The main road runs through Kardamyli which can cause the occasional traffic chaos with coaches and lorries trying to squeeze by each other. So first impressions may not be that great. If you are staying in Stoupa you will go though Kardamyli on the way from Kalamata.
Kardamyli is a charming village with added attraction of Old Kardamyli [see below] which is hidden behind the modern town. There are several cafes, tavernas and hotels dotted around the main street and the sleepy side streets that lead to the waterside and small harbour. There are also some lovely shops and boutiques. I buy my olive oil from a tourist shop towards the north end of the town. I can never remember the name of the shop, [it’s next to Kimbo Cafe I think]. They sell their home produced olive oil tucked away on a shelf on the right as you enter.
Andrew Bostock, author of Greece: The Peloponnese, published by Bradt, wrote much of his guide in Cafe Androuvista [AKA Anna’s]. It’s a lovely cafe on the main road and it’s where I like to go for lunch [and a beer]. I recently ‘discovered’ Yioryitsa’s Backyard Cafe which is hidden away in a beautiful passage and courtyard opposite the church. The food was lovely and they sometimes show films on a screen in the yard in the evening.
Restaurant Dioskouri overlooking St John’s Bay in the south of Kardamyli is another wonderful place to stop and eat and admire the views. Their lentil salad with Mani smoked pork and orange is sublime.
Patrick Fermor’s House [Patrick and Joan’s House]
The celebrated adventurer and author Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, lived in his latter years just to the south of Kardamyli in Kalamitsi Bay. The house is now owned by the Bentaki Museum and operates as a hotel run by Aria. You can make bookings to view the house in advance but this currently limited to just once a week. You do not get a guided tour, you can just wander around the wonderful house and gardens.
In 2011 Patrick Fermor returned to England to die aged 96 and is buried next to his wife in Dumbleton, Gloucester. [no I have never heard of Dumbleton either!]
On the other [inland] side of the main road is Old Kardamyli which is hidden from view from the main street. A short walk along a path at the north end of the town takes you to the old fortifications and the 17th Century Church [which I have never been inside as it is always locked] and tower house which is now a rather interesting and informative museum which focuses on life in The Mani through the ages.
There is a circular walk via a kalderimi, an old donkey path, from Old Kardamyli that takes you through the mountains and passes by ancient tombs, churches, lovely villages and offers splendid views.
We did not do the circular route as we hoped to find Moni Lykaki which is on the other side of the gorge. The rather appalling weather put a stop to this as the small steep path to the monastery started off really promising but soon degenerated into a muddy, slippery slide. It then disappeared from sight altogether so we were rather sensible and turned back nursing a few cuts and bruises.
We did turn off the main path to have a look at Agia Sofia but had to take refuge in an empty adjacent building to have our picnic as the rain fell out of the sky.
In 2022 Leashia and I gave the monastery another go, this time we decided to walk up the dry river bed. The weather was steaming hot but we were at the river bed mid-morning and we were in the shade for most of the venture. It was a bit of a scramble at times and Leashia did fall down once [declaring she was having a rest] but we made it to the monastery which was hidden away on the left hand side of the gorge. The monastery was a bit overgrown and looking sorry for itself, and the church was locked. The highlight was possibly the friendly lizard who popped out to say hello.
After a brief rest we decided to head home via the steep path to the kalderimi on the other side to the monastery. This may have been the same path that we abandoned a couple of years before – yet again it seemed to have a life of its own and at times was very ovrergrown with vegetation and disappeared from sight. it was quite hard work. It was not until we neared Kardamyli Old Town on the kalderimi that we saw any other humans. The scrambled walk to the monastery and back took around three hours.