Arriving in Nafplio, Greece, I was greeted by the dry, European summer heat and a maze of small streets that had me wondering how I would ever find my hotel. I walked into a small shop and asked the women behind the counter for directions. Just a few more turns down the narrow paths and I finally found where I was supposed to be.

Nafplio-Greece-Angelica-Cruz

I had traveled to Greece to attend a friend’s wedding and rather than make my way toward one of the country’s more famous destinations – Santorini, Mykonos or Crete – I decided to look for a place to visit that was only a few hours from Athens. I chanced upon photos of Nafplio, a small seaport town in Peloponnese, and began reading about its quaint charm.

Nafplio-Greece-Angelica-Cruz

Immediately upon arrival, I knew I had made the right decision. My hotel was exactly what I imagined it to be – a small building with windows and balconies covered in florals. The owner showed me to into my room, lovely and cozy and with its own balcony.

Nafplio-Greece-Angelica-Cruz

Nafplio’s streets were lined with quaint, traditional Venetian houses with balconies filled with flower baskets. Buildings were covered with bougainvilleas. Residents and restaurant and shop owners offered warm greetings, adding to the pleasant vibe of the town.

Nafplio-Greece-Angelica-Cruz

Souvenir shops and boutiques lined the streets and between them, charming little homes appeared unexpectedly. Tavernas could be found on almost every corner, serving a variety of authentic Greek delicacies. And there was no shortage of spots for desert; a great number of places served both Greek yogurt and Italian gelato.

Nafplio-Greece-Angelica-Cruz

Nafplio-Greece-Angelica-Cruz

There was more to do in Nafplio than wander and eat, though! I spent one afternoon climbing the Palamidi Castle, a fortress built during the Venetian occupation. Although it’s a tough journey (you have to ascend more than 800 steps), the views of the town and the Argolic Gulf from the top make it worth the effort.

Nafplio-Greece-Angelica-Cruz

Nafplio-Greece-Angelica-Cruz

Nafplio was the perfect European destination: a small, charming, not-too-crowded, and picturesque seaside town that offered a taste of what my future European travels could be. Being only two hours from the tourist hub of Athens means there is no excuse to not visit!

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How to get there: From the airport, ride a bus going to Kifissos Intercity Bus Station (1 hour). From there, buses go straight to Nafplio. The ride takes about two hours.

What to do: Walk around the streets of the Old Town and stop in the shops selling Greek sandals and other souvenirs. Wander around the port for a view of the gulf and of the sunset, or ride a boat to see the Bourtzi fortress. Climb the Palamidi Castle for a great view of the town and the gulf below. Swim at the Arvanitia beach, just near the foot of the castle.

Where To Eat: For budget travelers, Mitato (Staikopoulou Street) serves good gyros, souvlakis and a variety of Greek dishes. For desert, head to Yogart (Vasileos Konstantinou) for a good serving of frozen Greek yogurt, and Antica Gelateria di Roma (Farmakopoulon Street) for Italian gelato.

Near Nafplio: Head to Tolo beach (20 minutes by bus), and which is also the take-off point to the islands of Hydra and Spetses. Take a half-day trip to the Ancient Theater of Epidavrus (45 minutes).

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