Seaside wilderness and local pride
There are corners of Greece that aren’t known by mass tourism yet offer an authentic experience that will delight visitors who want to go off the beaten path. The region of Mani is certainly one of these, boasting a collection of stone-built villages, age old traditions and numerous attractions, not to mention spectacular beaches and wondrous nature to explore. Legend has it that the Maniots are descendants of the Spartans, something still reflected today in their proud, strong culture.
If you're heading to Mani from Kalamata, you'll first come across the romantic town of Kardamili, with stone houses that are hundreds of years old. The town offers small guesthouses, relaxed cafés and restaurants with a sea view, and a sports shop called Kardamyli 2407 which can rent bicycles or arrange hiking tours, as well as kayak tours and rock-climbing excursions. Don't miss out on the little boutiques and organic shop.
Further south and almost untouched by tourism is Agios Nikolaos, a sleepy fishing village with a main square that comes to life in summer, complete with seaside eateries, curiously old churches and modest stone-built houses that will take you back in time. Further south and you come across the seaside town of Oitylo, along with the smaller fishing bay of Limeni, both of which offer sumptuously authentic seafood and a relaxed vibe. If you want to delve into the past, visit the remains of Kelefa castle which affords a beautiful view of the sea.
One of the gems of Mani is the inland town of Areopoli, considered the capital of Mani and boasting gorgeous stone buildings of yesteryear. The town boasts historical significance for its role in achieving Greek independence from the Ottomans and has become popular with visitors. Its cobblestone streets, cafés, shops and old churches are worth admiring. Some 15 minutes away from the town are the Diros Caves, one of Greece's most impressive set of seaside caves and caverns, which can be accessed by guided tours in little boats.
Lastly, a visit to the bustling yet picturesque town of Gythio across the Mani peninsula is highly recommended, and if you're there in the warmer months do pass by the nearby Mavrovouni beach. The town is also hove to an ancient Roman theatre on the hill above it, a historical lighthouse, and a small archeological museum. Do make a stop at the Manolakos confectionary for delicious goodies, including the famous sesame pasteli, before visiting nearby wineries.