Tolo, Greece is at the heart of one of the most storied provinces of Greece. On a recent trip to beautiful Tolo, we explored some of the most exciting sights in Greece. The landscape and the food of the northern Peloponnese are also spectacular.
Tolo (Tolon) is that idyllic beach town you’ve been dreaming about. It’s on its own dreamy gulf, at the heart of a culturally rich region of Greece, full of archaeological and natural treasures.
How to Get to Tolo, Argolida
Tolo is in the northeastern corner of the Peloponnese, on the Argolic Gulf. It’s an easy distance from Athens. On a drive of less than two hours, you’ll see some lovely sights. The road hugs the shores of the Saronic gulf for the first half of the ride. You then reach the Isthmus of Corinth and the Corinth Canal (captured here by Tzina of Love for Travel), dividing the Peloponnese from the Attica peninsula.
There are many KTEL public buses every day that connect Athens with Tolo. You can see schedules here.
The Isthmus of Corinth and the Corinth Canal
The isthmus of Corinth is a narrow neck of land dividing the Peloponnese from the Attica peninsula. It was also a landmark in the ancient world. An ancient stele marked the division. The 2nd century AD philosopher and biographer Plutarch attributed the stele to Theseus, son of King Aegeus of Athens, who placed there on his journey to Athens.
The ancient Greeks had long thought of a canal to avoid the long trip around the Peloponnese, but were never successful. Near the present day canal is an ancient stone pathway – the Diolkos. This was used for dragging ships overland from the Saronic Gulf to the Gulf of Corinth. The Canal of Corinth was finally dug at the end of the 19th century (1893). The Corinth Canal is a dramatic sight. It’s 6.4 kilometers long, and extremely deep and narrow (just 21 meters wide).
Stopping at the Corinth Canal is an interesting stop on the journey to Tolo from Athens. Huge ships cannot pass, but you will usually see pleasure vessels and smaller craft making the crossing far below the narrow bridge that crosses it.
The Bay of Tolo (Tolon)
The Bay of Tolo, Greece is part of the Argolic Gulf. The bay is enclosed, with calm waters. There are views of the close small island of Romvi and the even closer enchanting Koronisi, with its chapel. It’s lit up at night beautifully.
The Bay of Tolo has shallow calm seas, and a very long and narrow sand beach. Many small boats are anchored just offshore and fill the bay with charm.
The shore is dotted with charming traditional fish tavernas, with their tables right in the sand at the water’s edge.
Where to Stay in Tolo
There are many excellent family hotels in Tolo. The John and George Hotel is the finest among them, with very high guest ratings. We loved the sweeping views of the Bay of Tolo from our elegant room, and the spacious pool deck below, along with poolside breakfast. The service was exceptional.
Our visit was one of the first after the lockdown. We stayed here with great peace of mind – all safety and hygiene standards were strictly maintained. There was sanitizer all over, plexiglass at the check-in, and all servers were wearing masks. We had masks and sanitizing wipes in our rooms. At breakfast, we had service at the buffet from waitresses with face shields, and everyone always maintained a careful distance.
Where to Dine in Tolo
Tolo has excellent dining. Here on the shores of the clean Bay of Tolo, there is no want of excellent fish and seafood. We had elegant and creative dishes as we overlooked the gulf, classic crisp fried fish and salads as we sat with our feet in the sand, and delicious grilled meats in the countryside. There are high-quality family-style tavernas on the shore – our favorites were Ormos and Akrogiali. On the main street of the town overlooking the bay is Maria’s, and by the beach the excellent restaurant at the Golden Beach Hotel. The food everywhere was superb, including classic favorites and beautifully inventive dishes that were nonetheless true to their traditional roots. Here is a guide to the best restaurants in Tolo – we loved them all.
Things to Do in Tolo, Greece
So close to Athens, but with all the charm of a quiet beach side town far from the cares of the world, Tolo is close to many significant cultural destinations, and itself offers plenty of things to do.
Have a Great Swim at Tolo Beach
The beach of Tolo is long, clean, and shallow. Because it is in an enclosed bay, the waters are often calm. Tolo beach is a terrific family swimming beach, a three-minute walk from many hotels. Since it’s a town beach, you’ll be able to find anything you need within easy reach, from sunscreen to fried Calamari. There are a few quiet beach side cafes with sun loungers and umbrellas. But there were no loud beach bars to disturb the lazy tranquility of an ideal beach afternoon.
Take a Cruise to Daskaleio Island by Romvi
You know that fantasy of jumping off of a sailboat into deep jade-green sea in a secluded cove? The tiny island of Daskaleio, by Romvi, is the place where you can do that. This is one of the uninhabited islands in the snug Bay of Tolo. We reached it on a cruise with Tolo Sailing, while others of our group came with Intro Dive – like it sounds, they also give great first-time diving experiences. While on Romvi, we swam, hiked up to a beautiful and silent church, swam some more, and had an excellent barbecue. Our hosts at the John and George Hotel arranged the experience for us. They regularly arrange such excursions for their guests. At a cost of €25 – €30, including a fabulous lunch, it’s definitely one of the best things to do while you’re staying in Tolo.
Visit Ancient Asini
At the edge of Tolo, Greece is Ancient Assini. This beautiful spot in the Argolid with fortifications high above the sea was the port of Mycenae. Homer refers to the Asinians in The Iliad, for their part in the war with Troy. The sight captured the imagination of King Gustav of Sweden, inspired by Heinrich Schliemann. He began excavations in 1922.
Asini has reached immortality both in history and in literature, in the poem “The King of Assini” by the Nobel Prize winning poet Giorgos Seferis.
From Tolo, Greece, Visit the Athens/Epidaurus Festival or the Festival of Nafplion
Two major cultural festivals in Argolida host world-class performances music and theater. Seeing a production at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus is a transformative cultural experience. See the program here. The program for the festival of Nafplion, taking place at the end of July and early August, is here.
Learn About Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Greece is one of the largest producers of Extra Virgin Olive Oil – EVOO – in the world. Greek EVOO is famous for its excellent quality. Among the Greek oils, the EVOO of the Peloponnese is particularly famous. On a visit to the Melas family EVOO factory, you can learn everything about the cultivation and extraction of oil, an interesting process.
Taste Ouzo near Tolo, Greece
Ouzo, Greece’s iconic drink, is fragrant and refreshing. Enjoying it in style is an essential Greek experience – here’s more about How – and Why – to Drink Ouzo. The distillery of the Karonis family has been producing some of the best since 1869. We learned about the drink, its complexity, and how to tell a high-quality ouzo from an average one on our tour and tasting. Karonis also makes the classic liqueurs, masticha, and tsipouro.
Stroll around Nafplion
Tolo is just 10 km from Nafplio. This lovely city was the first capital of Modern Greece, Nafplio has an island fortress – Bourtzi – a beautiful town square, the high Palamidi fortress, and an old town awash in color with bougainvillea in bloom.
Visit the Monastery of the Panagia/Zoodochou Pigis
A lovely monastery is just outside of Tolo, set on a hill of Cypress trees and wildflowers, overlooking the bay. Just below the monastery is a sacred spring, used – according to Mythology – by Hera, after her romantic trysts
Historic Sights around Tolo, Greece
Argolida is rich in history and archaeology. Tolo is near some of the most fascinating sights of both Ancient Greece and – even earlier – Mycenaen Greece. This is the Greece of our collective imagination – the Greece of Homer, of Agamemnon, and of ships bound for Troy. It’s also the home of one of the greatest theaters of Classical Greece, where the works of Aeschylus and Aristophanes still play, and of one of the most famous healing centers of the Ancient World.
The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus
The Theater of Epidaurus is one of the world’s most famous theaters as well as one of the most significant archaeological sights in Greece. This vast theater – with a capacity of about 13,000 viewers – is famous for its acoustics. Even from the lofty top rows, the words on center stage resonate.
For the best experience, visit the Archaeological sight by day to wonder at its construction and beauty. Then come again to see an ancient drama or comedy performed here.
The Theater of Epidaurus was part of the healing center – the Asklepion. The performances here were not conceived of as entertainment but as an integral part of the patients’ well-being, spiritual and psychological health.
The Asklepion of Epidaurus
Asklepius, son of Apollo, was the Ancient Greek god of healing. His staff, entwined with a snake, remains to day a universal symbol of healing.
In the world of Ancient Greece, healing centers took his name – Asklepion. There were many, and the one at Epidaurus was the most famous of them all. This was the mythological birthplace of Asklepius. The Asklepion at Epidaurus was one of the most significant cult sites of Ancient Greece. This vast archaeological complex includes the ruins of the great Doric temple to Aesclepius, the Tholon – dedicated to his cult, the Abaton – or Enkymmytron – where patients slept for Asklepius to come to them in their dreams, a stadium for athletic competition, the hestiatorion, library, baths, and many other structures.
The Museum at Ancient Epidaurus
A visit to the on-site museum at Ancient Epidaurus will give added insight into this tremendous ancient healing center. The museum displays fascinating findings from the site. Among these are medical instruments and surgical tools, evidence of the extraordinarily advanced care patient could receive at the Asklepion of Epidaurus.
Ancient Mycenae has been capturing the imagination of scholars, travels, and poets for centuries. The amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann was famously convinced that in the Homeric epics there was history and truth, and he found it. At Mycenae, Archaeology and Myth collide, as Schliemann’s findings confirmed a synergy with Homer’s tale. At any rate, standing in the Treasury of Atreus, the famous beehive tomb, it is easy too believe you are in the resting place of Agamemnon. The tomb of Clytemestra is also here, as well as the Lions Gate, the great acropolis, shaft graves, and astonishing Cyclopean walls all aound.
The Museum at Ancient Mycenae
The Museum of Ancient Mycenae displays wonderful findings from the excavation. The objects are arranged in such a way as to support an understandable narrative, leading to a deeper understanding of Mycenaen culture. Highlights include figurines of religious idols, including Gaia the earth goddess, a magnificent fresco of two Mycenaen women and a Minoan woman, and elaborate jewelry. A highlight, of course, is a replica of what is famously called the “Mask of Agamemnon.” The original is in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
Visiting Tolo, Greece
We found Tolo to be an ideal home base for exploring the Argolid, one of the most fascinating and beautiful provinces of Greece.