Peloponnese is a geographical area of mainland Greece located in the southern part of the country. Its shape looks like the leaf of a plane tree and it is actually an island connected to the mainland of Greece in two spots: the Corinth Canal and the Bridge of Rio Antirio.
Peloponnese is surrounded by sea and has imposing mountains in its inland. Since ancient times, it has been an integral part of Greece and the terrain of many battles throughout Greek history.
The name Peloponnese means the "island of Pelops". Pelops, or Pelopas, was considered an ancestor of the Atreus family, from whom descended the kings of Mycenae and King Agamemnon himself. Since prehistoric times, many tribes came from the North and established villages in the region of Peloponnese. If the geographical position was good, these villages gradually developed into strong towns, like Mycenae, Sparta, and Pylos.
In ancient times, Peloponnese hosted many holy places, including Olympia, was the famous Olympian Games would take place every four years, and Epidaurus. People would go to the Asklepieion of Epidaurus to get cured of various diseases and then they celebrated the god of medicine, Asclepius, in the Epidaurian Games and at the Theatre of Epidaurus.
For many centuries, the most powerful town of Peloponnese was Sparta. In the 4th century, the conflict between Sparta and Athens led to the Peloponnesian War, which took this name because most battles would take place in Peloponnese.
In Medieval times, Peloponnese was part of the Byzantine Empire. In fact, the town of Mystras became the second most powerful town of the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople and provided the capital with the last family of the emperor, the family of Paleologos. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Peloponnese was conquered by the Venetians.
The Venetians built strong castles to protect the region from enemies, such as the Palamidi Fortress in Nafplion, the Niokastro Fortress in Pylos and the Castle of Monemvasia. In the 15th century, Peloponnese was conquered by the Ottomans, who held it till the Greek War of Independence broke out in 1821. At that time, Peloponnese became the field of many decisive battles for the war and finally, in 1827, Peloponnese, Sterea and the islands of Saronic and Cyclades constituted the modern state of Greece.
Over the decades that followed, Peloponnese has given birth to many important politicians, businessmen, and academics of modern Greece. In August 2007, a large part of western Peloponnese suffered from wildfires that destroyed villages and forests and caused the death of 77 people, causing the largest environmental disaster in modern history.
Peloponnese is a wonderful region to visit any time of the year. It has interesting archaeological sites, traditional villages, and fabulous beaches. Apart from Olympia, Epidaurus and Mycenae which are the most important archaeological sites in Greece, top destinations for holidays in Peloponnese are Nafplion, Monemvasia, Gythio, and Pylos.
A drive around Peloponnese will bring you in front of wonderful places. Also, many tours (daily or multi-day) depart from Athens for the tour of Peloponnese. On the southern side of the region, there are two lovely islands, Elafonissos, and Kythira (which belong to the Ionian group of islands).