The region of Achaia in the northwestern Peloponessos is an area of vinyards, wineries, beautiful beaches, medieval fortresses, ancient ruins, great food, and the one of the most spectacular bridges on the planet.
named for the Argolid settlers who came here after
the fall of Myceneae when the Dorians pretty much took over what we call Ancient Greece. It was the first region in
Greece to embrace Christianity and was occupied in
succession by the Franks, the Paliologues, the
Turks and the Venetians before it was liberated in
1828. There is evidence of all these powers in the
cities towns and mountains of Achaia.
Patras, the capital of the
region, is Greece’s most important sea link with
the rest of Europe with ferries sailing to the Italian ports of
Brindisi, Bari, Ancona, Venice and in the past and maybe again in the future, Trieste. It used to be an embarkation point to
the Ionian Islands of Kefalonia, Ithaki,
Corfu, and Zakynthos until they realized that it is a lot cheaper fuel-wise to send the ferries from the port of Killini which is soutwest of Patra, so with the exception of Corfu that is where you catch the ferries to those islands. For Corfu you have to go to Igoumounitsa though there are a couple ferries a week from Patras. (See
During the Carnival season Patras is known for its lively celebration with costumes and partying in the streets, like in New Orleans and, with parades, floats, parties and lots of drinking and celebrating during Apokreas which ends 40 days before Orthodox Easter. This is one of the best times to visit the city. See More About Apokreas
If you are looking for a nice hotel in the Patras area try
Blue Bay Resort and Spa which is listed as being in Patras but is actually in the seaside
village of Psathopyrgos, fifteen minutes away from the city and is highly recommended
by Fantasy Travel. If you are looking for other hotels in Patra see Matt's Patras Page or else use my Patras Hotel Search where you can find rates, availability, maps, photos and more information.
Patras is the largest city in the Peloponnesos and has a number of important historical sites, great restaurants, beautiful beaches and a very large student population.
Read More about Patras
Beaches in and near Patras
Being a large city you probably want to get as far away as possible before you venture into the sea. There is a town beach in Paralia, which means beach, south west of the downtown area, with beach beds, umbrellas, hotels, cafes and a few restaurants. But if you have a car head west to the beach at Rio which has cleaner sea and hotels, restaurants shops and more. In fact if you don't want to stay in the city this is not a bad option. Search Hotels in Rio. Further East are another 2 beaches beach at Psathopyrgos and Rodini very close to each other, the first having very few tourist facilities and the second with holiday homes and anything you would find in a small coastal resort town. Another 10k and you will come to Lambiri, another clean pebble beach where you can come for the day or even stay.
Harilaos Trikoupis Bridge
The most impressive site in Achaia is without a doubt the Rion-Antrion Bridge which spans the narrowest point between the western Peloponnessos and the Greek mainland. A marvel of engineering, it is one of the world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges and longest of the fully suspended type. It opened in August 2004. It is named after Harilaos Trikoupis, a 19th-century prime minister of Greece whose idea it was to build a bridge there.
Castles at Rion and Antirion
This castle at Rion in the Peloponnesos and the one other one across the way in Antirion are both in the shadow of the bridge and strategically guarded the straits into the Gulf of Corinth. The castles were built in 1499 by Soultan Vagiatzit II to defend what was later known as the Dardanelia of Nafpaktos. Antirrio was called Kasteli of Roumeli, while the castle across the way in Rio was called Kasteli of Moria. Both castles have been restored and like many others
around Greece are now used for concerts and cultural events.
The small village of Trapeza is just before Diakofto and is a very nice place to stop for a swim, a meal or even to spend the night. The village of Trapeza sits on one side of the National Road but Paralia Trapeza and Pounta are right on the sea. Pounta is one of the nicest beaches in the gulf. There are 2 fish tavernas, Mixalis and Stavento and several hotels, apartments and holiday homes right on the sea. Search Hotels in Trapeza
The coastal village of Diakopto is full of holiday homes and a handful of hotels as well as several restaurants, cafes and shops and a small fishing boat harbor. But is mostly known for the train station where you catch the narrow gauge train to Kalavrita through the Vouraikos Gorge which originates here. It is one of the most spectacular train journeys in Greece. The area is also known for its hiking trails, horseback riding, biking and of course swimming
in the Corinthian Gulf. There are also the ruins of three important ancient cities: Voura, Helike and Keryneia. The most important of these sites is Keryneia which is near the village of Mamousia and there is a trail from this village down to Diakopto. There are several nice beaches in and around Diakopto including Egklaia which is an organized beach with sunbeds, umbrellas and cafes-bars, and Elionas Beach which is also an organized beach. Search Hotels in Diakopto
From the village of Diakopto the
small Diakopto-Kalavrita railway known as the Odontotos makes it’s way
through the Vouraikos Gorge alongside of the river
of the same name in what must certainly be one of
the most amazing train trips you will ever take,
or at least the most impressive one hour train
ride you will ever take, especially in the spring
when the wildflowers are in bloom and the mountains are a fountain of color. The train which began service in the late 1800's was an idea of Prime Minister Harilaos Trikoupis (remember the bridge?) who wanted to use narrow gauge rail to connect the mountain villages to the main railway lines. The train is electric but there are no power lines either in the air or on the tracks. The train itself provides the power with an electric generator on board. The train stops in the small village of Zachlorou where there
are rooms to rent and many people who hike the gorge begin or end the trip here. This beautiful village on the banks of the Vouraikos river was burned by the Germans in December of 1942.
The train leaves Diakopto at 09:05 - Daily, 11:30 - Daily, 12:49 - Weekends, 14:05 - Daily, 15:30 - Weekends. It leaves Kalavrita at 10:17 -Daily, 12:43 - Daily, 14:03 - Weekends, 15:28 - Daily, 17:23 - Weekends. The price is 9.50 euros each way.
For those who choose to drive rather than take the train ot Kalavrita, the Monastery of Mega Spileon (Monastery of the Big Cave) is built in a giant cave on the face of a rock cliff. The monastery was supposedly built in 326 AD and is full of wonderful frescoes, mosaic floors and other treasures, and the monks will show you around. You can drive right up to it and into the courtyard. The monastery is an hour walk from the village of Zachlorou and from
there many people hike down through the gorge to Diakofto.
town of Kalavrita is where the Revolution of
1821 began, leading to Greece’s independence from
the Ottoman Empire when Bishop Germanos of Patras
raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery
of Lavra. In December of 1943 the Nazis burned the
town and murdered all the males over the age of 15
in an act of reprisal considered to be one of the
worst atrocities of the war. The hands of the old
cathedral clock are stopped at 2:34 when the
massacre began. On a cypress covered
hillside east of town is a white cross
commemorating the dead at the site where the
killing took place.
Kalavrita is a popular winter destination and has a ski center on Mount Helmes as well as restaurants, cafes and nightlife year round. If you travel by car any of the
side roads you take in the mountains of Achaia
should lead you somewhere interesting, either a
traditional village, an impressive gorge or
waterfall, a monastery or a Byzantine church. A half-hour from Kalavrita is the cave of
the lakes, an enormous cavern 2 kilometers long
with 15 miniature lakes formed by natural
See Matt's Kalavrita Page
For Hotels in or around Kalavrita see Booking.com's Kalavrita page
Thank you Edwina Hamilton Easter for saving me with this photo!
The second largest city in Achaia is Aigio on the Corinthian Gulf about a half an hour east of Patras. Formerly known for its trade in raisins and currents, the old stone warehouses on the coast have been turned into bars and cafes. At one time Aigio was a major supplier of wine to Athens after the phylloxera blight destroyed the grapes of Attica. Calvino wines is based here and they built their business during this period and afterwards began exporting
to Germany and then the rest of the world. They are still based in Aigio where they export something like nine million bottles a year.
The 600 year old Platanos known as the tree of Pausanias is the main tourist attraction along with the 12 fountains around it which he described in his travels here in the second century. There are steps from the beach to the upper city (you can drive too) where you will find the former weather tower in Aloni Square, built in 1900, that is one of the main landmarks of the city. Aigio has been inhabited since at least 3000 bc and
the Archaeological Museum, designed by Ernst Ziller, contains artifacts from the Neolithic to the Roman period. There is also a Folklore Museum and an Ecclesiastical Museum as well as a museum dedicated to Greece's first industrial age. The mountains around Aigio are full of villages, archaeological sites, monasteries and churches and walking trails to get you between many of them.
Probably the most enjoyable thing you can do is visit the Rouvalis Winery on the road from Aigio to Kalavrita. This family owned winery makes organic wines from indigenous grapes, using ancient knowledge and experience and combining them with modern science, oenology and viticulture to produce distinctive wines with character. There is more information on wineries in and around Aigio
There are loads of restaurants, cafes and bars and of course hotels and other types of accommodation. Search Hotels in Aigio
Wineries in Achaia
Achaia has a long history of wine making and along with the well known varieties of grapes like Moschato, Roditis, Agiorgitiko, Moschofilero and Mavrodaphne the ancient vines that have survived like Kydonitsa, Mavro Kalavritino, Sideritis and others are being turned into fine wines that are reaching an appreciative audience. There are a number of wineries near each other and visiting them is the best way to spend a day or two in any exploration of Achaia.
Parparousis Winery was started by Thanasis Parparousis in 1974 though his father had a distillery in Patras long before this. They produce Asyrtiko, Athiri, Muscat Blanc, Mavrodafni, Sideritis and Agiorgitiko as well as Tsipuro and Brandy. The primary goal is to promote the Greek indigenous varieties which have unique character. For information about touring
the winery e-mail them
Tetramythos Winery on the Pounta-Kalavrita road makes organic wines using Roditis, Malagousia, Muscat Blanc, Agiorgitiko, Mavro Kalavritino, Mavrodafni, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well as their Retsina which is aged in clay pots. They have guided tours daily from 9am to 4pm and on weekends from 10am to 6pm.
Cavino Winery and Distillary is a large production companies with two wineries, one in Aigio and one in Patras. Founded in 1958 it is one of Greece’s biggest exporters with 70% of their wines exported to 40 countries. In the fifties Constantine Anastasiou was supplying wine to Athens whose vines were wiped out by phylloxera and afterwards began sending his wine to Germany. His
son Giannis discovered a 500 year old vineyard that was owned but abandoned by the Monastery of Mega Spileo which he leased and began planting different varieties of grapes. His Domaine Mega Spileo wines have won countless awards. The winery in Aigio produces almost 9 million bottles a year. They also make ouzo and tsipuro.
Rouvalis Winery This winery which was founded by Angelos Rouvalis and run by his family are great believers in the Roditis grape though they also cultivate organic Kydonitsa, Malagouzia, Robola, Chardonnay, Riesling, Asyrtiko and others. He is a great believer in the future of Greek wines. This winery is the most involved in wine tourism in the area and the owners
welcome guests so that they can introduce them to the wine region of Aigialeia which they believe is the most perfect altitude, climate and latitude for growing grapes, and their winery to sample their delicious wines.
Achaia Clauss is the most well known Greek wine company in the world and the oldest as well. In fact it is the second oldest company in Greece after the National Bank. It was founded in 1861 by Gustaff Clauss, a Bavarian who came to Greece at the time when the country had a Bavarian King: Otto. Their most famous wines, not necessarily their best but the most well-known
is the Mavrodaphne and their Retsina which at one time was the most popular in the country. They also made Domestica which at one time was one of if not the most known of the Greek table wines but has largely disappeared though it still exists. At one time these three wines were in every tourist restaurant in Greece. The company has continued to create quality wines and probably has more awards than all the other companies put together. Gustav Clauss is considered to be the inventor of the concept of Wine
Tourism in Greece and the winery has been in continuous operation since it opened and offers tours and tastings, educational tours for schools and universities and tailor-made packages for experts in the field at their winery-museum.
More Helpful Information
Swift Car Rentals is not only one of the most inexpensive agencies in Athens, but they are also the only ones that will deliver your car to you and actually drive you out of the city to the National Road so you can have a fresh start without dealing with the Athens traffic.
George The Famous Taxi Driver is known world-wide for his tours of the Peloponnesos and mainland but also for his transfer service whether you are just going from the airport to the center of Athens or as far away as a town or city in the Peloponnesos.
Matt's Greek Travel Agency Page will introduce you to the best travel agencies who can assist you with putting together your trip to Greece whether you are doing the mainland, the islands or a combination of both.
You can find hotels in Achaia by location, price, whether or not it has a swimming pool, and see photos and reviews by using this link to Booking.com. Excellent prices
and many hotels you can book and then cancel
with no cancellation fee. For those who want to book without using a travel agency this is the best way to do it. And by using this link you help to support Matt Barrett's Greece Travel Guides.