Situated on the coast of the Peloponnese, the charming town of Nafplio is often missed by international visitors yet is a favourite with locals. Less than two hours' drive from Athens, Nafplio is considered to be one of the best (and most romantic) getaways in Greece. Nafplio was the first capital of the modern Greek state and is now a vibrant seaside town with imposing castles, impressive churches and fascinating museums.
Nafplio has a long and rich history, spanning from ancient times through to Venetian, Ottoman and modern states. Along with its beautiful and eclectic architecture, you'll find a stunning natural features and a strong sense of culture in the town. Here's just some of the reasons why you should take the time to visit this enchanting coastal town.
Nafplio is famous for being one of the most romantic places in Greece - and for good reason. From its scenic harbour and sea views to the fairytale castle just off the shoreline, Nafplio is drenched in beauty and history. Hugging the Argolic Gulf in the Peloponnese, the streets of the historical centre are charming and romantic - think cobbled paths lined with neoclassical buildings, colourful bougainvillea and large squares bordered by bars and restaurants.
The architecture steals your attention as you walk down the street and the views at sunset are exceptionally pretty. There are two large squares in the town and the paved Syntagma Square leads to the small tavernas with delicious food. Just out of town, you'll find some beautiful sandy (and stone beaches), with clear water and magnificent views.
One of the highlights of Nafplio is the Bourtzi, a castle which seems to rise up out of the sea. The Bourtzi (meaning tower in Turkish), was originally built by the Venetians in the 15th Century. Due to the strategic importance of the island and its proximity to Nafplio's port, they built a fortress in the shape of an imperfect hexagon to match the shape of the land.
The fort included a three-storey tower with moveable stairs, and well positioned cannons. In 1715, the fort finally fell to the Ottoman Turks and was strengthened further - and large stones were dropped into the harbour to keep large ships away from the island. During the Greek Revolution, the island was claimed by the Greeks who used it first to shelter their leaders, then house executioners, before becoming a hotel. Today, you can visit
During the time of the Greek Revolution, between 1821 and 1832, it was won back by the Greeks, who used it to shelter their leaders from the chaos that was taking over the rest of the land. When the strife subsided, Bourtzi was no longer required as a defensive fortress, and the executioners were housed there for the second half of the century. Today, you can visit the island with just a short boat ride from Nafplio's port.
Nafplio's location in Peloponnese makes it AN easy base to explore some of the important sites of ancient Greece, particularly if you hire a car. Within half an hour from Nafplio you can reach Mycenae, the home of Agamemnon, as well as the Sanctuary of Asclepius in Epidaurus, home to the largest and one of the best-preserved ancient theatres in Greece. The theatre is famous for exceptional acoustics and comes to life every summer with the Festival of Epidaurus, performing ancient comedies and tragedies.
Less than an hour's drive away is the Corinth Canal and Ancient Corinth, one of the most famous cities (and rivals of Athens) in Ancient Greece. The Temple of Apollo, agora, public market, and the Bema of Saint Paul the Apostle, are all well worth visiting there. Closer to Nafplio, you can also spend an afternoon at Tiryns, one of the most important archeological sites of Argolis and a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is located just outside the city.
You don't need to go to Greek island hopping to relax on a beach - Nafplio has some gorgeous places to swim not far from the town. From the Palamidi path along the coast to two of Naxos's most popular beaches, Karathona and Arvanitdia. The 6km walk is stunning with the Palamidi Hill (and fortress) on one side of you and the sea on the other, and you're rewarded with a beautiful beach at the end.
On the way, you'll come to Arvanitia Beach, a small pebble beach with clear water, just below the Palamidi Fortress. The beach has umbrellas, sunbeds, changing facilities and a couple of cafes, and a beach bar opens in the evenings. Further from Nafplio, at the end of the path, you'll come to Karathona Beach. A favourite of the locals, Karathona is a a blue flag, sandy beach framed with palm trees and olive trees.
One of the wonderful things about Nafplio is that it's a joy to visit all year round. Unlike the islands, which effectively close down in winter, Nafplio is a working town in mainland Greece, with a resident population of over 14,000 people. Given its close proximity to Athens, Nafplio's tourism industry continues regardless of the season. While it does get a bit quieter in the winter, it's still a vibrant, fascinating place to visit, and the city seems every bit as romantic in the colder weather as it does in the summer.
The lack of crowds give the town a peaceful, calm feel and you can explore the wonders of the town's museums at your leisure, without feeling like you're missing out on the sunshine. The Bourtzi castle is ethereal at this time of year, as it almost disappears magically in the foggy landscape. After the rain, old buildings are reflected on the wet, paved streets and the bars and restaurants are particularly welcoming in the cold weather. Plus, there's often a sunny afternoon to enjoy walks around (or beyond) the town and Nafplio is exceptionally lovely when decorated for Christmas.
Like many ancient places, Nafplio's mythological founding can be traced back to the gods - Nafplios, the son of god Poseidon and the daughter of Danaus Anymone is the legendary founder of the town. It's history stretches to prehistoric era when soldiers from here participated in the Trojan War and sailed with Jason and the Argonauts. It's history spans the Bronze Age, Romans, Franks, Venetians and Ottomans, before the town finally became the capital of the modern Greek State in the 19th Century.
Syntagma Square (Constitution Square) in the centre of town will give you a idea of the town's long history, with several buildings and statues hinting at the past. You can see the the mosque from the Ottoman occupation of the town, the old Parliament building and statues of some of the famous people of the town. The castle walls of the Acronafplia also showcase the town's history and are beautiful to explore. For greater insight into the town's history, be sure to visit some of the local museums - the archaeological museum, folklore museum and war museum are some of the best.
With it's coastal location and warmer climate, Nafplio's specialties can perhaps be easily summarised: seafood and oranges. The Argolis Valley is covered in orange groves (visible from Palamidi Fortress) and you should head to the Saturday farmers market to taste the local fruit (along with local honey, cheese and olives) while you're in town. To sample the seafood, head to the restaurants in town. Many offer small sharing plates of meze so you can try shrimp, octopus and fish, and have live music which makes for a fun night out.
Nafplio also has some excellent wine to complement your food. The nearby Nemea and Mantineia wines are well worth trying - Nemea is known for bold and fruity reds while Mantineia is famous for crisp, aromatic whites. Book a tasting and tour at the lovely Koroniotis Winery to sample the wines in situ (the views are lovely) or head to the Karonis Distillery Exhibition and Shop in the centre of town for a tasting. The Karonis famiily has also been producing spirits in Nafplio for over 130 years and their ouzo, tsipouro, liqueurs, and brandy are a must to try when you visit.
Planning a trip to Nafplio? Stay at Nafsimedon Hotel in a 19th Century building in the centre of town.
Last Updated 17 November 2022