Exploring Nafplio, Greece
Last year I made it my mission to visit and highlight areas of Greece that are lesser known, those areas unlikely to make it into a standard tourist’s itinerary. The reason for this was because it seems that an average person’s knowledge about Greece is of Athens and the islands. As a child of Greek parents, both from mainland Greece, I know there is so much more to Greece. The mainland is filled with towns waiting to be explored, with scenery more stunning than can be imagined. I visited places that not even I knew existed, and came to a deeper appreciation of my heritage in the process.
One of these is the town of Nafplio. It is less than two hours’ drive from Athens, and is one of the most beautiful towns I have seen. The charming streets are covered with bougainvillea, and the colours against the colourful shops and houses are vivid. Nafplio is a clean, well-maintained town. The main square practically gleamed as I walked through it, looking around at the architecture of the buildings and the locals and visitors dining at cafes and restaurants. There is a relaxed air here, and there are many shops to explore – clothing, shoes, ice-cream and even a shop dedicated to komboloi (worry beads).
A major charm of Nafplio is a Venetian castle that towers high above the town. To get up to the top, you have to climb 999 steps. Named Palamidi Castle, it was built during the Venetian occupation of Nafplio in the early 19th century. There are eight bastions, all built on top of the other. Palamidi Castle is one of the most well-preserved castles I have seen in Greece, and it is also the most extensive. There is so much to explore so I wouldn’t recommend a quick visit. Make sure you have several hours to spend so that you can get the most out of this fascinating site.
It is a view that captures the best scenes of Greece: the colour of the water, the peaks of the mountains in the distance disappearing into the clouds, the bare cliff edges of Nafplio as they hit the coast, the foliage of the mountainside below, and Nafplio’s iconic fort in the middle of the harbour.
The journey to ascend to the top is both difficult and simple. There is the option of driving to a point near the top and walking the rest of the way, or starting at the bottom and ascending all 999 steps. I chose the latter. Appropriate walking shoes are recommended. The 999 steps are daunting task that will challenge even the fittest of the fit. I’m not the fittest person around, but you can take it at your own pace, and are rewarded with views that make the whole thing worth it. There was even a camaraderie with strangers on the stairs, who gave each other encouragement to keep going.
On the way up, you can see incredible views as you look out to sea and across Nafplio. The water is a clear turquoise blue. A bit hot from the climb, I thought about how amazing it would be to dive in. It is a view that captures the best scenes of Greece: the colour of the water, the peaks of the mountains in the distance disappearing into the clouds, the bare cliff edges of Nafplio as they hit the coast, the foliage of the mountainside below, and Nafplio’s iconic fort in the middle of the harbour.
The small castle of Bourtzi was completed by the Venetians in 1473, as a way of protecting Nafplio from attacks that came from the sea. It belonged to the Turks when they controlled the area, and then the Greeks once they again took control of the castle and Nafplio in 1822. It was used as a fortress to protect the town until 1865. The fort looks small when you look at it from the top of the castle or even from the harbour, but it is much larger than it looks. Bourtzi is even capable of hosting events such as music festivals. It is a historically significant building, one that is tied to Nafplio. Bourtzi is an icon of this town, even more than Palamidi Castle.
Top image Exploring Nafplio, Greece: UnSplash