The southern peninsula of Argolis is its playground. The lacey beaches around Porto Cheli and Hermioni have something for everyone: It has a cosmopolitan atmosphere that is imprinted on the impressive and not kitsch at all villas of the rich and famous vacationers, unknown places to satisfy your inner explorer, thousands of years of history (did you know that here was found the skeleton of the most ancient person in Europe?), and unique hiking routes to satisfy our nature lovers too.
Nestled on its narrow peninsula, at the end of which the forest’s green is succeeded by the sea’s blue, creating a dreamy image, Hermioni is one of these places in Peloponnese that you could easily mistake for an island. Its small houses, white in majority, with some of them more earthly, painted in the colors of the ochre, are covered in red tiles that make a nice contrast with the blue that embraces them from both sides.
Strolling here starts from the waterfront, pass by the beautiful, preserved neighborhood called Mandrakia, and mostly end up in Bisti, a pine forest at the tip of the peninsula- here’s an interesting information: Bisti in a local dialect means “tail”, our ancestors called this peninsula “Poseidion”. Spread across the forest you will meet the remnants of Poseidon’s Temple, of the 6th century B.C., the old watermill of 1790, the ancient and medieval walls, and the ancient “porfyreio” (murex workshop) that made under secrecy the famous Hernionis murex dye that was exported to the entire world.
The sights in Hermioni that you should definitely not miss are the Historical and Folklore museum that is housed in a traditional 18th century house, the Metropolitan church of Agioi Taxiarches that dates back in the 17th century and it’s built on the place where the ancient temple of Demeter Chthonia stood, and the original Toy Museum that will take you back to your childhood- yours, your parents, and even your grandparents, since it has toys from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and even older than that, toys from the 1900.
Porto Cheli has rightfully earned the title of the Greek Riviera. With its luxurious yachts swaying lazily in the sheltered marine, its impressive villas nestling behind elegant gardens and the land’s green gently ending up in the waters of its successive bays, this place has at the same time something from our childhood vacations and something from the jet set’s glow. In ancient times here was Alieis, a big city that was at its prime in the 5th century B.C. and for approximately a hundred years. Nowadays, a big part of ancient Alieis is underwater, but shallow enough so that you can see it when you go diving.
The entire coastline between Hermioni and Porto Cheli is full of beaches for all tastes: Let’s start from Porto Cheli, if you want a sun lounger and beach bars you’ll go swimming in the pebbled Ververonta, if you prefer sand there is Hinitsa beach, but if you’re looking for quietness you’ll go to the small sandy beaches around the beach villas of Agios Emilianos.
In Porto Cheli Bay, as we said, you’ll go swimming over the amazing scenery of the sunken city that once lived the ancient Alieis, while close to Hermioni in Sentoni and in Kouverta you will find shallow waters and sand perfect for building castles all day long. In the secluded and covered in pines Korakia beach you will find one of the best beaches in Argolis, and in the quiet Pefkakia beach you will collect seashells among the pebbles.
You will hear people call it the “gorge of gods”, since here was the place where the king of the underworld, Pluto, abducted Persephone, and here was where Hercules brought Cerberus from the underworld in his twelfth labor. Myth has it that fairies inhabit the place and you will understand why right away once you see the imposing landscape that is nestled in the opening of two gigantic, vertical rocks. The gorge is ideal for hiking, even for families with young children, as its length is small (2.5 kilometers) and the path that crosses it is very safe and flat. Inside the gorge, near the northern exit, there is the built in 1740 church of Saint Nicholas. Katafiki Gorge is 5.5 kilometers away from Hermioni- you will find street signs from whichever route you are coming.
Less than 10 kilometers from Hermioni, Thermisia is a seaside village at the banks of a beautiful lake, which is separated from the sea by a kilometer long, narrow strip of sand, and the width of which doesn’t overcome the 100 meters at its widest point. The green hills on the “land” side of it is the Alatovouni (salt mountain), a name that comes from the salt pans that the Venetians had here. The name Thermisia probably comes from the hot springs (“thermes piges” in Greek) that were here in ancient times- Pausanias refers to the sanctuary of Demeter Thermasia that was here. The paths around the lake are perfect for strolling and observing the hundreds of migratory and endemic species of birds that gather in the lagoon’s waters, classifying it in the national and worldwide wetland preserve network.
High above the lake, at the top of the 230-meter rock, on which climbs a steep path, stand the ruins of the Horias Castle, or as it is most commonly known, Thermisia Castle. It was probably byzantine and later became an administrative center for the Venetians in the region. Today, the Thermisia Castle is just a few remnants of its walls that mysteriously managed to survive as the Venetians destroyed the castle when they left in 1715- after they regained it and re-lost it numerous times in the three centuries of the Venetian- Ottoman wars.
“Dolines” in geology mean craters, and the dolines of Didyma is an impressive geological phenomenon, two enormous craters that were created by the water corrosion and as you see them from the inside they look like caves without roof. On the rocky walls of the small dolina, or the small cave as the locals call it, are carved two small churches, of Metamorphosis and of Saint George. The legend says that the small cave (that is not that small after all, it has a diameter of 150 meters and depth that reaches the 80 meters) is the famous cave of the cyclop Polyphemus, where Odysseus and his companions managed to escape in the Odyssey.
Didyma, the village next to the dolines, at the mountain’s feet that is called Didymo, is one of the few places in Greece that grows tulips- every spring they held the Tulip Festival.
13 kilometers from Porto Cheli, and equal kilometers from Hermioni, Koilada is a quiet fishing village with small houses, flowery yards and tables that the cafés and taverns spread by the sea. It is also a village with a long shipbuilding tradition, which is made obvious by the traditional garages and shipyards that operate till today. Koilada’s swamp is a protected by the Ramsar convention on wetlands, in which every autumn migrating birds make a stop on their way to the south.