The Mani

Peloponnese

The Mani in the south of the Peloponnese is the most southerly part of the Greek mainland and famous for its rugged landscape, feuds, and tower houses.

A Tower House in the ManiA Tower House in the Mani

Of the three peninsulas that jut southward on the Peloponnese, the central 'finger' is the Mani. Its tip at Cape Matapan (Akra Tenaro) is the southernmost point of the Greek mainland, and the legendary entrance to Hades (Hell). Even without such associations, you know that when you enter the Mani you are entering a very special part of Greece.

The landscape becomes much more barren and rugged in the south of the region, known as the Lower Mani, where you will start to see the distinctive stone tower houses that hint at the violence that existed here in the past.

The Mani

Family Feuds

The remoteness of the Mani meant that it was always a place of escape or refuge, and the families who settled here in the 15th century became very clan-like, fighting bitterly for the best areas of land. The Nyklian family were dominant and at first they alone had the right to build onto their properties the characteristic tall, square, stone towers, which were used for both defence and attack. The taller the tower, the easier it was to fire down on enemies through the narrow slits of windows.

Eventually other families began to build towers, each trying to build as high as possible. If one family offended another, or killed someone, then a feud began, heralded by the ringing of church bells and a retreat by the respective families into their towers. Such feuds often lasted for years and down generations, as the sense of honour was great. There was no difficulty in keeping the tower houses supplied as women were protected and could continue to bring food and drink into the towers for the men. 

Mani beachThe Mani Does Have Beaches Too!

Tower Houses in The Mani

The only hiatus in the feuding came at harvest time when a truce was called. A feud could only be ended by total annihilation or capitulation by one party. The last recorded feud of this kind took place in 1870 in Kita, and was stopped only by the intervention of the Greek army.

Kita is one place where the tower houses survive, and there are also several clustered dramatically in the village of Vatheia, in the far south of the Mani, but you will see others as you travel around, sometimes just a single tower in an isolated village. 

Read this account of Exploring the Mani by Bike.

Kardamyli

Kardamyli in the ManiKardamyli

There is much more to the Mani, though, than feuds and a barren landscape. Several delightful fishing villages welcome visitors in summer, such as Stoupa and Kardamyli. Just outside Kardamyli is the grave of the British travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989) who loved the area. He was inspired by one of his heroes, another British travel writer, Patrick Leigh Fermor. Fermor lived in Kardamyli for many years and his house still stands. His travel book, Mani, is essential reading if you plan to travel in the region

Around the Mani

The northern region, known as the Outer Mani, is dominated by the mountain range of Taygetos, a defiant spine of rock climbing to a height of 7,885 ft (2,404 m). The lower slopes offer wonderful walking opportunities, as well as a scenic backdrop of pine forests, but seek the advice of local guides if you plan to do anything more adventurous. 

Houses in the Mani

Diros Caves

The main town of the Inner Mani, the southern part of the peninsula, is Areopoli. This town provides all the facilities you might want, including a few hotels, but it is not the best place to be based for any length of time. On the coast a few miles south of Areopolis is one of the region's main attractions, the Spilia Dirou, or Diros Caves

You can combine a 30-minute boat ride into the underground cave network with a short exploration on foot of the Alepotripa Caves. Both have dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. Those in the Diros Caves are enhanced by the echoey, damp atmosphere and striking reflections in the water.

Gythio

Gythio in the ManiGythio

The main town on the east coast of the Mani is Gythio, which is also the capital of the whole area but very different in style from the rest of the Mani. It's a busy and prosperous little port, with several good restaurants around its attractive harbour. With the remains of a Roman theatre, beaches on its outskirts, and a good choice of accommodation, it's a good place to be based and to relax while you make forays into the rest of the Mani. 

Mani sunset

You might like these other Peloponnese pages...

  • Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese

    The Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese is the best book on the Greek region which includes attractions like Mycenae, Epidavros, Olympia, Monemvasia and Nafplion.

  • Peloponnese: Travel Information about the Peloponnese in Greece

    The Peloponnese in Greece has such sights as Olympia, Mycenae, the Mani, Nafplion, Corinth and Epidavros.

  • Kalamata

    Kalamata in the Peloponnese is the area's second-biggest city and is world-famous for the quality of its olives and for the nearby site of Ancient Messene.

  • Patras

    Patras, or Patra, in the Peloponnese is Greece's third-largest city, home to Greece's largest Carnival, with many Roman and Greek remains, museums and churches.

  • Corinth

    Corinth has four aspects to it, which are the Corinth canal, the modern town of Corinth, nearby Ancient Corinth, and above that Akrokorinthos or Upper Corinth.

  • Ancient Olympia

    Travel guide to Ancient Olympia in the Peloponnese of mainland Greece, home to the original Olympic Games.

  • Mycenae

    Mycenae in the Greek Peloponnese was a royal palace and is famous for the royal tombs, Lion Gate, and was excavated by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.

  • The Nemean Games

    The Nemean Games, like the Olympic Games, take place every four years but, unlike the Olympics, anyone can apply to take part and run in the original stadium.

  • Nafplion

    Nafplion in the Peloponnese was the Greek capital before Athens and today is a charming waterfront town with good restaurants, museums, shopping, beaches, old fortresses and a delightful atmosphere.

  • Mystra

    The ruined Byzantine city of Mystra sits on the top and the slopes of a hill that juts out from the plain and is one of the most remarkable places in Greece.

  • Monemvasia

    Monemvasia in the Peloponnese is the Greek Rock of Gibraltar and is a huge offshore rock which conceals a tiny town connected to the mainland by a single road.

  • Monemvasia Book Review

    Greece Travel Secrets reviews the photography book Monemvasia with extracts from works by Yiannis Ritsos and Nikos Kazantzakis.

  • Epidavros

    The ancient theatre at Epidavros is one of Greece's greatest attractions, ranking alongside the Acropolis and the Palace at Knossos in Crete, and it is easily the finest theatre in Greece.

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