The municipality of Nemea, an inland area of countless vineyards and ancient memories comprises of Nemea, the seat of the municipality, Koutsios, Ancient Nemea, Galatas, Aedonia, Petrios, Ancient Cleonae, Leontios, Daphni and Kastraki.
In this small plain irrigated by the river Asopus and a large area of the surrounding hills, the cultivation of vines has a tradition of thousands of years, especially the variety of grapes known as agiorgitiko which thrive in the area and borrowed their name from the settlement Aghios Georgios, the name by which Nemea was known at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Nemean wines have a distinctive, deep, ruby-red color and a pleasant spicy aroma and a light, fine taste, considered to be of the best of the Peloponnese. Each year in Nemea a wine festival is organized, with local wine producers taking part. Visitors have the opportunity to enjoy a rich cultural program, tasting all the bottled varieties. The economy of Nemea is mainly agricultural, especially the area of vine cultivation and wine production.
Also important is the public and cultural background of the region, with the preservation of the many local and cultural associations that strive to maintain its old traditions. Since 1997 an agricultural college has been operating in Nemea for students wanting to study for a career in vine cultivation and wine production.
Nemea, which took its name from the nymph of the same name, the daughter of the river god Asopus, is considered to be one of the most sacred places in Greece. Its history gets lost in the depths of time and archaeological findings show that it has been inhabited since prehistoric times.
There were national, religious and athletic festivals and the Nemean Games that were celebrated every two years in honor of Opheltes, the son of the king of the region Lycurgus.
Thanks to the local administration and the American Archaeological School, in the summer of 1996, the games were revived after 2,300 years. They are considered to be a worldwide celebration, an attempt to re-establish the authentic games, uniting the present with the ancient Greek, athletic ideals. People from 12-88 years of age, regardless of sex, color; beliefs or proficiency are invited to take part, without the anxiety of victory, enjoying friendly rivalry and competition.
The Nemean games became known from the famed labor of Heracles: the killing of the fearsome lion that terrorized the region. Today, the athletes follow the path of the mythical hero, from Cleonae, his base of operations for the killing of the mythical terror, to Nemea, a wonderful journey through olive groves and vineyards.
On a low hill to the south of the plain of Nemea, close to the source of the river Asopus, King Aras built a city for his subjects. A divine place, with a river to irrigate the fertile plain, which he called Phliasia, because here, according to the myth, Phlius the son of Dionysius reigned. There, it is said, the first vine was cultivated and the first wine produced, the famous Phliasios wine, sought after to accompany the richest of banquets. Ancient Phliasia is situated 5km. to the west of Ancient Nemea and is considered to be an important philosophical center of antiquity. Here are to be found the temples of Hebe, Demeter and of Persephone, the temple of Asclepius in the place of which was built the church of Zoodochos Pighi and also a classic building that the locals call Palati. The visitor has the opportunity to see the lower benches of the theatre and the foundations of the stage, where ancient dramas were performed, part of the celebrations of the festival of Dionysius.
Phliountas occupies a special place in the cultural history of ancient Greece as the name is associated with the Pythagorean school, which flourished there in 400 BC. In the northern part of the Nemean plain is mount Phoka, which in ancient times was called Apesas. It owes its name to Perseus, who after his campaign in the isles of Oceanus, where he killed the Medusa, made a sacrifice to Apesantus Zeus on the summit of the mount.
To the west of Phliasia the villages of Petri and Aedonia are situated. Surrounded by plain trees and running waters.
The village of Aedonia became well known due to its Mycenaean treasures, The Aedonian Treasure. Here Mycenaean tombs were excavated, a number of which had been pillaged. The Aedonian Treasure comes from this complex of sculpted tombs, found on a rise close to the village. The valuable objects of Aedonia bear witness to the fact that an important settlement developed in the area during the 16th and 15th centuries BC, maybe Homer’s Areithyrea.
To the east of Nemea is Ancient Cleonae, a small picturesque village, which owes its name to Cleone, the daughter of Asopus or Pelops. The ruins of the ancient city are to be found close to the village of Kontostavlos, where in 1926, after excavations important findings came to light, the ruins of a Dorian temple to Heracles and the temple of Athene.
To reach the archaeological site of Ancient Nemea, visitors can enjoy a wonderful journey through vineyards, olive groves, pinewoods and cypress trees passing through the villages of Soulenari and Halki. The road leads to the western edge of the village of Ancient Nemea, built at the eastern foot of the Arcadian Mountains at an altitude of 330 mtrs. Here the temple of Zeus is to be found the most important building of the archaeological site, today as in ancient times. The foundations were laid in the 4th century BC, with its Dorian style columns that still stand imposingly on the Nemean plain, surrounding the impressing Altar of Zeus are, the foundation stones of a guest house, ruins of baths and the ruins of houses of the early Christian and Byzantine periods. Still visible are the ruins of an imposingly large basilica, on the hill of the stadium, built in the 5th century AD above the ruins of a Hellenistic guesthouse, using materials from the Altar of Zeus.
The stadium, southeast of the temple of Zeus, was built at the northern foot of the hill, Evangelistria, at the best site in the valley, from where the view is amazing.
At the archaeological site of Nemea is a wonderful museum with findings from the region and an opulent collection of photographs.
A noteworthy sight of Nemea is the Byzantine monastery Panagia of the Rock (Vrachos), built in at least 1633 on the hill of Polyphengos, 2,5 km. southwest of Nemea, with excellent wall paintings of the 14th century. The entrance of the monastery is a stone-built archway of which the western side touches the rock and a wall supports the other side. Also of note is the hermitage of Polyphengos, which is wedged inside a cave at the peak of the mount.
At Aghios Nicolaos, a monastery built in 1700, the restored church and an old icon of Agios Nicolaos (St. Nicholas) still exists.
At the settlement of Koutsomodi of Ancient Nemea is the small church of Agios Georgios (St. George), which is directly linked to the ecclesiastic history of the region. The church has a wooden temple and excellent icons painted in 1931, it is the pride and joy of the settlement.
Continuing on, travelling through the abundant vineyards of Nemea the village of Leontio is reached, at an altitude of 330 mtrs. an ideal place for the agiorgitiko, a wine that captures the senses from the first taste. Leontio produces more than a quarter of the entire production of these grapes in Nemea; if you decide to stay the night here there is a guesthouse.
Travelling on along the ridge between Mavrovounios and Gerontios where there is an excellent view of the plain of Nemea we enter the municipality of Stymphalia.