Nafplio: The Port of Many Names

Nafplion, Navplio, Nauplion… many attempts at translating the Greek name. In the same way, this small town at the edge of the Peloponnese has passed under the control of Venice, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Greece.

Oddly, Nafplio was not covered in any of the guidebooks I had. Only the second stop on our Mediterranean dream after Katakolon, Nafplio was completely spontaneous–and we had a wonderful day.

Arriving at Nafplio by ship

We anchored very early in Nafplio–people were getting off the ship before 8. The harbor is too small for a full-sized cruise ship to pull into port, so this was our first tender of the trip. For those of you unfamiliar with cruising, “tendering” means the ship drops anchor farther out in the bay, then the lifeboats (or “tenders”) go back and forth between the ship and the harbor.

Since you’re not just stepping off the ship onto land, tendering cuts a little bit into your day of exploration. Also, your cruise director may prioritize those passengers who are taking excursions arranged by the cruise line. Plan accordingly. We chose not to take any excursions, but the common ones for this port are Mycenae, Epidaurus, and Corinth. I would’ve wanted to check them out, but they are 30 minutes and an hour by car from Nafplio respectively, and there didn’t seem to be many other transportation options.

Palamidi Fortress

As soon as we arrived, our eyes were drawn to a hill, and to the fortress that stood there. We acquired a free map from the friendly tour people at the dock, and just aimed for the fortress. We did pass a small snack stand and thought to buy a couple water bottles… a wise choice, we’d find.


See the fortress atop the hill on the right? Palamidi, viewed from the MS Zuiderdam.

Here’s a cool trick when you’re somewhere unfamiliar–find the highest vantage point you can get to. That way, you can look around, get a wonderful view, and maybe spot some areas you’d like to check out when you get back down.

At the foot of Palamidi FortressIt was about 10 when we started climbing Palamidi. It looked manageable from the dock, but I started having a few doubts when we got to the foot of it… still, we forged ahead.

The steps were stone, and dusty. It soon became very, very warm. I decided to count steps and stop for a rest at every hundred. It was around 400, while sitting on a low wall, that I accidentally elbowed my water bottle, sending it rolling down the hill…

Yeah, don’t do that. Especially if it’s a sunny day and you didn’t start climbing before 9. I got strong flashbacks of walking the Dubrovnik walls at noon… except stairs are way harder!

Reports vary on the number of steps it takes to climb up Palamidi. The range is between 900 and 1000. By my count, it was somewhere just over 900… but I might have been giddy from thirst and miscounted.

The views were quite amazing, though, and well worth the climb. The city of Nafplio was very clever and put the entrance booth at the top of the steps, right before you enter the actual fortress… after all that effort, very few people would turn around. It was nice of them to only charge 4 EUR despite the captive audience, though.

Water and restrooms are available near the ticket booth, but no food or anything. So another tip: bring a snack!

We checked out the fortress, but sadly there was very little in the way of explanations. We did find that there are eight bastions, it was built and completed by the Venetians within 3 years, and subsequently occupied by Ottomans for about a hundred years. At some point it was used as a prison.

After a bit of exploring, back down the steps we went, and back by the little store to get more water! Come to find out we could’ve taken a taxi up for a mere 10 EUR, or used a Hop-on/Hop-off tour bus. I strongly recommend the cab up, then take the stairs down. That way you still get the experience, only easier!

Arvanitia Promenade

As we were climbing Palamidi, we spotted a beach with quite a good amount of swimmers. After sweating it out, a swim seemed like a marvelous idea! (Here’s another tip: bring or wear your swimsuit!)

Arvanitia Promenade, as seen halfway up Palamidi Fortress.

Arvanitia Promenade, as seen halfway up Palamidi Fortress.

Arvanitia Promenade is a well-maintained path that runs along the coast from the foot of Palamidi to the harbor. It’s about 0.7 miles and very pleasant (nothing compared to that stair climb!). Where the promenade first touches the coast, there is a pebble beach with some beach chairs, as well as a couple of restaurant/beach bars serving food and drinks. From what we could tell, the beach chairs were free if you could grab one. Sadly, we didn’t bring our swimsuits, so we simply took the walk back to the harbor.

It was early still and we decided we couldn’t resist the swim. So we took a tender back to the ship, grabbed a quick lunch from the top deck, and changed into our swimwear. Back into a tender to shore (we had this one all to ourselves) and to a small sheltered pool we had passed during our walk, where a few other people were also enjoying the cool water.


Good spot for a swim in Nafplio!

For being such an unplanned day, we had a wonderful time in Nafplio. It was very relaxing to be submerged in seawater after a hot morning’s exertion, looking out to our cruise ship and watching the tenders go back and forth.

I’d still like to see Corinth, Mycenae, and Epidaurus someday, but I also enjoyed the freedom to just explore a town and go where we liked.



4 thoughts on “Nafplio: The Port of Many Names

  1. Pingback: One Day in Athens | World and Time Enough

  2. Pingback: A Short Visit to Naples | World and Time Enough

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