If your Instagram feed is anything like mine, it’s been clogged up with Mykonos pictures way more than most summers. It’s a good time to hit Greece, as you may have heard, but there’s more ways to do the country than just hopping off a transatlantic flight and onto an island-bound boat. Last year, a friend and I took the road less traveled—the actual roads, through the Peloponnese. This region southwest of Athens (see Before Midnight for an even better idea) is stacked with monuments that are older than Methuselah, offbeat wines you can’t find in the U.S., and, of course, beaches that will leave you slack-jawed. It stays sunny and accessible (unlike many of the islands) through October, so it’s not too late to plan a last-minute fall vacation there.
You’ll be tired from flying and the Grande Bretagne is the best place in Athens to lay your head—and not just because of the opulent rooms. There’s an equally lavish breakfast bar (with a view of the Acropolis) that has an array of honeys and nuts to pile onto your Greek yogurt.
Visit A Really, Ridiculously Old City
Located in the Northeast Peloponnese, Mycenae is a hillside archeological site that dates back to the Bronze Age, a few thousand years BC. One of the most fascinating parts of the experiences at this old military stronghold is how freely you can roam the grounds. You can even explore underground, dungeon-like areas. Just learn how to use your iPhone’s flashlight before doing so.
A Mountain-High Wine Experience
It takes a bit of a scenic drive to get to Semeli (shown at top), located in a small town near Nemea that winds up several rural residential roads, but when you get there you are rewarded with sweeping views of the Peloponnese and their exceptional Moschafilero, a super floral, medium-weight white that is seldom found outside of Greece. Drink your fill and stay in one of their super cheap and spacious rooms with huge tubs. You won’t want to navigate these country roads after a couple of glasses.
Stay in a Castle, Enjoy Local Traditions
Built on the grounds of an old water well in Monemvasia, the 800-year-old mansion that houses Kinsterna resort is charming in a fairy tale kind of way, very reasonably priced, and serves lots of Greek staples: lamb, a few different local-caught fishes, Greek salad (of course) and Goggles pasta (pronounced “gohg-less”), which is basically a bowl of gnocchi-like pasta that is dressed with Greek olive oil and roasted myzthira, a local parmesan-like cheese.
Chill on One Greece’s Secret Beaches
People will tell you that the drive to Elafonisos Island is just 30 minutes from Monemvasia, but allow 45 to navigate the adventurous roads through small towns. Wait for the ferry that allows cars (there are two) and then take the road to the left that goes toward Simos Beach. The warm, bright blue water glitters like those 4th of July sparklers and you’ll probably have it all to yourself if you go anytime after August.
Want more? Check out our ultimate guide to Greece!