From the luminous fishing village of Limeni to the charming and historic streets of Areopoli, the picturesque little towns in Greece’s far-southern Mani Peninsula offer an experience that can seem eons away from the crowds that gravitate to the country’s iconic sites — like the Parthenon in Athens and the islands of Santorini and Mykonos.
For many travelers, the stunning spots located on the Mani Peninsula in the southern region of the Peloponnese Peninsula are a bit under the radar. On my recent trip to Greece, I found that every Greek I talked to was well-versed in the charms of the Mani Peninsula (known simply as Mani), while many international travelers were not.
There’s no doubt that the Mani took me by surprise and I left feeling that its rugged beauty could rival those other well-known Greek spots. Here are seven places on southern Greece’s Mani Peninsula that should be on your Peloponnese itinerary.
My visit was a sponsored press trip through the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) and Spartan Routes tours, but all views are my own.
Picturesque stone-paved streets and quaint rock buildings make for an extraordinarily charming setting in the little village of Areopoli. But that is not all that the town along Mani’s west coast is known for. It is also heralded as the site where, in 1821, the Greek War of Independence from Ottoman rule began.
That history is obviously a point of pride for Areopoli, where statues, plaques, and the blue and white revolutionary flags are on abundant display. The village is also home to the impressive and well-preserved Church of Taxiarches and the Tower House. The Tower House was built by the Mavromichalis family, known for being instrumental in the start of the War of Independence. Our tour guide told us that the initial cry for Greek independence from centuries of Ottoman empire rule took place in front of that very building.
Along with the history and picturesque setting, Areopoli also features an array of fun tavernas, authentic bakeries, colorful outdoor cafés, and cozy hotels. For a convenient hotel within walking distance from downtown Areopoli, check out the quaint, rock-walled Castle Maini Hotel, which offers a great breakfast buffet and has the added bonus of an outdoor pool.
Just a few miles north of Areopoli is the little gem of Limeni, a fishing village that features a row of blond-toned stone tower houses that shimmer in the sunlight. Contrasting beautifully with the light-colored buildings is the turquoise-blue water of the sea, so clear that boats in the bay can appear to be floating on air.
Although Limeni is beautiful any time of day, it seemed to glow brightest at sunset, when the sky turned a lovely shade of orange and gold, and the far-away boats took on a dreamy appearance.
The coastline is rocky, but there are a number of staircases that lead down to the water. During hot weather, swimming in Limeni’s pretty cove is a popular activity.
Limeni is also home to a number of casual tavernas with outdoor seating looking out toward the sea. A stellar activity is to sit in one of the red or blue chairs along the sea wall, sipping a Greek beer or glass of the excellent local white wine — all followed up by a sunset dinner.
One of the best meals of my Greece trip was at Limeni’s wonderful Kourmas Seafood Restaurant, which served up an assortment of delicious seafood dishes, including a prawn spaghetti entrée served family-style that was the star of the evening.
Gerolimenas, another enchanting seaside town, offers a glimpse into a former Greek trading hub. As its name implies (translated to “sacred port”), Gerolimenas was once an important harbor that served as a fishing center, a shipyard, and an ice supplier.
Located near the southern tip of the Mani Peninsula, Gerolimenas fell into disrepair over the decades and is still in the process of restoration. When I visited in May 2023, construction was underway on a number of the old rock-tower buildings, as well as in the narrow streets.
The town features a pretty little white-pebble beach that is located along a cove, surrounded by the rustic Gerolimenas Hotel and Restaurant, as well as several tavernas and outdoor cafés.
Hauntingly beautiful scenes await in the little hilltop settlement of Vathia, a fortified village famous for its iconic towers. A tantalizing view of the towers is visible as you approach from the north and again as you depart toward the south.
Vathia is distinctive not just for its amazingly well-preserved rock architecture but also for the fact the village has been largely abandoned and unoccupied for decades. The narrow alleys and high stone walls offer beautiful views of the ocean, while the deserted buildings exude a somewhat eerie atmosphere. Adding to the ghost-town scene are the wildflowers and grasses that blow in the sea breeze.
Vathia is a wonderful stop on a drive down the Mani Peninsula and images of the deserted village are often used to symbolize the region. The sea views along the drive to the south are spectacular as well.
5. Cape Tainaron
For those who want to get to the very southernmost tip of mainland Greece, a hike along a rocky trail is required. The Cape Tainaron hike is iconic for several reasons, including the fact that it ends at Greece’s southern terminus. The trail also takes hikers to the site of the towering Cape Tainaron Lighthouse and passes by the fascinating ancient mosaics of the Sanctuary and Death Oracle of Poseidon Tainarios.
In addition, the hike offers simply stunning views of the rocky Laconian Peninsula and the blue, blue sea waters of southern Greece.
Even though the hike to the Cape Tainaron Lighthouse is rugged and rocky, it is definitely worth the effort. Hikers should expect some steep step-ups and piles of loose rocks along the way, but the hike is doable for moderately fit hikers. Hiking boots, sun hats, sunscreen, and plenty of water and snacks are recommended. I did the hike with a local guide through the 2407m Outdoor Experience, which turned out to be an informative and helpful experience.
A bit of pirate lore and an otherworldly setting come together in the tiny village of Mezapos, located about halfway down the Mani Peninsula’s west coast.
Legend has it that a famous pirate of the 18th century, Nikolos Sassaris, used the pretty little cove as his hideout. Following his death during a skirmish with Turkish ships, Sassaris’s treasure was said to remain hidden in the caves of Mezapos — a story that is still the stuff of local legend.
Today, Mezapos is a flat-out spectacular cove on a drive down the Mani’s west coast. It’s worth a stop to soak up views of the incredibly clear water and to watch the Greek fishermen who anchor their boats in the cove.
Located about 35 miles south of the Peloponnese city of Kalamata, Kardamyli is among the first stops on a trip south toward the Mani Peninsula. Considered the gateway to the Mani, Kardamyli is located right along the sea and offers great views of the rugged shoreline, as well as preserved buildings that feature a mix of Greek and Venetian design.
Kardamyli is also the home of the Mourtzinos Castle, a fortified complex that features a number of historic buildings including the Mourtzinos Tower — named after an important captain of the Greek Revolution of 1821. The complex’s arched gate, massive tower, Byzantine-style domed church, and great views of the surrounding region and sea make the castle a worthwhile stop on a visit to Kardamyli.
Pro Tip: Getting There
The Mani Peninsula is located about 4 hours southwest of Athens and about 2 hours southeast of Kalamata. Among the ways visitors access the Mani area are by rental car from Athens or Kalamata, or via a tour such as the Spartan Routes Tours By a Local that I participated in.