Spring Destination: Wild Yet Gentle Outer Mani

The middle peninsula of the Peloponnese is famed for the rugged beauty of its wild landscapes and stone-built villages.


TOP REASONS TO VISIT

1. The spring-scented coastal journey

As you drive along the beautiful coastal road that takes you to Exo, or Outer, Mani out one window you may see a little snow still clinging the peaks of Mount Taygetos; on the other, the sea glimmers in the spring sunshine.

Many parts of the largely arid peninsula of Mani begin to take on the aroma of summer from as early as April. The route from Kalamata to Trahila is lined with olive groves andis  a riot of wildflowers. Stop at any of the coastal villages and enjoy the season’s peace and quiet.

In Kardamyli, walk to the old part of the village with the church of Aghios Spyridon and the Mourtzinos-Troupakis Tower, which now operates as a museum. In Stoupa, visit the home of British author Patrick Leigh Fermor (although arrange your visit beforehand with the Benaki Museum). And in Aghios Nikolaos, have a cup of coffee in the sunshine alongside the local fishermen.

2. The tower houses and mountain villages

Here you will find cafés shaded by plane trees, water flowing in fountains and streams and the sound of birdsong everywhere. Turn off the coastal road and climb towards the villages of Mount Taygetos with their sturdy stone-built homes and iconic tower houses. These were fortified homes built by wealthier families to protect themselves from enemies and bandits. In charming cafés you will also enjoy exquisite mezes: lupin beans, asparagus, jellied pork and the roast pig the region is famous for.

Reach as far as lovely Kastania and see the Tower of Dourakis, or Kariovouni (aka the Arachova of Mani) with the Goudelis tower. The village of Milia also features impressive churches and tower houses, while Platsa is built entirely out of the local stone. Along main road, you will see Byzantine chapels in Nomitsi and in the restored village of Thalames.

EASTER IN MESSINIA

On Easter Sunday, the place to be is Kalamata’s western beach to witness the spectacular (albeit somewhat hazardous) custom of the ‘rocket war’. It is said that the firing of the homemade rockets – with the deafening crack of gunpowder – originated as a way to scare the Ottomans. In Kardamyli, the procession of the Epitaphios on Good Friday ends up on the waterfront road after passing through the back streets and small squares to be honored by local and visitors lining the road.

3. The trails of Taygetos

Spring is the ideal season for hiking and the Mountain of Taygetos is one of Greece’s most fascinating. Experienced hikers should attempt the main trail through Viros Gorge, which was once part of the ancient Royal Road from Sparta.

For an unforgettable experience, take the path that starts at the village of Sotirianika and follow the old stone walkway called Biliovo to reach Altomira. There are also plenty of impressive hikes in Rintomos Gorge and around Kardamyli.

Rock climbing and mountain biking are also possible here. For more information or to book activities contact 2407 Mountain Activities, tel. +30 6975.785.887.

MINI GUIDE

GETTING THERE

Kardamyli is 273 km from Athens (about 3.5 hours) and 721 km from Thessaloniki. The cost, including tolls and gas for a round-trip, is about €76 and €207 respectively.

ACCOMMODATION & FOOD

Elies (Kardamyli, tel. +30 27210.731.40). Tastefully appointed residences with a magnificent garden and excellent restaurant. From €110.

Katikies Manis (Kardamyli, tel. +30 27210.790.12). Luxurious apartments of various types with a garden and view of the sea. From €100.

Mythos Villas (Stoupa, tel. +30 27210.292.95, +30 6947.407.069. Three elegant villas with pool and Jacuzzi. From €100.

• Lela (tel. +30 27210.735.41). A well-known establishment, next to the sea.

• Arachova (tel. +30 27210.782.89). Meze and beautifully grilled meats at the lovely square of Karyovouni village.

• Mimis (tel. +30 27210.580.10). For ouzo and seafood in Kitries.



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