VathiaThe Máni is the middle one of the three peninsulas which reach out from the south of the Peloponnese. It is traversed by the tail of the Taygetos range. This remote, hilly and barren region was able, throughout all Greece's periods of foreign rule, to preserve a degree of independence. For centuries the Máni was racked by feuds between different clans, who built the defensive towers still to be seen in many of the little towns and villages.This unproductive land is now increasingly being abandoned by its inhabitants. Its great attraction lies in its beautiful mountain scenery, at heights of up to 1,215m/3,985ft, its picturesque villages and its numerous old chapels, many of them in a state of ruin but still of interest for their wall paintings. Much of the Máni can be reached only on foot or from the sea.
Areopolis & Kardamyli, Greece
Going southwest from Gythion or south from Sparta, we pass the ruined Frankish castle of Passava (10km/6mi) and cut across the peninsula to Areópolis (26km/16mi; pop. 610), on the west coast. From there a road runs north along the coast to Kalamáta (82km/51mi), passing Itylos, with the Turkish fortress of Kélefa, Áyios Nikólaos, with the Frankish castle of Léfktron, and Kardamyli, which Patrick Leigh Fermor calls "Byzantium restored".
Areópoli - Límenas
Límenas is the port of Areópolis. The Mavromichalis mansion here has been converted into a museum.
Stalactitic Caves, Dyros, Greece
Eight km/5 mi south of Areópolis is Pyrgos Dyrou, with the stalactitic caves of Dyros (5 km/3 mi west; restaurant, bathing). Farther south is Kitta (tower houses). The road continues to Yerolimín, beyond which are the villages of Alíka and Kyparissós.
Aleopotripa Cave has several vaults with long corridors. Inside is a lake. The cave has an interesting history with many bones of humans and animals having been found here. The cave is open to visitors.
At the southernmost tip of the peninsula is Cape Taínaron (Matapán). In ancient times this was thought to be one of the entrances to the underworld, where Herakles descended in quest of the dog Curberos (Cerberus). More recently, Cape Matapán is remembered as the scene of a naval action in the World War II.On the east coast of the peninsula, 5km/3mi north of the cape, is the 16th century Turkish fortress of Pórto Káyio.
Vathia, at the southernmost point on Máni accessible by car, is a sight worth seeing. It has a cluster of remarkable towers, many of which have been converted into guest houses.
Yerolímenas is a typical Maniot village. It stands on the coast, beside a small natural harbor surrounded by prickly pears and olive trees.
Porto Sternes - Sanctuary of Poseidon Tainaron
Porto Sternes is where the Sanctuary of Poseidon Tainaron once stood. Today a chapel to the Asomatos Saints occupies the site. Many of the ancient stones were reused in its construction.Further from the site is the so-called cave of Hades, where Poseidon was once worshipped.
Gythion is a port on the Gulf of Laconia, 46km/29mi south of Sparta and 24km/15mi west of the mouth of the Evrótas.Gythion is a good base from which to visit the Máni peninsula (26km/16mi), Sparta (46km/29mi), Mistra (51km/32mi) and Monemvasía (60km/37mi).Boat services from and to Piraeus, Kythira and Monemvasía. Bus connections with Sparta and Areópolis (Máni).Yacht supply station.
Marathonísi - Tzannetakis Tower
The island of Marathonísi, connected with the mainland by a causeway, was the ancient Kranai, on which according to tradition Paris spent his first night with Helen, whom he had carried off from Sparta. Near the north end of the town is a Roman theater.The center of the islet is dominated by the Tzannetakis tower.
East of Gythion is the Frankish castle of Passava, which is well worth a visit.