The Argolis peninsula in the northeast of the Peloponnese is home to many of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. The region features prominently in Greek mythology and is associated with some of the greatest legendary figures of Ancient Greece.

Within this single province all periods of Greek history are represented from the Neolithic settlements at Franchthi and Lerna, to the centres of the powerful Mycenean civilization at Tiryns, Asini, Midea and Mycenae, the Classical Era sanctuary and theatre at Epidauros, the Roman baths and Agora at Argos, the Frankish castle of Larissa and the Venetian fortifications at Nafplion, the city which was to become the first capital of the independent Greek state.

Visitors to the area who are interested in exploring Greek history may find that Nafplion would make a convenient base as all the sites listed here can form the basis of day trips.


Mycenae, the centre of Bronze Age Greece


The Bronze Age kingdom of Mycenae dominated mainland Greece and gave its name to the Mycenaean civilisation which flourished in the second millennium BC and which went on to overwhelm the Minoan culture in Crete and the Aegean. Described by Homer as the “city rich in gold”, Mycenae played a central role in the Iliad as home of King Agamemnon who led the expedition of one thousand ships against Troy. Along with nearby Tiryns, Mycenae is listed as a World Heritage site and is one of the most visited sites in Greece.


The legendary city of Argos


The first human settlement in Argos dates to around 5000 BC making it one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Favourably located in the fertile Argolid plain, it was a major Mycenean stronghold in the late Bronze Age and remained important through the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. At its height in the 7th century BC it was the largest city in Greece and could rival neighbouring Sparta in military power. Today the city is dominated by the Frankish castle built on the site of the old Acropolis at the peak of Larisa hill. The magnificent theatre (still in use) and the Roman Baths and Agora to the South of the city are testament to its illustrious past.


Nafplion, the first capital of modern Greece


Nafplion is perhaps best known as the first capital of modern Greece but has a long history going back to antiquity. The city is dominated by Palamidi castle which towers above it although there are earlier fortifications known as Nauplia on several levels of the rocky peninsular adjacent to the harbour. In the Byzantine era Nafplion was an important strategic and commercial centre due to its location at the head of the Myrtoon Gulf. Following the Roman and Byzantine periods Nafplion was occupied by Frankish, Venetian and Turkish conquerors all of whom left their mark on the city.


Epidaurus and the Sanctuary of Asclepius


The world famous theatre of Epidauros is an integral part of the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the first organized healing centre in the world and the birthplace of modern medicine. The area had long been associated with the worship of healing deities. On a nearby hill there was a Bronze Age sanctuary dedicated to a female fertility goddess followed in the Archaic period by one devoted to Apollo. The theater itself is an artistic masterpiece both in terms of its stunning acoustics as well as its perfect architectural proportions.


The Mycenaean citadel of Tiryns


Just north of Nafplion and 20km south of Mycenae are the well-preserved ruins of the ancient citadel of Tiryns which has a history dating back seven thousand years. A hill fort since Neolithic times, Tiryns later became one of the most important centres of the Mycenaean world and functioned as a major Mediterranean Bronze Age port as the sea at that time was just 2km away. Described by Homer as “mighty-walled Tiryns” it is also famous as the site from where Heracles performed his 12 labours. Tiryns was first excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in 1884–1885, and was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1999. With its excellent state of preservation, Tiryns is a superb example of Mycenaean palatial architecture and fortification and should not be missed.


The fortified acropolis of Asini


Just outside Tolo and 9km from the town of Nafplion are the ruins of Asini on a triangular hill jutting out into the sea. Asini has been inhabited since Neolithic times and is mentioned by Homer as having sent ships to Troy.  The site has always been of strategic importance due to its location at the head of the Argolic gulf and its superb natural defences.  Ancient Cyclopean walls dating to the Bronze Age were rebuilt and extended by the Macedonians in the Hellenistic period.  In the Second World War the Italian forces occupied Asini and built a number of defensive structures to prepare for an allied invasion..


Heraion, a sanctuary devoted to the goddess Hera


Dating from the 8th century BC, the Heraion is a temple dedicated to the goddess Hera and is located 8km Northeast of Argos and just 3 km Southeast of Mycenae. It was the largest such sanctuary in the Argolida and may well have been the first in mainland Greece to worship this deity. Situated among several ancient communities including Tiryns, Midea, and Mycenae, the sanctuary was most closely associated with Argos and in time became its main religious centre. The earliest finds at the temple site date to the Geometric period but the Heraion expanded during the Archaic period and reached its heyday in the classical era. It remained in use throughout the Roman period.


The Mycenean citadel of Midea and its necropolis at Dendra

Midea is believed to have been one of the three most important Mycenean centres in the Argolis along with Tiryns and Mycenae itself. It is one of the largest and best preserved such citadels and its importance is evidenced by its impressive Cyclopoean walls, its extensive fortifications and the lavish tombs at the nearby Mycenean cemetery of Dendra.

During the Bronze Age Midea was a major administrative centre occupying a strategic position approximately midway between the Mycenean citadels of Tiryns and Mycenae. At 270m above sea level, it was the highest of these three cities and its commanding position meant that it dominated the eastern Argive plain. Despite its historical significance, Midea is much less well known than its more famous neighbours. But in recent years the site has been significantly upgraded to provide a better experience for visitors.


The little known city of Troezen


Although the ancient city of Troezen has often played an important role in Greek history it is much less well known than many other sites in Argolida. Situated some 8 km west of the coastal village of Galatas, little remains of its former splendour but it is well worth a visit for those who like to travel off the beaten track.Troezen features prominently in Greek mythology and is known as the home of Theseus and the location of the tragic legend of Hippolytus and Phaedra. In the Bronze Age it contributed soldiers to the Trojan expedition and many centuries later was involved in the Persian Wars.

During the Greek War of Independence Troezen was home to the Second Hellenic National Assembly at which a number of major decisions were made concerning the emerging new state.


The stone age cave dwellers at Franchthi


The Franchthi cave is situated on Khoilada bay in the south of the Argolid peninsular. It was first inhabited in the early stone age (Paleolithic era) and was in use until around 3000 BC, the longest recorded sequence of occupation of any site in Greece. It is one of the most studied stone age sites in South East Europe and one of very few sites in Greece relating to the Mesolithic era. At first the cave was used on seasonal basis by groups of hunter-gatherers but during the Neolithic period it came to be occupied year round. At this time there was a settlement on the extensive coastal plain outside the cave which gradually came to be submerged as a result of rising sea levels.


The mysterious pyramid of Elliniko


Near the village of Elliniko, just 6km South West of Argos is a mysterious pyramid structure, one of only a very few such buildings in Greece and of these the best preserved. The date of its construction is a matter of some dispute but it is thought to have been built some time in the 4th century BC.

There is also uncertainty as to its purpose and various possible functions have been proposed. Different historians have suggested that it was a watchtower and communication base, a storage facility for grain, a monumental tomb, the support for a water tank or a small fort to accommodate a garrison to guarding the road.


The impressive prehistoric settlements of Lerna


Located in the village of Myloi, 12km south of Argos, Lerna is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Greece. Dating back to the early Neolithic period, evidence has been found of successive settlements up until the end of the Bronze Age. Among other structures, excavations have revealed the foundations of a large two story building from the Early Helladic era known as the “House of Tiles”. In ancient times Lerna was a region of springs and the site of a former lake (“Alkyonia”) which was believed to be an entrance to the underworld and was where Heracles is said to have killed the many-headed Hydra.


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