NAFPLIO – A Class of its Own

Nafplio is one of the most beautiful old towns in Greece. Travel to Nafplio to enjoy the old town itself, and use it as a hub when you visit the plethora of important archaeological sites in its vicinity: Mycenae, Epidaurus, Tyrins, Argos, Nemea, and many more.

Intorduction

You can travel to Nafplio in about two hours from Athens. Plan on a two or three day visit to stroll the cobblestone streets and squares of the old town, to shop, or to relax in the promenade. From Nafplio you can easily travel to some of the most important archaeological sites and museums in its vicinity.

Archaeological Sites and Museums in Nafplio

Nafplio would make an excellent base if you want to explore the extensive archaeological sites of the Argolis, but the town itself has some very interesting sites: Tyrins, Palamidi Fortress, Bourtzi Fort, Acronafplia, and of course the Archaeological Museum of Nafplio.

Archaeological Sites and Museums for Day-Trips

Besides the above sites in the immediate vicinity of  Nafplio, we recommend renting a car for excursions to some of the most important archaeological sites Greece has to offer–Mycenae, and Epidaurus being among them.

  • Mycenae and the Mycenae Museum
    You can reach the Mycenae archaeological site in about 25 minutes by car from Nafplio. It’s one of the most important archaeological sites of Greece.
  • Epidaurus
    Epidaurus is about 35 minutes from Nafplio. There you can visit the famous ancient theater of Epidaurus and the rest of the healing sanctuary of Asclepius. There is as small museum on the site as well.
  • Ancient Asine (Kastraki) Archeological site
    The archaeological site of ancient Asine is nested on a headband between two beaches so you may combine it with a trip to the beach. The more popular Tolo beach is also nearby. Ancient Asine was occupied from 3000 BCE to Byzantine times, and you may hike the ruins in about 15-20 minutes. Entrance is free.
  • Nemea Archeological site, Stadium, and Museum
  • Franchthi Cave
    If you are looking for a site that’s off the beaten path, the stone-age archaeological site at Frankthi cave is a good choice. You need wheels to get there from Nafplio, and it’s a long drive, so it would be a day-trip. There is a little beach where you can park, and a 20-minute easy hike to the cave from there.

Things to Do and See

Swimming in Nafplio Beaches

Arvanitia beach and bar
Arvanitia beach is a nice place to cool off during the summer.

Nafplio is not known as a swimming destination, but it has its share of nice beaches in the immediate vicinity. With the exception of Arvanitia beach, you need wheels to get to the other nearby beaches.

Click here to see our review of the major Nafplio beaches, including Arvanitia, Tolo, Asine, and Karathonas beaches.

A Brief History of Nafplio

Nafplio is strategically located to influence sea commerce and communications between the Aegean and the mainland.

The area has been inhabited since neolithic times, and it took the name Nafplia  in the bronze age from the hero Nafplios, son of Poseidon and Anymone.

A large settlement in the area flourished during Mycenaean times, but the emergence of nearby Argos coincides with Nafplia’s decline after the 7th century BCE.

Eventually the Argives destroyed the city and relegated it to function as the port of Argos.

The city was abandoned soon after 300 BCE.

It took a few centuries, but the area was repopulated again in Byzantine times around the 9th c. CE. By the 12th century, Nafplio flourished as a semi-autonomous state.

It’s important location was coveted by all the powers of the time, so in the centuries that followed, Nafplio changed hands several times.

In 1210 Nafplio was conquered by the Fanks, and in 1389 became the possession of Venice who fortified Bourtzi islet at the port’s entrance.

In 1540 it was conquered by the Turks, but the Venetians re-captured the city in 1686 and renamed it Napoli of Romania. They built Palamidi fort at that time.

In 1715, the Turks re-captured the city once again, but eventually in 1822 it was liberated by the Greeks during the war of independence.

From 1828 to 1834 Nafplio was the capital of the liberated Greek state.

Practicalities

If you drive, you will find that even the new town streets are prone to traffic jams during peek times. It goes without saying that you should avoid driving in the old town where you can find yourself in narrow streets with not much room to maneuver around.

There is a very large, municipal parking lot at the port. It’s within walking distance from town and an excellent place to leave your car. Parking is free, and it’s a popular overnight spot for RVs.

Where to Stay

Nafplio has plenty of accommodations, ranging from inexpensive rooms-for-rent, to more luxurious 4-star hotels, but in high season you need to have reservations well in advance.

In Nafplion town, we have stayed at Athena Hotel right on the corner of Constitution square and we were very happy with the accommodations. The rooms are clean and you cannot beat the location for convenience and atmosphere.

We also like Amalia Hotel a bit farther out of town. It’s a classy and quiet place if you have a car. It’s conveniently located at the edge of town, so it is a good hub to visit the surrounding archaeological sites or the town itself.

What, Where to Eat

Outdoor restaurant tables at Nafplio old town
Staikopoulou street is lined with restaurant tables

From the port, as you walk toward the Syntagma main square of Nafplio, you will find the restaurant-filled streets of Boumpoulinas, Othonos, and Vasilisis Olgas a good place to shop for dinner.

Boumpoulinas has the more pricey eateries, and the streets one block over (Othonos and Vasilisis Olgas streets) have more traditional tavernas with tables lining the cobblestone streets. They come to life after 8:00pm, and by 10:00pm it would be hard to find a free table. Most serve seafood, and greek dishes.

The restaurants on these streets are of good to excellent quality, and the prices are not prohibitive. Best, the atmosphere is joyous in the cozy streets, and the wine flows with the music effortlessly.

We haven’t tried them all, but from the places we dined in, we found Aeolos Restaurant to have good food at really good prices. Half-a-kilo of house wine, a greek salad, zucchini  croquettes, bread, two seafood dishes, and bottled water for €36 is a good deal. When we were there, every table was treated to a complementary carafe of tsipouro and a plate of fresh fruit.

For grilled food and souvlaki, Staikopoulou street is the place to go. The street is lined with souvlaki, gyros, and other grilled meat restaurants, most of excellent quality on a budget.

For breakfast, pizza, and light lunch, a sandwich, a beverage, or a coffee, the cafeterias that line the promenade and the Syntagma square are all an excellent choice.

For ice cream, Dodoni Cafe at Constitution square is a good choice.

Map

Click here to see it on the map and to get directions in a new window.

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