1. Central Greece
West from Athens, a four-day drive in the marching path of warriors offers heart-quickening roadways, awe-inspiring temples, and a past rich in legends and myths.
After heading west out of Athens on Highway E94, join the tour buses parked at the Corinth Canal, a four-mile slot of turquoise water that connects two seas, and, 25 miles down the road, Mycenae, the Bronze Age palace made from limestone boulders so humongous that legend claims only a Cyclops could have laid them.
Then part ways with the crowds and head south into the heart of the Peloponnese peninsula along Highway E65 to Sparta. In the center of town, the small Archaeological Museum of Sparta contains a collection of gravestones, which—in the spirit of the city-state’s conviction that citizens should become soldiers or give birth to them—were allotted only to those who died in battle or during labor. Though Sparta itself has an unremarkable modern cityscape, the ancient city’s acropolis features a lush expanse of yellow flowers under olive trees. From the acropolis, it’s clear why the Spartans settled here. A rolling valley that once fed the war machine lies to the south; to the west are the incisor-like, snowcapped Taigetos Mountains. Nearby stands Mistras, the last preserve of the Byzantine Empire, with its buildings stacked up a mountainside.
Point your wheels west toward Kalamata via curvy Route 82. Skim along a gorge and the Langada Pass to glimpse why this road has been called one of the most breathtaking in Greece. Linger in the stunning landscape at Hotel Taigetos, which stretches along a ridge at 5,000-foot-high Langada. Vistas are opulent, especially at sunset. Roll down to the famous olive-producing area of Kalamata. To taste the regional treasure, try local stores or the roadside fruit stands near the olive groves close to town.
Then take Highway E55 for 70 miles, gliding along the sparkling Ionian coast to Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics. Early on, the games were part of a religious festival to honor god-of-all-gods Zeus. Men ran one footrace loaded with some 60 pounds of armor, though participants competed in most races in the buff.
Cross the Gulf of Corinth near Patra on an elegant suspension bridge completed in 2003, and cruise Highway E65 along the gulf’s northern shores, where small fishing boats ply the coves in pursuit of sea bass and sea bream. Stop in serene Galaxidi, its two harbors filled with brightly colored skiffs and lined with stone houses.
Explore the mysteries of Delphi, 20 miles north and the site of the famed oracle. High on a cliff with a view of the Gulf of Corinth, this is where leaders like Alexander the Great sought consultation before waging war. After an invigorating workout climbing Delphi’s switchback paths, continue driving on E65 until it meets E75, crossing a mountain range and dropping down to the coast to reach Thermopylae. Here in 480 B.C., a small but resolute Greek army held off hundreds of thousands of Persians for several days in the Battle of Thermopylae, a humiliating setback for the all-powerful Persians. Down the old highway stands a bronze statue of Leonidas, the general who led the effort and died (an inscription on the base translates to “Come and get them!”—his retort to the Persians’ demand for his army’s weapons. Before the statue, turn right down a side road to join locals playing in Thermopylae’s hot springs and steamy pools. A rope fastened under the falls helps frolickers remain upright in the tremendous current (water shoes are recommended). This isn’t an official operation: no fees, no staff, but plenty of locals.
After the coastal town of Kamena Vourla, circle back toward Athens on Highway E75, exiting on a back road that wends among pine-forested cliffs past a steely blue reservoir. Then it’s on to Marathon, the site of yet another face-off with the Persians—this one victorious. According to legend, a messenger ran nearly 26 miles to Athens to announce the news—a feat that inspired the modern-day marathon. After walking around the gumdrop-shaped burial mound and inspecting a 3-D battle diagram, head to the beachfront Isidora Taverna. Admire the beach scene; it’s the same stretch of sand where advancing Persians landed their ships 2,500 years ago.

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I would like to think of myself as a full time traveler. I have been retired since 2006 and in that time have traveled every winter for four to seven months. The months that I am "home", are often also spent on the road, hiking or kayaking. I hope to present a website that describes my travel along with my hiking and sea kayaking experiences.
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