The idea for the Corinth canal providing a shortcut and safe passage between the Aegean and the Ionian Seas dates back to the Roman times, when Nero performed some initial excavations with a silver shovel. It was only in the 1980s though that technology made it possible, providing everything needed to cut across the 6km Isthmus of Corinth.
Opened in July 1893, along with its near contemporary Suez, the Corinth Canal helped establish the port of Piraeus in Athens as a major Mediterranean port, with supertankers, sailing boats and cargo boats getting there easier.
Approaching on the main highway from Athens to Corinth, you will cross the canal near the eastern end. At the bridge over the Corinth Canal you will see a line of coffee shops, where most buses from Athens going on tour to Greece stop for a while.
Peering from the bridge the canal seems like a tiny strip of water, until some huge freighter assumes toy-like dimensions, as it passes hundreds of metres below. If you were to take one of the cruise ships from Piraeus to the Ionian Sea you would sail through the canal of Corinth, a trip worthwhile for its own sake.
At the western end of the canal by the old Corinth, you can see some parts of the diolkos, a paved way along which a wheeled platform used to carry boats across the isthmus. In use from the Roman times until the 12th century, the boats were strapped onto the platform after being relieved temporarily of their cargo.
When passing by the Corinth Canal, don’t miss the chance to take pictures of the passing boats. The experience is truly amazing!