Discover ancient Athens by Range Rover before driving west to Peloponnese

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“IT is forbidden to approach – danger of death,” warned a hand-painted sign above the old railway bridge.

Ordinarily, reading Greek is a useful skill when holidaying in my home country but, other times, ignorance is bliss.

Begin your discovery of Athens with an obligatory trip to the Acropolis, i.e. the birthplace of democracy
Begin your discovery of Athens with an obligatory trip to the Acropolis, known as the birthplace of democracy

Test-driving the new Range Rover Evoque, I had been given special permission by the local authorities to drive over this rickety crossing.

Spanning the mighty Corinth Canal — an 85ft-wide chasm that cuts off the Peloponnese peninsula from Athens and the rest of the mainland — the view from the bridge was impressive.

At least I’m told it was — I kept my eyes straight ahead as I edged across to the other side.

The day before, I’d landed in Athens, where I would explore the capital, before heading out on a short road trip west to Peloponnese. I’d kicked things off with the obligatory trip to the Acropolis, at a very reasonable £8.50 (€10) for entry.

Most people won’t get there via the rickety bridge over the Corinth Canal
Most people won’t get there via the rickety bridge over the Corinth Canal

Nothing beats seeing the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, in person.

With the entirety of Athens laid out in front of you, the view is breathtaking. As well as standing at the birthplace of democracy you can also climb the rock to where the Apostle Paul preached the message of Jesus to sceptical Athenians.

It would take another 400 to 500 years for it fully to stick. Just below the Acropolis is the surrounding area of Plaka.

Young families sprawl out in the sunshine in the cafes and bars and sip affordable, but seriously good, iced coffees. If you’re feeling more fancy, try out foodie heaven Ergon House.

This might canal is an 85ft-wide chasm that cuts off the Peloponnese peninsula from Athens and the rest of the mainland
Getty

This might canal is an 85ft-wide chasm that cuts off the Peloponnese peninsula from Athens and the rest of the mainland[/caption]

It hosts an amazing restaurant and you can also peruse the deli, fishmongers and butchers which are all tucked inside the hotel.

Dishes are locally sourced and evolve with the seasons. And let’s not forget the hugely underrated Greek wine. After one glass you might, accidentally, of course, end up ordering a bottle.

All cultured out, I hopped in the Evoque and motored off towards the sea and the rocky mountain ranges.

The luxury crossover SUV is a 4×4 so, naturally, I headed straight for the Acropolis Rally route.

The new Range Rover Evoque tackled the steepest hills and cliff-hanger drops with ease and was perfect for the Acropolis Rally route
The new Range Rover Evoque tackled the steepest hills and cliff-hanger drops with ease and was perfect for the Acropolis Rally route

Exhilarating is an understatement. I felt a cross between James Bond and a reasonably faster James May as the Range Rover tackled the steepest hills and cliff-hanger drops with ease.

My inner geek loved the camera on the back of the car, which can transform the rear-view mirror into a virtual screen showing what’s behind you. From there, I drove south-west to the Peloponnese.

Most holidaymakers take the new three-lane Highway 8, which has made the peninsula more accessible from Athens — and easier to explore than ever. But being in a Range Rover, I wouldn’t get off that easy.

So it was off-road and over the tiny railway bridge for me — courtesy only of my special clearance, lest you fancy trying it in an Avis rental.

With a short road trip you can visit the beautiful streets of Peloponnese
Getty

With a short road trip you can visit the beautiful streets of Peloponnese[/caption]

Even if you don’t intend on risking life and limb on a dodgy old railway bridge, be sure to pull off the motorway and check out the canal — it’s well worth the detour.

The Roman Emperor Nero was the first to start digging this massive ditch, personally breaking first ground on it in 67AD.

It would take nearly two millennia to finish the job and it finally opened in 1893.

Look for the Loutraki exit for the best views — and the opportunity to stop off and peer over the edge.

Of course in Athens you have to see the sights - the amphitheater on the slopes of the Acropolis make for pretty great ones
Getty

Of course in Athens you have to see the sights – the amphitheater on the slopes of the Acropolis make for pretty great ones[/caption]

From here, I drove on to Nafplio where I enjoyed a bite to eat overlooking the picturesque port.

As well as being packed with ­great places to eat, Greece has culture squirrelled away in every corner.

Nafplio has plenty of fantastic hotels in the centre of the old town. We’d recommend new arrival Amymone Suites, a boutique spot that mixes aged wood with simple interiors and offers a fantastic home-made Greek breakfast.

Go: Greece

GETTING THERE: Flights to Athens are from £30.99 one way with easyJet. See easyjet.com.

STAYING THERE: Rooms at Amymone Suites in Nafplio are from £31pppn, based on two sharing. See amymone-suites.gr.

Be sure to see the fortress Palamidi and climb the 913 steps if you fancy it
Getty

Be sure to see the fortress Palamidi and climb the 913 steps if you fancy it[/caption]


Before my drive back to Athens the next day, I made sure to take in the fortress Palamidi.

You can climb the stairs if you’re so inclined but there are nearly a thousand of them and, besides, I was far too comfy in my Range Rover.

I promise, it looked just as impressive from the bottom.

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