Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the total destruction of our holiday programme to that island, we decided that we had to diversify so that never again would we be caught by a similar calamity. So, in 1975, we featured Greece – and Tolon, in the Northern Peloponnese, was one of our first resorts.
Tolon is one of those resorts which fell from popularity in the 1980s and 1990s because it failed to move with the times. Although the people of Tolon may not realise it, this presents them with a golden opportunity. There are but a couple of multi-storey hotels and the Tolonese are beginning to take full advantage of the fact that they are able to transform the resort while maintaining its essential character and charm. It is still the local shops that dominate, family-owned small hotels abound and the restaurants are also locally-run and owned. Once here, you feel very much part of a larger family – it’s safe, friendly and excellent for families.
Tolon is a two-hour transfer from Athens or Kalamata and it is the expense of this transfer that deters the cheaper end of the market from holidaying here. Subtle changes are beginning to appear – the main street is now fringed with planters and bougainvillea adds colour everywhere. The once-traditional cafes are slowly being brought to life by the younger generation and looking stylish and fresh. Overall, however, this is still very much a wonderful family resort. The beach is long, the water in the bay is shallow, safe and clean, with a Blue Flag duly awarded.
Tolon now has something for everyone, catering for all generations. Most of all, it is the perfect introduction to Greece and all it offers.
The magnificent ancient Greek theatre of Epidavros is just a half hour’s drive, with the ancient city states of Mycenae, Argos and Tyrins between 30 and 45 minutes by car. Nafplion, Greece’s first independent capital, is just 20 minutes’ drive. So, within a stone’s throw of Tolon, you’ll find yourself where European civilisation began, some 2,500 years (and more) ago.
Yesterday, we set off at 10 am and visited Mycenae, Nemea and Epidavros in one day, with a late lunch on the harbour of Old (Palea) Epidavros. We enjoyed the ancient theatre, which seats 12,000 people, to ourselves as the sun set; magical!
Today we visited Ancient Asine, a 20 minute walk along the coast from Tolon, dating from pre Mycenean times. It’s just been given a huge makeover (to the tune of almost a million Euros) and now boasts new paths and steps around the ancient hill, many created from recycled railway sleepers. There are view points and shaded spaces with benches for picnics, a state-of-the-art multimedia room plus wonderful views over Tolon to the west and the long beach of Plaka to the east. The steps are steep in places but it’s well worth the effort.
Where else could you find such a centre at which to relax and from which to explore so much?
Finally, a brief word about nearby Nafplion, easily reached by local bus, by boat or by car. It has become a chic seaside town with beautiful marble squares, gracious balconied buildings and good shopping. Trendy wine bars, elegant cafes and art galleries sit beside traditional restaurants and the Bourtzi castle which guards the pretty harbour, its stone buildings seemingly floating on the water. The whole is crowned by the magnificent Phoenician hilltop castle, Palamidi, well worth the many steps up narrow alleyways for the 180-degree views along the coastline. From the top, one can see Argos, Mycenae and Tyrins.
I could happily come to Tolon for my own holidays every year, in the knowledge that there’s always somewhere new and interesting to explore.