Exploring the Mani - October 2015

While I spent September roaming around the Alps, Christine had been at home in Brighton nursing her broken metatarsals.  With the nights already closing in, and worse still to come, getting some late summer sun seemed like a good idea.  I've never been to the Greek mainland and the Greek economy needs all the help it can get so we decided to explore the Mani peninsula.  If you don't know Greece, Mani is the middle of the three fingers that stick southwards from the Peloponnese - it's one of the wildest part of Greece and until the seventies was only accessible by boat or donkey.
Ayia Sofia near Kardamyli


Because Christine still couldn't walk very far we decided to hire a car and look for some day walks. Research involved reading Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese by Patrick Leigh Fermour and Southern Peloponnese Walks and Car Tours (Landscapes Series) by Michael Cullen. The Sunflower guide was the most useful, excellent in fact.  Although combining driving with walking is not really my 'cup of tea' (I don't have a car at home) the book was enormously helpful and given the limited walking the driving combination proved the best option.
Breakfast with a view - Liméni

I'm not a fan of Patrick Leigh Fermour and I know it's sacrilege, but I find his books turgid and indigestible.  Hidden away in the book however is a description of a journey around the peninsular in the 1950s that explores a world that has now all but disappeared.  Seeing the abandoned farmland lined with the terraces that had supported a working population I wish we'd come a lot earlier.
Vathia

We stayed two nights in Kardamyli; two nights further down the west coast in Liméni; had a night in Kita where some of the best examples of the Mani's famous towers can be found; stayed two nights Giroliménas and then drove up the east coast for a final night in the mountains at Mystras.
Stoúpa
Given that I claim I'm a walking/cycling fanatic, it's  painful to have to admit that a car assisted week worked.   The mix of Mediterranean sea swimming (luxury after the English Channel), short walks, site seeing and some stunning hotels was perfect.  After numerous trips to various Greek islands I've spent years being rude about Greek food/wine but it was so much better than I remember.  The weather in October was great, everywhere was empty and we just about had the Mani to ourselves.

Our hotel at Gerolimenas
We did 5 walks - follow the links to see them displayed on a map.
Viros Gorge and the donkey tracks

The first, which I did on own, was from Kardamyli and went up the Viros Gorge and back through villages on its northern side. It's a deep dramatic gorge and one of several that run through the limestone down to the sea.  I went on a different route to the one recommended in the Sunflower guide, saw more of the gorge itself but towards the end it was tough going, almost inaccessible. It was however a beautiful walk with some great examples of the engineered donkey tracks which feature in this part of the world.
The ruins at Cape Tigáni

The second walk was a short one to Cape Tigáni, a tiny peninsular on the end of which are the ruins of a Frankish castle.  We made the mistake of doing the walk around lunchtime and it was desperately hot even in October.  Although the ruins were not that extensive it was a pretty walk.  Particularly interesting were the shallow stone troughs which we later learnt were salt pans and still used.
The view up the coast from above Kita
The third walk which, after the Cape Tigani experience, we did early in the morning, was a climb to the chapel on top of the mountain immediately to the east of Kita.  This is an excellent walk, great views along the peninsular to the north and down onto the coastal plan to the west.  Kita is the best place to see the famous Mani towers - mini castles which everyone used to live in (dropping things on each other) until the new Greek national government in the 19th century limited their hieght.  Sadly they are now much shorter than they used to be.
Roaming around Areopolis

The fourth walk started from the lovely town of Areopolis, the capital of the Mani, and went down to the Pirgos Dirou Sea-Caves.  After the boat ride around the caves, a swim from the nearby deserted, we climbed back along another ancient donkey track to the town and a lovely lunch. Another nice walk.
The mosiac at Tainaron
Last but not least a walk down to the tip of Mani, the most southerly point in mainland Europe after Tarifa in Spain (further south than Tunis).  This circular walk, which included another wonderful deserted beach and a swimming opportunity, visits the site of the Greek city of Tainaron and I'm sure an educated eye would have spotted more remains than we did but even we couldn't miss the mosaic.
Mystras

On our last day we drove up to Mystras.  The original intention had been to stay there for two nights and walk up Mt Taygetus but we decided that Christine's foot was not really up to it and that another day on the coast was a more attractive proposition.  We had time to visit the ruins of the old Frankish/Byzantium town there and really enjoyed it.  I had not heard of it before, the Sunflower guide doesn't make a big feature of it but its huge, very interesting and a real bonus at the end of the trip.

For even more pictures go here

4 comments:

  1. Your trip sounds wonderful! Do you have any hotel recommendations?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there:

      We stayed in Kardamyli at the Anniska Hotel - nice but not boutique or anything;
      Pirgos Mavromichali at Limeni - very boutique, although at little cramped;
      Citta del Nicliani at Kitta - very boutique and very nice;
      Hotel Kyrimai at Gerollimenas - upmarket and very comfortable
      Mazaraki Guesthouse at Mazaraki - very nice

      I'm sure you can get cheaper places but we were treating ourselves

      Delete
  2. Thank you John, that's very helpful. Could I also just ask - if you were to have just one base in the Mani, where would it be?
    Many thaks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sarah - I liked Kardymyli, very pretty and a walking centre with well marked routes. It's very popular, for some reason, with Norwegian walkers. It's not really the Mani though. Gerollimenas is right in the Mani and as well as the very upmarket hotel we stayed in, there are other places to stay. You can get from there to the end of the penisular very easily. If you not bothered about swimming than Kitta, just up the road from Gerollimenas is great.

      As well as the guide mentioned in the blog, which is excellent, have a look at - www.insidemani.gr - the author helped in the lastest version of the guide.

      By the way the driving is very easy there - at least out of the main season - the roads were empty and in good condition.

      Delete