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Most highway traffic zooms across the Isthmus of Corinth, but you can pull off into the Canal Tourist Area and a well-marked overlook for a look at the ribbon-like waterway, the ship traffic, and, most impressively, the 86m-high (282 ft.) walls of rock through which the canal was cut. An added attraction is the daredevil antics of bungee jumpers, for whom the chasm is a big draw. Before the new road was completed in 1997, almost everyone stopped here for a coffee, a souvlaki, and a look at the canal that separates the Peloponnese from the mainland. Now, traffic hurtles past, and the cafes, restaurants, and shops here are hurting. There's a small post office at the canal, along with a kiosk with postcards and English-language newspapers; most of the large souvlaki places have clean toilet facilities (but tough souvlaki). Warning: The lookout is also popular with thieves who prey on gawking tourists, so be sure to lock your car doors and watch for pickpockets.

Building the Corinth Canal

The French engineers who built the Corinth Canal between 1881 and 1893 used dynamite to blast through 86m (285 ft.) of sheer rock to make this 6.4km-long (4-mile), 27m-wide (90-ft.), 90m-deep (300-ft.) passageway. This revolutionized shipping in the Mediterranean: Ships that previously had made their way around Cape Matapan at the southern tip of the Peloponnese could now dart through the canal. The journey from Brindisi, Italy, to Athens was shortened by more than 320km (200 miles).

Although it took modern technology to build the canal, the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero had tried, and failed, to dig a canal with slave labor. Nero was obsessed with the project, going so far as to lift the first shovelful of earth with a golden trowel. That done, he headed back to Rome and left the real work to the 6,000 Jewish slaves he had brought from Judea.

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