Those who are visiting Greece for the first time with their motorhome can easily fit into the category of happy-go-lucky holidaymakers. The “don’t miss” spots and attractions are so many and so different from each other that there will be no room for second thoughts. When the options are so varied and tempting, it shouldn’t be hard to decide. The ride seems to be predetermined: you just have to follow the route from one top destination to another.
It is no coincidence then that most ‘newbies’ choose Peloponnese for their first motorhome trip. Cultural monuments, world heritage sites, superb beaches, in brief some of the most famous attractions of the country are situated in this peninsula, in a distance of few hundreds or less kilometres. Images that you thought you would see only on travel magazines, after 10 days of wandering, will be stored in your own camera.
The real adventure begins the third or fourth time you disembark at the port of Patras. While the newcomers will be making their way to Olympia or Monemvasia or Elafonissos, you’ll drive up to discover hidden treasures. These are few tips that may help you.
Petrified palm forest (Neapoli, Laconia)
Imagine a lunar landscape with secluded coves, turquoise waters and totem-like stones. What actually seems to be man-made sculptures some million years ago used to be a forest of palm and coniferous trees. The ancient woods were petrified due to rising sea levels and turned gradually into exhibits in this open-air Museum of prehistoric flora.
The petrified trunks are scattered throughout the coastline south of Neapolis at the end of the eastern leg of the Peloponnese. The most impressive ones are at the beaches of Koraka and Agia Marina where the Geopark Visitor Center is located with information and hiking trails. Although the road to Agia Marina is unpaved, it is fairly good.
Extra bonus: this outstanding/weird place is not popular even amongst locals!
Saint Theodora church (Vasta, Arcadia)
People of faith will assure you that it’s a miracle. People of science will confirm that it’s truly a wonder, if not of God or Saint Theodora, of Mother Nature. In both cases it’s hard to explain how it’s possible that 17 trees are growing on the roof of this tiny 12th century church! The mystery is enhanced when you realize the weight of each tree (approx. 1 ton , which increases when it rains), the height (more or less 20 m.) and the fact that in the church interiors there is no visible sign of roots neither on the roof nor in the walls.
According to the legend, Saint Theodora was a martyr who, while dying, asked God: “May my body become a church, my blood a river, and my hair a forest” There is no scientific explanation for the phenomenon except that somehow during the centuries the stone structure was turned into a ‘living body’.
The church is situated in a deep forest 30 km west of Megalopolis. The area is ideal for hiking and mountain biking; nearby there is a fully operational water-mill open to visitors.
Geraki Castle (Laconia)
This castle is rarely included in the tourist guides, but certainly rewards those few who visit it. Even if you are not fan of military architecture and medieval fortifications you will enjoy the breathtaking view over the Myrtoo pelagos and the Taygetos mountain while wandering through the cobbled streets and visiting churches with frescoes and residential buildings.
The castle was built in 1209 by a French named Guy de Nivelet and for centuries it was one of the most important fortified towns of Peloponnese, often called “Little Mystras”. The Geraki castle doesn’t lack in anything except visitors.
The site is open daily from 8.00 – 15.00 with free entrance. The access is relatively easy (though uphill) and you can park very close to the archaeological site.
Heraion – Limni Vouliagmenis (Corinthia)
Most motorhome owners stay at Lake Vouliagmeni (actually a lagoon as it communicates with the waters of the Corinthian Gulf via a channel) where during the summer a small colony is formed. The main attractions here are the calm, warm water, the relaxed family atmosphere plus some fish tavernas. And an ancient temple right next to the sea that few seem to know!
You can find it if you walk up to the edge of the promontory, 2 km west of the lake. At the end of the road (where you’ll see a stone-built lighthouse too) the path goes downhill where you’ll reach the temple of Hera. There is no fence around the archaeological site; the ruins (temple, altars, Agora, reservoirs) are scattered all around the tiny bay with its blue waters. I cannot think of many other places where you can literally have a swim next to archaeological finds!
Article by Massimo Pizzocaro who is an Italian photojournalist specializing in travel reportage and administrator site camperistas.com that gives information about traveling with motorhomes.