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 at 5 Euros a litre, 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].
Restaurant Dioskouri overlooking St John’s Bay in the south of Kardamyli is a wonderful place to stop and eat and admire the views. Their lentil salad with Mani smoked pork and orange is sublime.
The celebrated author Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, in his latter years lived just to the south of Kardamyli in Kalamitsi Bay. The house is now owned by the Bentaki Museum. If you are lucky you may be able to book to see his house although this was suspended in August 2020 due to Covid 19 restrictions. The house is very well hidden behind walls and trees but I managed to find it and have a glimpse from the oustide.
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 lovely 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 rather promising but soon degenerated into a muddy, slippery slide. It then disappeared from sight altogether so we were rather sensible and turned back.
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.
The other way to the monastery is to follow the dry river bed up the gorge from Kardamyli, we will try this next time.