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Cultural Journey: In the footsteps of François-René de Chateaubriand (self drive)

Discovering the best travel spots on the Peloponnese Peninsula by traveling In the footsteps of François-René de Chateaubriand.

“In Greece everything is smooth; everything is softened; everything is as full of calm in nature as in the writings of the ancients. One almost sees why the architecture of the Parthenon possesses such happy proportions, why ancient sculpture is so little troubled, so peaceful, so simple, when one has seen the clear skies and graceful landscape of Athens, Corinth and Ionia”– François-René de Chateaubriand

One summer morning, on the 10th of August 1806, a boat coming from Trieste dropped anchor off the coast of Methoni, in southern Peloponnese. A lonely passenger, wrapped in a long cloak, was standing on the bow staring at the distant land with a dreamy and impatient look, ready to disembark. In front of his eyes he saw a medieval town surrounded by half-ruined Gothic fortifications. “Not a boat in the harbour, not a man on the shore: everywhere silence, abandonment and neglect.” When he reached the shore he was greeted by a group of locals who all spoke at once and asked a thousand questions trying to understand who this enigmatic stranger was and why he was there.

This stranger was a restless, romantic dreamer and an adventure seeker, François-René de Chateaubriand, a French aristocrat and writer who had left Paris a month ago, with the dream to chase experiences and images of another era. What he wanted to see in Greece was Sparta and Athens, the two famous and rival cities of Greek antiquity. The impressions that he gained through this journey are included in his book “Record of a Journey from Paris to Jerusalem and Back”, a unique book that gives a really captivating account of Greece on the eve of the revolution against the Turkish occupation.

During the 22 days he spends in the Peloponnese and Central Greece, Chateaubriand is fascinated by ancient Greek culture and the Greek landscape. In every place he visits he is constantly searching to see the faces of Leonidas, Lycurgus, Themistocles etc and to relive the glory and splendour of Greek antiquity. Let’s take together this journey following in the footsteps of the romantic French writer François-René de Chateaubriand and explore the cities and the archaeological sites he visited.

Tour Highlights

  • Ancient Epidaurus and Nafplio
  • Tiryns and Mycenae
  • Wine tasting in Nemea
  • Ancient Sparta and byzantine Mystras
  • Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil in Sparta
  • Pylos, Methoni and Koroni
  • Ancient Messene

Day 1 | Ancient Epidaurus and Nafplio

Driving with your rented car you will leave from Athens in the morning and head towards the archaeological site of Epidaurus, where you will see the Ancient Theatre, one of the finest and best preserved ancient theatres in Greece with unique acoustics and a capacity of 15,000 spectators. Next to the theatre, in the Asclepieio you will be introduced to the secrets of ancient Greek healing and explore the most celebrated healing center of the classical world.

Leaving Epidaurus behind you will head towards the city of Nafplio, to enjoy the ambience of this picturesque and romantic place. Nafplio was the first capital city of the newly born Greek state between 1823 and 1834 and is one of the most beautiful towns of southern Greece in the Peloponnese. The city, with its preserved architecture and neoclassical buildings, is “touched” by two great castles, Palamidi and Bourtzi. You can walk around the city through cobbled streets to reach Syntagma Square where you can explore the Archaeological Museum, the Vouleftiko, which was the building of the first Greek parliament, and the old mosque. You will overnight in Nafplio.

Day 2 | Tiryns, Mycenae and Nemea

Today you will start your journey by visiting the ancient city of Tiryns, a place of legend and fascination. Tiryns has been inhabited continuously from the Neolithic Age to the 5th century BC and was a huge fortified city with gigantic walls. Its volume was so impressive that the ancient Greeks could not believe that it was built by human hands. They thought that the architects of Tiryns were the Cyclopes. Hercules was said to have been born in Tiryns and has been ordered by the king of the city, Eurystheus, to perform his twelve labours.

The continuation of your quest will bring you to the archaeological site of Mycenae, the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon and the richest palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. Palatial complexes, Cyclopean walls, the famous “Tomb of Agamemnon” (also known as the “Treasury of Atreus”), huge arches, fountains and ramparts comprise one of the greatest architectural complexes known to the ancient world. Mycenae have been rediscovered in the 17th and 18th century by European travellers who explored Greece, its monuments and its treasures. In 1876 Heinrich Schliemann brought to light the royal vaulted tombs, the Treasure of Atreus.

Leaving behind the cyclopean fortifications and the vaulted tombs of Mycenae, you will set off to find the Lion of Ancient Nemea and the endless vineyards of the region. There you can visit a local wine factory and taste local wines and products. After Nemea, you will head towards Laconia and the city of Sparta, trying to discover, as Chateaubriand did back in 1806, the old Spartan glory. You will overnight in Sparta.

Day 3 | Mystras and Sparta

You will begin your day in the breathtaking medieval city of Mystras, that used to be the capital of the byzantine Despotate of Morea and the Paleologos dynasty. Built in a beautiful landscape on the slopes of mount Taygetos, this tower city is full of old medieval buildings and byzantine churches with impressive frescoes. Wandering through its cobbled pathways you will explore it’s unique architecture and natural beauty. The view to the Laconian plain and mount Parnon from the castle of Mystras is unique. When Chateaubriand visited Laconia to see Ancient Sparta, he was stunned by the greatness of Mystras.

Sparta is your next stop where you can have a short stroll in the city and visit the Archaeological Museum and the archaeological site of Ancient Sparta. After lunch you can take a tour to the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil and learn how the cultivation of olives and production of olive oil is connected to Greek everyday life throughout the centuries. You will spend a second night in Sparta.

Day 4 | Pylos, Methoni and Koroni

Today you will leave Sparta in the morning and head towards Pylos. The passage from Laconia to Messinia will brings you to the village of Tripi, where we find the canyon of Keadas. It is said that in this steep cavern the ancient Spartans were throwing their weak and deformed infants, criminals and perhaps captives.

The route through the gorge of Lagkada towards Messinia is fantastic as you will have the opportunity to admire the natural forest of mount Taygetos. The rest of your journey until you reach Pylos is full of landscapes with olive and orange trees. Pylos is a picturesque small city in the west end of Messinia. You will stroll around the town to admire Niokastro, the castle dominating the city, and the beautiful two-storey neoclassical houses, that give the city an Ionian style. Leaving Pylos, you will visit Methoni, another lovely small town with a remarkable castle built at the tip of the peninsula of Methoni. Here in 1806 Chateaubriand disembarked from a ship starting his adventurous exploration of Greece.

From here you will leave for your hotel which is located in the Messinian Bay and has views across the impressive mountain of Taygetos. In the afternoon you can visit the city of Koroni to see the Castle of Koroni and walk through the narrow streets until youreach the picturesque harbour. There in the harbour you can have a delicious dinner in a small taverna.

Day 5 | Ancient Messene

Crossing the Messinian land through fields of olive trees, you will arrive in the archaeological site of Ancient Messene, a city built in 370 BC by the Theban Epameinontas. This city developed into an important cultural center of Messinia until 395 AD, when it was destroyed by the Goths. The Ancient Theatre, the Ekklesiasterion, the Asclepieio, the Temple of Artemis, the fountain of Arsinoe, the imposing Stadium and the Gymnasium, the Odeon and many other monuments testify to the wealth and size of Ancient Messene. Completing your visit to Ancient Messene, you will start your return trip to Athens.

This selection of best travel spots on the Peloponnese Peninsula will ensure a fulfilling and culturally rich journey.

Important Tips

  • Travel Bite date and/or time might be modified or cancelled due to weather conditions and in this event the option of an alternative date or full refund will be given.
  • We would recommend to bring with you good walking (closed toes) shoes with non-slippery soles, hat, sun glasses, sunscreen and a camera.
  • Single occupancy with extra charge 120 euro per person (in case of interest please send email from contact us section or here)

Tips & Useful Info

Starting point: Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece
Languages: English, Greek
Included Amenities: Accommodation in hotels and characterful local guesthouses with breakfast, Information material with maps and guides about the itinerary and the places you will visit, Public Liability Insurance, all applicable taxes, 24x7 support
Excluded Amenities: Personal expenses, Transportation to the meeting point, Air tickets to/from Greece, Travel Insurance, Entrance fees to museums and archaeological sites, Food, drinks and beverages if not mentioned above, Tips, anything not specified in the inclusions section
Minimum number of guests needed: 2
Maximum number of guests: 8
Physical Level: No difficulty. Previous experience is not required. Basic level of agility and fitness is needed.

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