We left Elafonisos and drove north towards the East coast of Peloponnese heading for the little town of Tiro. Our journey took us through more spectacular scenery as we climbed high up mt. Parnonas about 1500 meter above sea level. The earth turned from subtropical to lush forest within an hour or so, and our road passed through the beautiful traditional village of Kosmas. The descent from the mountain was no less spectacular as we followed the narrow road that serpentined endlessly towards the sea and the town of Leonidio.
Our arrival at Tiro was somewhat of a disappointment since the town's resort character contrasted sharply with the raw land from which we had just descended . Tiro is a small retirement community it turns out, but in the summer it is also full of youthful population and its extended promenade is lined with bars, restaurants and shops. While the town is built right on the water, the beach did not seem particularly appealing to us since it was right next to the main road. So we headed for an afternoon swim at "Tigani" nearby. The water there again did not seem particularly clean but we did have a dip and rented a paddle boat to visit a large cavern that was full of pigeon's nests.
The next day we packed our car once again and drove up the coast towards Nauplion. The landscape in this part of the Peloponnese is distinctly different from the south or the West coast, as it is considerably more developed as a weekend escape ground for the Athenians who can afford a piece of land next to the sea and within driving distance of Athens. The well maintained road hugged the coast high above the sea and the drive was very enjoyable and speedy all the way to Nauplio.
Nauplio is a charming little town with a picturesque promenade, old stone houses, town squares and streets full of life. But the most prominent feature is the stone castle that crowns the rocky hill high above the city, as well as the little round fortress (the Bourtzi) that was built in the middle of the harbor. Our visit to Nauplio was a brief one as we were anxious to find our hotel after the long drive, so we headed for Tolo where we had reservations at the Frini Hotel.
Tolo is one of the busiest tourist towns we have seen in Greece, and it attracts mainly a youthful population from northern Europe. As such the streets of Tolo come to life after 10:00 pm, and the nearby beach is packed with people during the day. We stayed in Tolo for two days, within walking distance from the sea, and we did nothing but relax after the tedium of long hours on the road.
The southern coast of Argolis is host to a number of beautiful beaches and it is close enough for a daily trip to Spetses as well. Tolo may be a good place to set up camp while visiting the important ancient sites of Mycenae, Epidaurus, and Tyrins. I had visited Epidaurus the year befor already on a daily trip from Athens, so on this trip I had scheduled a trip to Mycenae which lies about 45 minutes by car from Tolo.
After two days of relaxing by the beach we took the newly built expressway to Athens for the end of our Peloponnesian tour.
Knowing full well that it is almost impossible to see everything of the vast space of Peloponnese we managed to see (albeit briefly) most of the land, and we plan to return for more detailed exploration of certain places. Firstly, we will return to Elia to visit ancient Olympia which we skipped due to our "emergency". Some friends mentioned Arkoudi beach as one of the best in Greece so we want to test its waters while in Achaia. Second, we would like to spend a few extra days in Pylos to visit the Mycenaean palace there, and to spend some more time in the city which seemed very quaint. A friend also mentioned that the beach of Voidokoilias in southern Messinia is one of the best in Greece, so naturally we would love to swim there as well.
Ever since we left Elafonisos, we have wanted to return for maybe a full two weeks. We found the island very relaxing and its beaches some of the best in Greece, so we will return with a suitcase full of books, and extra bathing suits. We do regret that we did not take the boat from Elafonisos to Kythira for a daily excursion, but we will do so next time.
We missed several other places on our tour that we would have loved to visit. The Byzantine town of Mystras is the first that comes to mind. If I had to plan the whole trip again, I would probably skip the drive up the East coast in favor of the more challenging climb North through Mt. Taygetos towards Tripoli, and then from there to Nauplio. I have driven through it years ago, and while the driving is challenging, the landscape is very rewarding.
Looking back, we had a full ten days on the road going through some of the most fantastic physical and historical landscapes of Greece. We walked through ancient ruins and castles, we slipped through a cave, and saw the ruins of modern history in Mani. We dipped in the coastal waters, breathed the pine aroma high in the mountains, and soaked up the sun rays on fine island sand. Ten days felt like an eternity as we sampled a large gamut of the magic Greece has to offer.