A five minute drive into the mountains above Stoupa leaves the bustle of tourists behind. The road takes you past the pretty villages of Pyrgos and Kastania and then north past ruins and abandoned monasteries.
There is also another lovely route below Kastania that heads south through the mountains through Kariovouni and Milia that has an abundance of churches, wonderful views and more.
It’s best to park on the road and walk into Pyrgos which is a sleepy mountain village tucked away on a bend in the road, so it’s easy to miss. You can wander around the attractive passages as well as take in the wonderful views of Stoupa. The tiny ‘museum’ always seems to be closed .
The Blauel Oil Factory just beyond Pyrgos is also worth a visit, it has a small shop selling their own olivey products. If the shop is closed you can buy their products in Stoupa or Kardamyli.
The Mani Sonenlink Festival is held every Summer in the Blauel owned Bio Hotel near Pyrgos. The varied repertoire of classical music is performed in the small modern open air amphitheatre in the hotel grounds. You can get tickets online or from some shops in Stoupa and Kardamyli. You can also purchase a place on the Music Bus which has several pick up points in the vicinity to get you there and back. A simple healthy veggie dinner can be purchased on the night at a reasonable price and there is also a bar. The night we went we witnessed a rather magical piano recital.
NOTE- The festival is having a hiatus for 2020, I hope that it will return in the near future.
We originally ‘discovered’ Kastania on our honeymoon. We were heading towards the Diros Caves and drove through the mountains looking for a taverna to have lunch. The main road sweeps past the village and you cannot see what it has to offer but that is the same for many villages in the Mani.
Park just beyond the tiny Byzantine church of Agios Ioannis and walk up the road which leads to the main square where there are two tavernas, a restored tower house and a church.
Klimataria Taverna, when it is open, is never busy when we visit and has a small selection of delicious food on offer.
On the far side of the valley from Agios Ionnis you can see an intriguing small building built into a cave. A local told us it was for the sheep! So now you know.
Wander through the alleyways and you will hopefully stumble across the ancient Church of St Peter which has lovely frescos and Agios Nikolaos with more stunning frescos.
Heading north from Kastania are more delights. The ruins of Kitrinaris Tower by the side of the main road has no path to it but is worth the scramble. The views from it are stunning.
Near the tower, on the hairpin bend on the main road, there is a track where you can park and then follow a steep path to the right which leads to the abandoned Samouli Monastery. Hidden from the road it’s an eerie and evocative place. The church was not locked when we visited so we could pop in.
You can walk to this monastery from Kitrinaris Tower. There is a promising path from the road on the bend which soon deteriorates. There is a small church which was locked when we visited, a tower house and some ruins to explore. The tower showed signs of recent habitation and renovation but the only occupants were bats who were not happy at being woken up.
Continue north and you eventually rejoin the main coast road before Kardamyli.