Porto Heli on the northeastern Peloponnese coast might just be Greece’s best kept secret.Words Nikki Beach Global
The world appears to turn slower in Porto Heli. It’s a place people come to disconnect, relax, and eat really good food before a late afternoon siesta and an even later dinner with family and friends. In Porto Heli, Greek culture – both ancient and modern – is alive and well, and is on tap for everyone to enjoy. There’s a fine little harbor, well protected, favored by yachtsmen of all class and standing. Across the water are the ruins of the ancient city of Alieon and whether you came by land or sea, a stroll through the shop-lined streets is a relaxing experience.
Situated at the southernmost tip of the Argolis Peninsula, Porto Heli is a chic beachfront resort boasting a colorful café culture, blissful beaches and plenty of culture. Add to that the variety of outdoor activities, including biking, kite surfing, hiking and kayaking and the Med’s famously-crystal clear water isn’t the only draw.
It’s an idyllic stretch of coastline with a rich historical past and is sometimes fondly referred to as the “Peloponnesian Riviera.”
However, unlike its French or Italian cousins, life here is less hectic. The town evolved, like Saint Tropez, from a sleepy fishing village into a cosmopolitan destination loved by the stars of stage and screen. However, the architectural and aesthetic mélange of the landscape has somehow retained an emphasis on nature.
There are two theories about the modern name Porto Heli. The first is that the name “Heli” derives from the ‘Arvanite’ dialect, as there are many villages in the Peloponnese with this name. The second is that it originates from the corrupted name of the nearby ancient city Allieis (fishery), becoming “Halieis,” and finally Heli. Whichever is accurate, the prefix “Porto,” meaning harbor, was added later. The ancient city can be dated back to around 468 BC when Tiryns reached the area and discovered the city of Allieis, which had an important commercial port. During the Venetians, Porto Heli was used as a port by the Hermionidas Navy and is one of the six ports of the Peloponnese included in the Venetian maps of the 18th century.
ABOVE: While the mainland is stunning, the Porto Heli experience isn’t complete without a trip to the the island of Spetses.
While the mainland is stunning, the Porto Heli experience isn’t complete without a trip to the the islands of Spetses and Hydra. Geographically speaking, they do not belong to the Peloponnese, but are a worthy mention for those visiting the region.
Both exclusive destinations in their own right, glamorous, historic, and unspoiled Spetses is a one-minute water taxi ride away (or 20 minutes by sea bus for €3). As for Hydra, it’s a living museum of an island, and is 30 minutes away by taxi and boat across the narrow straits. Both have been inspirational homes for many international artists, poets and musicians and the majority of resorts in Porto Heli offer guests complimentary rides to both islands. Head to Kosta, just 5km from Porto Heli, to catch the ferry crossing to Spetses. Discover the unexpected charm of Kranidi, a small town perched on the rocky hills, with neoclassical buildings, narrow streets, stone walls decked with flowers and well-tended windmills with colorful roofs.
Around 10km northwest of Porto Heli is the village of Kilada, famous for its prawns and its handsome shipyard. The fishing boats you’ll find bobbing in the harbor are characteristic of the old vessels used decades ago to bring home the daily catch.
Ververonta Lagoon is located northwest of Porto Heli and according to tradition the bay was a refuge for pirates. It is said that it was named after the Berber pirates that used it as a hideout, since it provided protection from the elements and their pursuers. Many locals believe the waters are therapeutic and as the landscape is dominated by the elongated sandy beach from Ververonta Lagoon to Porto Heli, it’s not difficult to find a spot to put the theory to the test. Even if you don’t swim, Ververonta is teeming with tucked-away taverns to drink some ouzo and eat fresh fish, as well as other delicious seafood.
- Season April - October
- Airport Athens (ATH)
- Boat Coordinates 37.3250° N 23.1420° E
- Time Zone GMT+2
- Currency Euro (EUR)
- Language Greek, English
- Electrics 220-240 Volt
The climate of Porto Heli is Mediterranean, which means it has hot summers and mild winters. In summer, average temperatures vary between 85-105˚F. The sun shines for more than 12 hours a day and the sea brings a welcome light breeze. At night, the atmosphere tends to be cooler and more comfortable.
Porto Heli has a population of around 2,000 inhabitants, but in the summer months it can get busy. It is one of the most cosmopolitan holiday resorts of the country and one of the most popular resorts in the Peloponnese. However, it’s still easy to get around, even during the busiest months. Porto Heli is about 175km from Athens and you can take the National Highway (Ethniki Odos) from Athens towards Corinthos. You can also get to Porto Heli by sea from the port of Piraeus and hydrofoils depart daily, stopping at various islands of the Saronic Gulf, including Porto Heli.
The International Porto Heli Festival that supports arts and culture takes place annually in July and August. Concerts, exhibitions, seminars and conferences are held as part of the festival, as well as the carnival, which is a public celebration with a parade, street party, masquerade masks and plenty of music. The Naftiki Evdomada Marine Week is organized biannually and with a variety of competitions, including sailing, windsurfing, water skiing and water polo, it’s a sporting spectacle with lots of audience participation (if you’re feeling energetic). The event takes place in July and the winners’ celebration parties often continue well into the night
ABOVE: The sun shines for more than 12 hours a day and the sea brings a welcome light breeze.
Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Porto Heli
Rather coincidentally, “niki” is the Greek word for “victory” and that’s exactly what the global brand has achieved here in Porto Heli. Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Porto Heli is a winner, whether it’s locals visiting for the day or tourists who have checked in for the week. There’s a relaxed yet spirited vibe and as the staff settle you in to your secluded beachfront villa or room, you’ll soon understand why guests never want to leave. Dig out those bikinis and kaftans – or visit the on-site Nikki Beach Lifestyle Boutique – because the chilled party is just getting started.
Staff and management treat guests and visitors like long-lost friends and while everything is catered for, they’ll happily share their secrets on the best places to shop and eat and things to see.
Chefs whip up exciting dishes, including fresh seafood delicacies. From breakfast bowls and salad-based lunches to the signature sushi boats, the options are varied. There’s an infinity pool right next to a sandy beach and the DJs catch the moment, taking the mood from lazy, daytime chill to sunset dance party.
Surrounded by undulating olive groves and overlooking the turquoise Aegean Sea, Amanzoe is a 10-minute drive from the local tavernas and cosmopolitan stirrings of Porto Heli. With breathtaking views of the isles of Spetses and Hydra, countless ancient ruins and Byzantine monasteries, it’s situated on a gentle rise boasting 360-degree views across the Peloponnese countryside and rocky coves. The luxury resort is within easy reach of a wealth of Greek archaeological sites and bustling Porto Heli. Dotted across the hillside, Amanzoe’s stylish pavilions and villas are classically-inspired and contemporary in one hit. The entire resort is set on an idyllic beach, where guests can enjoy a host of watersports, a dip in one of four pools, or a private cabana. From Nama’s Japanese cuisine to The Restaurant’s Mediterranean fare, Amanzoe places the focus on simple flavors, expertly prepared. Daily deliveries of local bass, bream, grouper and crustacean, as well as locally-reared lamb, pork and rabbit, make Amanzoe a great choice for a meal out. The desserts leave nothing to the imagination and scream luxury from the first to the very last bite.
Nikki Beach Porto Heli
Argolis, Peloponese 21061