The Corinth Canal, an ancient boat slipway, a castle, an archaeological site and a museum were fascinating stops during our daytrip in the Corinth area of the Peloponnese
In less than half a day, we were able to visit such important historic sites as the Acrocorinth castle, top, the Ancient Corinth archaeological site and museum, center, and the Diolkos boat trackway at the western entrance to the Corinth Canal
Ideal for history buffs: During our short stay in Loutraki last May, we got to step thousands of years back in time with an easy daytrip visit to several of the premier historic attractions in the nearby Corinth area.
It was an ideal itinerary for history buffs as well as anyone who appreciates marvels of architecture and engineering.
Our driving route took us across a submersible bridge at the northern mouth of the Corinth Canal, where we stopped to see the Diolkos, an ancient track that was used to transfer boats overland from the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf, long before the canal was constructed.
Next stop was the Acrocorinth Castle, where we wandered around the inside of the massive mountaintop fortress and enjoyed superlative views of the Corinth region.
Lunch and a coffee break in the modern city of Corinth topped off our tour of amazing feats of engineering and impressive monuments and artefacts from centuries of Greek history.
I have written individual posts to show photos and information about the attractions at each of our stops. You can view them simply by continuing to scroll down the blog, or by clicking on any of the following links to access a specific article:
During a daytrip from nearby Loutraki, we crossed a submersible bridge on the Corinth Canal to see the Diolkos, an ancient boat slipway
Looking along a section of the ancient Diolkos track, a stone-paved slipway once used to move boats overland across the Isthmus of Corinth. This section of the historic track is situated only a few meters from the edge of the Corinth Canal, which is partly visible in the upper right corner of the photo.
Marvels of maritime travel & transport: We have seen — and driven over — the world-famous Corinth Canal numerous times, but this daytrip marked our first opportunity to cross the 129-year-old waterway on a submersible bridge, something we never even knew existed. (Our previous canal crossings had been on the regional motorway and local road bridge, the same routes on which most tourists pass over the historic canal in excursion buses or rental vehicles.)
Another first, for us, was seeing a remarkable unearthed section of an overland track that was used to move cargo ships for hundreds of years long before the canal was constructed.
The Diolkos is a stone-paved road that enabled boats and transport ships to cross the Isthmus of Corinth — a 6 km wide stretch of flat land separating the Gulf of Corinth to the north from the Saronic Gulf to the south — instead of sailing the substantially longer and potentially perilous sea route off the Peloponnese coast.
This Google map pinpoints the submersible bridge near the Diolkos track, our first stop on a daytrip from the city of Loutraki to several historic attractions in the Corinth area of the Peloponnese
Grooves in the stone pavement are the ancient tracks that boats were dragged along from one gulf to the other
A marvel of engineering for its time, the Diolkos is believed to have been constructed in the early years of the 6th Century BCE, and operated from around 650 BCE to 50 CE. The track extended for as long as 8 kilometers between the two gulfs, and varied in width from 4.5 to 6 meters in most places, and up to 10 meters near each gulf coast. Boats would be hauled from the water on wooden rollers, then loaded onto special wheeled vehicles that animals would pull along grooves in the track. To make the load lighter for carriage on the track, the vessel’s cargo would be unloaded and transported to the other gulf separately, by road, while the boat was slowly dragged down the Diolkos. Once the ship was refloated in the gulf on the opposite side of the isthmus, its cargo would be reloaded and the boat would resume its voyage.
The Diolkos was a costly shortcut for shipowners, who paid steep fees for the slipway transit service, and it gradually fell out of favour as sailing firms began acquiring larger ships that could more safely navigate the seas off the Peloponnese.
We felt it was definitely worthwhile making a short stop at the Diolkos to appreciate the ancient engineering achievement and contemplate the incredibly difficult and demanding physical labour that would have been required to move heavy boats along the passageway.
As for that submersible bridge we crossed to reach the Diolkos, we didn’t know how it worked until long after we got home from our trip, when I found a YouTube video which I have posted below. We had thought it was a type of drawbridge that would swing to one side to let boats pass but, as the video shows, it actually drops deep into the water channel, then quickly rises back into position once ships have entered or exited the canal.
We didn’t get to watch the bridge in action because the canal had been closed to traffic at the time, still undergoing restoration work to repair extensive damage caused by a series of landslides in late 2020 and in 2021. It reopened in July 2022 for a few months of seasonal operations before shutting for a scheduled second phase of repairs that will be performed during the late autumn and winter.
This two-lane vehicle bridge, at the west entrance to the Corinth Canal, submerses to let boats and ships pass through the canal. It’s located close to a segment of the Diolkos trackway. We crossed this bridge en route from Loutraki to the Diolkos track during a May 2022 daytrip in the Peloponnese. Another similar bridge is situated at the east mouth of the canal.
We didn’t get to see, in person, how the submersible bridges at the Corinth Canal work, because the canal had been closed to boat traffic at the time of our visit. But this interesting 3-minute video, by OurTour Blog, shows one of the bridges in operation.
Learn more about the Diolkos and Corinth Canal
For further historic insights and background information on both the Doilkos track and the Corinth Canal, complete with photos and maps, have a look at these excellent articles:
♦ Corinth Canal Doilkos on Sailing Issues, a website focussed on marine navigation and sailing holidays in Greece, Croatia and Turkey;
♦ The Greek Reporter story Greece’s Corinth Canal closes again until next summer, published October 4, describes the landslides and restoration work that forced the canal to close until July of this year. The report also includes a local news video showing the rockfall damage.
Uphill climbs, imposing walls, centuries of history and beautiful views: Photos from our visit to Acrocorinth, the largest castle in the Peloponnese
Acrocorinth Castle, top, occupies the peak of a 575-meter (1,880-foot) mountain that rises on the southwest side of the Ancient Corinth archaeological site, above. We explored the castle during a daytrip to historic sites in the Corinth area in May 2022.
Formidable fortress: I call it the Rock of Ages, because there’s an incredibly long history behind Acrocorinth, an impressive ages-old castle that sits astride a monolithic peak in the Corinth region of the Peloponnese.
Dating to pre-Christian times, the mountaintop site was the Acropolis of Ancient Corinth, a wealthy and influential city-state that was one of the biggest and most important cities in Greece, with a population topping 90,000 in 400 B.C. Over the centuries since, the stronghold has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Franks, Knights of Saint John, Venetians and Ottomans.
During our drive from the Corinth Canal to the castle, it was easy to see why Acrocorinth was such a prized property for empires of the past to acquire and control. The huge rock rises at a strategic position along crossroads of major trade, travel and military routes, and its high location provides commanding views of northeastern Peloponnese and two important waterways, the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf.
Acrocorinth is the largest castle in the Peloponnese, and its vast size immediately became apparent when we got out of our car in a parking area partway up the mountain and gazed up at the lower fortification walls. Imposing and tall, the stone structures extend almost 3,000 meters (nearly 10,000 feet) along the fortress perimeter, and enclose interior space of more than 240,000 square meters (59 acres). Even without knowing those startling statistics, we were struck by how absolutely enormous and intimidating the castle appeared from outside. It felt just as big once we got inside, too, and we didn’t even get to see all of the interior.
This short film by Travel and Drones was released in early December 2022. It presents dramatic and breathtaking aerial views of Acrocorinth and the nearby Corinth area of the Peloponnese
We managed to wander around Acrocorinth’s interior for nearly two hours before we felt too tuckered out to continue, thanks to the combination of our jet lag and all the walking (much of it on steps and slopes) under sunny skies and a temperature of 24 C (75 F). While we had been hoping to climb to the summit to check out the scenic vistas and look at the Aphrodite temple, a tower and the ancient fountain spring, we feared we would wilt along the way, and decided to head into the city of Corinth for lunch instead.
Even though we missed seeing a large part of the fortress’s upper grounds, we had a fascinating time. There are intriguing monuments and artefacts from antiquity and each era that the castle was ruled by a different empire — “the sanctuary of Aphrodite with an early Christian basilica on its ruins, the fountain of Ano Peirene, Byzantine cisterns, the Frankish tower, a Venetian church, mosques, Turkish houses and fountains,” a passage on the Ancient Corinth website points out.
In May, it was exhilarating to stroll around since the grounds were vibrant and lovely with foliage, wildflowers, tall grasses and fields of wheat swaying in the breeze. There was so much lush and thick greenery, some of the ruins were obscured or partially hidden — nature appeared to be reclaiming the land. Views of the Corinth countryside and Gulf of Corinth were wonderful.
Scroll down to see photos from our visit. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Acrocorinth, here are a few excellent website resources with articles, historic timelines, maps, photos and videos:
Above, views of the cobblestone path that leads from the parking area to the castle’s first entrance gate (there are three gates in total). Although we were wearing sturdy hiking shoes, we found the stones quite slippery underfoot, and had to step slowly and cautiously while climbing uphill, taking even greater care walking back down. Inside the castle, there is a lot more uphill walking, on steps, slopes and uneven terrain. If you plan to visit, wear shoes with soles that grip well. Be aware that if you have balance or mobility issues, the climb into and back out of the castle could be treacherous. We saw many visitors wobbling and some stumbling on the paths. If you walk up or down the sides of the steps, you can hold onto walls or rocks to sturdy yourself on the cobblestones.
The cobblestone path through the second gate
Approaching the mammoth third — and final — entrance gate
The massive fortification walls
Historians believe the first castle walls on Acrocorinth were built during the reign of the tyrant Periander, who ruled from 627 to 585 B.C. Over the centuries, some conquerors destroyed the fortifications, while others reconstructed them or added more. Any time I looked at the immense fortifications, I couldn’t help but wonder who piled all the heavy stones together, and how they were even able to perform the backbreaking work at the tops of cliffs and down the sides of steep slopes. It would have required Herculean effort to build, tear down or reconstruct those thick, tall ramparts and defensive walls.
To get a sense of perspective of the enormous size of some of the castle walls, consider that the tourist taking a photo, above, is barely visible in the top photo.
The interior grounds, monuments and ruins
Above, a tower and other structures on the upper-most points of the peak, where visitors can explore the remains of a sanctuary and temple originally dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, and the spring fountain of Ano Peirene. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the top, so we don’t have any photos from that level of the fortress.
Agios Dimitrios church
Above, views of the Venetian-era Agios Dimitrios Church, its interior and one of its wall frescos, and the church bell
Views from Acrocorinth
Above, some of the countryside views from the castle. The bottom photo shows the small cities of Corinth (foreground) and Loutraki (across the bay at the foot of the mountains), where we stayed for the first three days of our vacation.
Acrocorinth views of Penteskoufi
From Acrocorinth, visitors can see another nearby peak that is also crowned with a castle — Penteskoufi (also known as the Montesquieue Castle).
It was built by the Franks in 1205 as a strategic maneuver in their efforts to conquer Acrocorinth, which was held at the time by the Byzantine ruler, Leo Sgouras. It took several years for the would-be invaders to prevail. In 1208, as the Franks moved closer to capturing control of Acrocorinth by cutting off its access routes and supply chains, Sgouras committed suicide by riding his horse off a cliff. When supplies finally ran out a year later, Acrocorinth surrendered to the Franks.
Penteskoufi is a square fortress with a tower and six cannon ports. A trail to the castle apparently starts at the Acrocorinth parking area (though we didn’t see it), but the Kastrologos website says the route up the 476-meter peak is difficult and strenuous, and can be dangerous.
A look at two unique places where visitors to Loutraki can sunbathe, swim and enjoy beautiful scenery within a 20 kilometer drive of the city
Encircled by pine forests, Vouliagmeni Lake is a salt-water lagoon where visitors can swim and sunbathe on sandy beaches and enjoy refreshments at tavernas along the shore.
At the Sanctuary of Hera, visitors can explore an archaeological site, swim and cliff jump at a small beach below the ruins, then watch the sunset from a 125-year-old stone lighthouse perched high above the Gulf of Corinth
Into the Corinthian countryside: Sunshine, light clouds and temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius prevailed on our first full day in Loutraki in May. It was perfect weather for a drive through the Gulf of Corinth countryside to visit two of the area’s noteworthy attractions, Vouliagmeni Lake and the Sanctuary of Hera.
First stop was Vouliagmeni Lake, about 15 kilometers from the city. (Like many places in Greece, it is known and referred to by a variety of names, including Limni Vouliagmeni, Lake Ireon, the Heraion Lagoon, and the Blue Lake. To add to possible confusion, there’s another beautiful body of water named Vouliagmeni Lake that is also well-known by Greeks and tourists alike; that one is situated on the Athens Riviera.)
Surrounded by pine tree forests, rolling hills and steep rock slopes, the Vouliagmeni near Loutraki is an oblong-shaped salt-water lagoon connected to the Gulf of Corinth by a narrow channel. The lake is roughly two kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide, and its waters reach depths up to 40 meters. With sandy beaches extending across shallow stretches of its shore, and several tavernas and beach cafes located at varying points on the lakefront, it’s quite a popular daytrip destination for people seeking relaxation or fun in the summer sun — seasonal activities such as snorkeling, water skiing and wakeboarding, as well as cycling and hiking tours, are available at the lake.
Surprisingly, few other people were around when we were there, though that may have been because it was a Tuesday morning, and since we spent most of our time walking around and sitting in the sun on the northeast shore, near Taverna Hera, one of the lake’s handful of restaurant venues. There may have been more people at beachfronts on the southwest shore around Ypanema Seaside Food & Drink, or near the picturesque blue and white waterside chapel dedicated to Agios Nikolaos. Still, there was barely any traffic in the area, so it was remarkably quiet.
Above, photos we shot from the lakeside near Taverna Hera
Above, three views from the lake’s north shore
Above, two photos of the charming Agios Nikolaos chapel on the shore of Vouliagmeni Lake. The images were shared on the social media pages for Ypanema Food and Drinks, one of the lake’s top beach venues. More photos of the lake and the restaurant’s beachfront facilities can be seen on the @ypanemaloutraki page on Instagram.
This aerial film by Dronetube_GR runs nearly 4 minutes and tours viewers above the lake, its beaches and the channel to the gulf
Please click on the link below to read about our visit to the Sanctuary of Hera on page 2.
With its exceptionally long beachfront and lovely pedestrian promenade, plus expansive views of mountains and the Gulf of Corinth, the small city of Loutraki proved to be an ideal place for us to shake off jet lag at the beginning of our trip to Greece in May 2022.
How we discovered that the coastal city of Loutraki is a great base for travellers planning to explore the Corinth and Peloponnese regions of Greece
Somewhere out of Athens: While we were thrilled to be going back to Greece for our first trip in three years, we were almost dreading our flight to Athens in May. Local news reports kept showing long, queues of frustrated passengers waiting at understaffed check-in counters and security checkpoints in Toronto’s Pearson Airport, which was making international headlines for its record-high rates of flight delays and cancellations.
As if getting to the airport more than three hours before departure wasn’t bad enough, we certainly weren’t looking forward to the 9.5-hour overnight flight in cramped economy class seats, either. Though we were fully vaxxed with Covid shots, we wondered how we would manage wearing face masks and sitting mere inches from other people for such a long time. (Masking would be mandatory from the moment we walked into the Toronto terminal until the second we stepped out of Athens International Airport).
And then, of course, we would have to cope with jet lag fatigue and lethargy as we adjusted to the 7-hour time difference for a few days after arrival.
With so many unpleasant hurdles to overcome just to get off the ground and across the Atlantic, we didn’t want to stay in busy, bustling Athens at the beginning of our holiday. We simply weren’t ready to deal with crowds, noise and traffic congestion, and would have to find somewhere less frenetic. But where could we ease into vacation mode and shake off the jet lag before our scheduled flight to Karpathos island three days later?
Ideally, it would be a place on the seaside with great scenery (bonus points for mountain and sunset views); parks or walking paths; a wide selection of restaurants and cafes close to our hotel; and interesting historic sites or scenic outdoor areas we could visit on short daytrips. The Athens Riviera ticked most of the boxes, but we had already stayed in Glyfada, Voula and Sounion numerous times, and wanted to experience something different.
Loutraki came to mind, and seemed even more appealing when I did some research. When I mentioned it to an Athens friend who knows our travel style and preferences quite well, she agreed that Loutraki would be a good choice. What’s more, she could join us for those three days, even picking us up at Athens airport and driving us back there for our island flight. That settled it — we were going to Loutraki!
This 5-minute video from Visit Loutraki shows aerial views of the city, and profiles some of the highlight attractions in the mountains and coastal areas nearby
A small city with about 12,000 residents, Loutraki is located in the Peloponnese, on the southeastern coast of the Gulf of Corinth. It’s just over an hour (80 miles) from Athens, so it would be a relatively short and tolerable trip from the airport following our long flight. It looked inviting in pictures and videos, and sounded good in descriptions on travel blogs and websites. Once we got there, however, it was even better than we had expected.
To our delight, Loutraki offered a lot for us to love:
♦ a coastal location boasting miles of waterfront, much of it lined with beaches and pedestrian walkways
♦ impressive views of mountains and the gleaming waters of the Gulf of Corinth
♦ dozens of restaurants, cafes and bars for all budgets
♦ extensive options for hotel and private rental accommodations,
♦ close proximity to important historic sites and amazing natural attractions to visit on short outings or daytrips, and
♦ lots of other places and things to see and do, including a renowned thermal spa and a casino.
Best of all, it was a perfect place us to overcome jet lag, since the seaside paths and daytrips to nearby historic sites enabled us to take long walks in fresh air and sunshine — something travel experts strongly recommend for adjusting to new time zones.
There was really only one thing we didn’t like, and that was our schedule — with only two full days and three nights at our disposal, our visit ended quickly, and we couldn’t see and do as much in Loutraki as we would have liked.
On our first full day in Loutraki, we drove to see one of the area’s most popular natural attractions, Vouliagmeni Lake (upper photo), along with the beautiful archaeological and historic site nearby, the Heraion of Perachora (the Sanctuary of the Goddess Hera)
On our second full day, we wandered around the massive Acrocorinth Castle (upper photo) and the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth
If you’re interested in learning more about Loutraki as a holiday or daytrip destination, check out Visit Loutraki, the official web portal for the Loutraki Tourism Organization. The website is packed with information about accommodations, dining, nightlife, sports and other activities, religious and historic sites, nearby beaches and much more. There’s also a Visit Loutraki page on Facebook, and more than 1,590 photos on the Instagram profile @visitloutraki.
To see a series of photos from our time in Loutraki, please click on the link below to continue reading on page 2.
Two of the places we loved on Karpathos were the villages of Finiki (top image) and Arkasa, both situated on the island’s scenic southwestern coast.
Photos from Corinth, Karpathos and Attica: Sometimes travel doesn’t happen as planned, or doesn’t happen at all. Holidays were ruined for thousands of people around the world this year because of flight cancellations and airport delays, lost luggage, extreme weather, Covid infections and other unanticipated events.
For us, a long-awaited trip to Greece — our first vacation in three years — had to be cut short when I sustained a severe injury in a fall just hours after we arrived on Karpathos in early May. What was supposed to be a carefree 5-week holiday was turned into a nightmarish experience by a split-second walking accident.
Instead of sightseeing, swimming and chilling out on beautiful beaches, I spent two days in the island’s small hospital, frustrated and stressed out from phone calls with travel insurance company personnel who wouldn’t help me secure medical treatment. And rather than enjoying the lovely hotels we had reserved, and exploring scenic mountain villages, I was scrambling to cancel reservations and hastily re-arrange transportation so I could get home quickly for surgery. The Greek holiday that was supposed to give us a mental break from the doom and gloom of the Covid pandemic turned into an unexpected trip to a Canadian operating room, followed by a painful recovery period and months of grueling physiotherapy.
Our holiday disaster is a long, complicated tale I might tell another time. It’s also the reason I haven’t added any new posts to this blog in more than seven months.
And while my story still isn’t finished, it does have a happy chapter: When doctors and physiotherapists gave me the go-ahead to travel, we booked a last-minute trip back to Greece in late September. This time, I’m pleased to report, our vacation was low-key and injury-free. It provided three weeks of rejuvenating rest and blissful relaxation at some of the places we didn’t get to see in May.
During our accident-shortened spring holiday, we visited the Loutraki and Corinth areas of the Peloponnese, and the town of Pigadia on Karpathos island. In late September, we went back to Karpathos for three weeks, then wrapped up our autumn getaway at the Porto Rafti seaside town near Athens before flying home.
A fishing boat tied to a pier in Loutraki, a town situated on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Corinth. We spent three nights here in May, finding it an excellent base for exploring the Corinth region of the Peloponnese.
The long golden-sand beach at Pigadia, the main port town on Karpathos island. We spent several nights in Pigadia in May, and again in October during our return trip to Karpathos.
A hilltop view of one of the bays at Porto Rafti, a picturesque seaside town in Attica near the Athens International Airport. We enjoyed three nights here at the end of our vacation in mid-October.
As always, we took plenty of pictures during our travels, and you can see dozens of them on our two main social media accounts:
I’m still posting additional photos several times a week, so you will discover new content if you check back regularly for updates. (You can view the images even if you don’t have your own Instagram or Facebook accounts, by the way.)
I’m currently busy working on some blog posts about our holiday destinations and experiences, and hope to publish those soon.
The rugged coast at Amoopi, a resort area on Karpathos. We were fascinated by the clear turquoise waters and intriguing rock formations, and loved discovering secluded coves as well as Amoopi’s organized sand and pebble beaches.
The colourful neoclassical mansions of Gialos port on Symi island provide a dramatic backdrop for singer Amanda Tenfjord and actor Nicolas Melachrinidis, seen in two screenshots from the music video for Die Together
Scenery to die for: The official music video for Die Together, Greece’s entry in the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, has us wishing we could hop on a boat and sail to Symi.
The island’s port town, Gialos, plays a supporting role in the video, which stars singer Amanda Georgiadis Tenfjord and actor Nicolas Melachrinidis. But for us, the picturesque harbour and the Gialos hillsides lined with colourful neoclassical mansions were total scene-stealers, capturing our attention far more than the music and the video’s two performers.
Don’t read us wrong — we do like Amanda Tenfjord’s song. But the video’s background scenery is what really wows us. Watching the 3-minute film, we can’t help but imagine how breathtaking it must be to sail into Gialos and see the impressive surroundings in person. We hope we get that opportunity sometime.
The Eurovision Song Contest gets underway May 10 in Turin, Italy.
You can view the Die Together video below. To see more of Symi, scroll past the video to find direct links to several articles and island travel guides we have collected, as well as to a few Instagram accounts that feature wonderful photos of Symi sights and scenery.
Open now and coming soon: If you’re planning to visit Mykonos in 2022 and are wondering what places will be open this season, and when, we’ve got that information for you.
We have compiled a series of articles to spotlight what’s happening on Mykonos this year, including exciting new arrivals; opening dates for hotels, bars, nightclubs, beach clubs and restaurants; as well as a listing of top activities and attractions.
For those of you who have been to Mykonos before, this collection of posts will show you what’s new for 2022, along with opening dates for your favourite hangouts.
If you have never been to Mykonos and are planning on paying it a visit for the first time, our series of posts will give you a preview of where you’ll be able to eat, drink, party and play — and will give you ideas for potential places to stay during your holiday.