Impressive landscapes of primitive, wild beauty in austere, rugged lines, magnificent waters and mountain escapes, castles, gorges and caves, history and tradition, fine tastes ... What more can you ask for? Mani boasts alternative tourism opportunities and secluded destinations, perfectly combining mountain, sea and sun. This blessed place hides within it the beauty of the whole of Greece.
The Character of Mani
"Hard-working" and "disobedient" are some of the adjectives attributed to the sparsely populated, resource-poor but temperate character of the Taygetos rocky peninsula that wedges between Messina and Laconia. A protagonist in the struggle for independence, it was deserted in the difficult postwar years. In recent years, however, it has made a dynamic recovery, with its main drive being quality tourism. Mani has many attractions for the visitor even though the place is steep and rough, as are its people, but they usually win you over with their authenticity.
The Messinian Mani
The Mani, the central-southern prong of the Peloponnese, is divided into the Messinian and Laconian Mani. The Messinian Mani begins at Kardamyli and extends south shortly after to the village of Saint Nikonas. Along the coast of the Messinian Gulf are nice coastal settlements while the slopes of Mount Taygetos are dotted with picturesque villages. In this region of Mani, there are also remains of ancient cities, castles, monasteries and old churches. The Messinian Mani is more accessible and friendly while offering different images. Here the sun is not so harsh with shade appearing in several places, and the vegetation is higher and denser. The area also stands out for its sandy beaches with crystal clear waters, while its architecture has many features in common with that of the Laconian buildings.
The Laconian Mani
The Laconian Mani extends from Oitylo to Gythion and includes a bouquet of incredible settlements as well as sites that every traveler should see in their lifetime. Unlike the milder, sweeter and more intimate climate of the Messinian Mani, both in architecture and landscape, the Laconian Mani is characterized by a charming cruelty. Huge steep cliffs with serpentine roads hang over dark skies; bare mountain peaks gaze out to the sea; picturesque villages of unique beauty hide in its small bays; and the ghastly sun sheds its rays on the stone illuminating everything in its path while locals still tell stories of cursors, pirates and lost treasures.
The Τowers of the Mani
One of the main features of Mani is its picturesque tower-houses, which number more than 800 and are scattered throughout the villages. The towers symbolize independence, freedom, courage and power. The tower was a war tool, a stronghold of defense and survival. The towers are courtyards and walled castles, which belonged to strong economic and military families.
With their imposing towers, the Maniates offered protection and security, as they were a refuge, watchtower and defensive bastion. The towers were tall, well-designed to withstand the onslaught of enemies, and had "locks" where cannons were placed, thus hiding and shooting the invaders without putting themselves in danger.
The Attractions of Mani
The Mani may not be famous for its immense sandy beaches or feverish nightlife, but it has majestic landscapes, renowned caves and gorges, architecture and historical monuments, and secluded destinations perfectly combining both mountain and sea views. Here you will discover stone-built villages with impressive towers, such as the preserved Vathia, Limeni, Gerolimenas and Kardamili, and picturesque towns such as Oitylo, Areopolis and Gythion.
The area offers beautiful bays and beaches with sand or pebbles, crystal clear waters and rich marine life including sea turtles, seals and dolphins. Also of great interest are the impressive natural monuments, such as the Diros Caves, Cape Tainaro, where the Gate of Hades was in antiquity, the Taygetos 'Pyramid', and the coast with its labyrinthine underground caves. Some 800 towers, 96 traditional settlements, 1,000 Byzantine churches, and hundreds of small and large caves-shelters have been recorded in total. It is no coincidence that Western Europeans are increasingly interested in visiting and even taking up permanent residence in the Mani.
The Flavors of Mani
Whether you enjoy the sophisticated gastronomic delights or the classic fish or meat, Mani is a paradise for good eaters. Fish taverns can be found almost everywhere on the coast while traditional tavernas are in the mountain villages. The Mani is a place where history was written, traditions were born, and a special attitude developed. All this can be found live in the local food. Mani is famous for its local products and its special dishes which have stayed true to their traditional recipes. Local pasta, home-made pork sausage, oiled bread and olives are very popular.
The Mani is unlike any other place in Greece. It fascinates visitors all year round with awe-aspiring scenery, glorious towers and houses that look like medieval fortresses. When in Mani, the feeling that knights and fairies will come out from every corner is present almost all the time. This land which captivates with its wild beauty and the cruelty of its landscape is now well known for offering a more authentic holiday experience than many of the islands.
Private Tour of Gythion & Mani with the Diros Caves