Patras is a booming commercial and industrial port, and
the third most important town in Greece. Daily ferry services connect
the country to Italy and the Ionian islands. Southwest of Patras,
at Kyllini there are mineral springs, new
hotels, hydropathic installations and a public beach. The
stretch of coast south of Kyllini as far as Kiparissia offers many
good beaches and seaside resorts. East of Patras, one can travel
through the deep Vouraikos Gorge, taking an amazing
train journey from Diakofto to Kalavrita.
Olympia, the original site of the Olympic Games,
which begun in 776 BC, the site where the Olympic Flame is still
lit today, can be reached by train or by the mountain road from
Kalavrita, or along the coast, via Patras and Pyrgos.
The site is a mass of marble inscriptions, civic buildings and
restored temples, including the Temple of Zeus, which
once housed the colossal gold and ivory statue of Zeus, one of
the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’ (later
taken to Constantinople and destroyed in a fire). There is also
a good Archaeological Museum on the site, and
a Museum of the Olympic Games situated in the
modern town of Olympia. Southeast of Olympia at Bassae
(Vasses) is the well-preserved monumental Temple of Apollo
Epicurius, dating back to the 4th century BC.
Northeast of Pilos, at Mystra, lie the ruins
of the fortified Byzantine city, once inhabited by 42,000
citizens but now home to just a small number of nuns. In the lower
town, which was the religious centre, stand the 13th-century
frescoed Cathedral and numerous interesting churches
and monasteries. In the Upper Town, where the aristocrats resided,
stand numerous palazzi (palaces), notably the
Palace of the Despots, built between the 13th
and 15th centuries. The site is crowned by the remains of a hilltop
Kastro (Castle). East of Mytras is Sparta.
Now a provincial town with parks, broad avenues and a
pleasing atmosphere, it was once a powerful city-state,
notorious in ancient history for the austerity of its regime.
Lefkas, joined by a narrow strip of land to the Greek mainland,
it is a green and fertile island which is surrounded by
many islets. Excursions, involving some mountain climbing,
can be made in the centre of Lefkas, close to the Stavrota Mountain.
There is swimming and fishing in the villages
of Agios Nikitas on the northwestern coast, Ligia
on the southeastern coast or Vassiliki (which is
also popular with windsurfers) on the southwestern coast.