Romantic scenery and… wild beauty
In the depths of the Peloponnese there is a rugged land. The land of the prickly pear bristles with forbidding tower houses, stone villages, Byzantine chapels and astonishing caves. Mani. Romantic scenery, with hidden coves, haunted by pirates’ ghosts, crystal clear waters and golden beaches, waking up with fantasies of brave knights and love stories. Ancient cities, stone-built cobblestone paths and hiking in idyllic trails. Landscape varied but also charming, challenging you to explore it, to admire it, to live it.
You’ll be overwhelmed with images of authentic Greece, because here in this corner, at the second-most southerly tip of continental Europe, everything is dramatic and bewitching simultaneously. “You see Mani in three days, you walk Mani in three months, but to see her soul you want three lives. One for the sea, one for the mountains and one for the people” the locals say. All you have to do is to find out…
What to see
Diros Cavern and Neolithic Museum: Under the unspoiled landscape of Mani, nature with unparalleled art and patience smothered a miracle beyond every imagination. Bright white stalactites, stalagmites and glowing crystals create an imposing atmosphere. This cavern has been described as the most impressive limnetic cavern of the whole world. It consists of three different caverns, but Vlyxada is the only one that is open for visits. You can explore the inside of the cavern with little boats. Inside the Neolithic Museum that is located beside the cavern, you can see many priceless historical findings that can be dated back in the Paleolithic period.
Exotic Limeni: South of Areopolis, you’ll come to the indescribably lovely, much photographed little fishing port of Limeni. It boasts a handful of superb tower houses, some exceptional boutique hotels and good fish tavernas.
The Maniot towers: They are the emblems of the Mani. You won’t find such a spectacular sight in all of Greece. Stone strongholds that thrust from the rocky land as if to attack the sky. Their height was directly related to their defensive powers, but also to the rank and social position of the family to which they belonged. The height of the tower determined its importance within the settlement and was surrounded by lower, also stone-built, auxiliary buildings. Many times, the height of the towers exceeded 20 meters.
The Byzantine churches: You’ll see Byzantine churches everywhere. Monuments of beauty and faith. Usually small and humble, they are nevertheless architectural masterpieces and monuments to unshakable faith. Many have elegant tiled domes, marble reliefs and a similar sculptural decoration.
The famous and enchanting Vatheia: Possibly the most impressive and scenic settlement which could be qualified as the Parthenon of architecture that prevails in Mani. In Vatheia there are numerous well-kept chateaus set in a fortification layout. Hauntingly beautiful, it is now practically abandoned.
The lighthouse at Cape Tainaron, on the edge of the world : The road ends at Cape Tainaron. This is one of the most special sights in the Peloponnese. On the way, a little before Porto Sternes, the ruins of a temple of Poseidon form the foundations for the Asomatos. Look for the ancient cisterns and a pebble mosaic. This is the second most southern spot in continental Europe after Gibraltar. At this region, a cave network was believed to be an entrance to Hades; the gate to the Underworld. This gate was guarded by Cerberus, a vicious beast that prevented the dead from escaping and the living from entering the world of the dead. Hercules was ordered to descend to the Underworld, kidnap and bring Cerberus to the surface. He asked Hades’ permission to capture the beast. The lord of the Underworld replied that Hercules could take Cerberus with him as long as he used no weapons and didn’t hurt him.
The tiny island of Cranae : Αccording to the legend this was the island on which Paris spent his first night with Helen of Troy. With its 19th-century lighthouse; pine-scented, gecko-haunted woodland; whitewashed, red-roofed chapel of Saint Peter (Αgios Petros). It certainly has an air of romance. To get there, walk left from the marina, around the bay and across the causeway.
The hidden “treasures”
The “star” Areopolis : It is rumored that the city of Areopolis was dedicated to Ares (Mars), God of war. A stroll around the historic center and the narrow alleys will reward you. You should pay a visit to the beautiful church of «Panmegiston Taxiarchon» which has a great bell tower and the cobble square (called 17 March 1821) is placed, this square was named by the vow people of Mani took there and this event featured the fire lighter of Greek rebellion that took place. In the main square of Areopolis called «Plateia Athanaton», the statue of Petrompey Mavromichali is located.
The charming Oitilo: Itilo enjoys its… quietness away from prying eyes and the crowd. Beyond a café and a tavern, Itilo will immediately become your favorite “secret village” and will ideally hosts your walks through the many quiet alleys. There are many churches here you can visit, such as the Church of Saint George of the Stephanopoli, the church of Taxiarchis Michail, the main church (Koimisi tis Panagias), the church of the Soter or the Monastery of the Dekoulou.
Gythio, overlooking the mountain and the sea: Impressive neoclassical buildings of the 19th century, built amphitheatrically on the hillside of the green hill that the locals call Akkoumaros, reflect their colors in the waters of the Laconian bay. The heart of the city strikes on its waterfront, where taverns and cafes take out tables and serve all kinds of stuff, that will make you feel like you are on an island.
Gerolimenas: Like a movie star : Movie plot with a Sicilian scent… The port of Cavo Grosso makes you want to become a character of the script. Gerolimenas is situated in the heart of Mesa Mani (Inner Mani). Ιt is highly likely that you will feel as if located at a fishing village of… Sicily. Its superb setting by the sea shores where the Ionian Sea meets the Aegean Sea connotes to scenes from a movie where the only thing is a permanent face of carefree pleasure.
The “sophisticated” Kardamili: Enthralling settlement made of stone having great background history. Homer refers to it among other cities that Agamemnon had promised to offer to Achilleas as a gift if he would get married to one of his daughters. Kardamili played a considerable role during the preparation of the revolt of 1821. Nowadays you can wander around the narrow streets and marvel at its historic peels and castle-houses.
Magical beaches with turquoise waters
Emerald waters, golden beaches, white pebbles, incomparable natural beauty…
Saint Barbara (Agia Barbara) : Perhaps the most exotic beach of Mani. It has fine, golden sand, crystal clear waters and a strange chapel on its edge, which, according to the legend, hides the treasure of some pirates.
Marmari: For many, the best sandy beach of Mani. Hidden between the bare hills on the road from Vathia to Tainaro, it is quite popular with both Greek and foreign tourists.
Almiros : A beautiful white pebble beach that will enchant you. You will meet Kyparissos to Gerolimenas, left to the sign for Ancient Kainipolis, where you will leave the car and walk for about 200 meters.
Stoupa: The main beach of the region, organized and crowed, but without loses something of its special beauty. It has fine golden sand and crystal clear aquamarine waters.
Alypa: A secret beach that looks amazing just like Limeni. It is a small cove of rare beauty for those who want to enjoy their dives in private.
Mavrovouni: For the lovers of windsurfing and kitesurfing, Mavrovouni is considered a must beach. It is located about two kilometers south of Gythio, while its length exceeds five kilometers with sand. Alongside there are taverns, cafes and many restaurants.
Kalogria : Wonderful, crystal clear waters and thick sand. One of the most well-known beach of the area, it is organized and is suitable for the lovers of water sports and nightlife. Also, the beach is dedicated to the famous Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis, as his friendship with Alexis Zorbas started here.
Kotronas: The “nisaki” (tiny island) as the locals call the beach, has turquoise waters, white pebbles and it is one of the most popular beaches in the area.
Porto Kayio: Although this was a notorious pirates’ lair, the cape takes its name from the flocks of quail. In its heyday, the area was a major supplier of the tasty birds to France. Don’t forget to visit the stunning circular bay and the famous castle here.
Hiking : Walks around Areopolis and the mountains of Mani, create a unique experience. Olives, prickly and abundance of wild flowers that perfume the air and decorate the stones, generously are offered in front of your eyes.
Cycling : Mild rural roads without traffic, create the ideal backdrop for your walks. Among olive trees and beautiful flowers, you will enjoy the tranquility of the area.
Riding : For those who are looking for more ways to get in touch with nature and perhaps feel free! Ride a horse and start your tour in the streets and alleys crossing mountains, canyons, rivers or beaches that will give you unique emotions.
Excursions to canyons: Cross the gorge of Viros and the gorge of Ridomos. Passing through the forest of Vasiliki you can climb the Taygetos and reach the highest peak where you can find the church of Prophet Elias (Profitis Ilias). Enjoy a spectacular lush path in the authentic beauty of nature.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling : For those who love the magic of the seabed, Mani is ideal for diving. Make scuba diving or snorkeling at “The “Kardamili Dive Center” in beautiful Kardamili, one of the most organized diving centers of the area.
Fishing : The coasts of Lefktros are ideal for amateur fishing, snorkeling and exploration of the sea.
Fresh fish and seafood by the sea, home-cooked, grilled… Whatever your culinary preferences are, Mani will satisfy all kind of tastes. Pork in all its forms, handmade pasta accompanied by local cheese, the syglino (pork salted, smoked and then boiled with orange) and tsigarolachana (aromatic herbs fried with onion, tomato paste, olive oil, salt and pepper) are some classic local dishes to taste.
Μavros Piratis (Neo Oitylo): A visit here for fresh fish is a must, as apart from the excellent flavors you will enjoy the best view of a wonderful spot of the bay. Famous for the most delicious red shrimps in Mani.
Takis (Limeni): The fanatics swear that Takis serves fine fresh fishes next to the winter-summer wave, making it an indispensable stop in the blue Limenas.
Kotronas bay: At the hospitable tavern “Geuseis en plo”, right in front of the beach of Kotronas you will taste wonderful recipes by Mary Panagakos. Prefer the kneaded bread with olive oil and olives from the estate, pies with handmade leaves, omelet with round potatoes, coarse, wild artichokes and cranberries.
Τeloneio (Limeni): Serves maybe the best coffee on a blue background. It is located in two renovated buildings, right on the seafront. You can also try local recipes such as smoked rolls, flowerpots, honeycomb, octopus with hemp, shrimp with roe and much more.
Kirymai (Gerolimenas): Experience the authentic culinary experience of the Mani culture, tasting flavors that combine the Mani tradition with the modern mood of chef Yannis Baxevanis. The idyllic view of the magnificent location of the stone-built hotel “Kyrimai” will compensate you with the above.
Tavern of Lella (Kardamyli): One of the most famous taverns in the area. It is famous for its dishes, such as excellent moussaka and beef, which are always perfect and fresh as she wants it.
Saga (Gythio): Must fish tavern on the beach of Gythion, overlooking the Laconian tavern. Choose from fresh crawfish, lizard, sea bream and delicious charcoal octopus.
Enigma (Stoupa): A summer café- bar, where you can spend a nice evening enjoying a drink, while looking at the views of Stoupa bay.
Aula Cafe Cocktail Bar (Areopoli): Enjoy your drink on a romantic background, in stone alleys with idyllic lighting and feel like you are in another era.
Navagoi: On Cranae tiny island, the Navagoi bar promises to keep you awake until the early hours.
For those not already in Greece getting to Mani is relatively easy. Either fly to Athens or from May until October there are weekly charter flights to Kalamata airport, the nearest airport to the Mani. Thomas Cook and Thomson fly weekly during the season (May to late October) from Gatwick and Manchester. Out of season, fly to Athens from Heathrow with Aegean Airlines or British Airways or from Edinburgh, Manchester or Gatwick with EasyJet. Aegean has daily flights from Athens to Kalamata. You will need a car to explore the Mani. Areopolis is approximately 50 miles (two hours) from Kalamata and about 200 miles (five hours) from Athens.
The roads in the Mani are relatively empty of traffic and are always scenic. Another way to get to Mani is via Sparta. You reach Sparta and then you follow the signs through Aeropolis. The speed is continuous, but the scenery will reward you. But, if you’re not a fan of road trips, you can come by train, the Intercity Railway Station from Athens to Kalamata. Those who decide to come by plane you can travel from the airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” of Athens, “Macedonia” Thessaloniki and “Nikos Kazantzakis” in Heraklion, Crete to Kalamata Airport and then take a rental car or take the bus to go to the villages of Mani.