4 minute read

The Greek town with the unusual (and seemingly interchangeable) name, Nafplio (also known as Navplion, Nafplion and Nauplia) is a coastal city in the Peloponnese and is the capital of the Argolis region. Nafplion is also a popular tourist destination. The people of Greece flock to this medieval seaport for weekend getaways and visitors come from all over the world to spend time in this historical city. Nafplio is also quite the destination for archeological digs and studies as civilization here spans millennia.

Beauty, Charm, Romance and So Much History

Nafplio is considered by many to be one of the most romantic cities in Greece. That’s a huge claim considering Greece is filled with charming and beautiful cities that speak romance. When the Greek state came into existence in the early 19th century Nafplio was Greece's first capital. No doubt because of the city’s prominence as a seaport.

According to Greek mythology Nafplios, the son of Poseidon, founded the eponymous town however Nafplio’s actual existence dates back to prehistoric times. In fact soldiers and sons of early Nafplio participated in both the Argonautic expedition and the Trojan War.

A Coveted City

During the Roman Empire the town steadily declined but awoke and flourished once the Byzantine Empire rose to power. Through the centuries many conquerors came to challenge the ruling force of Nafplio. Among them were the Franks, Venetian and Turkish and their influence is evident today in the distinctive architecture, timeless traditions and cultural aspects of this fine Peloponnese town.

Wander the city and you’ll see the remains of medieval castles, ancient walls, monuments, statues and fortresses. Note the Ottoman fountains and Venetian castles, the neoclassical buildings and the unique, yet diverse beauty of Nafplio.

The Old Town of Nafplio is pedestrian only, but what better way to best enjoy the lively atmosphere of this history-rich town. Surrounded by hills, citrus groves and vineyards Nafplio is at once a charming village, bustling city and dramatic historical destination.

Fascinating Castles of Nafplio

The allure of this beautiful area no doubt contributes to its romance. For centuries cultures in and around this part of the world strived to establish a foothold in Nafplio. And in true fairytale romance these momentary monarchies sought to build epic fortressed castles around the town.

The Castle of Palamidi stands high in the skyline of Nafplio, like a sentry maintaining a watch from above. The fortress is nestled 700 feet above the city and was built in the 17th century by the Venetians who occupied the town at that time. If you’re feeling especially hearty, walk the 857 steps to the top of the Palamidi fortress for your reward; entry into the walled fortress and a most spectacular view. While the fortress itself is quite an interesting look into the past, the view from above is truly a breathtaking one.

There are two other castles in the area, the most famous, and iconic, being the Bourtzi Castle. This castle is only accessible by boat as it stands regally perched  on its own islet. The boat ride is mere minutes and the castle, erected by Venetians in the 17th century, was built in their dramatic architectural style. Small, by castle standards, but no less imposing, this versatile fortress has served, over time, as a bastion, prison and even a hotel.

The Original Nafplio

Akronafplia is the rocky peninsula where the Acropolis of Nafplion was built. The acropolis, along with the third castle mentioned above, served as the settlement of Nafplio until the end of the 15th century. You’re in for a fascinating visit as you get to see an example of all three of the former conquering cultures.

Begun in the early 13th century the castle and its fortressed walls were built by the Franks. In 1540 the Ottomans took occupation of Nafplio and the Akronafplia castle and renamed it Its Kale.

About 150 years later the Venetians overthrew the Ottomans and added their own special touch. The Ottomans came back 30 years later and took back possession of the region and the castle. Finally in 1822 the Greeks took over and so it remains, a part of Nafplio’s history and a worthwhile site for visitors and historians.

Of course those intrigued by archeology flock to this area as well. Another interesting thing about Akronafplia is the evidence of a prehistoric settlement from the 4th century BC. In the western section of the acropolis you can still see part of the polygonal walls from the ancient town.

A Perfect Promenade

The seaside city boasts a gorgeous beach and a very romantic promenade just calling for a hand-in-hand stroll or a dreamy solo amble. The Promenade of Arvanitia is less than a mile long but you’ll tread beside the lighthouse and harbor to the Arvanitia Square and the stunning beach. Every step takes you to an excellent photo op.

A Square of Distinction

Syntagma Square is located right in the center of Nafplio’s Old Town and is historically significant for a few reasons. In the 1800s the square was known as Platoons Square, because of the large plane (sycamore) tree that grew in its center, but the square (and perhaps the tree) bore witness to many interesting events.

During the Turkish occupation of the 16th century the square served as the site for Turkish commander Mora-Pasha’s seraglio, or harem. The square also served as a significant site of a major fundraising rallying cry of the Greek Rebellion.

Today Syntagma square is home to monuments such as the oldest surviving example of Ottoman architecture, The Old Mosque, now known as the Trianon Old School. The central square also lends its real estate to the Archeological Museum which is chock full of riveting exhibits spanning civilization.

Take some time to check out this bustling square, a hub of local activity. In its perfect blend of old Nafplio and new you’ll see wooden balconies overlooking cafe tables, bubbling Turkish fountains and lively locals sharing their adventures. Syntagma Square is a charming and popular place. Ideal for people watching as you sit back sipping a Greek coffee.

Ancient Civilization

Just a few miles from Nafplio is the Ancient Tyrins. This was a stronghold in the Mycenaean era and a central site for archeological activity. So filled with ancient ruins, Ancient Tyrants is home to the Lower Acropolis and the Geometric Temple.

The fascinating architecture of these ancient ruins, which date back seven thousand years,  includes stone walls stacked so thick they amaze visitors even today. According to mythology the ruler Tyrins Eurystheus ordered Hercules to perform his strength-defying feats at this site. Unsurprisingly this ancient city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Luscious Food, Wonderful Wine, Moonlight and Music

Of course the seafood in Nafplio is fresh and outstandingly prepared. Let your evening take you on a leisurely stroll through Old Town where you can sample some of the local fare. Delicious tapas accompanied by a glass of wine or a selection from the outstanding local beers may appeal to you as you embark on a romantic evening of music and moonlight. Nafplio has it all.

Here to Enjoy

As you can see Nafplios is filled with amazing and interesting sites as well as romance and intrigue. There is so much to do in this beautiful port town it’s worth extending your trip to experience it all. It’s all here for you to enjoy.

Nafplio houses