Imagine undiscovered paths, a gorge that snakes along a sheer cliff side and a sea of olive trees in the heart of the Peloponnese, a destination for all seasons, with a rich history and landscape.
The Mani Peninsula, of authentic natural beauty, with its own distinctive characteristics, is the western spine of the Peloponnese and a form of continuation of Mt Taygetos. Mani is a mountainous natural fortress with gorges and closes, completely bare and treeless, waterless, with steep rocks of gigantic dimensions in the surrounding sea and huge stones growing in the scarce soil of the thirsty land.
On the west side of the horizon is the Gulf of Messinia, while on the east is the Gulf of Lakonia. Mani is also divided into three regions: Exo Mani (northwest), Kato Mani (east) and Mesa Mani (southwest). The landscape is special both in terms of its physical configuration and its architectural features and has rightly benn named as an Open Museum.
Archaeological findings show us that there have been inhabitants since the Stone Age. Homer also refers to many of the cities of Mani in his scripts.
Did you know that Kardamyli was one of the cities gifted to Achilleas?
Pausanias, the great geographer of antiquity, has traveled and described the hall area in his famous series of books “Description of Greece”. According to him the first inhabitants were the “Leleges”.
Mani had a leading role at the Greek War of Independence, where everything started there a few days earlier. The mountainous terrain helped a lot and the difficulty in accessing made the area distanced from many battles. Locals still mention the strength that women of the area showed at the battle of Verga and Diros. The Ottomans lost two thirds of their army by women that holded harvest scythes and wooden sticks.
The difficult living conditions due to the land poor in water and soil of Mani, but also the ceaseless struggles for freedom, led to many difficult moments in history and so as also Maniates took refuge in safe places, to escape dangers or to protect their families from reprisals. Another cause was the feuds between local aristocratic families, and the deep-rooted law of vendetta.
Maniatissa is presented as a woman devoted to the family but also as a Leventisa and often as a symbol of courage and self-sacrifice, especially after the Battle of Diros. The inhabitants show great respect for traditions, family honor and the dead, and a localism, which stems from the pride that they have never been enslaved by foreigners and have always lived free.
Nature in all its glory
The south part is protected by Natura 2000 due to rare and threatened species and habitats of fauna and flora. It covers an area of 316.69 sq.km.
Although the absence of forests is particularly pronounced, the loss is compensated by the presence of olive trees and the abundance of flowers. Some of the plants don’t grow anywhere else.
April is the best time to observe the passing migratory birds, which often make their 1st stop after Africa in these lands and in Messinia in general.
Jackals, which are rare elsewhere, are common in Mani. They rarely appear during the day, but are often seen at night.
The area of Mount Saya of Mani, which covers large areas (200 square kilometers) of southern Mani, is the only marble-bearing area in Greece, in which the entire sequence of “slaby limestones” is developed The area of Saya includes three very interesting marble deposits:
• the off-white adrocrystalline marble of Dirou (Harouda)
• the ash-black Laias-Tainaro marble (Nero Antico)
• the red-purple Prophet Ilias marble (Rosso Antico) Two very large statues, known as Ragionieri Greci, the young and the old Centaur, as well as Asclepius, works of the Hellenistic Greek sculptors Aristeas and Papias, which are located in the Capitol of Rome.
Hidden coves and private beaches. Which do you prefer? Pebbles, sand or rocks? Organized or completely natural? Popular or secluded? The coast around Kardamyli offers a beach for every taste. Each is beautiful in its own right, like many beaches in the Peloponnese. Near the entrance to town, you have Ritsa, an organized beach with white pebbles and crystalline water. Near the exit, Kalamitsi’s fine pebbles and shallow water (ideal for kids) are guarded by cypress trees. And a few kilometers further, is Foneas, with pebbles, deep water, a canteen and a great rock to dive from.
A paradise for activities in nature
The European long-distance hiking trail, E4, passes through Mani and there are dozens of other signposted paths in every area, especially the Taygetos Mountain.
The gorgeous gorge “Ridomo” is located at the area and it is the longest dry gorge (27km) in Greece. Rare geological formations hug the canyon and amazing boulders decorate the landcsape. The Old Koskaraka Bridge is characterized as a Historic Preserved Monument by the Greek Ministry of Culture.
The more courageous will want to head to Kardamili that has a rock climbing park that “Climb Up”
Walking the slopes of the great mountain. If you’re a hiker, don’t miss the marvelous network of paths that unwind east of Kardamyli on the slopes of Mt Taygetos. Of exceptional beauty is the Vyros Gorge.
Home of the olive grove and much more
Messinia is world-famous for its olive oil and Kalamata olives. Learn and see the whole extracting process from November to February.
Don’t leave Mani without trying the cured meats and sausages and the various recipes with artichokes, a vegetable produced here in large quantities, along with beans and wild greens. Aromatic plants from Taygetos will awaken your senses. You’ll finish off your meals with local Peloponnese sweets like diples (thin sheets of fried dough) and pastelia (sesame with honey).
Cultural and other experiences
Of course events like “Jazz Festival”, “Taygetos Challenge”, art exhibitions, flag parades on the anniversary of the Greek Independence and other cultural happenings make the area one of the greatest pole of attractions.
Ιts contrasts have captured the hearts of many visitors, and they keep coming back for more. To get to know it like no one else, we have designed 3 unique tours that will amaze you.
Discover them here.
Good to Know
Here are some basic info and fun facts about Mani!