visitors can explore the museums, churches, mansions and harbour, while enjoying the many shops and tavernas along the way.
Hydra: For much of the past, Hydra was on the margins of history. The population was very small in ancient times, and except for brief mentions by Herodotus and Pausanias, it made little mark on the history of those times. Between the years 1204 to 1566 it belonged to Venice, and from 1566 to 1821 it was part of the Ottoman Empire. Its naval and commercial development began in the 17th century, and its first school for mariners was established in 1645.
Despite its lack of historic importance, Hydra is a beautifully picturesque town. As you approach the port, the statue of Andreas Miaoulis, a local war hero, welcomes you as he stares out to sea. From the water, you can see the impressive clock tower of Hydra and stately old mansions climbing the hillside.
There is no motor transport allowed anywhere on the island. Donkeys and water taxis provide the only means of getting around.
Hydra is as welcoming in the morning as it is in the evening, whether you wish to browse the shops, dine in the atmospheric restaurants or explore the museums. Although you may choose your tour time according to your personal wishes, please keep in mind that the heat of midday can be quite intense during the summer months.
historical, archaeological and nature treks
Trekking in the beautiful scenery of the Peloponnese is an invigorating and memorable experience. Trek past Byzantine chapels, Mycenaean tombs and watermills on your way from Mycenae to the village of Prosymni (3 hours). Other options include a light trek to the sunken hollows of Vythismata or the Bisti Forest at Ermioni.
Alongside the amphitheatre and healing facilities at Epidaurus is an excellent museum which contains statues and other objects found at the site. The onsite museum at Mycenae is full of beautiful cultural handicrafts and many golden items that give clues to the everyday life of the Mycenaeans. Kranidi offers an excellent Folklore and Cultural Museum.