The heart of Greece is in Nafplio, a beautiful community full of history in the Peloponnese. Just a two-hour drive away from Athens, this ancient city boasts an abundance of beauty, history, excellent food and cheerful welcoming residents! If you’ve never heard of Nafplio, you are in for a treat when you visit because this is one of the hidden gems of Greece!
Palamidi Fortress – Party like it’s 999: steps!
Throughout its long history, Nafplio was held by Classical Greeks, Hellenistic Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, the Franks, the Venetians and the Ottomans. However, when the Greeks won a hard-fought war of independence, they made their capital at Nafplio from 1821 – 1834 and this forever seared the memory of Nafplio into the hearts of all freedom-loving Greeks!
Although there’s no airport in Nafplio, flights from all over the world arrive at Athens International Airport in Marcopoulo which is the closest and most convenient for visitors. From Athens, you can easily reach Nafplio through the Isthmus of Corinth by bus, taxi or by driving a rental car. The distance between Athens and Nafplio is about 138 km (87 miles) and will take less than two hours on the new highway. Nafplio is best explored on foot because of its beautiful Venetian-era architecture and ancient ruins but you’ll want a car to visit the surrounding area which contains some of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the world!
Here’s a Pro-Tip: KTEL buses leave from Athens to Nafplio via Kifissos Bus Terminal (KTEL Station A). The bus station can be accessed via a metro stop on the red line (M2) of the Athens Metro, but a 15-minute walk is required from there. Once in Nafplio, however, several places rent cars, scooters, bicycles and other vehicles for exploring the area.
Here are my favourite sites while in Nafplio:
- The trio of Nafplio Fortresses: Part of what makes Nafplio a national treasure are the three fortresses that are located in strategic places around the Gulf of Argos:
- First is the Akronafplia, which is the oldest one of the three. Before the Venetians came in the 13th century, Akronafplia was the entire city. The high vantage point of the fortress gives one of the best views of the city that shouldn’t be missed!
Bourtzi is not the cutest of mascots!
- The next is the Palamidi Fortress that sits nearby and is named after the legendary hero of the Trojan war, Palamedes. Built in 1714, this defensive fortress boasts 999 steps up into its stronghold. You might feel like it’s a stair-master but they climb is worth every step for the incredible view from the top!
- The Bourtzi is a fortified islet with so much history within its stout walls. It is regarded as the mascot of the city
- Tolo Beach: One of the most popular resort locations in Greece, Tolo has an abundance of campsites, sun loungers, cafes and pubs on this well-organised sandy beach that gives you incredible views of the surrounding area and Gulf.
I’d be lyin’ if I said I wasn’t awed by the Lion Gate at Mycenae!
- Syntagma Square: Right in the centre of the town, this square is where everyone in Nafplio relaxes during warm evenings. Make sure you watch the sunset from this beautiful square while you’re visiting.
- Mycenae: Although this site is a bit farther away than others, many people stay in Nafplio when viewing this incredible ancient wonder. Mycenae is the legendary home of Agamemnon, king of Greece during the Trojan War.
About 30 minutes from Nafplio via tour bus in the nearby mountains, the site is impressive and offers spectacular views. The Treasury of Atreus is a must-see when visiting as is the famous Lion Gate. The newly opened museum on the site is an exciting addition and offers important artefacts while providing context on its history.
Mediterraneo Wine and Deli: Mediterraneo is the home of the best wine in Nafplio. Eat in or carry-out here. The sausages within the Deli are a fan favourite!
We all scream for ice cream!
Since Nafplio is a centre for tourism its nightlife is full of bars and clubs for all tastes. You’ll find most of them along the waterfronts. After midnight, some cafes turn into atmospheric clubs with music and stay open until the wee morning hours. My favourite party places include:
Blublanc Beach Club: Arvanitia Beach rules the nightlife in Nafplio, thanks to Blublanc. This is a cosy and blue-themed gem located between Palamidi and Akronaplia.
Nature contributes to the décor at Blublanc!
Sokaki: Located at a prime summer spot, Sokaki offers you a fun feel with both indoor and outdoor seating and some of the best cocktails while you party!
Aetoma Hotel: This 18th-century hotel carries a beautiful and comfortable aura that provides the perfect setting for an ideal vacation in Nafplio. It has an excellent relaxation lounge that gives you a jaw-dropping view of the city, day or night.
Nafplia Palace Hotel: Set high atop the Akronafplia fortress, this modern hotel gives a fascinating view of the sea and provides private villas and pools for guests. Its Amimoni and Circle restaurants are quite impressive and are available to enjoy gourmet dishes and fantastic wines.
Amalia Nafplio: Located right at the entrance of the town, this hotel is a unique property that offers peace and serenity outside the town’s bustle. It also provides a café next to its pool for drinks and snacks, a bar and a lounge with a fireplace for cool winter nights.
Nafplio is popular amongst Greeks but also tourists from around the world. If you haven’t visited this gem, I highly recommend it for fun, relaxation and a good dose of all of Greek history!