Tolo, Greece is at the heart of one of the most storied provinces of Greece. On a recent trip to beautiful Tolo, in the Argolid, we explored some of the most exciting sights in Greece. The landscape and the food of the northern Peloponnese are also spectacular.
Where is Tolo, Greece
Tolo, Greece – population 2500 in summer – is that idyllic beach town you’ve been dreaming about. With the soul of simple fishing village, Tolo (Tolon) is at the heart of a culturally rich region of Greece – full of archaeological sites and natural treasures.
Tolo is located south of Athens, on the eastern coast of the Peloponnese, in Argolis (Argolida). This is one of the most interesting regions of Greece, culturally and historically. Tolo is also an excellent place for family holidays – in the middle of a wealth of sights and activities. The Tolo beaches are beautiful, and there are little islands to boat out to -perfect for both relaxation and water sports. This spot in the Peloponnese is also a great jumping off point for exploring other gorgeous destinations. Glamorous Porto Heli is a little over an hour away. From there, the islands of the Saronic Gulf, like the elite island of Spetses and ultra-cultured Hydra are a very short ride away.
Tolo is also very close to historic and charming Nafplio – it’s just a 15 minute drive. This is also the perfect place to stay if you want to visit some of the most historic and impressive sights of Ancient Greece. The Asklepion and the ancient theater of Epidaurus are a half an hour to the northwest from Tolon. The archaeological site of Mycenae (Mykines) is also just half an hour from Tolo, to the north.
Our Travel Bloggers Greece visit to Tolo was an ideal introduction to the region. After the initial lockdown of 2020, we were very interested to see what the future of Greece travel would hold. We were delighted with the professionalism and dedicated to responsible, safe tourism that we met with in Tolo.
Tolo is part of the Municipality of Nafplion.
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.
It’s also very easy to reach Tolon by bus. 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 between Attica and the Peloponnese. The 2nd century AD philosopher and biographer Plutarch attributed the stele to Theseus, son of King Aegeus of Athens. Plutarch said Theseus had placed the stele there on his journey to Athens.
The ancient Greeks had long thought of a canal to avoid the long trip around the Peloponnese, but they 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).
The Corinth Canal makes 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. Tolo 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.
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 archaeological sites and cultural destinations. Tolo itself also offers plenty of things to do, starting of course with the great sandy beaches of Tolo
The bay of Tolo faces southwest into the larger Saronic gulf. Enclosed and protected, the beaches of Tolo offer some excellent swimming and lounging.
Psili Ammos Beach, Tolo
The northern section for the main beach that runs all along the coast of Tolo bay is the widest. It’s called “Psili Ammos” – fine sand. This silky, sandy beach was awarded a Blue Flag for the excellence of its waters, its condition and cleanliness, and its commitment to the environment. It’s one of five beaches in Argolis awarded with a blue flag – four of which, like Tolo, are in the Municipality of Nafplio.
The rest of the long beach of Tolo is clean and shallow. Because it’s 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.
Kastraki Beach – Paralia Assinis
Just to the east, in its own little cove, is the more secluded Kastraki beach. The beach is half sandy, and half pebbles, with very clear waters. There’s a little taverna on the beach, and a few sun loungers and straw umbrellas. You can reach Kastraki beach on foot easily, but note that the road has no shoulder so you must be careful and also not make the trip on foot after dusk. This is also called Assini Beach, as its right below the ruins of Ancient Assini.
Plaka Beach (Drepano Beach)
A little more to the east – past the cape of Ancient Assini – there is a long stretch of beach. This is called Plaka or Drepano Beach, as it’s right by the small village of Drepano. The beaches are quiet and have more locals and Athenians than tourists. You’ll find some small family tavernas and a few sun loungers. There’s a campground by the beach.
Just 7 kilometers east of Tolo is a magical little bay. It’s almost completely enclosed, like a lagoon. With a few trees for natural shade, and a few sunbeds for relaxing, this is a little paradise. If you walk a little, there are one or two little ocves for even more seclusion. Locals enjoy the beachside tavernas here.
Kondyli Beach (Kontili Beach)
Further east – 10 km from Tolo and 3 km from Vivari, is the longer and somewhat more crowded Kondyli beach. Kondyli beach is in the southeastern curve of the bay. The southern edge of the beach is said to be nudism-friendly. The northern edge of the beach has beep waters.
To the west of Tolo, in the direction of Nafplion, is Karathonas beach. It’s very close by boat, but about 20 minutes by bar as the road goes inland. This large beach offers watersports, beach bars with sunbeds and umbrellas, and tavernas – perfect for a sociable day at the beach.
The Islands of Tolo – Daskaleio, Romvi, and Koronisi
There are three little islands in the Bay of Tolo. They make wonderful destinations for day trip excursion by sea.
Koronisi Island, Tolo
Koronisi is the tiny island directly across from the port of Tolo. This charming green island has a small church – Agioi Apostoli – Holy Apostles. It’s a popular place for weddings and baptisms, and a wonderful sight in the sunset.
The larger island of Romvi is just to the south. This more mountainous island is shaped like a boomerang, concealing the smaller Daskaleio island in its own private bay.
The tiny island of Daskaleio has a secret. Hidden from view from the mainland by the larger Romvi island, this was the site of a “secret school” (“Daskalo” means ‘teacher’ in Greek). During the Ottoman occupation of Greece, there were many secret schools set up in remote locations, where children could have religious instruction and learn Greek language and history, preserving their heritage.
The secret school on Daskaleio was in the beautiful monastery of Zoodochou Pigi – ‘Life Giving Spring’ – built in 1688. You can hike up to the church on a day trip to the island. The views of the gulf are marvelous.
Daskaleio island and Romvu island ofer great secluded Tolo Beach experiences.
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. This is a great opportunity to try some water sports in a stunning location.
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 Assini
At the edge of Tolo, Greece is Ancient Assini. This beautiful spot in the Argolid has fortifications high above the sea. Ancient Assini was the port of Mycenae. Homer refers to the Assinians in The Iliad, for their part in the war with Troy.
The sight captured the imagination of King Gustav of Sweden, who was inspired by Heinrich Schliemann, the archaeologist of Ancient Mycenae. King Gustav of Sweden began excavations in 1922.
Assini has reached immortality both in history and in literature, in the poem “The King of Assini” by the Nobel Prize winning poet Giorgos Seferis.
At a perfect spot on the hill beside Ancient Assini, the Church of Agia Kyriaki is pristine blue and white overlooks Tolo Bay and the islands. This is a popular location for weddings and baptisms.
From Tolo, Greece- Cultural Festivals: the Athens/Epidaurus Festival and 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, Greece on a Day Trip from Tolo
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 – Aghia Moni
A lovely Byzantine monastery from the 12th century is just outside of Tolo. The Monastery of Aghia Moni, set on a hill of Cypress trees and wildflowers, overlooks the bay. Just below the monastery is a sacred spring, used – according to Mythology – by Hera, after her romantic trysts.
Historic Sights for Day Trips 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 a show – an ancient drama or comedy.
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.
Where to Stay in Tolo
There are many excellent family hotels in Tolo. Our Tolo hotel – the John and George Hotel – the finest among them, with very high guest ratings. We loved the sweeping views of Tolo Bay from our elegant room, and the spacious pool deck below, along with poolside breakfast. The service was exceptional.
Paradise Lost, Tolo is another fine Tolo hotel, with a gorgeous pool and tropical garden, and lovely views.
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 wait staff who were wearing 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’s a great variety 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. We also enjoyed 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.
Tolo, Greece Weather
Greece is famous for exceptional weather. But even by those standards, Tolo and the surrounding region stand out, for mild winters of sunshine. Even the rainiest month – December – sees rain on just a dozen days. The heat of summer is tempered by sweet breezes.
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.