Greece offers so much to those of us who prefer to spend our holidays in a campervan, but the distance from Europe often makes it difficult or impossible to spend enough time there. On top of that, there is sometimes the feeling that to go to Greece and not visit the Greek Islands is not to get the best from a trip. Greece is not just islands, sun and beaches, however, and the Greek mainland has a great deal to offer the adventurous tourist – fantastic mountains, great history and archaeology, and the chance to get a feel for and appreciate the “real” Greece.
One attractive option is to fly to Athens and hire your van, saving all that transit time and expense, so that you can enjoy what Greece has to offer. Greece is geographically quite a compact country, the distances aren’t too great, and there’s something of interest round every corner. As an example of just how much can be seen in a relatively short time, the following itinerary suggests a trip from Athens to the Peloponnese and across to the mainland north of the Gulf of Corinth, taking in some of the most dramatic archaeological sites along with the best of the scenery. (Camper Club will meet you at Athens Airport and take you to pick up the van at their nearby service centre. This is situated right next to the new Athens highway, so you can be on the way to Epidaurus straight away).
If you wish, at the point where the tolls starts, you can take the old coast road to Epidauros instead of taking the motorway, perhaps because you will wish to cook something interesting that night, such as spaghetti with mussels. Don’t forget that anything is possible in a campervan! At Neraki in Loutropyrgou you can buy fresh mussels as well as various types of clams. To get there go on to the Motorway at Kinetta and get off at the Epidaurus exit a little after Loutraki. Then you can go to the Corinth Canal, which is an amazing sight, a huge trench cut through the naked rock. Take time to see it from above, then drop down to Isthmia to watch the modern bridge submerge to allow ships into the canal. The road to New Epidaurus is quite good with great views but lots of bends. If you prefer an organised camp site, then there are two to choose from in New Epidaurus, both near the main road but on the sea: New Epidaurus and Diamandis. Both sites offer facilities such as an electrical hook-up, toilets, water, showers, a restaurant and mini market as well as a swimming pool.
Palio (Old) Epidaurus is only seven kilometers away from here and you will soon find yourself immersed in Ancient Greek culture as the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is only 14 kilometers away. A beautiful 300 meter path winds its way through ancient olive groves to the Ancient Theatre. In ancient times, Epidaurus was an important centre in the area called Argolidas, well-known for its beauty and harbour which allowed quick communication with the people of Corinth, Athens, and Aegina as well as the wider area of the Aegean. Some covered tombs three kilometers above the village show traces of the civilisation of Mycenean times. The importance of Epidaurus can be seen from the fact that its ancient Asklypion (ancient centre for cures) was reproduced throughout the East and in Rome. There are four campsites in the area: Nicolas I, Nicolas II, Verdelis Beach at Gialasi beach, Bekas at Gialasia beach). All of them operate from April to October. The atmosphere in Palio Epidaurus is very cosmopolitan, with lots of cafes and restaurants and shops selling every type of food and cooking ingredients for those who love trying local foods and cooking. In whichever campervan you rent there is all the cooking equipment you might need. Of course, you shouldn’t miss visiting the actual site of the Ancient Theatre. You can also sample the local meat and cheese in the tavernas at Lygourion. Throughout your journey, you shouldn’t have a shortage of water as there are roadside water sources around but also you can fill up with water in any garage.
On leaving Epidaurus you can cross the Peloponnese from East to West to arrive at Ancient Olympia, and you can enjoy the beautiful beaches of Kouroutas and Kalogrias. You can take the road through Nafplion and Milos (don’t forget to buy local bread, olives and home-made Xilopitas – small fresh pasta), then on up the road to Achladokambos – famous for its bends. Next comes Tripolis, Megalopolis, Karitaina and Andritsena – watch the beautiful but narrow roads around here. From this point it’s worth making a small detour of 13 Kms to visit the striking Temple of Apollon Epikourion at Vassae. This temple is one of the most important and striking for its size from ancient times. It was dedicated by the Phygalians to Apollon because they came through an epidemic of the plague. The temple is sited at a height of 1,130metres and was built in the second half of the 5th Century BC. It was designed by Iktinos, who also built the Parthenon. This wonderful monument of classical architecture, with its worldwide appeal, was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. Parts of decorations of the temple were taken in 1814 and are to be found in the British Museum. At that time taking certain archaeological pieces was a way of filling museums and the excuse used was that it was a way of preserving such remains, as was the case with the Parthenon marbles.