Looking for a day-trip idea while you’re in Athens? While most will recommend the islands of the the Saronic gulf (and why wouldn’t they - the islands are near, beautiful and with clean beaches), we’ll take an unconventional approach. We’ve found three different, off-the beaten track- places for you to visit and get to know Greece and its history a bit better. Three completely different castles, accessible by car, from separate periods of Greece. While the castles are interesting on their own, don’t hesitate to find info on the surrounding places and make it a full experience. One dating back millennia, a Byzantine and a Venetian-Ottoman. Two of them are about an hour drive from Athens and the other -Mystras, is about two or three hours away.
Acrocorinthos in Peloponnese: 50m
A very important site, the Acrocorinth has the benefit of being the ancient Acropolis of Korinthos, a prosperous city of that time, but also a fortress, built by the Venetians in the 13th century, for protection of the city and the nearby Isthmos area. Ever since its excavations began, in the late ‘20s it is constantly producing new important findings, being now one of the most important medieval castles, and most visited archaeological sites in Greece. To get there you’ll take the Ε94 Highway and follow A8 towards Corinth. Take the Exit for E65 towards Corinth/Argos and follow the signs.
Karampampa Castle in Chalkis: 1h
The castle of Chalkida overlooks the whole of the city, as well as the north and south gulfs of Evripos, by being placed on the top hill of the area, on the Viotia side of the city. The fortress was built by the Ottoman Turks, but was designed by a Venetian. It’s purpose was to defend the city during the Otto-Venetian wars, since Chalkis was considered of very important significance. Today the castle is open every day 08:00 - 15:00, except Monday , and is considered one of the best preserved in Greece. To go to Chalkida you’ll have to take E94 and get out at Exit no.8, towards Lamia, taking the E75/Α1. Take a right at the Schimatari/Chalkida exit, following A11 and noting the road signs. At the end of A11 keep right and take the road towards the old bridge/Drosia instead of Chalkida, cause it takes you closer to the Castle.
Mystras Castle Peloponnese: 2h 30m
Most of modern Greece was occupied by the French at some point around 1200. They were at war with the Byzantine Empire, even reaching its stronghold, the Constantinople. But when the Byzantines pushed the French away they were left, among many else, with the beautiful, fortified city of Mystras. The castle of Mystras was built by William de Villeyardouin, a Frankish noble, who used it a the command center of the Peloponnese, which he had claimed. Mystras maintained its power and its position as the Peloponnese capital for many years, until the end of Turkish occupation, when it was slowly abandoned. It’s interesting to know that when western historians visited the site around 1800, they thought it was the well preserved ruins of ancient Sparta. The castle today is not inhabited, and has been declared a Monument of World Heritage, by UNESCO. To visit Mystras you’ll just have to take the E94 highway and continue at A7. Take the Tegea/Sparti exit and from then continue on E961.