The town of Nafplion is a great weekend escape from busy Athens, writes Chris Stauvermann.
My favourite place Palamaidi Fortress is an 18th-century citadel, the lofty presence of which oversees the town and offers commanding views of Nafplion and the Argolic Gulf (off the Aegean Sea). It was actually built by the Venetians between 1711 and 1714. To see it will require a bit of effort, as there are around 1,400 steps (from the bus station) to take you right up to the edifice, which sits atop a rocky outcrop. Of course, you can take a taxi for about 12 Euros (RO5) if it’s too much for the kids, who will love gingerly exploring the old prison cells. Don’t shut the heavy, creaky doors on them though; you might not be able to open them again!
Highlights Nafplion reeks of the multi-cultural influences that have shaped its existence. At the centre of the old town is the Italianate Syntagma Square, which is lined with historical Venetian and Turkish buildings. The atmosphere here is cultured and sophisticated, but laid back. No wonder Athenians love it.
From the harbour, the coastal path is just a wonder, which you can stroll, or cycle with the gorgeous peacock-blue vista of the Arcadian mountain range constantly in view across the Argolic Gulf (with its island castle, the Bourtzi). Even if you don’t make the 2km from the harbour to the delightful beach at Karathona, you will come across a few pontoons on the way, from which you can jump into some azure (and very clean) water.
It’s hot here, and even as late as October you can dive in. In the highly unlikely event that it rains, there’s the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation, which showcases fashion and décor over the past three centuries; the Archaeological Museum, the National Gallery and the War Museum.
And what better way to enjoy a traditional Greek taverna than in a town as enchanting as this, even if all you wanted was a sweet Greek coffee and a pastry? It’s not just all Greek salad or fish and calamari here (magnificent though they are). Try mezedopolio (tapas), or gemista (stuffed peppers and tomatoes) or a succulent lamb roast with potatoes, mustard, oregano and olive oil. For pudding, it has to be an almond tort or Ekmek Kataifi (custard and whipped cream pastry with syrup).
Lowlights Traffic. It can be a little congested on the outskirts (if you are driving in) as vehicles are banned from the Old Town.
Souvenirs It’s not hard to find shops selling items made of olive wood, red coral, ivory and natural amber wood, as well as worry beads
Getting there Nafplion is about 135km by road from Athens. Seven leading airlines operate flights from Muscat to Athens, with at least one stop on the way.
Where to stay Look on the usual websites for options, such as Trivago, Kayak.com, Expedia and Booking.com. You’d be silly not to choose one of the traditional, 18th-century Venetian-style options, though.