The Mani region of Greece is going to ensure you have the most awesome travel experience ever. It’s a haven of natural beauty and tranquility. There are so many wildly exciting reasons for you to visit Mani but you may have to narrow them down to make your list shorter.
If you’re going to experience all that Greece has to offer, you will want to enjoy all the romantic thrills of Mani and these days there is a road connection to most of the villages.
Where is Mani and how does one get there?
Mani is one of 3 peninsulas that extends from the Peloponnese. There was a time when one could only reach the villages by boat, but these days there is a thrilling, winding road that provides access.
Mani is located in the Peloponnese, in the south of mainland Greece. You’ll find three extensions of the most southern part of the Peloponnese and it is the middle one that is known as Mani. Most people know of Athens, the capital of Greece, and the distance between Athens and Mani is about 196 km.
You can’t get to know all about Mani in just one article, as it is a challenging place that is going to require plenty of walking. That in itself is a jolly good thing, as you can explore the area while getting an excellent workout. The villages of Mani are scattered all around the peninsula, and to see them all will require you hiring a car.
To reach Mani, some people opt to make use of the weekly charter flights available between May until October to Kalamata airport. The quickest way to get from Athens to the Mani Peninsula is to drive. The journey will take you about 4 hours.
You could also take a bus which will take you 6 hours. There are different companies that run bus services between Athens and Mani Peninsula. These are Ktel Ileias which can be found on the website and also Ktel Korinthias and Ktel Lakonias.
1. Deep Mani is less visited
You may be more acquainted with the greener, olive-tree studded part of Greece with its deep gorges, so the stark, almost treeless Deep Mani may come as a shock and surprise to you.
The Mani, the central-southern part of mainland Greece, is divided into two halves – the Outer Mani, well known for offering a wonderful holiday experience and the Deep Mani which is further south and starts at the town of Areopoli. It has a rugged coastline and far fewer people visit this area and even fewer stay. It’s possibly because of the starkness of the area and its past feuds.
Exquisitely positioned in the Messinian Bay, Kalamata is constantly watched over by an ancient 13th-century castle. It lies on the mainland of Greece in the southern part of the Peloponnese.
It’s the perfect city for those who want to discover all the magical secrets of Messinia. Lying close to the towering Taygetos mountain range, the city is filled with many trendy shops, restaurants taverns, and clubs and for the number of thrilling cultural events and festivals that take place throughout the year.
Each Wednesday and Saturday why not try the open food market where you can buy fresh fruit and veg, fresh fish and meat? There are also a host of amazing day trips that can be planned from the city.
Once you’ve visited beautiful Kardamyli, a laid-back fishing village with stone and clay houses, you’ll feel as though you’ve taken a step back in history as the area has a rich and checkered history. Many of the buildings in Old Kardamyli are built in the Venetian style and they are tucked away between lush olive trees and surrounded by magnificent hills and Mt Taygetos.
Kardamyli is well worth the 3.5-hour drive from Athens as it’s a Greek village oozing with old-world charm.
For beach lovers and sun-seekers, Kardamyli has 6 wonderful beaches of which Ritsa and Foneas are just two.
Situated on the northwestern coast of the peninsula, the village is often referred to as the Green Treasure town of Mani. For nature lovers, Kardamyli is the point of departure for many exquisite mountain trails.
Tranquil and unspoiled, Areopoli is a small picturesque historical town with its narrow, paved streets. Situated in the prefecture of Laconia, the town retains many reminders of its illustrious past and is a must-see on your Peloponnese trip itinerary.
Famous for its beautiful stone houses and tavernas, it’s an easy trip from Kalamata. The historical town with its traditional tower houses was named after the Greek God of War, Ares.
The town is known for making a contribution during the battles of Greece against the Ottoman Empire. The town has a fun side too and around the central square, there are lots of traditional restaurants and cafes offering fabulous family feasts.
Going past Areopolis, you come upon Limeni, the most famous seaside resort in Mani. Limeni is known for its beautiful beach and its amazing fish restaurants and taverns. This beautiful seaside village in the Peloponnese region of Greece is the perfect setting for those with fresh fish on their to-do list. Its trendy cafes offer the freshest kinds of seafood.
Limeni stands out for being bright and colorful with old stone house-towers that provide spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea. Small wonder it is thought to be one of the most beautiful seaside villages in Mani.
Gerolimenas is a wonderful fishing town of Laconia with a sheltered bay at the end of the Mani peninsula. It is thought to be the wildest part of mainland Greece and is a popular weekend destination for busy Athenians, although it’s popular throughout the entire year. Holidaymakers love the medieval towers that still exist and which have been transformed into hotel accommodation.
Of course, causal taverns are the bastion of Greek cuisine, and in Gerolimenas you will love all the local products – the cheese, olive oil, herbs, jams, and pork. The evening meal can be another meat or an assortment of mezedes.
7. Diros Caves
You can take all the photographs you want, your camera will never do justice to these caves with their underground waterways. The part of the caves which are explored is only a small part of the caves.
Diros Caves are just a few kilometers south of Aeropolis and well worth the trip. To reach the caves, you travel over the gulf of Itilo where you will be blown away by the splendor of the mountain views combined with the turquoise waters of the bay.
When you enter the cave you walk down a stairway to an underground lake where there are boats waiting. You will be given a life-jacket and a guide uses poles to guide the boat through narrow tunnels.
These amazing caves are considered to be one of the most beautiful all over the world because of the mesmerizing colors of the stalactites and stalagmites. The boat trip takes about half an hour, but with scientists discovering other caves, the boat trips might become even longer.
Perched on top of a hill sits the abandoned village of Vathia dotted with stone houses and bastions. This uninhabited village is situated in a very remote part of the Mani Peninsula from where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.
9. Cape Tainaro
Known also as Cape Matapan, it’s the southernmost point of mainland Greece, separating the Messenian Gulf from the Laconian Gulf. The area became a place of worship for Poseidon, and captains sailing past would stop to pay their tributes to the mighty God of the Sea.
Apart from being home to the temple of Poseidon, Cape Tainaron was also seen as a gateway to Hades, a place where the dead entered the underworld, watched over by a 3-headed dog, Cerberus.
Cape Matapan has been the scene of some thrilling battles and the SS Californian was torpedoed and sunk in 1915. In the 2nd World War, the Battle of Cape Matapan occurred. Today there is a spectacular hiking route that takes you to the lighthouse of the Cape Tainaron at the southernmost point of mainland Greece.
The amazing hike starts from the parking area with the archaeological ruins of the Death Oracle of Poseidon Tainarios. The Lighthouse was built in 1882 and renovated in 1950.
10. Places to visit next to Mani
The secluded Oitylo Bay in Laconia, which includes three seaside settlements of Neo Oitylo, Karavostasi and Limeni, is built on a high promontory amphitheatrically. It is one of the oldest towns in the Mani Peninsula and was once the most important in Messenian Mani.
Now Areopoli has taken over as the most important town in Laconian Mani. You can safely say that all tourist activity is mainly on the beach, however, many visitors to the area like to get photographs of the town from Kelefas Castle.
The castle was built in 1679 by the Ottomans. It is fairly easy to climb up the battlements and you are rewarded with great views of Oitylo Bay, the gorge and the town of Oitylo.
Elafonisos is a tiny island on the southern side of the Peloponnese, just below the peninsula of Laconia. This is one of the Greek islands that is considered as the Caribbean of Greece, with Panagia, Simos and Sarakiniko being the most exquisite beaches with their crystal clear water.
There is just one village on the island and it gets super popular in the evenings. You’ll find that ferries to the island leave from the small port of Neapoli.
People who know Greece well tick off Gytheio as one of their favorite places. It’s an ancient city, magnificently situated on the slopes of Mt. Koumaros and a harbor town in the middle of the Laconic Gulf. It is also close to the mouth of the Eurotas River and the Laconic Bay.
It has a postcard look with its houses dotted on the slopes of the mountain. It’s a popular holiday destination to enjoy all the delights of a seaside city. What a pleasure it can be to sit on a hot, sultry evening and eat delicious fish while you listen to the sound of the waves.
A highlight is a trip to the island Kranay with its 25m high lighthouse built in 1873. Other highlights are the Tzanetaki tower and the Ethnological Museum.
The waterfront is a wonderful place to sit and people-watch, from the activities around the fishing boats, the restaurants, shops, and promenade.
12. Shipwreck of Dimitrios
Dimitrios shipwreck is an imposing, cargo ship of the 20th century that has been abandoned on Selinitsa beach since 1981. The 65-meter cargo ship has many ghost- and smuggling stories surrounding what happened to it but it is believed that the ship transported illegal cigarettes between Italy and Turkey.
Selinitsa Beach is only a few kilometers from Githio, and it is one of the area’s best beaches. Its sandy shores appeal to the Caretta-caretta sea turtles who have made these sands their nesting area.
This loggerhead sea turtle with its red-brown shell is an endangered species. The females lay their eggs in the sand and after about 2 months the baby turtles emerge and make a hasty dash for the water. About 2 or 3 decades later, these same baby turtles will return as adults to the beach to lay their own eggs.
What makes the amazing medieval- or castle town in Laconia so popular is that it had a fortress to protect it from historical invaders. Also it has a fascinating setting on a small island on the southeastern side of Peloponnese.
Don’t be mistaken, as Monemvasia may be known as a hidden city, but the town has plenty to offer with some awesome restaurants and beaches that line the coast. Monemvasia is also known as the Gibraltar of the East, or The Rock as the medieval town was built on a rock 1.9km long and 1.8km long.
The astonishing rock-town is very picturesque and in 1971 a bridge was constructed to link the rock-island to the rest of the world. To this day the town’s walls and a good number of Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period.
Where to Stay in Mani
100 Rizes Seaside Resort
If you’re traveling in Mani, take a detour and pay a visit to 100 Rizes Seaside Resort. Not only is this wonderfully luxurious seafront getaway a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, with its magnificent beachfront location amid olive groves, this garden paradise resort is waiting to welcome you with its amazing facilities.
You get both in- and outdoor pools, restaurant and bar, state-of-the-art gym facilities and decadently delicious Mediterranean food. With spa facilities offering rejuvenating treatments, you’ll be floating back to your room. The resort is designed to energize and uplift your mind, body and soul in the healing presence of beautiful nature.
Citta dei Nicliani
People who have stayed at the family-run Citta dei Nicliani in Koita, Mani, say that this stylish, 18th-century boutique hotel with all its modern comforts such as free wifi and flat-screen TV promises to be your luxurious tranquil oasis.
This amazing old tower house has been converted into the delightful boutique hotel it is today where rooms have private terraces. With beautiful interiors of carved stone, its outside tempts you out to enjoy the sun while gazing over olive groves and the sea in the distance. Sitting outdoors and watching the sun set, you soon forget about life as it was before you got here.
The owners prepare their own olives, homemade liqueurs and they make delicious jams and delicious food and this can be savored with a glass of Greece’s finest wines.
Petra Fos Hotel
One of the defining features of the Petra Fos Hotel is the natural stonework. Quality accommodation elevates the stone-built Petra & Fos Boutique Hotel to a whole new level.
To create a memorable impression for all its guests, the hotel, beautifully situated on the cliff-side of Mt. Taigetos, also offers wonderful views over the gulf of Itilo.
Everything about the hotel is bright and breezy, even the attractive business center. Wooden floors and beamed ceilings ensure that their air-conditioned hotel is stylish and comfortable.
A buffet breakfast where you can taste local flavors is served. Wifi is available in public areas and the 23 fully equipped rooms and suites come with sea views as well as the most incredible swimming pool with views of the entire bay.
Where to Eat in Mani
To Magazaki tis Theodoras in Limeni
Sitting right on the water’s edge in Limeni, To Magazaki tis Theodoras may be a small restaurant but it offers a fusion of sun, sea and amazing food that is affordably priced.
This is is the perfect spot to enjoy laid-back dining where you can have sushi, nachos, burgers or the signature fried fish. Here you get double delight as the thoroughly charming place and the delicious food simply go hand in hand together.
Mani Mani in Gerolimenas
What Mani Mani Restaurant in Gerolimenas offers is sure to put a smile on your face. The wheelchair-friendly restaurant is the kind of place you can enjoy with bubbly, good food and friends. The restaurant has no less than 3 dining rooms with different entrances to the in- and outdoor areas.
You can enjoy local Greek food such as moussaka, kolokythokeftedes, dolmades, fresh fish and sea food or grilled meat with homemade bread and dried spices.
90 Moires in Gytheio
After a long week of sightseeing in Mani, delicious food and wine is what most people want to end the week on. If you’re looking for somewhere stylish to grab a bite to eat or have a couple of drinks with family and friends, 90 Moires in Gytheio is the place to go.
As a family-owned restaurant that has been welcoming visitors for more than 40 years, the restaurant has become known for its interesting take on classic Greek dishes. They have a fairly extensive menu and there is always a salad or a serving of delicious vegetables.
This delightful restaurant is a hit with the locals and for tourists alike, because it’s about fresh food, friendly smiles, great drinks and great views over the sea.
Mani feels somewhat mysterious and remote but that’s because there are so many open spaces. In fact, you get a sense of its size and beauty when you drive from Sparti to Kalamata over the Langada pass and into Mani proper. You’ll love the white and pink villas, the olive groves, stone Maniot towers, medieval fortresses and stunning beaches.
In some areas such as Kardamyli, these towers have been converted into stylish hotels for visitors. It’s a wondrous place to be and it is easily accessible, with British Airways flying from Heathrow.
If you want to experience the full spectrum of Mani, renting a car to get to all the towns and villages is a must or you can do what other people do and book a cruise around Mani.
Covid-19 has shaken people to the core and many people are looking for quieter, less crowded areas to holiday. The Mani appeals to people more these days as it’s more off the beaten track. It’s away from the busy tourist routes, but it still offers magnificent landscapes, fascinating villages, food to shout about and perfect peace and relaxation. Sounds like sheer bliss!