Summer Road Trip: Western Mani

Famed for its wild and rugged landscape, Mani is rustic to the core, boasting fabulous beaches, delicious cuisine, and charming mountainside villages.


The Messinian Gulf, with its mild, warm waters and sandy golden beaches, invites swimming almost all year round; Mount Taygetos attracts visitors with its dramatic alpine peaks, impressive gorges, and the dense forest of Vasiliki. In between, there are semi-mountainous or coastal villages surrounded by olive trees and cypresses. And all of this bathed in the warm light of the sun, setting spectacularly.

In Western or “Outer” Mani, the summer is magical.

Beaches galore

The most famous beaches of Western Mani, Stoupa and Kalogria, attract so many people during the summer that you can hardly find space to lay your towel. Much quieter, with tamarisk trees for shade, is Pantazi Beach, where there is also a canteen. At Kaminia (or Delphinia), a five-minute walk from where you’ll park your car, you will find plenty of space and have a delightful day. The beautiful beach of Foneas also deserves a special mention, with its pebbles, impressive rock, and caves, while Katafigi is like a stone amphitheater where you can bask on the rocks and dive directly into the sea. The beaches of Ritsa and Kalamitsi are closer to Kardamyli.

Apart from swimming, there are other reasons to go to the sea. Besides Kardamyli itself, you can also take a walk to the small harbor of Aghios Nikolaos and Trahila via the seaside route. Trahila is a charming stone village, known for its salt, collected from nearby natural salt flats.

Outdoor adventures

 

The area’s natural wealth demands exploration. The two gorges, Vyros and Rintomo, are among the largest and most interesting in Greece. Additionally, from here, you can climb to the summit of Mount Taygetos, Profitis Ilias, at 2,407m, with its famous “Pyramid,” which has sparked numerous scientific and metaphysical discussions about it origins. You can also go rock climbing at Kalamitsi and enjoy a bike ride – there is even a cycle path from Stoupa to Aghios Nikolaos. Your guide for all these activities will be Giannis Avrameas and his team at 2407m. Outdoor Experience (2407m.com), which also rents bicycles (mountain bikes, electric and non-electric), while they also enrich these activities with organized experiential tours.

For mountaineering and rock climbing, you can also contact mountaineering-climbing instructor Giorgos Malamas and Climb Up (Tel. (+30) 694.059.0138).

Mountainside villages

Above the tourist beaches, on the slopes of Mount Taygetos, lies the most breathtaking summer experience in Mani: the villages with few inhabitants offer coolness amidst lush vegetation, tranquility away from the crowded shores, sea views, walks along cobblestone paths, and wonderful squares with plane trees and tavernas for tsipouro and delicious meze.

Make sure to visit the village of Milia, with its beautiful Byzantine churches and Theakos’ café, Kastania – the village with the most Byzantine monuments in the Peloponnese after Mystras and Geraki – where you’ll have the opportunity to enter the Tower of Dourakis to understand firsthand what economy of space and war mean for the Maniots, and also the church of Aghios Petros with remarkable sculptures, the work of a Maniot marble workshop from the 12th century.

 

An unforgettable stroll awaits you in Exohori, where walking in nature will lead you to the incredible balcony of Aghios Georgios with a view of the Vyros Gorge. The square of Arahova (or Karyovouni) is also exceptional, with the eponymous taverna on the square under the enormous plane tree, Prastio, which looks like a stage set, and the former rebel village of Saidona for meze at Karydia.

Stepping back in time

According to locals, one of the most significant moments in history unfolded in old Kardamyli. In the Tower of Troupakis-Mourtzinos, which forms a residential complex from the 18th century, along with the beautiful church of Aghios Spyridonas, the chieftains of Mani gathered with the famous revolutionary leader Kolokotronis to lay out their plans to capture Kalamata on March 23, 1821. Here, you will learn about the architecture of the tower, and Maniot towers in general, which were defined by the way of life and social structure of the Maniots. Be sure to observe the bell tower and the impressive reliefs.

The history lessons continue in the charming Tower of Kitriniaris, located between Saidona and Exohori. The tower of the powerful family and the nearby monasteries of Samouil and Vaidenitsa controlled the passages back in the 18th century. It was a time when the danger of Turkish raids was great, and all movements were made on foot or with animals through the mountains.

Local cuisine

The tavernas Lela’s (Tel. (+30) 27210.735.41) and Elies (Tel. (+30) 27210.731.40) in Kardamyli are well-known to everyone and continue to maintain their high-quality standards. The newest restaurant Tikla (Tel. (+30) 698.843.9979), with its well-crafted dishes and ethnic aesthetics, continues to evolve creatively and impress. Carefully prepared food is also served at the tiny Kritamo (Tel. (+30) 27210.641.02) located on the road.

In Aghios Nikolaos, the exceptional restaurant Ellie (Tel. (+30) 698.329.4889) offers a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes. In Pigi, the taverna Barba-Lias (or Tou Stathi, Tel. (+30) 690.718.3468) is located on a beautiful balcony-square and serves homemade delicacies. In the mountainous areas, in addition to the ones already mentioned, it is worth trying Thea (Tel. (+30) 27210.734.44) in Exohori. For lighter meals, Aquarella (Tel. (+30) 27210.750.10) in Kardamyli will fully satisfy you – they also offer cocktails overlooking the sea. A new arrival is Palia Kardamyli (Tel. (+30) 698.502.8540) with a lovely courtyard, traditional cuisine, grilled meat skewers and a wood-fired oven.



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