PORTO HELI, PELOPONNESE, GREECE
The Peloponnese (Πελοπόννησος) is the stuff of legends. Literally. It is here that Hercules fought the Nemean lion and gods walked the earth, meddling in mortal affairs; it’s from here that Paris of Troy eloped with Helen and the Argonauts set sail in search of the Golden Fleece. Celestial and mythological charms aside, this region bears tangible traces of the many civilisations that once called it home, witnessed in its classical temples, Mycenaean palaces, Byzantine cities, and Ottoman, Frankish and Venetian fortresses.The very topography that kept invaders at bay for centuries – lofty, snowcapped mountains, vast gorges, sandy beaches and azure waters – now draws visitors of a very different kind. Filoxenia(hospitality) is as strong here as anywhere in the country; the food is among Greece’s best; and the region’s vineyards are contributing to Greece’s wine renaissance. Locals claim to have the best of everything to give. And that’s no myth.
Ancient sun-bleached ruins pierce blue skies as the Aegean laps at the endless coastline. And Greek culture is alive – passionate music, inspired cuisine, thrill-seeking activities.
Whether you’re a serious adrenaline junkie or dedicated beach bum, Greece will bewitch you. Days melt from one to the next under wide open skies and a sea speckled with islands that deliver the white-sand, palm-fringed beaches of your dreams. Wander along cobbled, Byzantine footpaths, hike into volcanoes, watch for dolphins and sea turtles and cycle through lush forests. Meander through olive groves, idyllic villages and petrified forests. Thrill seekers will discover world-class kitesurfing, wreck diving and rock-climbing locations that will leave you dizzy with views. Or simply hop on a boat and set sail into the glittering blue beyond.
Socialising is more than a pastime in Greece – it’s a way of life. Cafes overflow with teenagers gossiping or older locals in heated debate. Restaurants are filled will long tables for big gatherings and friends amble arm and arm down the street. Squares are the focal point, where life unfolds collectively. Immerse yourself, whether it’s a coffee, a shot of ouzo, a chorus on the bouzouki or a local celebration. Greeks are passionate and live life to the fullest, even at the most difficult times. The result is a country, seemingly riddled with challenges, yet full of people loving life.
The secret to Greek cooking is often found in the chef’s garden. Basic ingredients such as feta and olive oil are at home across Greece, but the regional produce and cooking styles make travelling here a culinary adventure. Taste herbs and mountain greens you’ve never heard of, mussels steamed in ouzo, bread baked with olives and fish straight from the sea. Taste-test regional cheeses: crumbling feta, honeyed soft cheeses and sharp, hard rounds. Find Italian influences in risottos and pastas or Turkish spices woven into delicate sweets. A traditional-cooking renaissance has chefs lifting time-honoured recipes to new gourmet heights.
Cultural Treasure Chest
Standing in the shadow of the Acropolis feels otherworldly. Greece is full of such moments. Step into the ring where Olympians first competed. Climb stone-hewed steps to Meteora’s monasteries, perched atop towering rocks. Contemplate the Oracle’s insights from the grandeur of Delphi, take in a starlit drama at an ancient outdoor theatre and be stunned by massive marble sculptures dredged up from the Aegean. But then you’ll encounter bold modern art, the melancholic throb of rembetika (blues songs) and artisans creating new work from traditional techniques. Greece has endless cultural pursuits and a calendar bursting with festivals, holidays and exhibits.