Colorful buildings with bougainvillea plants hanging overhead in Nafplion, Greece via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

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.


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.)

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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.

14 thoughts on “Of Gods and Kings: Why Nafplion Is The Most Romantic Destination in Greece”

  1. I love how Nafplio is the Greece that you pictured in your head as a child – it’s not always easy to live up to expectations that we build up or imagine! I remember being extremely impressed by Paris (because it looked “like it was supposed to”) and disappointed by London (because it was more modern than I had hoped for). But I agree, Nafplio is lovely and so romantic! Last summer when I went to Athens, we did a day trip to Corinth, Epidaurus and Mycenae, with a lunch/gelato break in Nafplio…this took me back! Such a small but quaint town, reminded me a lot of Laguna Beach or some coastal Californian town. Thank you for the throwback as well as the history refresher!

    1. It’s rare, right? The reality meeting the expectations conjured in a dream. You had to mention gelato, now, didn’t you? It’s summer, and you know how we are with ice cream during the summer, so now I’ll have to find a spot in the city for this weekend. Amorino, maybe? 😛 And it’s interesting you mention coastal California, because I actually had the exact same thought. Let’s catch up in person soon, Lauren. Thanks for reading and dropping us a line!

  2. Ohhh, how very lovely! The flowers climbing and draping everywhere, the brightly painted buildings, the castle on a hill! This is certainly the Greece of my romantic dreams. Wonderful, wonderful photos, and I loved learning a little about its history. I’m thinking, maybe climbing the 999 steps would be a way to work off the baklava… 🙂

    1. Hey Cynthia! We’re so glad you enjoyed the pics. The subject matter made for super easy work. Nafplion offers a lot to see, do, and eat during a short day trip from Athens, but also offers plenty of exercise (I think my Fitbit was throwing sparks by the end) to offset one’s calorie intake. Pretty important for those of us who like to indulge in the local delicacies. 😉

  3. Nafplion is certainly romantic, so is your story of how you came by this urge to see the beautiful land called Greece. For me, it is the charm of these small places, riddled with mythology and history, stories around every corner, that lends travelling a glow. On a side note, Poseidon was quite the rascal himself. 😉

    1. Hi Dippy! Thanks for checking out our post. I was obsessed with Greek mythology as a child. Who wasn’t, really? There was a dinosaur phase and a mythology phase. Anyway, I loved the cast of characters and how they were always embroiled in some new drama, intrigue, or tragedy. So, really, a visit to Greece seemed predetermined to me more than anything else. It was just one of those places that I knew I’d visit eventually.

  4. What a capture on so many levels. The quaintness of a Greek village, the history of the Peloponnese area, the Greek mythology, travel recommendations, sight-seeing suggestions…and the photos, again, are perfect. Just excellent!

  5. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. That light, the colors, the warmth and you’re right, the romance of it, are obvious. Great photos! And it was fun to hear how the idea of going there started for you.

    1. Thank you so much, Lynn! It truly is stunning. It takes a lot for a Virgo like myself to let go of the itinerary, but Nafplion is the kind of place that inspires one to just BE.

  6. Thank you for jogging my memory and solving a puzzle for me! Over twenty years ago I stayed in Nafplion for a couple of nights. I had a high fever so was in bed until the last evening when I finally felt a little better. I hauled myself out of bed and shakily pulled myself up the stairs to the castle at the top of the hill. A stray cat accompanied me on the whole climb. We sat and watched the sun setting over the sea together, then he walked to the bottom again with me, at which point, he disappeared into the town. It was magical! As it was one stop of 4 months of driving “where the wind took us” around the whole of Europe, I couldn’t remember the name of the town. As soon as I saw your photos, I recognized it! It truly is a beautiful place!

    1. Hi Lisa! Thanks for dropping by or blog and checking out our post on Nafplion. We’re thrilled you enjoyed it and that it was evocative of good memories. And of course you mentioned a feline companion! We, too, had a few sidekicks on our journey as well. One in particular comes to mind, a young lad that tagged along for a brief trek up a very steep hill we attempted to climb in Santorini. He turned back nearly twenty-five minutes in and halfway up. Forgive the personification, but the look he gave us at that moment is one I’ll never forget. It’s as if he were saying, Oh, this is complete nonsense. I don’t sense any food at all coming at the end of this climb–an arduous one, by the way. So I must bid you good day, sir. Good day, madam. 🙂

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