The very first passage through the Corinth Canal — one of the most significant infrastructural achievements in the world, took place in 1893. Thus, a concept that has been developed for at least 2,500 years has come to life.
The canal cut through the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece, connecting the Ionian Sea with the Aegean, effectively turning the Peloponnese peninsula into an island and creating an international maritime hub that changed navigation in Southern Europe.
As a result, the court “saved” more than 300 km of the way around the cape — the canal allowed them to travel much faster and safer to ports farther east.
The Greek Corinth Canal has become a major tourist attraction as well as an important navigational route.
It is currently an extremely popular place — Greece's second most visited tourist attraction today, attracting people from all over the world.
About 12,000 commercial and tourist ships, registered in about 60 countries, pass through the Corinth Canal every year. It is usually open 24 hours a day, except on Tuesdays from 6 am to 6 pm when renovations take place.
Ships over 800 tons or carrying potentially dangerous goods pass through the canal with the help of tugboats, and not on their own.
There are two underwater tunnels that rise from the water at both ends, similar to Dubai.
In ancient times, merchants paid high fees to gain access to the “Diolkos” — a stone-paved road that allowed vessels lubricated with animal fat and mounted on wheeled carts to be transported overland from the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf.
The remains of the famous highway can still be seen on the isthmus today.
The opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt in 1869 gave impetus to construction, and on April 23, 1882, work resumed in Corinth. Moreover, according to the drawings proposed by the ancient Greeks.
Over the next 11 years, a total of 12 million cubic meters of soil will be excavated to create an 8-meter-deep canal that crosses the isthmus in a straight line 6,343 meters long.
About 2,500 people worked on the construction. They used advanced equipment imported mainly from France.
The grand opening of the project on July 25, 1893, took place in an atmosphere of great pomp and ceremony, with the presence of Greek and foreign dignitaries and festive cannon fire from anchored ships.
In the following decades, the Corinth Canal became a major non-alternative hub for ships traveling from the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian and the Western Mediterranean to the ports of the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean and vice versa.
Sometimes it was closed as a result of erosion and landslides. In 1923, 41,000 cubic meters of soil fell into the canal, resulting in a two-year closure.
The largest destruction to date occurred in 1944, when the retreating Nazi occupation forces dumped a large amount of railway transport into the canal and started blowing up its slopes and bridge.
As a result, 60,000 cubic meters of soil collapsed into the canal, which led to its closure for five years.
Today it remains an important shipping route, although many modern ships are too wide for it.
K unfortunately, due to landslides, the canal was closed again in 2021, and a €32 million restoration project was launched.
After 18 months, it was opened to navigation, but a month ago, in October, the Greek authorities announced, that the canal will be closed again until next summer “for the second phase of restoration work.”
At present, officials are seeking to improve the tourist infrastructure around the structure in order to attract additional interest to the region.
Plans to open a museum and a digital site showcasing artifacts reflecting the canal's long and complicated history are on track by 2024. Exhibits will include historic photographs, artwork and documents, as well as equipment and other items used in the decades since the canal opened.