Monday, May 27, 2024

19 Reasons to Drop Everything and Head to Ermioni, Greece

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Tucked away on the eastern coast of the Peloponnese peninsula of southern Greece, the tiny town of Ermioni is best known as the launching point for ferries to Hydra and Spetses.

But there are many other reasons to visit this ancient region of Greece.

Aerial view of Ermioni in Peloponnese, Greece.
Aerial view of pretty Ermioni, a coastal town in Peloponnese, Greece.

Why We Loved Ermioni and the Argolida Region of Greece

Entrance to cave church carved into cliffs at Didyma-Agios Georgios, Greece.
I go exploring a cave church carved into a crater at Didyma-Agios Georgios near Ermioni. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

Given it’s relatively low profile on most people’s European itineraries, you might wonder if Ermioni is worth visiting. This is a resounding yes!

As part of the TBEX Europe conference in Kalamata, we spent time in the Argolida region of the Peloponnese before taking the ferry to the Greek islands of Santorini and Naxos.

It’s where we danced ’til dawn to bouzouki music, sipped crimson pomegranate juice and peered inside Byzantine churches built into the rocky slopes of deep craters. 

Here’s a snapshot of why Ermioni is well worth visiting and why we’d love to go back:

  • It’s ancient! Once known as Hermione, it was settled as far back as the 1600 BCE and is mentioned in texts such as Homer’s Iliad.
  • Unlike many beach destinations where there’s not much to do beyond the beach, Ermioni is a hub for outdoor adventure such as rock climbing, scuba, hiking and more.
  • It brims with Greek charm, combining seaside pleasures with the agricultural bounty of mainland Greece.
  • Fabulous regional food with PDO products such as pomegranate, buttery graviera cheese, wildflower honey, shell-shaped pasta, shrimp and unique wine varieties Rokaniaris and Sklavos.
  • Lots of geological wonders from craters to caves to limestone cliffs.
  • Few crowds! Much like Sparta (another oft-overlooked destination in Greece), it offers an authentic Greek experience away from intensely-visited landmarks overrun with hordes of tourists.

No time to read the whole article?

Our top pick for a one-day experience is to go sailing in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Argolis.  

This tour gets fantastic reviews too!

Where is Ermioni, Greece?

Map of Ermioni and the Argolida Peninsula.
Although it’s got the Mediterranean vibe of a Greek island, Ermioni is actually on the Argolida Peninsula of mainland Greece.

Although it’s under-the-radar and most people would be hard pressed to pinpoint Eermioni on a map, It’s an easy 2.5 hour drive from Athens and 3 hours from Kalamata.

We rent our cars on Discovercars.com. It’s an online car rental booking site that compares rates from several companies to find the best deal.

To make things even more convenient, we asked the rental agency to drop the car off at our hotel in Athens. We stayed at the Intercontinental Atheneum a great choice for its views of the Acropolis, outdoor swimming pool and easy access to the highway.

Another fun option would be to hire a motorhome from Goboony, a campervan-sharing platform that’s works like AirBnB on wheels.

Traveling in a campervan offers the freedom to really get out and experience the Argolida region’s still-wild coast.

If you don’t want to drive, it’s also possible to arrange a private taxi transfer from Athens Airport or Piraeus Port to Ermioni.

Top Things to Do in Ermioni, Greece

Here are the top things to do in and around Ermioni, Greece. And why it should be a part of every Greek itinerary!    

1. Step Back in Time to the Ancient Ruins of Hermione

Statue on waterfront of Ermione.
A modern-day statue on Ermione’s waterfront pays tribute to Hermione, the Princess of Sparta and the town’s ancient past. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

The name of Ermioni is drawn from Hermione (Greek Ερμιόνη, Ancient Greek Hermione Ἑρμιόνη), daughter of Menelaus, the King of Sparta and Helen of Troy.

Ancient Hermione, built during the Classical period of Greece, was once surrounded by walls, temples and other sacred sites. 

You can still see remains of the ancient town in the area around modern-day Ermioni.

2. Stroll the Alsos Bisti Peninsula 

Walking path with trees.
Enjoy a walk along the Bisti Peninsula. (Photo Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

When you arrive in Ermioni, one of the first things to do is to take a short walk to the Bisti peninsula on the eastern edge of town.

At the entrance to the park you’ll see several small hotels and the start of a hiking trail that loops back to the main road. 

The walking path is wide and flat flanked by pine trees with vistas sweeping down to crystal-clear waters. 

This is one of the most beautiful places in Ermioni and an excellent location for soaking up some history and fresh air.  

🌟 Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for ruins on your walk. Bisti is an archaeological site where you can see the foundations of the 5th century BC temple of Athena and remnants of the ancient temple of Poseidon. 

3. Enjoy a Delicious Seafood Lunch on the Waterfront

Collage with octopus and seaside dining.
Seaside dining boasts the freshest seafood. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

Once you’ve hiked the Bisti pine-scented forest, it’s a short walk to Taverna Kavos, a family-owned traditional Greek tavern.

There’s a good reason why people travel from the surrounding towns and villages to dine here.

From sea breams to grilled sardines, the quality and variety of fresh fish and seafood here is exceptional.

Not only is the seafood sourced fresh from small fishing boats in the local bay, but the Taverna’s delicious food is accompanied by stunning views over the Mandraki dock and the Myrtoan Sea.

Regional food on white plates with spoons.
Indulge in traditional Greek specialties such as village salad, taramasalata, baked feta and more. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

With its breezy location and friendly service, Taverna Kavos is also an ideal place to sample classics of Greek cuisine such as stifado as well as grilled seafood.

4. Bask in the Crystal-Clear Waters of Argolida

A woman floating in crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean.
Float in crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean.

While average ocean temperatures in Ermioni (17C in May to 26C in August) are chillier than what you’ll find in the Caribbean or Mexico, the waters are crystal clear and calm.

And there are plenty of places to swim. While Ermioni itself is home to two swimming beaches (such as Bisti Beach), there are many other beautiful beaches and swimming platforms in the area.

They range from beaches with fine pebbles and sand, many of them Blue Flag certified.

There are lots of places to jump in the water and swim in Ermioni and Porto Heli.
There are lots of places to jump in the water and swim in Ermioni and Porto Heli. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

If you’re a beach lover as we are (we were even judges in the BeachAtlas Golden Beach Awards of 2024!), you’ll want to check out a few of our favourites.

Don’t miss Petrothalassa (the biggest),Kouverta (known for spearfishing), Dardiza, Pigadia-Sambariza and the sheltered waters of Ververonda near Porto Cheli.

🌟 Pro Tip: Bring water shoes as the pebbles and rocks can be slippery.

5. Smash Plates at a Real Greek Party

At this Greek party at the Makis Inn, they not only smashed plates, they lit them on fire! (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

In my home country of Guatemala, we pride ourselves on throwing big parties for holidays and celebrations.

With roving mariachis, marimba music, tables laden with typical food and lots of traditional drinks, our parties start late and last all night.

But a Greek party — Argolida-style — puts Latin parties to shame!

After all, we don’t smash plates unless it’s by accident. Nor do we have platters groaning with fresh lobster, steamed fish the size of small canoes or troupes of dancers.

There’s really no way to fully describe Greek hospitality. You have to experience it first-hand.

I suggest you do as we did and head to the Makis Inn Resort, set on the seaside 7 km from Ermioni.

Beautifully presented calamari at the Makis Inn.
Beautifully presented calamari at the Makis Inn near Ermioni. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

This family-owned and operated beach resort, set in a grove of olive and pomegranate trees, offers incredible seafood as well fresh-sourced produce from their own lands. The family’s warm and generous hospitality is unmatched.

If you’re lucky, you might catch owner Yiannis playing the bouzouki and have the opportunity to dance all night and smash a plate or two.

6. Marvel at the Cave Churches of Didyma

Rock church carved into walls of a crater.
Large craters host churches carved into the rocks (Photo Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

For land-based adventure, there’s lots to choose from. A major landmark is located ihe village of Didyma around 22 km (14 miles) north of Ermioni.

It takes its name from the Greek word for twins, a reference to the two mountains that tower over the village. 

At the base of one of these mountains, Mount Didymos, are two huge craters known as Megali and Mikri Spilia, the large and small caves of Didyma (Google Map). 

Lady standing looking out over trees and rock formation.
Views along the hike are unforgettable. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

Inside the natural amphitheater of the small cave, the church of Agios Georgios and the church of Metamorphosis are carved directly into the rock face.

Hike a path along the entire interior of a crater.

Visiting this mystic location and hiking the perimeter of the crater is one of the most unforgettable things to do in Ermioni. 

Given how convenient and remarkable this site is, it was surprising that we saw no other people during our visit!

Be sure to bring water, a hat and cell phone with an eSIM card.

For mobile data on the go, I recommend using one of the Global eSIMs for travellers such as Airalo. You can stay connected when you travel throughout the world at very affordable rates.

Check rates for local and regional eSIMs at Airalo.com.

7. Explore Prehistoric History at Franchthi Cave

Collage with inside of a cave and walkway.
Franchthi Cave provides evidence of some of Greece’s earliest agriculture. (Photo Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

Franchthi Cave (or Frankhthi Cave) is an important archaeological site and landmark near Kiladha Bay (Google Map) around 10 miles west of Ermioni.

Archeological studies have shown that small groups of hunters lived seasonally in the cave in the Paleolithic period as far back as 15,000 BC.

They used basic bone and flint tools, remnants of which were unearthed during excavations in the 1960s and 70s, to hunt red deer, donkeys and other game.

The oldest complete human skeleton in Greece, dating back to 8000 BC, was found here.

Over time, the original Neolithic settlement of farmers, herders and fishers expanded out of the cave and along the seashore.

Trail to Franchthi Cave at Kranidi.
Hike the coastal pathway to the caves. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

This open-air settlement (called Paralia and now submerged due to flooding) also produced jewellery made of marine sea shells, for trade with goods such as clay pottery and obsidian from other regions in Greece.

You can reach Franchthi Cave by driving to Franchthi Beach. From there, walk along a coastal pathway to the cave. Plan for one hour to make the walk round-trip.

The trail is a jumble of rocks and loose sand so wear good footwear.

The hiking trail to Franchithi Cave is lined with wildflowers.
The hiking trail to Franchithi Cave is lined with wildflowers. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

🌟 Pro Tip: Bring your swim suit! The water at Franchthi Beach is quite shallow, calm and clear. It’s the perfect place to cool off after exploring the cave.

8. Go Scuba Diving in the Gulf of Argolis

Scuba diving in the Gulf of Argolis.
Scuba diving in the Gulf of Argolis. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

The sheltered coves of the Argolid Peninsula makes it one of the best places for exciting underwater adventure.

Scuba diving is one of the top things to do in Porto Heli (also known as Porto Cheli), a resort town on the western side of the peninsula (Google Map).

Person scuba diving in water.
Crystal clear waters for diving at Porto Heli. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

The modern marina and seaside promenade is where you can book a tour or even get PADI diving certification.

We spent an exciting day on the water with the ERGODIVE Loumis Diving Team, a dive and underwater construction company founded by former Navy SEAL Giannis Loumis.

Discover the underwater scene with the ERGODIVE Loumis Diving Team. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)
Discover the underwater scene with the ERGODIVE Loumis Diving Team. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

But if you’re not ready for the full PADI course, their Discover Scuba Diving – DSD experience offers a quick introduction to scuba diving. 

ERGODIVE’s 4-hour Tour and Underwater Exploration is another exciting option for experiencing the marine wonders in the waters of Porto Heli.

Porto Heli is a 15 minute drive from Ermioni. Or you can overnight at one of the 5-star hotels such as Nikki Beach Resort & Spa.

9. Sail the Mediterranean on a Luxury Yacht or Sailboat

Lady on yacht with yacht in background.
Sail away from Nafplio or Porto Heli. (Photo Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

The cosmopolitan coastal town of Porto Heli is home to a glossy new marina lined with upscale restaurants and boutiques.

It makes the ideal launching point for taking a leisurely tour on a luxury yacht or sailing the scenic waters of the Argolis Gulf.

Buildings seaside with reflection in ocean.
Porto Heli is a beautiful launching point for exploring the coast of the Argolida region. ( Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

Most boat tours from Porto Heli and Nafplio will include lunch as well as a stop for swimming or snorkelling.

Check rates and availability of a sailing cruise in Nafplio on Viator.com.

10. Sample Regional Food Specialties

Pomegranate juice in glass on table.
Make sure to enjoy all of the local cuisine and drinks. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

The Argolida region is renowned for fresh seafood, olive oil, ruby red pomegranates, and citrus fruits. You can find these taking centre stage in Ermioni’s markets, local restaurants and bars.

When you visit Ermioni, be sure to try ‘spoon sweets’. This is a spoonful of local fruit preserve, often made from citrus fruits such as oranges or figs, offered to visitors along with a drink. 

This delicious Greek tradition was originally an Arab hospitality gesture, which the Byzantines adopted in the 14th century. 

Groves of citrus trees dot the plains of Argolis providing a bounty of fruit for marmalades and spoon sweets.

11. Go Rock Climbing in the Katafyki Gorge

People at the base of rock.
Ermione is a great location for hiking and rock climbing. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

The wild beauty of Ermioni’s surrounding areas makes it one of the best places in Greece for outdoor activities like hiking and rock climbing. 

Katafkyi Gorge takes its name from the Greek word for refuge, as the local villagers used to hide within the deep cliffs from pirates.

Man in a red shirt hiking a trail at Katafkyi Gorge.
I took a hike along the trail within the gorge. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

The gorge is just 3 miles away from Ermioni and is suitable for hikers of all levels, with an easy 2.5 km trail that you can extend to a more challenging 7 km. 

People scaling the rock climbing.
Rock climbing is available year round. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

Rock climbing in Katafkyi Gorge is also available all year round, and there are over 70 routes covering grades 51 to 7c+.

🌟 Insider Tip: The October rock climbing festival is well worth planning an entire trip around. It’s one of the best free things to do in Ermioni.

12. Sip Unique Regional Wine on a Winery Tour

A variety of wines in glasses on a table.
Sample a variety of wines in and around Ermioni.

You’ll have many Greek wines to choose from during your explorations, whether you prefer lefko (white), rose (pink), or kokino (red) wine. 

A must-try variety is the PGE wine of Argolida, Rokaniaris (dry white) produced at the Kontovraki Winery in Kranidi.

Most tavernas also serve homemade or local wines to complement their menu. The famous red wines from Nemea and Macedonia are also often available.

If you want to try traditional Retsina wine, you can find it in Ermioni supermarkets.  

To learn more about Greek wine and cultivation methods, take a tour and tutoured wine tasting on a Nemea Wine Tour from Nafplio or Athens.

This area has several award-winning wineries famous for the Agiorgitiko grape and its delicious wines. 

🌟 Pro Tip: Check out our Guide to Important Wine Terminology before you go.

13. Indulge in Fine Dining

Gourmet food in dishes on table.
Romantic dining is available with views of the bay in Porto Heli. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to enjoy a romantic evening in Ermioni, Veranda del Vino is a great option. 

This hip and happening restaurant overlooks the bay at the small port town of Porto Heli, around 20 minutes drive from Ermioni.

A highlight of dining here is the rooftop terrace with glittering sea view. It definitely contributes to making Veranda del Vino the ideal place for a memorable meal.

The menu showcases local products with tempting dishes like slow-cooked lamb, sea bass ceviche, and goat’s cheese gratin with fig spoon sweet.

The expertly prepared food is accompanied by a wine list featuring over 180 Greek and international wines. Reserve in advance.

15. Follow in the Footsteps of Hercules at the Ruins of Nemea 

Ruins of the temple of Zeus at ancient Nemea.
Ruins of the temple of Zeus at ancient Nemea.

If you’re looking for a day trip from Ermioni, a top choice is to take a 113 km (70 mile) drive to Nemea (Google Map).

While this landmark site is further away than other activities on our list, it’s well worth the effort. In Greek mythology, this is where Herakles completed the first of his mythological labours by killing the Lion of Nemea. 

The archaeological site of Ancient Nemea is where the Temple of Zeus was built around 330 BC to replace an earlier temple destroyed by fire. 

A visit to the Ruins of Nemea allows you to explore the sacred area surrounding the temple, along with several other historical sites, the ancient stadium, and an archaeological museum. 

16. Learn about Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a Tutoured Tasting

Blue glasses on table with ocean in background.
Enjoy olive oil tasting. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

Olive oil plays a vital role in Greek cuisine and culture, and olive groves full of ancient olive trees can be seen throughout the country.

An in-depth olive oil tasting workshop experience with Systasis, is the ideal way for olive oil enthusiasts to dive deep into the culture of olive oil.

Hosted by KIOUPI, a family-owned grove with trees between 30 to 2300 years old, you’ll learn about the qualities of Greek extra virgin olive oil, how the oil is produced, and how to choose a premium olive oil.

At the end of the workshop, you’ll sample varieties from different Greek islands and mainland Greece, along with traditional food pairings. 

17. Marvel at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus 

Ancient theater with tree in background.
Ancient Epidaurus Theatre in the Peloponnese, Greece.

No trip to the region would be compete without seeing the landmark of Epidaurus, an amphitheater dating back 2,300 years, known for its fine acoustics.

While there you can explore the Asclepius’ Sanctuary and the impressive Tholos of Epidaurus. Don’t miss the Archaeological Museum and the healing springs.

Check prices and availability of a Tour of Ancient Epidaurus on Viator.com

18. Visit the Monastery of Avgo

The Monastery of Avgo was founded in the 11th century and is one of the most important Byzantine monuments in the Ermioni region. 

The monastery sits on Mount Avgo, around 32 km (20 miles) north of Ermioni. You’ll find it hidden in the rocks of Pelei at the end of a narrow dirt track. 

No monks have lived at the Monastery of Avgo since 1834, and only two services are conducted there each year.

But many stories surround this historic site, making it well worth a visit during your stay in Ermioni.

19. Soak Up the Romance of Old Town Nafplio

Nafplio's pretty harbour and charming Old Town
Nafplio’s pretty harbour and charming Old Town are especially romantic.

Another must-see in Argolida is Nafplio (or Nafplion), the first capital of Greece, located a 40-minute drive from Ermioni.

Once the epicenter of the War of Independence, Nafplio now serves as a glossy weekend retreat for residents of Athens.

White-washed building in Nafplio. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)
White-washed building in Nafplio. (Credit: Francisco Sanchez)

It’s also incredibly picturesque and romantic. Much of its allure lies in its impressive stone fortresses, pretty harbour, and atmospheric Old Town.

A guided walking tour of Nafplio will take you through narrow streets lined with pastel-hued boutiques, restaurants and mansions featuring Byzantine, Neoclassical, Venetian, and Ottoman architectural influences.

You’ll also see historic attractions such as the Archaeological and Military Museums, alongside monuments like the equestrian statue honouring General Theodoros Kolokotronis, paying homage to the heroes of the Greek War of Independence.

🌟 Insider Tip: Make time to stop at 3Sixty Grill, a chic restaurant and wine bar located within a restored 1860 neoclassical mansion in Old Town.

The locally-inspired menu features dishes such as seafood risotto with fresh herbs, Greek salad with briny xlnomizithra cheese and meats grilled in a Josper charcoal oven.

Sailing boat in the Argolic Gulf.
The Argolic Gulf is known for its unspoiled coves and appealing ports and anchorages.

This is also a very popular place for yacht charters. You can take a yacht or sailing tour on single or multi-day cruises in the Gulf of Argolis, a calm body of water protected from the strong summer winds.

Check rates and availability of a sailing cruise in Nafplio on Viator.com.

Trip Planning

For more information, maps and special events visit:  https://mythicalpeloponnese.gr/

Beach chairs around pool with umbrellas and trees.
We stayed at AKS Hinista Bay Hotel. (Credit: Francisco Javier Sanchez)

Our Favourite Hotels in Greece 2023

Collage of Michele Peterson and hotels in Greece including Mythos Villas and Nikos in Naxos, Greece.
Our recommended hotels in Greece 2023.

Mythos Villas in Kalogrias Beach, Stoupa, Mani Peninsula

Nikos Apartments and Studios in Agios Prokopios, Naxos Island

Horizon Blu Boutique Hotel in Kalamata, Messinia, Greece

Kafieris Blue Studios in Firostefani, Santorini

Mystras Grand Palace Resort & Spa near Sparta

Athenaeum InterContinental,an IHG Hotel (with Club InterContinental Executive Lounge Access) in Athens

The Port Square Hotel in Pireas Port, near Athens

Kinsterna Hotel in Monemvasia, Greece

Makis Inn Beach Resort in Ermioni, Peloponnese, Greece

Liotrivi Organic Estate and Mansion near Monemvasia,Peloponnese

AKS Hinista Bay an average 3-star hotel with an excellent location near Porto Heli

More Greek Travel and Food Inspiration

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