Of Gods and Kings: Why Nafplion Is The Most Romantic Destination in Greece

Wandering souls can’t always explain exactly what it is that beckons them to a particular destination. It could be the glimpse of a photograph in a magazine, or a particularly memorable description in a book. Perhaps the location was the backdrop of a popular movie, or mentioned in the lyrics of a favorite song. But I can explain exactly what it was that drew me to Greece. My parents went there on a vacation when I was a girl–the first one I could ever recall them taking, and one of the very few trips they enjoyed without the kids.

My parents returned with tales of an exotic foreign land that left me wide-eyed and slack-jawed. As they recalled their experiences in the company of friends and family, I hung on to every word. I knew then that I would want to see it for myself someday. When I finally made the pilgrimage as an adult, Athens was an exciting mix of old and new, while Santorini was all about the dramatic views. But Nafplion is the Greek destination that most matched the romantic vision I had nurtured in my head as a child.




Pelopo-what?

Yellow building with blue awnings and bougainvillea plant in Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Colorful tables for al fresco dining in front of a stone building with blue doors in Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Nafplion is located in the Peloponnese region of Greece, which is a peninsula in the southern part of the country. It’s separated from the mainland by the Isthmus (a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land) and Canal of Corinth. It was considered an overlooked destination for a long time, but the Peloponnese has recently gained in popularity. It was at the top of Lonely Planet’s 2016 Best in Europe list, as well as Travel + Leisure’s 2018 50 Best Places to Travel list. Thanks to recently improved highways, Nafplion is only a 90-minute drive from Athens, making it the perfect site for a day trip.

Greek Mythology

Restaurant with green window shutters and umbrella-covered sidewalk seating in Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Alley with charming balconies and sidewalk cafes in Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Any devotee of Greek Mythology will find many stories based in the Peloponnese. Nafplion is named after its founder Nauplios, the son of Poseidon and Amymone. Poseidon, God of the Sea, is one of the twelve major deities in Greek Mythology. He is brother to Zeus, and fought alongside him in the war that overthrew their father Kronos and the other Titans. Amymone, daughter of King Danaus, was sent by her father to seek water during a drought. While on her quest, Amymone threw a spear at a deer and hit a sleeping Satyr, who woke and attempted to rape her. Poseidon appeared and the Satyr ran off; so Poseidon himself made love to her, after which he told her about the springs of Lerna and saved them from the drought.




The History

Coastal view with boat on the water, buildings and palm trees in Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The Metropolitan Church of Aghios Georgios with view of Palamidi Castle in the background in Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Metropolitan Church of Aghios Georgios which was converted to a mosque by the Turks in both their first and second occupations

Nafplion has played a key role in much of Greece’s history. Port cities have always been desired footholds, and Nafplion was no different. It was conquered by the Franks (Francia is the predecessor of the modern states of France and Germany), Venetians, Turks and Russians. It returned to Greek rule in 1822 when it was freed by General Kolokotronis, and became Greece’s capital in 1828. Greece became a monarchy four years later and Greece’s first king, 17-year-old Otto of Bavaria, resided in Nafplion. Two years later he moved the capital to Athens. You can see traces of these varied empires in the city today, it’s still often referred to as the Venice of Greece.

The Art of Doing Nothing

Colorful building with view of Palamidi Castle in the background in Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Palamidi Castle can be seen nestled in the hill

Man seated at table in alley with colorful doors and bougainvillea hanging overhead in Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Colorful potted plants and a sign reading "Smile at strangers, Say thank you, Give lots of compliments, Observe and listen, Laugh, Wish others a lovely day, or just say Kalimera"

Two of the main attractions in Nafplion are remnants of its Venetian rule: Bourtzi, a small fortress on an islet, and Palamidi Castle. In the summer, Bourtzi can be reached by boat departing regularly from the port. Getting to Palamidi Castle requires a little more effort: climbing 999 steps. While both are worthy destinations, simply strolling around the old town is a wonderful way to spend the day here. Rid yourself of maps and itineraries, and simply meander around the scenic town. Wander into charming shops and down quiet alleys. Stop for a cup of coffee or a scoop of gelato.




Getting Here

The Corinth Canal with a bridge across it and a couple of small boats in the canal on the way to Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Corinth Canal, which separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland, is only 70 ft wide.
Ancient Epidaurus Theater on the way to Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Epidaurus Theatre, considered to be one of the most perfect ancient Greek theatres with regard to acoustics and aesthetics.

Nafplion can be reached by car or by bus. KTEL buses depart regularly from the Kfissos bus station in Athens. Driving in Athens is not for the weak of heart, so if you’d prefer to travel by car, consider hiring a car service.

Pro Tip: There are numerous benefits to hiring a car service for your trip. Have your driver make a stop at Corinth Canal as well as the Epidaurus Theater, which are both on the way. Your driver could also take you to the top of Palamidi Castle, saving you the torturous 999-step climb. It’s well worth the expense if you’re in a larger party or if you have elderly adults or young children in your group. (Or if your idea of exercise is couch surfing and running Netflix marathons.)

Like it?  Pin it!

A Pinterest pin with a colorful cafe and flowering trees on a street in Nafplion, Greece with the text "Find you inner romantic in Nafplion, Greece".

– L.

Postcard Perfection: How To Spend A Day In The Charming Athens Neighborhood of Plaka (With Map)

Every major city has a neighborhood both tourists and locals adore, and in Athens that neighborhood is Plaka. We met several locals who spoke reverently about it, and when we got there we immediately understood why. It’s impossible not to be captivated by the cobblestone streets and the brightly colored buildings juxtaposed against the vibrant bougainvillea plants. Plaka is Athens’ oldest neighborhood, and its classic beauty draws quite a crowd. There are innumerable restaurants and shops vying for your attention (and your dollar!), and it’s easy to miss the true gems. But fear not: here’s a walking tour to highlight the best this delightful neighborhood has to offer.

Continue reading Postcard Perfection: How To Spend A Day In The Charming Athens Neighborhood of Plaka (With Map)

Tag, You’re It! A Street Art Tour With Alternative Athens

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when our street art obsession began. But New York City has been the ultimate enabler, feeding our addiction from a well that never seems to run dry. Alas, junkies are never satisfied. Our appetites grew, and pretty soon we found ourselves down deserted alleys in foreign cities trying to get a fix. We’ve hunted down street art in ditches and mansions. And then in Athens, we nearly overdosed.

Continue reading Tag, You’re It! A Street Art Tour With Alternative Athens

5 Things to Do in Athens Besides the Acropolis

Do a quick search on Athens and the first thing you’ll see at the very top of the list, perched like the magnificent fortress itself on its rocky hilltop, is the Acropolis. It’s a one-of-a-kind archaeological treasure, deserving of all that prestige, and you should absolutely go and see it when you visit the ancient city for the first time. But too many people make Athens a stopover on the way to the one of the stunning 200-plus Greek Islands without giving it much thought. They squeeze in a visit to the Acropolis then hop back on a plane or ferry. But we’re going to let you in on a secret–Athens has so much more to offer than just ruins.

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Kyoto Travel Guide: What to See and Where to Eat – Part Two



In case you missed it, I kicked off Part One of our Kyoto travel guide here.  Kyoto’s a really fun place to visit, especially in the fall.  Picking up where I left off, here are some of my other must-see destinations: Continue reading Kyoto Travel Guide: What to See and Where to Eat – Part Two

Kyoto Travel Guide: What to See and Where to Eat – Part One



Travel seems to be a universal love.  Exploring other locales and cultures is inarguably intoxicating.  But it’s not a universal pursuit.  Many people find themselves restricted by time, money and responsibilities, in any number of combinations.  I started traveling while I was in college, and it often required sacrifices in time and comfort to accommodate a minuscule budget.  To see as much of the world as I could, I sat through timeshare presentations and slept on trains.  And my adventures in lodging have included a middle-of-the-night flooding and relocation to a different hotel (and I confess to using this term rather liberally here). Continue reading Kyoto Travel Guide: What to See and Where to Eat – Part One