Established during the Greek war of Independence in 1821, Nafplio was modern day Greece's first capital until 1834. Less than a two hour drive from Athens, the town is a popular weekend destination for Athenians. It is also a thirty minute drive from Greece's esteemed wine region of Nemea.
Having heard so many Greek friends rave about Nafplio and wanting to tour the nearby wine region, we chose it as one of our annual Greek destinations.
First, there is the question of where to stay. One of Nafplio's great charms is its old town with its pedestrian streets, lined with shops, cafes and restaurants. Parking can be a challenge around the town center. As a result, you may find it more relaxing to stay at a hotel within walking distance to the old town, as we did.
Where to Eat
There are numerous wonderful restaurants to choose from in Nafplio's old town. One of our most memorable meals was a seaside dinner at Agnanti Cafe-Restaurant. With our table set on the stone jetty, we sipped on local tsipouro and ate fresh seafood, while surrounded by the ocean waves, watching the sunset behind the horizon.
There are many sites to see and things to do in Nafplio, including several lovely beaches worth visiting such as Arvanitia Beach, Tolo Beach, and Karathona Beach.
The Fortress of Palamidi and Bourtzi Castle
Two wonderful sites to visit are the fortress of Palamidi and the castle of Bourtzi.
If you are up for it, there is a walking path up the side of the mountain, from the old town to the entrance of Palamidi. Keep in mind that Greek summer days get very hot, so choose the time of day for your excursion wisely. Of course, the fortress is also accessible by car. In addition to the stunning views and fascinating architecture, Palamidi is home to the windowless stone prison cell, where notorious General Theodoros Kolokotronis was imprisoned for six months.
The castle of Bourtzi is located in the middle of the harbor and surrounded by water. Boats shuttle passengers from the bay during the course of the day for a few euros. We opted to skip touring the castle during our visit, due to the extensive renovations taking place.
Nafplio's old town is as charming as can be. Many of the streets don't allow cars, which makes for lovely daytime and evening strolls. There are numerous cafes and restaurants, all serving traditional Greek dishes and wines from the region. Dining al fresco along the narrow pedestrian streets is reminiscent of Italy's Venice, which doesn't come as much of a surprise given that the town was ruled by the Venetians in the late 1600s.
The wine region of Nemea, which is known for its production of wines from the indigenous Agiorgitiko grape, is a thirty minute drive north of Nafplio. There are several excellent wineries in the region and we would have gladly visited them all, however, only having time for one, we chose Domaine Skouras, due to the quality of their wines and the fact that they have a market presence in the United States, making it easier to purchase their wine once back home.
Thirty minutes to the east of Nafplio is the Ancient Greek theatre of Epidaurus. It is one of the best preserved amphitheaters from its time and is renowned for its perfect acoustics. To experience this, you must climb to the highest point of the theater and listen as a penny drops center-stage. Keep in mind that what goes up must come down. If like me, you aren't a fan of heights, you may find yourself making your way back down the ancient polished marble steps using the trusty bum scooch.
Our time in Nafplio was as enriching as it was relaxing. As beautiful as the Greek islands may be, the mainland most definitely has just as much to offer!