2018 Low Intermediate Peloponnese History and Culture, Greece

23rd -30th Sep 2018 (Sun - Sun)
7 Nights Bed and Breakfast - £850

Pylos is an unspoilt seaside town with a harbour and castle on the edge of the beautiful Navarino Bay. It has a picturesque central square lined with cafes and tavernas. Our hotel is in an exceptional location beneath the 13th century castle and right on the stunning bay. You can even swim from the hotel’s terrace. From our base at Pylos we will head to Sfaktiria, an uninhabited island with amazing rock formations and also explore the mythical Nestor’s Cave set above a lovely sandy cove. We will visit the substantial ruins at Ancient Messini – one of the country’s major historical attractions. We will also spend time at historic Methoni with its stunning castle ruins, bordered on three sides by the turquoise sea. A picture postcard location if ever there was one!

For the second half of the week we will stay in a charming guesthouse in the mountain village of Mystras near to Sparta. Here we visit the UNESCO world heritage site of the Byzantine town where we will find the substantial ruins of this 13th Century town with many beautiful churches. We will also walk in the foothills of the Taygetos mountains with time to savour its scenery, churches and villages.

Price includes: 7 nights bed and breakfast accommodation; entrance fees to 4 sites; transport to walks; airport transfer at certain times. Single rooms are available if you book early – £15 per night supplement.

Not included: flight to Kalamata, lunch and dinner.

Itinerary (subject to change)

Sunday: Arrive at Kalamata Airport in the heart of the Peloponnese, where we will meet for a taxi transfer to the charming town of Pylos (1 hour). We will meet in the early evening for a holiday briefing followed by a stroll around 13th Century Pylos castle directly above our hotel. Our walk around the town will end with dinner at a harbour side taverna.

Monday: Our first full day sees us exploring the spectacular Navarino Bay. We get a water taxi to the island of Sfaktira (20 mins) where we can discover the integral role the island and the bay played in the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Having picnicked on the island, we get a further boat across the lagoon to Paleokastro Castle and the beautiful Gialova Lagoon. Here Golden Beach stretches for a mile in a perfect arc. Bring your swimming gear for a dip after exploring the ruins of the castle. The beach is actually a narrow sand bar separating the seawaters of the bay from the waters of Gialova Lagoon, a Natura 2000 site of major importance. It is the only location in Europe where the African chameleon is found so maybe we’ll be lucky! We walk the length of the beach and, after a cool drink in the village, we get taxis back to the hotel (15 mins) before meeting again in the evening for dinner in a local taverna.

Tuesday: The theme of day three is Ancient Greece and we take a fascinating walk around Mt Ithome, the old walls of the city and then explore the extensive and impressive archaeological site of Ancient Messine, 300BC. The site is imposing, and has within it a theatre, market place, temples and a huge stadium. The site is still being excavated and new discoveries continue to be made. Although this site is equal in status to others in Greece it is less visited and so we can walk peacefully among the colossal columns and remains. Travel to the site takes about 40 mins. In the in evening we will meet again for a group dinner in a local taverna

Wednesday For our walk on Tuesday we make a short journey by local bus (11km) to the wonderful seaside town of Methoni.  Methoni Castle dates from the 13th Century and juts out dramatically into the sea. The immense castle walls have created a protected habitat where amazing flora has taken hold. It has become a beautiful wild self-seeded garden. As well as exploring the castle and having lunch by the harbour, we will walk amongst the pretty olive groves in the hills above the town. After returning to Pylos we will have a group dinner in local taverna.

Thursday: Today you have a free morning to relax, swim or shop in the town. At midday we depart for our second base for the week, Mystras. The coach journey takes 2 1/2 hours and is through the spectacular scenery of the Langada mountain pass which joins the coast at Kalamata through the Taygetos mountains to the plain of Sparta. We will stop at breathtaking viewpoints en route and reach a height of 1400m before dropping down again to our destination, Mystras. Here we settle in to our rustic, charming guesthouse before having dinner on the square.

Friday: After breakfast at our guesthouse we will walk up to the Byzantine site of Mystras (13th Century). This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it truly deserves the status. Scattered over the hillside, the site has frescoed churches, city streets, Despots Palace, museum and monastery. History bursts out of every stone as well as wildflowers which have taken root in the ruins. Group dinner in local taverna in Mystras.

Saturday: Our last walking day sees us striding off into the foothills of the Taygetos Mountains along sections of the stunning E4 long distance path. We will have spectacular views down onto the plain of Sparta. The walk will be through wooded hillsides, with the towering wall of the Taygetos range rising behind us. For our last evening meal together we will enjoy the hospitality of our hosts at the guesthouse.

Sunday: Today we will take our transfer back to Kalamata airport (1 ¼ hours) for our return flight.

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