by Robert Bruce
Toló’s long protected beach is unique to the Peloponnese. Its harbor is shielded by nearby islands from storms and large tides. Dozens of small boats lie at anchor. This outstanding beach and proximity to Athens and Nafplio draw large sun-worshiping crowds. Toló built up rapidly, and for a time lost some appeal, but locals have gotten development under control and the town regained much of its charm.
Over the years eastern Mediterranean waters were nearly fished out. The area suffered runoff from denuded islands, as much native timber was harvested in ancient times to build sailing ships. Reforestation is ongoing but slow.
Toló (or Tolon) was first written about by Homer in the Iliad, as a city involved in the Trojan War. Its bay gave refuge to Greek ships over the centuries. After the War of Independence (1821 to 1832), many refugees from Crete settled in Toló and became fishermen.
Just off the beach is the tiny isle of Koronis, with a small church. At night the island glows with multi-colored floodlights. The other offshore island is two-peaked Romvi, locally known as “the Bra”.
The Gulf of Argolis gives shelter from violent storms. The fish have begun to return, although tourism dominates the economy. Toló’s proximity to Nafplio, with Athens just a two-hour drive away, make the village seem like a nascent Riviera. The beach, of course, is a big draw — more than 2 km long, all sand, shallow out at least 50 meters. The main street through town, Sekeri Str., is 25 meters from the beach, and is lined with hotels, shops and tavernas — many
with tables extending onto the sand.
Toló is just 7 km from Nafplio and 30 km from the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus. The archaeological site of Mycenae is just 35 km, Ancient Nemea about an hour’s drive, and Olympia only twice that. This makes Toló a convenient jumping off point for the rest of the Peloponnesos. Near the village of Asini, northwest of Tolon, are the remains of Ancient Asine, including the massive walls of the acropolis, and remains of other buildings. Those who have read Seferis may remember from his poem King of Asine a description of the citadel and the fact that this King is mentioned only once in the Illiad and otherwise completely forgotten by history.
Tolo's population in the winter is no more than 1,500, while it explodes in summer to more than 5,000.
Where to Stay in Tolo
Fifty years ago there were one or two hotels, now more than 100. Booking.com's Tolo pages a large number of hotels with photos and descriptions. Here is a sampling:
Central location and price make Hotel Thetis at Kardamaki 3 a good choice. Only 20 meters from the main street and 50 meters from the beach, Hotel Thetis is owned and operated by the Greek-American Sgouros family. It features a large pool, bar, restaurant and lounge, with TV, WiFi and sea views from every room. Rates are reasonable
from 35 to 53 euros/nite in September.
The Epidavria Hotel is on the main street at Sekeri 52, also just a few meters from the beach. The Epidavria offers free WiFi and a balcony overlooking the Argolic Gulf. Each air-conditioned room has a private bathroom with shower or bath tub, a fridge and TV. Epidavria Hotel features a restaurant and a buffet breakfast every morning.
Drinks and beverages are also available. (from 42/nite for 2 adults in September.)
The Panorama Hotel at Agias Kiriakis 2, offers similar amenities, plus a large outdoor pool, starting at 58 euros/nite in September. It is perched up on the mountain slope with a commanding view.
Where to Eat in and around Tolo
As with Toló’s hotels, its eateries are too numerous to list them all. A handful could be called upscale, while most are unpretentious in their presentation of excellent salads and taverna fare, especially seafood. Many can be entered from Sekeri Str. or from the beach after an afternoon of swimming and sunning.
One of the finest is Leimonia, at 90a Sekeri Str., in a beautiful two-level stone building on the west end of town near the port. It is the work of Sofia Moutzouri, who serves a chic Italian-Greek cuisine.
Ambrosia Taverna at Sekeri 39 is notable for the stone construction of the dining room and covered patio. Our visit was pizza night, and the service and food choices were excellent, along with a great Greek salad. We would definitely return to Ambrosia, except there are so many excellent choices in Toló.
Up the street from the port is a real find, Pizzeria Tolo at 4 Sekeri Str. There is a hanging sign out front, but you have to search in the back for the sparsely visited but beautiful multi-level dining area. In addition to a dozen pizzas, the menu lists almost as many pasta dishes, as well as a half-dozen salads. We’re not sure why more people haven’t discovered this delightful place, but they surely will.
Maria’s Restaurant (both sides of street at curve) at Bouboulinas 48, features stunning sea views immediately above the beach.
There is a walkway from the kiosk on Sekeri at Kardamaki streets, directly to the beach. As you come down this walk, the first taverna to your left is Akrogiali (Aktis Str. 10) (www.akrogiali-tolo.gr), owned by Christos Moutzouris. This taverna has tables on a porch as well as on the sand, and is one of our favorites. Just next door on the beach is Koralli, an ouzerie/snackbar owned by Kiriakos Sgouros. Koralli is notable for fine American and English
Next up the beach to the east is the classy Lefka (Aktis Str. 6). Lefka Restaurant was established in 1960 by George Protopapadakis. The name "Lefka" is a Greek elm tree that stood in front of the restaurant on the beach years ago. Today Lefka (http://www.lefka-restaurant.gr/) continues to be a business family-run by daughter, Yianna, and her husband. A singular feature is the concrete pier jutting out from the beach — a most romantic place to eat
on a warm summer evening.
If you take a right turn from the walkway when you reach the beach, you are at To Steki (The Hangout), 12 Aktis Str. This is the first of many eateries and shops catering to beachgoers all the way to the port, and our favorite. To Steki has a wide selection of boats and paddleboats for rent by the hour, so you can actually visit Romvi or Koronis for a picnic.Owned by Evagelos Orfanos, son of the founding family, it offers the best seafood and taverna
fare, and on Saturday night Vagelos leads an impromptu jam session of Greek folk music. He operates To Steki with the help of his wife, Anna, and in the summer with the help of his twenty-something daughters, Zoe and Joanna, who study in Athens.
In the small fishing village of Vivari which is south of Tolo there is the Taverna Gorgona run by the Diamantopoulos family (photo above). They specialize in fresh fish and other Greek dishes. The restaurant is right on the sea to the right of the small pier. Vivari was one of the first fish farms in Greece and there is a large lagoon which is the original site. Now small boats bring the fish in from the farms which are located away from the village.
Other Tolo Information:
If you just want to hang out morning or evening with a cup of coffee and conversation, you can’t beat Esperando café-bar at 31 Sekeri Str. It is operated by Dimitris Panetsos, and situated to give you a commanding view of the main drag day or night, a key advantage for local observers.
While visiting Toló, you may want to take a day trip to the Saronic islands of Hydra and Spetses aboard one of Pegasus Cruises modern ferries which serve coffee, drinks and snacks inside the cabin while you watch the dolphins swimming alongside. Pegasus also offers day trips to Poros and the castle at Monemvasia.
There are always multiple auto rentals in Toló, but our most recent pick was Bounos, owned by Vangelis Bounos. The Toló office is capably managed by his sister, Fotini. You can also rent from Swift Car Rentals in Athens who will deliver your car to the airport or your hotel and drive you out of Athens.
Toló has a number of bars with dance floors, places that cater to younger visitors, but the stunning beach and the town’s convenient location on the Peloponnese are more than enough for most tourists.
For those who plan to visit the Greek Islands or other places in Greece and require the services of a Greek travel agency visit Matt Barrett's Greek Travel Agents Page.
Be sure to visit Matt Barrett's Nafplion Page