Untour in Nafplio

My wife, Margaret, and I spent 3½ weeks in Greece in September ’05, and for the first two weeks we were based in Nafplio, less than two hours west of Athens by car. We had arranged to rent an apartment through Untours (Box 405, Media, PA 19063; 888/868-6871). The cost of our Nafplio Untour apartment plus a rental car was $1,299 per person.

Margaret at the theater in Epidavros. Photos: Dear

To get to Greece, we were fortunate to find a very good business-class fare of $2,215 each from Houston to Athens via Boston and Rome, returning via Rome and Newark. The flights from Houston to Boston and from Newark to Houston were on Continental, and the service and attention were excellent. The other legs were on Alitalia; the service was mediocre and the attention, nonexistent.

On the outbound journey, we had a nominal 3-hour layover in Rome which dragged on into an 8-hour wait due to a strike by Alitalia cabin attendants. Consequently, we did not arrive in Athens until about 8.30 p.m., missing our 6:00 ride to Nafplio. We were due to pick up an Avis car in Nafplio the next day, so I phoned Yiannis, the head of the Avis office in Nafplio, and asked if we could instead get the car at Athens airport Avis in the morning.

“Absolutely not,” he answered. “I will have the car delivered to your hotel at the airport at 9 a.m.”

The only hotel at the airport is the Sofitel, built especially for the Olympics. While I was talking with Yiannis, Margaret was calling the hotel. Over the phone, they offered a room for €470 (near $596) per night! Declining that offer but realizing that we would have to stay there, we walked across the road to that same hotel, asked for their best rate and were offered a room for €340. I asked if they had any senior discounts. This seemed to puzzle the desk clerk, so I gestured to my white hair. Immediately, the rate came down to €240 ($305). We took it.

The room was very nice and the bed was extremely comfortable, but we were so wound up that it took a while before we could get to sleep.

The next morning, as promised, our car was delivered. It had been driven from Nafplio by Paris, Yiannis’ assistant. Paris also had to pick up a car to be returned to Nafplio and so we were able to follow him all the way to our apartment. The roads around Athens to the west are excellent, again having been built for the 2004 Olympics.

Isle of Bourdzi, Nafplio.

Nafplio is an ideal base from which to explore the Peloponnese peninsula. We visited Epidavros with its amazing fourth-century B.C. theater; Mycenae with the Lion Gate; Nemea (excellent wineries nearby); Corinth and the Corinth Canal, and Mistras, a Byzantine town built on three distinct levels. In Nafplio itself there is the Acronafplio (castle) and the Palamidi (fortress), situated high above the town. With the advent of cannons, the Acronafplio became indefensible from whomever occupied the Palamidi.

For many of these tours, we got good advice from Yiannis as to how to go and at what times (i.e., before the tour buses from Athens arrived). Generally, we would take one day to visit a historical or archaeological site and the next day we would relax at a beach.

The Peloponnese is a very mountainous region and, although distances are not great, travel times are much longer than would be expected. The mountain roads are often narrow and without guardrails, which at times gave Margaret conniptions. Some Greek drivers also want to get ahead very aggressively, and the safest thing is to let them overtake you at the earliest opportunity. If you take too long, these drivers will create their own opportunities!

Nafplio is a small port but still receives the occasional small cruise ship, such as those from Windstar Cruises.

The old part of the town consists of very narrow streets, many of which are, thankfully, one way. There are many tavernas in the Old Town, and prices were reasonable, typically €20-€30 (near $26-$38) for dinner with wine.

On the seafront there are some good seafood restaurants, but beware; these can be expensive because the fresh fish is sold by uncooked weight and, typically, one kilo goes for €50-€60. Our favorite meals often consisted of a Greek salad (we shared one; they are huge) followed by delicious squid or eggplant.

The Woodlands, TX