If you want to explore the Peloponnese you are pretty stuffed if you don’t have a car. There are buses to the main towns such as Kalamata and Areopoli but they are infrequent and slow. You can go on excursions by coach to the major archaeological sites as well as the Diros Caves but you will have much more freedom with a car.
We rent our car from Napoleon Car Hire who are based in Stoupa. They are very friendly and reliable and can arrange for you to pick up and return your car at the airport at no extra cost. I have also heard good reports about Mani Cars. We choose a small car which is helpful when squeezing through tiny roads or parking in a small space – our only stipulation is that it must have aircon and gears.
The petrol stations near Stoupa are really pricey. It’s much cheaper to top up near Kalamata if you can or anywhere else!
Where to go ?
The Taygetos Mountains above Stoupa are lovely and the picturesque village of Kastania is only 15 minutes away from Stoupa by car.
To the south of Stoupa, within easy striking distance, just beyond Itylo Bay is the small attractive town of Areopoli which is near the Diros Caves. Then there are the harbour towns of Gythio and Gerolimenas. To the east is Monemvasia, North is Kalamata and the stunning Langada Pass which is the toll free way to Sparta and Mystra. To the North and West is Messinia where you can explore Koroni, Methoni, Nestors Palace, Ancient Messene and Polilimnio.
We use Google Maps and a real map which is a good combination, [1:200.00 scale works well]. Do not rely on Google Maps alone, sometimes it is clueless. Most supermarkets and bookshops have a good selection of maps of The Peloponnese.
I have met people who will not drive a car on the ‘wrong side of the road’ or who are scared of driving on the Greek roads. However, the roads are generally pretty good, with some exceptions.
The toll motorway from Kalamata up to Athens is fast and generally devoid of traffic, it’s a real pleasure if you want to head up north in a hurry. We use this when we go to Nafplio. If I remember correctly it costs around 8 Euros in tolls from Kalamata to the Nafplio turn off [have some Euros on you].
That said, on the smaller mountain roads you do need to keep your wits about you and watch out for rocks, pot holes, goats, snakes and even tortoises.
You really need to keep your eye on the road and not get too distracted by the amazing scenery, you can always stop to take in the views.