Rugged, desolate, mountainous, unspoiled are just a few words that describe this amazing region. Those words could also apply to other areas of Greece and do not do it justice, you need to get out there and see it for yourself. The majority of visitors rarely venture out of Stoupa. They are missing so much – the villages and towns of Kardamyli, Kastania and the Taygetos Mountains, Areopoli, Itylo Bay and the Diros Caves are all on your doorstep.
Farther afield, Gerolimenas, Gythio, Cape Tenaro and the near abandoned town of Vathia are all a delighful contrast to the resorts. If you want to explore you really do need to hire a car and drive. I love the fact that the further south you go the more desolate and barren it becomes. It’s stunning.
The area from south of Kalamata to Areopoli is known as Exo Mani. The area south of Areopoli is called Mesa Mani and as the land becomes more barren and settlements become few and far between you are in the Deep Mani.
Gruntie’s top 10 places to visit in the Mani
Here are my favritist places in the Mani, getting to them is half the fun as the journey by car is wonderful. They are not in any particular order but are arranged from North to South, sort of.
1. KARDAMYLI. Just a few miles north of Stoupa is Kardamyli. The main road goes straight through the town and although it looks pleasant from the road there are hidden treasures to discover – namely Old Kardamyli just inland from the main road. Click here for more info-https://gruntiestravels.com/kardamyli/
2. STOUPA. I love Stoupa. It’s a great base with wonderful restaurants, bars and beaches. It’s the perfect place to relax and it is well positioned to explore the rest of the Mani. Click here for more info –https://gruntiestravels.com/stoupa/
3. KASTANIA. A 15 minute drive into the Taygetos Mountains above Stoupa is the pretty village of Kastania. The village is hidden from view from the road so park up and then wander around marvelling at the beautiful churches and the restored tower house and then stop for lunch in the platea. Click here for more info – https://gruntiestravels.com/taygetos-mountains-above-stoupa/
4. ITYLO BAY. You will most likely pass by this magnificent bay on your way south to Areopoli. It’s worth an extended stop to take in the amazing views, visit Dekoulou Monastery and Kefela Castle or take a dip off the rocks at Limeni. Click here for more info– https://gruntiestravels.com/itylo-bay/
5. AREOPOLI. Areopoli is about an hour drive from Stoupa. It is hidden off the main road on a hill just to the south of Itylo Bay. Park on the edge of the small town and wander around the cobbled streets, it comes alive at night and there are some great restaurants and bars. Areopoli is not far from the Diros Caves which are also worthy of a visit. Click here for more info – https://gruntiestravels.com/areopoli/
6. DIROS CAVES. The famous caves are to the south of Areopoli and are wonderful, albeit rather touristy. Click here for more info- https://gruntiestravels.com/diros-caves/
7. GEROLIMENAS. As you head south from Areopoli you won’t see any supermarkets so stock up on snacks and water. You are leaving most tourists behind as you enter the Deep Mani. Gerolimenas is a pretty harbour village offering amazing views of the rugged coastline. It has a harbour lined with restaurants and some accommodation options. Click here for more info – https://gruntiestravels.com/gerolimenas/
8. VATHIA. Heading south again, the [nearly but not quite] abandoned village of Vathia is a wonderful sight. It’s an eerie place to explore and offers more wonderful views of the Deep Mani. The ruined village of Mountanistika is also nearby. Click here for more info – https://gruntiestravels.com/vathia/
9. GYTHIO. To the east of Areopoli and linked by a main road is the capital of the Mani – Gythio. It’s a bustling harbour fronted town flanked by wonderful sandy beaches [and a shipwreck]. Click here for more info– https://gruntiestravels.com/gythio/
10. CAPE TENARO This is as far south as you can get without getting wet! For more info click here – https://gruntiestravels.com/cape-tenaro/