1. Atmosphere at Limeni
When the sun starts to set, head to Limeni. You will witness an amazing sunset and enjoy the twilight gazing on the stone houses from the tables of Takis’ taverna right on the water’s edge (Tel. (+30) 27330.513.27).
2. The “king” of caves
Currently closed for upkeep, the Vlychada Cave in Diros (a total of 300m by boat and 300m on foot) is an unforgettable spectacle of the stalactites and stalagmites, and is expected to open again on July 10th. Masks are required. Daily 9:00-17:00, Tel. (+30) 27330.522.22/3.
3. Nights in Areopoli
Charming Areopoli deserves a visit no matter what, but it is best to time your visit for the evening. That way, you will feel the pulse of the nightlife in the stone-paved alleys with their tasteful bars, such as Bukka (Tel. (+30) 27330.510.03) and Aula (Tel. (+30) 697.392.2115). For a more relaxed scene, go to the Sti Rouga café-bar (Tel. (+30) 27330.527.77) in Pyrgos Dirou.
4. Mystical Agitria
In the unforgiving landscape of the Mani, with its barren rocky terrain, the intense light and stone villages with their tower houses, the tamest place is the chapel of Panaghia Agitria. It is located next to the Tigani peninsula, and can be reached via a half-hour hike. In the afternoon, it is bathed in a golden light.
5. Cape Tenaro
The hike to the lighthouse at Cape Tenaro takes 45 minutes, but take the time to learn the whole story in order to get the most out of the experience. The ancient Greeks believed that the tip of the peninsula was the gate to Hades. It is here that the boatman collected the souls of the dead to take them to the underworld. Here, too, was a sanctuary to Poseidon, god of the frequently raging seas. This is where Orpheus is said to have descended to claim back his beloved Eurydice, and where Hercules fought Cerberus in his 12th and final labor.
6. Return to the familiar
The beaches of Mani have their “returnees,” who visit every year to find things as they left them. You will find them at Vathy with its coarse sand and Caretta caretta loggerhead turtles, and at the family-friendly Skoutari with its shallow waters and the Byzantine chapel of Aghia Varvara on the water’s edge.
7. Α secret taverna
In the non-touristy village of Liberdo (also known as Platanos) you will find taverna Mouria (Tel. (+30) 27330.914.64), famed for its grilled meat.
8. Monemvasia by night
The citadel in summer is ideal for a nighttime stroll, to avoid the heat and humidity. Walk down the alleys and along the sea wall at dusk. It is enough to make you feel like a the hero of a fairy tale.
9. Malvasia at the source
Some winemakers don’t just make wine; they attempt to restore history. One such winemaker is Giorgos Tsibidis of Monemvasia Winery, who revived the sweet wine Malvasia, which is mentioned in historical sources dating back as far as the 13th century. At his winery in Velies you can taste the PDO wine made from a blend of the Monemvasia, Kydonitsa, Asproudes and Assyrtiko varieties. Tel. (+30) 27320.530.96.
10. At the Cape Maleas lighthouse
The trail starts in Aghios Myronas, a little outside the beautiful island-style village of Velanidia, and takes about one and a half hours. The location and the lighthouse are charming in themselves, but ideally you will find the lighthouse keepers, who will tell you about the local lore and their way of life.
11. Laconian flavors
The Neraida taverna is located on the edge of the village of Aghios Nikolaos, almost hidden in a gully. Their specialties include caramelized pork shank, sweet braised Vatika onion yachni (stew) and tsaiti, a pie with a fresh goat-cheese filling. Delicious sweets top everything off. Open from the afternoon. Tel. (+30) 27340.312.27.
12. A museum for the olive
Fossilized 50,000-60,000-year old olive leaves, copies of Linear B tablets with the first written evidence of olive oil production and reconstructions of prehistoric, Hellenistic and Byzantine olive presses are among the exhibits in the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation in Sparta, which is dedicated to the tree that is synonymous with Greece. Daily except Tue 10:00-18:00, Tel. (+30) 27310.89315.
13. From the caique
In the harbor of Gerakas (or the “village on the fjord,” as it is sometimes called) is the taverna Diamatis, serving “salamoura” salad (crab, shrimp and squid in an olive and lemon dressing) and fresh fish carpaccio. The taverna has its own traditional caique fishing boat. Tel. (+30) 27320.238.49.
14. Sunken city
A trip to the magical beaches of Elafonisos is worth it in its own right. But on the 10-minute boat trip out there from Viglafia keep your eyes peeled in the shallows and on the islet of Pavlopetri for the remains of a 5,000-year-old Bronze Age settlement, which is considered the oldest known sunken city.
15. An island on the mainland
Kyparissi is a sandy cove with clear blue waters near the border between Laconia and Arcadia. Here you’ll find two or three tavernas, as many guesthouses and plenty of peace and quiet. Go there before it is discovered.
16. At Talanta watermill
Every Saturday between 10:00 and 15:00 the traditional watermill in the village of Talanta in the Laconian hinterland comes alive to turn wheat into a first-class dark wholemeal flour. It is worth witnessing the process up close, before hiking some of the little-known trails in the area. Tel. (+30) 697.721.2475.