The Mani - Land of sun and stone

About The Mani - Land of sun and stone

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 and 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 one of the most beautiful villages on the Mani Peninsula. Its picturesque bay is characterized by a beautiful 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

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