About The Mani
The wild,mountainous landscape of the Mani, the middle peninsula at the southern end of the Peloponnese, shaped the region's history as these mountains provided a refuge from several thousand years of invasions.
The Mani is an unforgiving barren land of rocks and stones, walls and prickly pears, bare hillsides, bays and coves torn by the sea and the wind. Every so often at the edge of the sea a small hamlet sprouts up with a series of mountain villages higher up. The rugged nature of this landscape on the southern fringes of Europe has meant an exodus of young people so villages are quiet.
The Mani has gorgeous views around every corner, little wonder then that many visitors include this area on a fly drive holiday in the Peloponnese. Part of its charm is its extremely hospitable people, however in days gone by it was the scene of many a blood feud. An intricate feudal society combined with many families trying to eke a living out of very poor agricultural land meant that there were frequent clashes between families. Strongholds or towers were built for protection. Families would hide inside their tower in an attempt to escape the wrath of their enemies. Frequently these feuds (between the male family members only) would last for years.
Today ruins of many of these tower houses can be seen dotting the hillsides - some have been bought and turned into private holiday homes; others into small hotels.
It's worth spending a day driving around the Mani peninsula as there is so much fabulous scenery: picturesque fishing villages, quiet pebbly beaches, small Byzantine churches, pine-clad mountains, valleys and sleepy hilltop villages.
Asphalted roads are a relatively recent introduction to Mani. Even in the 1960s the main way of moving goods was by boat and pack animal. There was a widespread system of tracks often paved or cobblestoned connecting the villages. These were called 'kalderimi' and traces of these can be seen today.
Limeni, on the west side, is Areopolis' traditional port and is a excellent base for exploring the Mani. It lies around 3km from the city of Areopolis (city of Ares- god of war). Limeni is a lovely little village on the Mani Peninsula. Its picturesque bay is characterized by a harbour with bobbing fishing boats, a charming row of houses and a very pretty castle.
It is also on the doorstep of one of the most important sites in Greece- Diros Caves which is one of the earliest inhabited places in Greece. Here you can travel by boat through the caverns admiring the fantastic stalagmites and stalactites.
Kardamili is a quaint village by the sea in the outer Mani region of the Peloponnese. The sea here is clear and clean and there are a few lovely beaches in the area. Although not sandy, they are long strips of pebble beach backed by olive groves.
On a gentle slope behind the main street is Old Kardamili, where you'll find abandoned tower houses clustered around the 18th church of Agios Spyridon which saw action during the War of Independence. Located atop the first foothill behine Ritsa Beach are the ruins of Lazos, a cluster of small stone buildings in decay. The remnants of these ancient houses date to the turn of the 20th century and it is said that some of the first settlers of modern Kardamili came from this now-abandoned outpost.
Tayetos Mountain, named after an ancient Greek nymph, is just a short drive from Kardamili and it’s definitely worth a visit. Rindomo and Viros Gorge offer hiking opportunites.
A little further away, in the greater Mani area, are Cape Tenaro, the southern-most point of mainland Europe, and the fortified town of Mistra, a UNESCO world heritage site situated on a steep cliff of Tayetos.
Where to stay
This gorgeous hotel, right at the heart of the Mani, is built in the traditional architectural style of the Mani. An ideal base for exploring this beautiful region.