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Mani is a region in the central peninsula of the southern Peloponnese. It is a wild and barren land where the local people are said to be descendants of the antique Spartans. There are also mountains the most important of which is Mount Taigeto.
The coast has a completely natural atmosphere and there are quite a few small villages spread throughout the coast. Mani is one of the most interesting and complex regions in the whole of Greece that is also rather inexplored.
Mani is usually divided in Messenic Mani and Laconian Mani. Mani Messenic starts in the south-eastern part of Kalamata and carries on to the southern coast between Mount Taigeto and the coast. Mani Laconian occupies the rest of the peninsula located south from Itilo.
Messenic Mani Messenic
Mani extends North from the Laconian region, between Mount Taigeto and the western coast of The Mani peninsula. The coastline has a few beaches and creeks surrounded by high mountains that often have snow all year round. Kardamyli offers the best options for someone that loves walking and trekking but also Stoupa has some beautiful narrow paths and trekking routes.
In Stoupa there are two main beaches. There is a large beach that has the shape of a half-moon that is covered in golden sand and is protected by the strong waves that affect other beaches. Then there is also the smaller beach of Kalogria, this beach has shallow waters and is surrounded by mountains. After a 10 minute walk from Kalogria you can reach Dolphin Bay.
The mountain landscape in the central part of the island has many grey rocks that have become green over time because of the shrubs and moss that has grown on the rocks over time. There aren’t many fields or patches of land that can be used for agriculture in fact apart from a few olive trees and wild shrubs there aren’t many plants on the island.
The coast is a series of small beaches and creeks covered in a mix of sand and pebbles. It was called Kakavoulia (which means “Land of the evil suggestion”) by the local people for a long time. It is a wonderful region to visit by car, especially if you follow the road that follows the western coast and goes south from Aeropoli. Aeropoli, the island’s main city The capital of Mani is Aeropoli, a city that gets its name from the greek god of war “Ares”.
In its main square, Plateia Athanaton, you will find a large statue of Petros Mavromichalis, the local man that in 1821 started the protest aginst the Turkish occupation. When visiting this city you must visit the church of Taxiarhes that dates back to the seventeen hundreds and surrounded by a high clock tower and many other historical buildings.
Then there is the church of Agios Ioannis inside of which you will find some amazing well preserved paintings and frescos that show the life of Jesus Christ. Last but not least there is Mavromichalis tower in a small square in the south-western part of Plateia 17 Martiou. Once upon a time it was the most important tower in a city but now unfortunately it is in very bad conditions.
Medieval villages located on top of high mountains, beautiful rocky landscapes and historical cities are just some of the things you will find in the peninsula of Mani. This region is ideal for someone looking for a peaceful vacation surrounded by the traditional Greek atmosphere and architecture.
The best beaches of Mani
Unfortunately there aren’t very many beaches but the few ones you will find are absolutely fantastic, especially Skoutari and Mavrovouni beach in the Laconian gulf. Skoutari beach Located in the western part of Mani, on the eastern side of the peninsula, you will find
This is covered in golden sand and surrounded by turquoise waters. The beach is rather large and many people can visit it at once without having to worry about feeling over crowded. There are also a few taverns around the beach where you can get something to eat or drink. Last but not least you will find a church and a large parking space where you can park your vehicle.
The most famous beach in Gythio is Mavrovouni. This is located 2 km south from the town just by the village from where the beach gets its name. Mavrovouni beach is more than 6 km long and it is the biggest beach around Gythio. It is covered in fine sand mixed with pebbles and thanks to its large size you will never feel over crowded. On the beach there are also some activities to choose from like windsurfing (the best time to practice this water sport is certainly in the afternoon as it is when the Meletmi wind is at its strongest).
Last but not least if you are there during the right season you may even find some sea turtles that visit this beach every year to lay their eggs. The nests are usually marked and surrounded by some colored string so if you notice some leave them alone as these turtles are endangered.
This beautiful beach is covered in sand and faces south-west … for this reason it well known for being one of the best spots from where to admire the beautiful sunset. Next to the beach there is a tavern that serves traditional Greek food and even has a few rooms where to spend the night. Even during high season not many tourists visit it so it usually pretty empty.
Stoupa has two very nice beaches both covered in sand with the shape of a half-moon. Near the beach there are also small restaurants and cafes that serve things to eat and drink on a daily basis. Both the beaches are rather crowded during the summer while they are almost empty the rest of the year. There are also many paths around the beach that will give you the chance to reach Viros gorge.
Agios Nikolaos beach
This small beach is covered in pebbles and located next to Stoupa. The main beach (Pantazi) is located south from here and can be reached after a 15 minute walk. There are also small beaches in the bay of Voulimeneas or in Gnospi.
The culture of the Mani peninsula is fascinating nut there are some places where you must stop while visiting Mani and this area of the Peloponnese. Some of the main attractions to see are the village of Vatheia, the caves of Diros, Cape Tenaro, the gorge of Viros and last but not least the many medieval churches and the castle of Mystras. This is a perfect destination for any type of tourist as there are many options to choose from.
Located in the south-eastern part of Laconia, Vatheia is a small village that is part of the Oitylo administration. This village dates back to the XVI century and is located on top of a hill from where you can admire cape Tenaro. In the village you will also notice the iconic Maniot tower-houses owned by the local people.
Nowadays less than 30 people live in the village all year round but despite this it is very well kept and protected as it is an important historical center. While you are there don’t miss the occasion to visit the small alleys of the village in order to fully appreciate the unique architecture. Some of the traditional tower-houses have been restored and brought back to their olds beauties.
Kardamili is a traditional village that is part of Mani Messene. Kardamili is located by the sea in the gulf of Messenia. In the past it used to be known as one of the most important urban centers of the region, especially during the 18th and 19th century, when the city was mostly populated. You can visit the historical tower of Mourtzinos, a structure built during the 17th century that represents the local architecture. In 1967 the people that owned the tower decided to donate it to the Greek state as long that it was then converted into a museum.
Located close to Areopolis, the caves of Diros is a worldwide famous monument that you mustn’t miss when visiting Mani. The entrance by the sea made it accessible to people many years ago and since then it is also known as “the fox’s den”. In 1949 some Greek speleologist went inside to try and discover the true size of the caves and map them. Nowadays we know that the caves carry on 15 km underground and reach a maximum depth of 100 meters.
It is certainly one of the most important monuments in the whole of Greece and of Europe. Inside the caves many bones and fossils of different animals have been found, some of these dating back to the ice age. Some of the animals that have been found are the following: panthers, hyenas, lions, badgers, deer, Hippos, etc.).
Cape Tenaro is located in the southernmost part of the Mani peninsula. A place considered sacred since ancient times. Once upon a time people used to believe it was one of the entrances to hell. According to the old legends many temples were built here, like the Poseidon temple that is now a Byzantine church and can be found inside the cave.
In fact this temple was transformed into a church as soon as Christianity took over in the region. At a few kilometers from cape Tenaro many battles were fought during the year, like the battle of cape Matapan that was fought during the second world war between the British and Italian navys.
Created by a flowing river this gorge starts on mount Profitis Ilias and finishes next to the city of Kardamili. Kardamili used to connect the port of Kardamili to the island of Sparta. The gorge is very popular amongst people that love trekking, the route is 11 km long and reaches a maximum height of 600 meters. The trip will last about 4 hours and before starting it we recommend you take plenty of water with you to avoid dehydration. There is also a lush nature all around the gorge with old olive trees, cypresses and high pine trees.
For moving around the peninsula of Mani we recommend you rent a car as the many places are far away one from another and busses don’t reach all places and run on time all the time. Otherwise if you prefer travelling by motorbike there are also some nice roads from where you can admire the beautiful landscape.
Renting a car in Mani
There are quite a few car rentals in Mani but not loads of them. Most of them are concentrated in the villages of Voula and Kalamata. According to how you are travelling to Mani you can choose to rent a car in the airports of Athens or Kalamata in order to have a vehicle immediately without having to worry about finding one later.
Moving around Mani by bus
There isn’t a great bus line in Navarino, in fact it can be rather difficult to move from one place to another if you haven’t got your own vehicle. The busses are ran by the company KTEL and the main bus stops are located in Gerolimenas, Kardamyli, Stoupa and Areopolis. Here you will find informationabout the busses in Messenia or Laconia besides the timetables and the smaller bus stops.
You can choose between many hotels and accommodations in the peninsula of Mani. In fact once here you will be able to choose between luxurious villas, boutique hotels, modern houses and small apartments with all kind of prices. Prices are usually lower than on other islands as the Peloponnese is a very touristic area and prices are competitive for this reason. Here are some of the best hotels and accommodations that you can choose from.
Where to spend the night in the peninsula of Mani
One of the nicest and most famous hotels in Mani is located in the southernmost part of the island, this hotel is surrounded by many ancient buildings that date back to the XIX century. Most rooms have a view on the beautiful turquoise waters of the nearby beach. This hotel is a mix of modern luxury and traditional architecture, offering any type of comfort or service to their guests. It has 22 rooms, each with a unique style, and it is the ideal accommodation if you are looking for a relaxing and elegant experience.
Luxury hotels, studios and b&b
Located on a cliff in the southern part of the island you will also find an old tower (that dates back to the eighteen hundreds) that has been restored and is now used as a hotel and has a wonderful view on mount Taygetos and on the blue sea. This is also one of the nicest hotels on the island but unfortunately because of the size and age of the structure only has 3 rooms.
These are filled with vintage objects that will guarantee you an even more unique experience. In the city of Niciliani you will find a boutique hotel located in the antique monument of Alta Koita. Koita is one of Mani’s oldest villages and it is famous for its picturesque houses and for its tower.
This hotel has 5 luxurious rooms, many services and comforts for tourists and a spectacular view of the nearby landscape. In Limeni you will find a lovely boutique hotel just by the city port. This hotel is a mix of modern and old styles, it offers many comforts and services to its customers and has 6 exclusive rooms that offer a view of the wonderful bay and village of Limeni.
Last but not least there is a Hotel & S.P.A. in the center of Mani. Here you will find 23 rooms and suites each with its own unique design. This accommodation is considered to be one of the best in the whole of Mani and it is the ideal destination for someone looking for a relaxing and luxurious vacation.