The Peloponnese peninsula in Greece is a land of contrasts. It is home to rugged mountains, picturesque villages, ancient ruins, and stunning coastline. In 2024, RacingThePlanet will take runners on a six-stage journey through this remarkable region.


Stage One will begin in the Mani Peninsula, where runners will pass through the narrow Koskaraka Gorge and ascend to the Taygetus massif, the highest mountain range in the Peloponnese. The highest peak in the range is found on the summit of Profitus Ilias at 2,405 meter (7,890 feet) high. The mountains were sacred to the ancient Greeks, and they were home to a number of important sanctuaries, including the Sanctuary of Zeus on Mount Lykaion. The name Taygetus itself, believed to be named after the mythical nymph Taygete, is one of the oldest names recorded in Europe and appears in Homer’s epic, The Odyssey.
In addition to their cultural and religious significance, the mountains served the Spartans as a natural form of defense. Spanning 100km (62mi) from central Peloponnesus to Cape Matapan in the south, the slopes of Taygetus offered a formidable obstacle for any forces attempting to invade Sparta.
In the heart of the Peloponnese peninsula lies a region of rolling hills, olive groves, and vineyards. This region remains infrequently visited by tourists, despite its rich and ancient history of cultivating olives. Up to 60 percent of Greece’s land is covered with olive trees, a number totaling up to 150 million trees. Most of those trees can be found in the Peloponnese peninsula. The practice of growing olives is believed to have begun as far back as 3500 BC in ancient Greece, and has remained an uninterrupted agricultural staple, owing to the warm Mediterranean climate.
The Argolis region of the Peloponnese is situated between the Saronic gulf in the northeast and the Argolic gulf in the southeast. A prominent example of ancient Greece located in Argolis is Epidaurus, an ancient Greek sanctuary that was dedicated to the god Asclepius, the god of healing. Epidaurus is home to a number of well-preserved temples and other buildings, including the famous Theater of Epidaurus, a dramatic and near pristine 14,000 seat amphitheater.
The island of Hydra lies to the east of the southeastern-most tip to the Argolic peninsula, a car-free island with a laid-back atmosphere and a rich history. Hydra has been inhabited in one form or the other since the third millennium BC, and has been a part of history through the Byzantine era, the Ottomans, and to the present. Hydra has a rich tradition of maritime culture that persists to this day, despite periods of economic hardship. The beauty and simplicity of the island town has been sanctuary to foreign artists such as Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen, who wrote one of his most famous tunes, “So Long, Marianne,” at his house which remains there to this day.
Overall, the region of the Peloponnese peninsula remains a tapestry of diversity and rich history stretching back thousands of years. There is an air of timelessness and tradition that persists through its mountains, numerous ancient ruins, battle hewn valleys, and sparkling coastlines. Though some modern features such as railways and paved roads have appeared throughout the centuries, the influence of the ancients remains an indelible part of this incredible region of the world.