Mani Travel Guide
Mani Travel Guide – You can never be prepared for a journey to Mani because, as you have probably heard, Mani is a sensational and rebellious region that will surpass even the most pleasurable rhymes and gratifying poems. Endless kilometers of driving around the rugged beauty of Mani will unveil the genuine identity of this historical place. Dozens of picturesque villages, impressive architecture with imposing towers, incredible landscapes alternating between arid beaches and dry sceneries, monuments full of history and places of worship, where the infamous and harsh Mani temperament was born over the centuries carved by time. The mysterious exploration of Mani’s true spirit starts from peaceful Gythio, passing through its natural borders towards the arid regions of the south. From the temple of Poseidon and Cape Tainaron, the archetypal image of Vathia village, a genuine castle with abandoned and evocative stone tower houses, and picturesque Gerolimenas, once an important commercial port of Mani, to the prehistoric caves of Diros, where you will realize the true meaning of the expression “unspeakable beauty”, lovely Limeni with its crystalline waters and traditional Areopoli, Mani shows off the authentic face of Greece. Truth to be said, you can explore Mani for days, even weeks, all year round. However, you will not be able to appreciate the genuine character of Mani, if you do not meet the people of Mani themselves, with their distinctive temperament, the authentic soul of Mani. They will immense you into the mysteries of this “holy” place, and they will share with you the history of their families that is depicted everywhere through the impressive stone Mani towers, which carry the history of Maniats bravery. A timeless destination of ghost villages and pristine beaches desolated on the rural peninsula of the Peloponnese offer some of the m ost dramatic mountain scenery of Greece. The indented coast and the sheer cliffs of Mani plunge into the sea challenging you to unveil the wild and barren landscape through hiking paths dotted with imposing stone towers.If not mesmerizing, a journey to Mani is truly enthralling.
Where is Mani? And How to Get There?
Mani is the central peninsula of the three which extend southwards from the Peloponnese in southern Greece. To the east is the Laconian Gulf, to the west the Messenian Gulf. The Mani peninsula forms a continuation of the Taygetos mountain range, the western spine of the Peloponnese.
By air: The closest airport to Mani is the one in Kalamata town. There are a couple of international flights operating this year.
By car: If you are going to Messiniaki Mani (Stoupa Kardamili) then from Athens you take the road towards Kalamata. After Kalamata, the road is a bit curvy. You need around 3 to 3 and a half hours to get to Stoupa.
If you are going to Lakoniki Mani (Oitilo, Areopoli) then from Athens, you take the road towards Sparti. In around 3 and a half hours, you will be in Areopoli. The good news is that both the roads to Kalamata and Sparti are new but with a lot of tolls (expect to pay around 20 euros each way). If you truly want to experience Mani, renting a car to drive to all the places worth visiting is a must. Alternatively, you can try a cruise around Mani, getting to some of the villages by sea, which is also a great alternative, but you will probably miss out on the full experience that Mani can offer you. Mani is a unique place in Greece with dramatic scenery, steep mountains, olive trees, and tower built villages scattered around.
Gythio, the capital of Mani
Renowned as the capital of Mani, lovely Gythio is a peaceful seaside town that can serve as an ideal starting point for your explroations throughout the Mani peninsula. A promenade around the waterfront of Gythio will give you the opportunity to admire some of the most beautiful images of the city. The harbor with the traditional fishing boats is, according to many, the most picturesque image of Gythio. Built amphitheatrically on the slopes of Akoumaro Mount, Gythio whispers silently its naval tradition. If you are visiting Gythio this summer, a stop for a meal by the sea is a must. Travellers who truly want to discover Gythio should lose their way by a ride throughout the city itself. Choose a random street, and s troll throughout the lovely neighborhoods with their charming courtyards of the past.
One of the most beautiful monuments of Gythio, however, is the Town Hall, opposite the port, with approximately 120 years of existence, which stands out from afar due to its distinguished construction. One should n ot opt out from their discovering-list, a visit to the island of Kranae, once four times bigger than its current size. The size and the shape of the island have changed due to weather and geological alternations, as it has become a peninsula. This is the prime reason that Kranai is still yet to be called island, even though you can get there by foor or car. Legend has it that Paris spent a night on the island with Helen, shortly after their escape from the palace of Menelaus in Sparta. The Trojan prince even lost his helmet (kranos in Greek), where the name of the isle was supposedly obtained. Another version, however, suggests that its name derives from ancient “Kranaos”, which means barren and dry. Travellers should walk in the pine forest that adorns the isle of Kranai, along with the chapel of Agios Petros, the lighthouse of Kranai and the Tower of Tzanetakis. The afore-mentioned tower was constructed from the chieftain Tzanetakis – Grigorakis, one of the biggest families of Mani, in 1829. Within the tower, visitors can admire important artifacts from the exhibition “Travellers of Mani: 15 to 19 century”, as the tower houses the Historical and Ethnological Museum of Mani. It is an excellent exhibition that follows the journey of foreign travellers who visited and wrote about Mani, giving to you an incredible wealth of information.
Discover Cape Tainaron, the Gate of Hades
Whoever hasn’t heard stories about Cape Tainaron loses all the magic of that absoluteness. Situated 6 5 kilometers away from Gythio, on the southern tip of Eastern Mani, Cape Tainaron definitely a spire an experience of a lifetime. Going south from Kotronas towards the village of Kokkalas, travelers will have the opportunity to admire one of the most typical villages of Mani, famous Vathia, an open-air museum of traditional Mani architecture that consists of stone houses and historical towers of the 18 and 19 centuries clustered of the top of the hill, resembling a fortified citadel. Undoubtedly, it is the most picture-perfect village of Mani; although now it is a ghost town, the looming tower houses perched against the endless blue of the sea compose one of the most charming images of the Peloponnese peninsula. An effort to restructure Vathia as a vast hotel several years ago failed, enhancing Vathia’s feeling of desolation. Nonetheless, Lagia village is another wonderful village with the distinctive Mani architecture. One of the must stopovers towards the archaeological site of Tainaron is Porto Kayo, a charming harbor that lies at the site of Ancient Psammathous. Continuing towards Cape Tainaron, an indescribable feeling of awe will overpower your soul. Few places in Greece are connected with such myths and legends. Else known as Cape Matapas, Tainaron is the southernmost point of continental Europe, where ancient Greeks placed one of the gates of Hades. Legend has it that Orpheus deeper into the underworld in order to bring back his beloved Eurydice while Hercules confronted Cerberus, and Odysseus followed Tainron to meet with the soul of Achilles. The rugged scenery, surrounded from the endless Aegean Sea, still bears the wild heart of Cape’s Tainaro fame. The important sanctuary educated of Poseidon is also located on this spot, with the stunning mosaic floor ( 1 c entury A.D. ) that testifies the presence of a Roman settlement at a later time. Apart from the impressive landscape, nature lovers will fall in love with t he spectacular hiking route towards the imposing lighthouse of Cape Tainaron, with a height of 16 meters, which was constructed in 1882, and continues to guides transiting ships in one of the busiest locations in the Mediterranean. Undoubtedly, Cape Tainaro provides one of the most satisfying views of the region towards the Mani peninsula and the Gulf of Laconia.
Gerolimenas, the Land of Towers
In the purely paradise of Mani, the consecutive roads glide over this craggy peninsula of Peloponnese. Truth to be said, you can explore Mani for days, even weeks, all year round. However, you will not be able to appreciate the genuine character of Mani, if you do not meet the people of M ani themselves, with their distinctive temperament, the authentic soul of Mani. They will immense you into the mysteries of this “holy” place, and they will share with you the history of their families that is depicted everywhere through the impressive stone Mani towers, which carry the history of Maniats bravery. Continuing the route from Gythio towards Tainaro, travellers will have the opportunity to explore the western part of Eastern Mani. First stop is lovely Gerolimenas, a beautiful natural shelter with a calm atmosphere that cherishes the cape of Cavo Grosso. The “Holy Harbour”, as the word Gerolimenas derives from the two Greek words “Ieros” – sacred and “Limin” – port, might not be the busy commercial port that once was, but it is one of the most beautiful destinations of Mani owing to the superior infrastructure that has been established over the last years. Five kilometers away from Gerolimenas, one can visit Kita village, yet one of the most emblematic villages of Mani, with imposing towers of famous Mani families that still stand p roud. Another “mysterious” tip is the visit to the hamlet of Stavri, where hiking aficionados can make a memorable trek to the castle of Mina, which was constructed from the Franks in 1248 into the rock at the end of a long promontory.
Tigani Cape, A Historical Place
Acclaimed as the oldest castle in Mani, constructed during the reign of Emperor Justinian, the remnants of Maini Castle spreads on the cape of Tigani. Maini castle is, actually, located on a rocky promontory at the shelter bay of Mezapos, and this peninsula looks like a frying, hence its name “Tigani”. Walking around this stunning hiking route, the avid traveller will explore signs of houses, churches and cisterns along with the walls surrounding the cliffs. The majesty of this site has been, multiple times, characterized as Grande Magne from travellers and historians. According to the Chronicle of Morea, the allegedly Frankish castle was built from William II Villehardouin, the prince of Achaea, in order to control a Slavic tribe residing on Mount Taygetus. In 1259, it was captured from the Byzantines during the Battle of Pelagonia. Whether cape Tigani is the actual location of the castle or not, as Porto Kayo is another possible location, it is definite that this hiking route, starting from Stavri, offers a wonderful experience to travellers. It is a truly dramatic and impressive place to visit in Mani!
Diros, A Setting of Unspeakable Beauty
If you visit Mani, the number one attraction of all you ought to admire is none other than Diros Caves, one of the most dramatic lake caves in the entire world. You might think that this characterization sounds overwhelming, but if you think about entering a boat to explore this amazing spectacle of unspeakable beauty, as you cannot really walk in Diros Caves, you would find it not enough. A stunning ride on a boat for forty-five minutes, through a 2.5-km-long winding passageway on an underwater river, where you will literally believe you found a black hole of an unknown universe. Imagine bending over yourself for not knocking over crystal formations that derocate the entire cave (claustrophobics beware). With a constant temperature of 18 ° C, the caves of Diros is one of the most important Neolithic caves in a w orldwide scale. Although the total area of the caves spread over nearly 3 4 square meters, only 5 thousand meters have been explored, firstly from John Petrochilos in 1958. Alepotripa and Vlychada caves, as they are named, were firstly explored from the speleologists Ioannis and Anna Petrochilos in 1958 while archaeological research begun in 1970 under the direction of archaeologist Georgios Papathanassopoulos. The passageways of Vlychada cave cover an area of 16,700 m2, and only 2 ,800 water passages have been explored. Undoubtedly, the sensation is unique, an experience that will touch your soul forever.
Areopolis, the city of Ares
A journey to Mani would be incomplete without a visit to Areopolis, the capital of Mani and the city of Ares, the god of war who had his lair just above the village. Lovers of exploration will start off their tour from the central square with the statue of Petrobei Mavromihali and the church of Taxiarhes. This is the location where the Revolution began, and it is being celebrated through an annual festivity on March 17. According to written testimonies o f Kolokotronis and P hilemon, the chieftains of Mani, under the order of Petrobeis Mavromihalis, gathered on March 17 in Areopolis, where the raised the first revolutionary flag of Mani, made of white fabric, a blue cross and the quote “Victory or Death”. The declaration of the revolution spread to the rest of Mani, and the first expeditions of Mani were recorded. The leaders of Western Mani moved to Kalamata under the leadership of Petrobeis. On March 20, Petrobeis’ son, Elias, entered the city in order to strengthen the local Turkish garrison until all the chieftains of Mani captured the city. Thereafter, Petrobeis Mavromihalis was assigned with the honorary title of “Commander of the Spartan Forces”, which would indicate the decision of the Greek nation to throw off the Turkish yoke to the European forces in order to sought their assistance. It is highly advisable to lose your way in the cobblestone streets of the old fortified settlement with its Byzantine churches and its eerie towers; charming corners and lovely houses will surely steal your attention in the most charming part of the town where you will dive in its history. Among the most important Mani towers you will notice include the family towers of Pikoulakis, Kapetanakos, Barelakos and Mavromihalis, the local families that wrote the history of Mani.
Oitylo, an Authentic Sensation
On the northern side of Areopolis, travellers will have the opportunity to discover the charming gulf of Oitylo, a charming and historic village with three consecutive coastal settlements. First stop at Limeni, a charming village with its famous fish taverns that are filled with weekenders who fanatically honor them. Before doing so, wander around the tiny village in order to admire the stone towers overlooking the turquoise waters of the bay. Just two kilometers away, travellers will discover Neo Oitylo, an ideal village for relaxing by the sea, and a little further down is charming Karavostasi. Both villages served as the commercial ports of old O itylo. This village counts its history in m illennia, since historical sources provide evidence for its continuous inhabitation from the Homeric area, and holds an unusual privilege for M ani. Although the majority of Mani’s territory is barren, dry and craggy, old Oitylo features lots of olive trees that break the monotony of Mani’s terrain. A visit to Oitylo would be incomplete without a visit to the monastery of Dekoulou, a s the monastery features some of the most beautiful paintings, hard to find in a catholic monastery, where Jesus is depicted in the center of the zodiac.
Kiss Night Goodbye from Mani
You can never be prepared for a journey to Mani because, as you have probably heard, Mani is a sensational and rebellious region that will surpass even the most pleasurable rhymes and gratifying poems. Endless kilometers of driving around the rugged beauty of Mani will unveil the genuine identity of this historical place. Dozens of picturesque villages, impressive architecture with imposing towers, incredible landscapes alternating between arid beaches and dry sceneries, monuments full of history and places of worship, where the infamous and harsh Mani temperament was born over the centuries carved by time. Truth to be said, you can explore Mani for days, even weeks, all year round. However, you will not be able to appreciate the genuine character of Mani, if you do not meet the people of Mani themselves, with their distinctive temperament, the authentic soul of Mani. They will immense you into the mysteries of this “holy” place, and they will share with you the history of their families that is depicted everywhere through the impressive stone Mani towers, which carry the history of Maniats bravery. A timeless destination of ghost villages and pristine beaches desolated on the rural peninsula of the Peloponnese offer some of the most dramatic mountain scenery of Greece. If not mesmerizing, a journey to Mani is truly enthralling.
Special Addendum : The Shipwreck of Dimitrios
Near Gytheio, you can make a stop to visit the shipwreck of the ship Dimitrios. Dimitrios was a 65-meter cargo ship that was shipwrecked and abandoned in Valtaki beach in 1981. There are many stories about how that happened, from ghost stories to smuggling stories that forced the ship to be burned and abandoned until she beached at Valtaki. The true story is probably more mundane having to do with debt and firing the crew, leaving the ship to her fate. Valtaki is a beautiful beach, with a unique artifact, so don’t miss out!
Where to eat in Mani Peloponnese:
Kyria Lela A taverna I have eaten a couple of times located in Kardamili. It is located in a courtyard under vine leaves and overlooking the sea. It has excellent Greek traditional cooked ( mageirefta) food. Don’t forget to try the Politiki salad.
Kariovouni or Arachova
It’s a village in the mountains near Stoupa. In the square of the village and under the plane trees you will have the most amazing souvlaki (skewered pork). If you visit at night, take a jacket with you as it gets chilly.
To Magazaki tis Thodoras: Located on the bay of Limeni with tables overlooking the sea and tower houses is among my favorites. The owner Thodora is super friendly and polite. You can also taste a variety of dishes based on the local cuisine of Mani. Here you can also sit for a coffee or an ouzo while you swim in Limeni.
Barba Petros: You will find it in the alleyways of Areopoli, It has a beautiful yard for lunch and tables on the alley at night.