Uncover Ancient Corinth And Acrocorinth In The Peloponnese
Visiting Corinth and the Acrocorinth is a must-do for history buffs and fans of ancient Greek mythology.
These two important historic sites are some of the most important in the Peloponnese and can easily be seen together in one day. I saw them on my way from Athens to Nafplio on my 7-Day road trip of the Peloponnese.
In this guide, I’ll be showing you how to explore the ruins of ancient temples of Corinth, take you on a step back in time and give you the best tips for how to immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Greece.
Is Ancient Corinth and the Acrocorinth Worth Visiting?
I mentioned earlier that Corinth and the Acrocorinth are two of the most important sites in the Peloponnese, not just for their historic importance but also their religious.
Heard of St Paul anyone?
If you’re of the Christian faith then you certainly have heard of his letters to the Corinthians.
Ancient Corinth is where he lived for a time on his mission to convert the Gentiles to the Corinthians, and those letters he wrote came after once he moved to Ephesus in Turkey.
I knew that when I started planning my Peloponnese road trip.
Since I visited the place where Jesus was baptized in Jordan last year, and Ephesus many years ago I felt it was a great addition to my own personal travel journey to also visit here.
I was baptized a Catholic and attended Catholic schools all the way up to University, but am no longer practicing.
But it’s not just Christians and Catholics who will find Corinth and the Acrocorinth worth visiting, it’s also located in a stunning natural location.
I had no idea of the beauty of not just Ancient Corinth, but Acrocorinth that stands guard over the city high above on a mountain peak.
Acrocorinth is one of the best places to visit in the Peloponnese for travelers with an adventurous spirit and curious nature.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a culture lover, or simply seeking a unique experience, Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth are must-visit destinations.
A Brief History of Ancient Corinth
The ancient city of Corinth holds a significant place in Greek history for its strategic location, prosperous trade, and influential culture.
Situated between the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea, Corinth controlled the narrow Isthmus, a key trade route connecting the Mediterranean and the Black Sea and founding location of the Isthmian Games.
It had a strong military presence as a strategic location for many wars over its ancient history and it experienced a series of political changes, alternating between periods of independence, Spartan control, and domination by other regional powers.
Even after a period of decline during the Roman Conquest, it maintained its cultural importance until it underwent a significant urban renewal project initiated by Julius Caesar and later completed by Emperor Augustus.
The city was rebuilt with a Roman architectural style, including temples, basilicas, and a forum. It became the capital of the Roman province of Achaea and a bustling cosmopolitan center.
Corinth continued to thrive through the Roman period and during the early Christian era.
The Apostle Paul visited Corinth in the 1st century CE and established a Christian community there.
It was said he arrived in Corinth in 49 or 50 AD and created the first Church of Corinth, where he met Priscilla and Aquila, who became two of the Seventy Disciples.
His letters to the Corinthians, known as the First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, form an integral part of the New Testament.
Ancient Corinth Wars
Ancient Corinth was a city-state that played a significant role in many of the major wars of Ancient Greece.
One of the most famous wars involving Corinth was the Peloponnesian War, which lasted from 431 – 405 BCE and pitted Corinth, Sparta and other allies against Athens and its allies.
Corinth also played a leading role in the Corinthian War (395–387 BC), which saw an alliance of Greek city-states go to war against Sparta.
Additionally, Corinth was involved in the famed Battle of Leuctra (371 BCE), where Thebes defeated Sparta and marked a turning point in Greek history.
These conflicts helped shape ancient Greece and are important events in the history of Corinth.
Temple of apollo | © Ytravel
Ancient Corinth Mythology
Ancient Corinth is also steeped in mythology and religious belief, with many stories and legends associated with the city.
One of the most famous myths is that of King Sisyphus’s Grandson, the ancient ruler of the city and a hero who tamed the winged horse Pegasus and defeated the fearsome Chimera, a monster with the body of a lion, head of a goat, and tail of a serpent.
Another myth involves the god Poseidon, God of the Sea, who is said to have visited Corinth and blessed the city with his presence.
The goddess Aphrodite was also revered in Corinth, and her temple there was one of the most famous and well-visited in ancient Greece.
Where is Corinth and How to Get There?
Ancient Corinth is about an hour’s drive from Athens – depending on traffic.
Follow the A8/E94 highway towards Corinth, and then take the Corinth Canal Road (EO8) to reach the archaeological site. Parking is available near the entrance.
There is a train from Athens to Corinth, where you can take a taxi or bus.
You will need a car to get to Acrocorinth, which is located ten minutes from Ancient Corinth. While it is a windy road to the top of the mountain, it’s not overly scary or steep.
Buses do not go up here, so you will need your own car, or hire a taxi from Ancient Corinth.
You can also hike up to the top. Note, it will be a steep hike, and there are a lot of trails once you get to the top to see the expansive area, so it could be tiring combining the two.
Alternatively, there are tour options from Athens to visit Ancient Corinth.
I visited Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth on my way to Nafplio from Athens on my 7-day Peloponnese road trip. I spent about three hours exploring this area.
I could have stayed longer in Acrocorinth, but being honest here, I desperately needed a bathroom break and there were no facilities up here! So now you know to take care of that before coming up! I make the mistakes to help you avoid them!
What to Do in Ancient Corinth
You’ll need 1-2 hours to explore the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth. Best news is, it’s a free Peloponnese attraction!
One thing I noticed at the tourist attractions in Greece, there are not a lot of great informational boards.
I was disappointed to learn of the CULTURE APP self-guided audio tour of Old Corinth after my visit. I loved the one I had for the ancient history sites in Athens and think it would be a great addition to your visit at this important historical site. You may even want to join a guided tour, so you don’t miss some of the stories, can understand what you’re looking at in the excavations, and learn about the highlights.
There is a small museum you can begin or end your visit with. Beside the museum on this slightly elevated level are more ruins of Ancient Corinth that I only saw as I drove away!
And it’s where some of the top highlights, like the Odeion and the Theatre are!!
Simply wandering through the archaeological park allows you to appreciate the layout and organization of ancient Corinth.
The remains of various buildings, streets, and monuments provide a tangible connection to the city’s past, offering a fascinating journey through time. I also loved the many beautiful trees in the archaeological park, giving you a shady place to rest and ponder should you wish.
Here are some of the highlights.
Temple of Apollo
One of the few standing Archaic Greek Temples in the world, this Doric temple, dedicated to the god of light and music, is the poster child for Archaeological Site of Ancient Corinth.
It’s said to be one of the oldest temples in the complex and dates back to the 4th century BCE.
Take your time to walk around its perimeter and admire imposing monolithic columns. The views from the front with the mountain behind it are extraordinary.
Fountain of Peirene is a well-preserved ancient spring. It was a vital water source for the city and holds mythological significance as it was believed to be the spot where Pegasus, the winged horse, struck the ground with its hoof, causing the water to gush forth.
Myth also says that after one of her children was killed by Artemis, the nymph Peirene Peirene was consumed by grief to such an extent that she underwent a remarkable metamorphosis—she dissolved into tears, ultimately transforming into a flowing spring.
Whatever, it may be, the fountain is a beautiful site. Imagine what it must have looked like when it was decorated with vibrant frescoes depicting ocean creatures like fish, shrimp, and lobsters.
This ancient Roman road connected the city of Corinth to its port of Lechaion on the Corinthian Gulf.
Walking along this well-preserved road, bordered by what was once shops and public buildings, offers a glimpse into the infrastructure and urban planning of ancient times.
Bema of St Paul
The Berna is a large elevated rostrum standing prominently in the center of the Roman Forum and is where the city’s officials once addressed the public.
It’s of large historical significance for Christians as it’s said to be the place where St Paul was put on trial for illegal religious teachings.
He was found not guilty because he was just having discussions.
Probably because of the monument’s connection to Saint Paul, the Bema was transformed into a Christian church during the Byzantine period.
Lunch Break Outside the Gates
Outside of the Ancient Corinth Gates are a row of restaurants to fuel up with coffee and lunch before driving up the mountain.
I enjoyed sitting at a cafe enjoying lunch in the sun while looking up at the Acropolis of Ancient Corinth above. My meatballs were just okay – a little on the dry side – but I loved my haloumi, cucumber, and tomato drizzled in balsamic!
All good things come to those who are prepared to climb. Acrocorinth is where you can escape the crowds as few dare.
I was undecided on whether to visit Acrocorinth until I saw it from Ancient Corinth.
I’m so glad I followed that curiosity because it quickly became one of my favorite attractions in the Peloponnese. It is considered to be the largest, highest, and most spectacular akropolis of Ancient Greece.
A Brief History of Acrocorinth
Acrocorinth is the ancient fortress perched on a 575 meters above sea level table mountain. As any good acropolis its purpose was to protect the city below.
Its elevated position enabled the military to monitor the isthmus of the Gulf of Corinth and protect Ancient Corinth below.
Its history spans several millennia, and the site has played a significant role in various periods of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman history.
Over time, Acrocorinth gradually lost its military importance, and the fortifications fell into disrepair.
Today, you can clearly see the influence of the different ruling eras in the fortress’s interior: walls of Byzantine houses and churches stand next to ruins of old temples, Venetian towers and Ottoman mosques.
17th Century travelers reported that houses occupied the area close to the gates were inhabited by Muslims and Christians. The population of the castle and lower city was under 1,500. Three to four mosques and five to six small churches were inside the castle grounds, some of which the remains of are still visible today.
What to Do at the Castle of Acrocorinth
I would allow for 1-2 hours to explore this ancient site of Greece. I wish I stayed longer than an hour.
Spend time hiking the trails to see the remnants of ancient walls, towers, byzantine springs, gates, churches, and mosques, and temples, reflecting the diverse cultural influences that have shaped the hilltop fortress throughout the centuries.
Not only did I get extraordinary views of the Corinth countryside and Gulf of Corinth but, on my May visit, the grounds were vibrant with wildflowers, and lush greenery.
Here are a few of the highlights of an Acrocorinth Visit.
Upper and Lower Gates
Firstly, you’ll be swept away by the steep ascent up the cobblestone path through the impressive gates of the fortress on its west side.
This is basically the only entrance to the fortified citadel and was heavily fortified by three huge walls, defensive towers and a moat.
These unstable, rocky, steep slopes continue as you explore the fortress. Ensure you wear grippy, supportive shoes.
Check out the Fortifications
The extensive fortifications of Acrocorinth take up a wide circle on the edge of the rocky outcrop.
You can walk along the well-preserved walls, which showcase various architectural styles from different historical periods.
The fortified gates, towers, enclosures, and bastions provide insights into the defensive strategies employed throughout the centuries.
The remarkable defensive wall system has a total length of almost 2 km, and was built to incorporate into the natural monolith face.
On the north, east, and south sides of the mountain the site is protected by steep, rocky slopes and cliffs.
Temple of Aphrodite
Located near the highest point of Acrocorinth, the Temple of Aphrodite was a prominent sanctuary dedicated to the goddess of love and beauty.
Though now in ruins, you can still see the foundations of the temple and appreciate its significance as a place of worship in ancient times.
This was the most famous and important sanctuary of Aphrodite, known for the alleged practice of “sacred prostitution”.
Agios Dimitrios Church
Don’t miss the Venetian church, Agios Dimitrios Church. It’s one of the only largely intact buildings inside the castle grounds.
You can go inside to see its wall frescoes and ring the bell on the outside if you wish! There is a path going behind here leading to the fortress walls and another viewpoint!
Fountain of Upper Peirene
The Fountain of Upper Peirene is an ancient spring located within Acrocorinth.
It is believed to be the upper part of the spring associated with the mythological nymph Peirene, who turned into tears and transformed into a spring. (You’ll see the lower part down in Ancient Corinth!)
Others say that Sisyphos witnessed Zeus “ravish” the daughter of Asopus, Aegina.
He told Asopus about the abduction, and in return for the information, Sisyphos requested a spring. And that’s how the spring in the fountain of Upper Peirene came to be.
Whichever story you believe, the fountains archaeological remains are a testament to the importance of water sources in ancient fortresses.
Regretfully, I did not make the trail out here but could see it in the distance. If you have time, I highly recommend it!
Constructed during the Ottoman period, the domed Acrocorinth mosque is an impressive structure within Acrocorinth.
It represents the influence of Islamic culture and architecture in the region and offers a unique blend of styles.
Frankish tower acrocorinth peloponnese | © Ytravel
The Frankish Tower
One of the most prominent structures in Acrocorinth, which you’ll see from every trail is the Frankish Tower.
Perched on top of the smaller of the citadel’s two peaks, it keeps watch over the surrounding countryside. You can climb up this two-story observatory tower for a view.
Views and Panoramas in Acrocorinth
One of the highlights of Acrocorinth is the breathtaking panoramic views it offers.
From the elevated vantage points, you can enjoy stunning vistas of the Corinthian Isthmus, the surrounding countryside, and the Aegean Sea.
The views provide a remarkable perspective on the geographical significance and strategic location of Acrocorinth.
The maps on the informational boards are a little confusing and trails are running everywhere. Just follow the trails pointing to the fortification walls, for amazing views.
My favorite was right in the northeastern corner – it involved a slightly steep climb. You’ll have 360 gorgeous views of ancient Corinth, the olive grove covered slopes and plains sprawling below including a great view of the isthmus which this fortress was designed to monitor.
Visiting Penteskoufi / Montesquieue Castle
On the other side of the acropolis is another fortress sitting on a small peak called Penteskoufi or Montesquieue Castle.
It was built by the Franks in 1205 when they were attempting to overthrow Acrocorinth. I could see a trail going there but did not see where it began in the parking lot.
It looks steep and challenging but may be an option if you want more adventure.
Tips for Visiting Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth
Apart from my aforementioned bathroom tip, here are a few more suggestions to help ensure you’ll have a great time exploring these ancient historical Greek sites.
- Plan your visit: Before heading to Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth, take the time to research and plan your trip. Look into the opening hours, ticket prices, and any guided tours available. This will help you make the most of your time and ensure you don’t miss any important landmarks or sites like I did. Although this post will be a big help to you!
- Wear comfortable shoes: Exploring Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth involves walking and climbing, so it’s essential to wear comfortable shoes that provide good support. The terrain can be uneven, so sturdy footwear is recommended.
- Bring water and snacks: It’s important to stay hydrated and energized during your visit, especially in the warm weather. Carry a bottle of water and some snacks to keep yourself refreshed throughout the day. I did not take my water bottle with me to Acororinth thinking it would be a short visit. I regretted it after the first hill in the beating sun. You’ll spend longer than you think there.
- Sun protection: The Greek sun can be intense, so don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Consider bringing an umbrella or seeking shade during the hottest hours of the day.
- Learn about the history of Corinth: Familiarize yourself with the history of Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth before your visit. This will enhance your experience and allow you to appreciate the significance of the ruins and archaeological sites you encounter.
- Take your time to explore: Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth are rich in historical and archaeological treasures. Take your time to wander through the ruins, admire the architecture, and soak in the atmosphere. Don’t rush through the sites; instead, allow yourself to be transported back in time.
- Enjoy the panoramic views: Acrocorinth offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding area. Take a moment to appreciate the stunning vistas and capture some memorable photos.
- Follow the rules and respect the sites: Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth are important historical sites, so it’s crucial to respect the rules and regulations. Avoid climbing on restricted areas, touching the artifacts, or littering. By being a responsible visitor, you contribute to the preservation of these ancient sites for future generations.
- Engage with a guide: Consider hiring a knowledgeable guide or joining a guided tour. They can provide valuable insights, share fascinating stories, and help you gain a deeper understanding of the sites.
- Visit early or late in the day: To avoid crowds and the midday heat, plan your visit to Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth during the early morning or late afternoon. This will allow you to enjoy a more tranquil and comfortable experience. There were few visitors when I visited Ancient Corinth in the early morning (only some school groups) but the crowds were coming in later that afternoon when I passed through here after Acorcorinth (on my mad dash to find a bathroom!)
- Stay in Nafplio: It’s only 45 minutes from here and is a stunning Venetian coastal town with many things to do. It was my favorite place on the Peloponnese. I loved Kapodistrias Hotel in the Old City. At €65 a night, it was a great deal especially for its location, and patio with views.
Other Nearby Attractions
Take advantage of the location and explore other nearby attractions, such as the Corinth Canal, the ancient city of Mycenae and Nemea, Epidaurus or the beautiful seaside town of Nafplio.
I found the engineering marvel of the Corinth Canal to be underwhelming, but you will pass through it if coming from Athens, so you might as well stop for five minutes to see it.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth
Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth was an unexpected surprise on my Peloponnese vacation. It’s well worth a visit either on a day trip from Athens or part of a larger holiday in this region.
It’s hard to believe that Acorcorinth is a lesser known and visited historical site in Greece.
It was very impressive and if you have an interest in Ancient Greek, this is one of the must-see places in the Peloponnese to give you an insight into the layers of history and the cultural influences that shaped this ancient fortress.
Spend time immersing yourself in the captivating history, and archaeological wonders of Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth.
By following these tips, you’re sure to have an unforgettable and enriching experience that will transport you back in time to the glory days of ancient Greece. Happy exploring!