There are hidden landscapes throughout mainland Greece, but the region which packs the most variety into the smallest space is the Peloponnese. From the beaches of Arcadia to the fir forests of Mt Parnon, from the olive groves of Kalamata to the pyramidal peak of Prophet Elijah, from classical Sparta to medieval Mani, this compact semi-island has it all. Though the ancients called it ‘the island of Pelops’, after their mythical king, this three-fingered landmass is joined to the mainland by a narrow isthmus at Corinth. Only in the 19th century was a canal finally cut through the isthmus, but it retains the cultural diversity and spectacular scenery of the mainland.
Because there’s so much to discover, the author has drawn an east-west line roughly through the middle of the Peloponnese, and limited the book to the southern half. By good fortune, this contains its highest mountain range (Mt Taygetus), its finest Byzantine chapels and medieval forts (in the Mani), its wildest seascapes (Capes Tainaron and Maleas), its largest forest (Mt Parnon) and, arguably, some of its loveliest beaches (Pylos, Kiparissi and Elafonisos, to name just a few.