3 Days in Nafplion March 2024: Where the Venetian Carnival meets the Traditional Greek “Kathara Deftera”

Nafplion

A guide on how to spend 3 days in Nafplion, from March 16th to March 18th, to experience Carnival and Kathara Deftera, from the team at Greeklist.

1. Going for 3 days to Nafplion

Located on the eastern shores of the Peloponnese is Nafplion. A town whispered to by the Aegean Sea and adorned with Venetian style in its architecture, beckons you to witness a unique cultural spectacle – the vibrant fusion of Carnival and Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday) celebrations. 

Here we present to you a wonderful 3 days in one of the most beautiful cities of Greece!

2. A brief history of Nafplion

Nafplion’s story stretches back to the mists of antiquity. Whispers of a glorious ancient settlement linger, echoing the legend of its namesake, Nauplius, son of Poseidon. Fast forward to the Byzantine era, and the town finds its footing as a vital port, later falling under Frankish and Venetian rule. It’s this period that gifted Nafplion its architectural elegance, evident in the Lion of St. Mark and Venetian mansions lining the squares. From the 15th century up to late 18th century, the city changed hands between Venetians and Ottomans.

History takes a dramatic turn in the early 19th century, when the flames of the Greek War of Independence arrived at Nafplion. After the victorious war, Ioannis Kapodistrias chose the city to become the first capital of the newly liberated nation. Today, Nafplion seamlessly blends its rich past with a modern pulse, as Venetian. Tourists flock to uncover its ancient secrets, while locals and artists infuse the town with contemporary energy. 

Poseidon and Nafplius
Poseidon and his son, Nafplius
Capture of Nafplion by the Franks
Capture of Nafplion by the Franks
Ioannis Kapodistrias
Ioannis Kapodistrias

3. The weather in Nafplion during Carnival and Kathara Deftera

Nafplion basks in the warm embrace of spring during Carnival and Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday), offering a delightful escape from the UK’s winter chill. Expect pleasant day temperatures around 16-18°C, with occasional bursts of sunshine painting the town in a golden glow. Pack light layers for adaptability, as mornings and evenings can be slightly cooler. 

For an extended weather forecast, check Accuweather.

4. Getting to Nafplion from the UK

Reaching Nafplion from the UK is a breeze! Several major airlines offer convenient flights from various UK airports to Athens International Airport. For quick & direct flights, Skyscanner indicates enticing return fares, with prices starting as low as £156, available from London, Bermingham, Manchester and Edinburgh.

After reaching Athens, the journey continues with your choice of a  bus service, or just by a rental car. It’s  a  140 km comfortable ride while having glimpses of the Peloponnese’s captivating landscapes.

5. The top destinations in Nafplion

Nafplion whispers tales of Venetian grandeur, ancient myths, and revolutionary spirit. This town  offers a unique blend of historical treasures, cultural experiences, and natural beauty, perfect for the discerning traveller seeking an enriching escape.

Although it has countless wonderful places to see, here is our hard-picked top-ten list:

  • Palamidi Fortress: Soar above the town atop this imposing Venetian masterpiece (pictured above). Climb the 999 steps or take the cable car for breathtaking panoramic views and a glimpse into the fortress’s fascinating past.
  • Palamidi
  • Syntagma Square: The heart of Nafplion’s social life, this lively square pulsates with energy. Relax in cafes, admire the neoclassical architecture, and witness the iconic clock tower. “Syntagma” means Constitution in Greek.
  • Syntagma Square Nafplio
  • Old Town: Get lost in the charming maze of Nafplion’s Old Town. Wander through narrow alleyways, admire Venetian mansions, and discover hidden gems like quaint shops and local tavernas. 
  • Nafplio Old Town
  • Bourtzi Island: Take a short boat ride to this romantic islet fortress, a symbol of Venetian power. Explore the charming fortress, capture stunning photos, and savor the tranquillity amidst the azure waters.
  • Bourtzi
  • Komboloi Museum: Witness the unique art of “komboloi” (worry beads) at this dedicated museum. Explore their cultural significance, intricate designs, and diverse materials, gaining a deeper appreciation for this local tradition.
  • Koboloi Museum
  • Folklore Museum of Peloponnese: Discover the vibrant traditions and cultural heritage of the Peloponnese through diverse exhibits showcasing costumes, musical instruments, and everyday objects. 
  • Nafplion Folklore Museum
  • Church of Saint Spyridon: A beautiful example of Byzantine architecture, dedicated to Saint Spyridon, this 17th-century church boasts impressive frescoes and a tranquil atmosphere. It’s also the place where Ioannis Kapodistrias was assassinated in 1831.
  • Agios Spyridon Church
  • The Land Gate: This impressive gateway marks the entrance to the Old Town, built by the Venetians in the 17th century. Admire the intricate carvings and imagine yourself entering a bustling medieval town.
  • Land Gate
  • National Gallery – Nafplion Annex: This branch of the National Gallery of Greece houses a permanent collection of 19th and 20th-century Greek art, offering a glimpse into the nation’s artistic evolution.
  • Nafplion National Galery
  • Karonis Distillery: Α family-run business crafting ouzo and traditional liqueurs for over 145 years. Savour authentic flavors while uncovering Nafplio’s rich heritage.
  • Karonis Distilery

6. From March 16th to March 18th in Nafplion

We recommend you to arrive at Nafplion on Friday 15th evening, and settle down in your hotel, because you are going to experience three full days!.

Day One, March 16th: Know the city

Start by scaling the iconic Palamidi fortress for breathtaking views and historical immersion. Descend to the romantic Bourtzi islet fortress for postcard-worthy photos. Afterwards, wander the charming Old Town, admiring Venetian architecture and discovering hidden shops and tavernas. Enjoy a leisurely lunch on a sun-drenched terrace, savouring fresh seafood or traditional Greek specialties. In the afternoon, choose between artistic enrichment at the National Gallery or local folklore at the Museum. As the sun sets, stroll along the picturesque Nafplio Bay, capturing the golden hues. End your day with a delicious dinner at a traditional taverna.

Day Two, March 17th: The Venetian Carnival

Your whole day will be dedicated to the famous Nafplion’s Venetian Carnival. A captivating blend of Venetian heritage and local flair, transports you to a magical realm. Months of preparation culminate in a weekend spectacle where the Old Town transforms into a living Renaissance painting. Elegant nobles adorned in elaborate costumes, graceful marionettes, and vibrant performances fill the streets with a sense of mystery and revelry. The culmination arrives with the grand parade and burning of the Carnival King sculpture, leaving behind a kaleidoscope of memories and a yearning to return to this enchanting spectacle next year.

Day Three, March 18th: Experience the “Kathara Deftera”

Experience the rich traditions of Greece during Kathara Deftera. Partake in the customary delights of the Lenten feast, indulging in flavorful dishes like taramosalata and lagana. Witness the vibrant spectacle of kite flying at Karathona Beach, where the sky transforms into a canvas of colour and laughter fills the air. In the afternoon, immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere of Syntagma Square. Savour a cup of aromatic Greek coffee at a sun-drenched cafe, observing the lively bustle of the celebrations and absorbing the cultural significance of this unique holiday. 

Venetian Carnival of Nafplion
Venetian Carnival of Nafplion
Kite Flying in Karathona Beach
Kite Flying in Karathona Beach

7. Cuisine and dining in Nafplion.

Since you will experience Carnival and Kathara Deftera in Nafplion, you are going to taste a lot of meat during the weekend and the Lenten dishes during Monday.

We recommend the following three meat dishes:

  • Gyros: Pork or chicken slices are stacked on a vertical rotisserie, seasoned with herbs and spices, then shaved off and piled into warm pita bread with the usual suspects: tomato, onion, and tzatziki.
  • Kontosouvli: This dish features a large piece of meat, such as pork or lamb, that is slowly roasted over an open fire. It’s actually a bigger souvlaki that also contains colourful peppers. The meat is typically marinated in herbs and spices. 
  • Paidakia (Lamb Chops):They are grilled pieces of meat with bone, cut perpendicular to the spine. They usually come from lamb or goat, but can also be pork or beef.

For Kathara Deftera, make sure you taste the following:

  • Lagana: This unleavened flatbread is the star of the show on Clean Monday. Made with flour, water, olive oil, and sesame seeds, it’s traditionally baked the day before and enjoyed plain or dipped in olive oil, vinegar, or various spreads.
  • Octopus: Served cold in vinegar, octopus is a popular seafood choice for Kathara Deftera. It’s often enjoyed as a shared appetiser or main course.
  • Dolmadakia: Stuffed grape leaves, delicately wrapped bundles filled with a savoury mixture of rice, pine nuts, and herbs.

Paidakia

Paidakia, for Carnival

Lagana
Lagana, for Kathara Deftera

In case you are interested to have a general insight in Greek Cuisine, check here our special guide!

The best restaurants in Nafplion

Nafplion’s culinary scene is as diverse and flavorful as its history, from fresh seafood by the harbour to cosy tavernas tucked away in the Old Town. Here is our top-5 pick:

  • I Folia, Barbeque Greek Cuisine, Vegetarian & Vegan Options
  • Taverna Psalidas, Greek Cuisine, Vegetarian & Vegan Options
  • To Telonio, Greek Cuisine, Vegetarian & Vegan Options
  • Stavlos, Barbeque, Grill, Greek Cuisine

Check here for more excellent Nafplion dining options on Tripadvisor.

8. Accommodation options in Nafplion.

Nafplion boasts a wide range of hotels, from charming boutique options tucked away in the Old Town to luxurious beachfront resorts. Whether you’re seeking history, romance, or relaxation, you’re sure to find the perfect place to stay in this beautiful Peloponnesian city. 

Here is our Top-5 hotel list for Nafplion:

Find more Greeklist exclusive Hotel deals for Nafplion and HotelBrain here!

9. Local Transportation and getting around in Nafplion

Nafplion’s compact size and walkable streets make it a delight to explore on foot. But for venturing further or seeking a break from the sun, here’s a look at your local transportation options:

  • Taxis:Convenient and readily available, especially in central areas. Flag them down or pre-book from specific destinations.
  • Biking: A fun and eco-friendly way to explore Nafplion’s flat terrain. Rent bikes from the public bicycle rental point near the Town Hall or private shops.
  • Rent a Car: Renting a car in Nafplion opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for exploring the Peloponnese peninsula and its surrounding beauty. 
  • Walking: The best way to immerse yourself in Nafplion’s charm and historical atmosphere. Comfortable shoes are a must. Go for walking while enjoying the sunset!
  • Nafplion Walking

10. Safety and Travel Tips in Nafplion

Get ready to delve into Nafplion’s magic with these travel tips and safety pointers, ensuring a smooth and unforgettable Grecian escapade:

  • Emergency Numbers: Save these emergency numbers:
  1. the local police (100), 
  2. medical emergency (166)
  3. fire department (199).
  4. British Embassy in Athens (+30 2107272600)
  5. Nafplion Tourist Police Department (+30 2752098729)
  • Healthcare Options: Locate pharmacies and medical facilities beforehand for peace of mind
  • Respect Local Customs: Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and churches. Tipping is appreciated but not mandatory.
  • Walk with Ease: Explore the charming Old Town and picturesque harbour on foot. Comfortable walking shoes are your best friend!
  • Discover Local Rhythms: Sip rich Greek coffee at a quaint cafe, soaking in the atmosphere and friendly conversations.
  • Language: Usually most Greeks speak English, but learning a few basic Greek phrases can enhance your interactions and show appreciation for the local language!
  • Support Local Shops: Find unique souvenirs and handcrafted treasures at charming boutiques and artisan stores.
  • Currency Considerations: The official currency is the Euro. Ensure you have some cash for small purchases, but credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are readily available throughout the city.
  • Attire: Nafplion is a casual town, so formal attire is unnecessary. Pack versatile clothing, for day and night, as the temperature is between 5° and 20° during night and day, with occasional rain.
  • Learn about siesta hours: Many shops and businesses close between 3pm-5pm for siesta. Plan your sightseeing and shopping accordingly. Restaurants don’t close for siesta!
  • Don’t forget to relax!: Take breaks, savour the local cuisine, and enjoy the slow pace of life in Nafplion.

11. Interesting FAQs about Nafplion

Dive into Nafplion’s past, present, and quirky charm with our mix of fascinating, funny, and practical FAQs!

  • Why is Nafplio famous?

One of Greece’s most romantic cities, Nafplio is famous for its listed architecture and majestic Venetian castles. Best of all, it is just a short drive from Athens, perfect for a daytrip or a stopover during a road trip in the Peloponnese 

  • Is it true that the Palamidi fortress has 999 steps?

Nope! While formidable, it actually has 857 steps (phew!). The legend arose to discourage potential attackers.

  • Why was Nafplion the first capital of modern Greece, from 1827 to 1834?

Its strategic location, strong fortifications, and stunning beauty made it an ideal choice for the newly independent nation.

  • Did pirates really roam Nafplion’s waters? 

Unfortunately, yes! The Bourtzi islet even served as a Venetian pirate outpost in the 15th century.

  • What is the nightlife like in Nafplion?

Nafplion’s nightlife is vibrant and diverse, offering everything from laid-back cafes and tavernas to lively bars and clubs with stunning waterfront views.

  • What’s the best way to experience Nafplion? 

Wander aimlessly! Get lost in the charming streets, discover hidden cafes, and strike up conversations with friendly locals. The true magic lies in unplanned adventures.

  • What’s the weirdest thing you can see in Nafplion? 

Check out the Komboloi Museum, dedicated to the traditional Greek worry beads known as komboloi. It’s a unique and fascinating glimpse into local culture.

  • What does the name Nafplio mean? 

Τhe legend suggests the name comes from Nafplius, a hero from Greek mythology who was the son of Poseidon and was also an Argonaut

  • What are some local souvenirs I can buy?

Handmade ceramics, olive oil soaps, honey products, and woven textiles are all popular choices.

  • Who was assassinated in Nafplion?

Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first Governor of Greece.This tragic event occurred on September 27, 1831, on the steps of the Church of Saint Spyridon.

Kapodistrias Assasination

12. Conclusion

As you depart Nafplion, its essence will linger within you – a captivating blend of vibrant festivities, timeless history, and profound cultural traditions. This three-day sojourn, enriched by the unique experiences of Carnival and Kathara Deftera, will leave you yearning to return and further explore the magic that lies within this captivating Grecian gem!

Nafplion - Bourtzi

Don’t miss our travel guides to Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, Santorini, Nafpaktos, Ioannina and Mykonos!

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