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Mani Peninsular, Peloponesse, Greece

Updated: 15 hours ago

We visited in June 2023 and May 2024


A view of Stoupa, Mani Peninsular, Greece
Stoupa, Mani Peninsular, Greece

The Mani Peninsular in the Greek Peloponesse is a great alternative to holidaying on the Greek islands. We were surprised and delighted by what we found when we visited for the first time in 2023. It is a historic land of mystery, of feudal fortresses, jaw-dropping scenery and tradition. To get the most from your visit, you will need a car to explore its meandering roads as well as suitable footwear to discover the area and its awe-inspiring atmosphere.


You can walk the land of the Ancient Spartans, see beautiful rolling hills, striking medieval fortresses and towers and gorgeous hidden beaches. You will encounter and enjoy the hospitality of the proud Maniots, the legendary people that claim to be the Ancient Spartans’ direct descendants; with good reason, since the Maniots were pivotal in the Revolution of 1821 which liberated the Greeks from the Ottoman rule and eventually founded modern-day Greece.


Kalamata airport, gateway to the Mani Peninsular

You can fly to Athens and drive to Kalamata, the gateway to the peninsular, which takes 2-3 hours. However, we flew directly to Kalamata airport, which is also a military base. The passenger terminal is very basic; it's a bit like going back in time. If you can, when you book your flight, select a seat near to the front of the plane so you can disembark quickly. The queue for passport control can be very slow, though they do let families with very young children and the more infirm jump the queue, which is the right thing to do even if it means others waiting a bit longer.


As the facilities at the airport are very limited, when returning to the airport Casa Marina at the marina is a great place to stop for a drink and something to eat. There is plenty of free parking and it's only a 15 minute drive back to the airport. A lovely place for a last bit of Greek hospitality.


Car hire

The usual names are in the arrivals hall; most use shuttle buses as the terminal is very small. Just wait for your shuttle bus; it will turn up!


We used Exer (despite the rather negative Trip Advisor reviews of other Exer locations) booked through jet2carhire.com. The manager was very friendly and efficient and the cars were good quality.


Things to see and do

Methoni Castle
Methoni Castle

Methoni

Methoni Castle is defintely worth visiting. Entrance fee was €3, cards accepted.


We got there early to avoid the heat; there isn't much shade in the castle grounds. It is an amazing place to wander around; very atmospheric with an interesting history over the centuries. As you walk further in to the vast castle grounds, the place gets better! On the south part of the walls is the spectacular sea gate; a stone-paved path leads over a small bridge to the small fortified islet of Bourtzi.


After spending a couple of hours in the castle, we cooled down in the rather nice town square with a frappé in the café Surrealisme.


Pilos

If you arrive in Pilos from the south, don't follow Google Maps to the main square, you'll end up in a maze of small, hilly streets! Stick to the obvious main road.


Pilos is a working port, with a bustling shady square. Parking by the main square is limited.


Pilos has lots of authentic Greek restaurants, a castle, four museums, the Monument of the Three Admirals and much more. If you can tolerate the hustle and bustle and find a parking spot, a morning in Pilos is well worth it.


The AB supermarket just south of Pilos has a good selection.


Gialova tavernas
Gialova

Gialova

After the busy Pilos, Gialova was much more relaxing. We had a great lunch at Spitiko Concept. There was plenty of choice on the menu, sitting immediately behind the beach; good food and great service. Nice breeze to keep us cool.


There are several other restaurants right next to the beach.


Don’t be put off by the construction going on just behind the main beach/restaurant area. We got the sense that they are trying to make the place more upmarket, but haven’t got the visitor numbers yet. Very quiet with a relaxed vibe and a good selection of smart shops.


A few kilometres further north is Costa Navarino, a huge Westin/Marriott upmarket resort with 5* hotels, golf course, spa, over 20 restaurants and bars, a range of sports and cultural activities. We didn't actually visit, but their website looks amazing!


A taverna in Koroni, Greece
Koroni

Koroni

This small fishing port town has a relaxed, almost hippy, quirky vibe. There are several restaurants alongside the quay offering lovely views across the sea.

The castle at Koroni is an extensive site with spectacular views over the sea and down to the town. Just follow the signs in town to the castle gate.


A few kilometres away, we visited the Peroulia Beach Restaurant 1984 which had comfortable sun beds and a shady restaurant. It had quite an upmarket feel and would be a lovely place to while away a day. A stone's throw away are several paces to stay, including Peroulia Beach Houses. Just note, that the final couple of kilometres are on a very narrow twisty road. Take care going round the corners!


The view across Founikounta bay, Mani Peninsular, Greece
The view across Founikounta bay

Founikounta

There are plenty of tavernas and bars overlooking the bay catering for all tastes. There are also tavernas one street back from the sea front. We named it souvlaki street as everyone seemed to be eating souvlaki, gyros and the like. Sunbeds are available on the beach along with a great inflatable floating 'adventure playground' for children of ALL ages!


As with several towns we visited, the road through the town is closed to traffic in the evening.


Lemon Drops, Founikounta
Lemon Drops, Founikounta

There are several beach bars off the main road, with parking; our favourite was Lemon Drops. Very relaxed vibe, good pizza and good service. There are plenty of sunbeds and bean bags dotted around.


Back in Founikounta, Elena's was popular and we had a good dinner there.


Tikla restaurant, Kardamyli, Greece
Tikla, Kardamyli

Kardamyli

The beautiful village of Kardamyli is so ancient that it is mentioned in Homer's Iliad. In Book 9 of the Iliad, Agamemnon tries to entice Achilles to rejoin the Trojan War by offering him Kardamyli and six more cities in the area.


Kardamyli is not only gorgeous, but it boasts six beautiful beaches to enjoy, and several sites to see all clustered together in its region.


Mourtzinos Castle, Kardamyli, Greece
Mourtzinos Castle, Kardamyli

Make sure to visit Mourtzinos Castle whilst you are in Kardamyli (€3 entrance fee, takes cards). This is the complex of an old Maniot family descended from a noble Byzantine line and the place where Theodoros Kolokotronis, one of the leaders of the Greek Revolution of 1821, arrived on that year to organise the revolution in the area. Stroll along its many narrow pathways, see its various houses and structures, and experience how it was to be a Maniot many years ago!


After spending time at the castle, a lovely shady spot to have a drink is at the upmarket wine bar Aquarella with a view over the turquoise sea.


There are also a few shops and cafés on the main road including Lola Frozen Yoghurt. The restauarant Tikla looked lovely with good Trip Advisor reviews; unfortunately it wasn't open when we visited.


Agios Nikalaos at night looking over the harbour to some tavernas
Agios Nikalaos at night

Agios Nikalaos

Agios Nikolaos is a lovely small authentic fishing village. It is also called Selinitsa, which means “small moon”. It is very picturesque huddled around a small harbour where you can enjoy your morning coffee, looking at the beautiful old structures blending in with newly built villas.


We were staying just outside Agios Nikalaos so tried several of the restaurants situated around the harbour's edge. Lithos was our favourite for lunch and great for an early evening drink watching the fishing boats go out to catch dinner or the 'menu' for the next day!


There is a large free car park at the southern end of the town.


As with many places we visited, the road running along the harbour was closed to traffic in the evening.


A view across Stoupa, Mani Peninsular, Peloponesse, Greece
Stoupa

Stoupa

Originally called Potamos, which means ‘river’, Stoupa was renamed based on the word ‘stoupi’ which means ‘wad’ or ‘lint’, from the materials the locals would soak in the sea to prepare them for processing.


Stoupa is located between two gorgeous sandy beaches with clear, shallow, warm blue waters that are amazingly transparent. As well as the beaches, there is a lot more to experience here: from small rivers and caves to explore, to the fortress (Kastro) built on the ruins of the ancient Acropolis of Stoupa.


There is a selection of shops selling clothing, shoes, jewellery, bags and couple of small supermarkets (a larger one is on main road). There is a craft market on Fridays.


There are many restauarants and bars, including Mylo, an Indian restaurant. We didn't try it (seemed wrong having a curry in Greece!), but the smells as we walked past were wonderful. There were arty photos of their lovely food dishes hung around the restaurant; a nice touch.


Ammos Gyros Restaurant, Stoupa, Greece
Ammos Gyros Restaurant, Stoupa

We tried several places for drinks and food, including:

  • Aktaion, good for drinks and people watching

  • Ammos, great for good value gyros and souvlaki

  • Akrogiali, a great place for lunch with excellent service. We were going to have dinner there watching the sunset, but realised it would be incredibly hot and sunny until the sun went down!

Stoupa’s attractions are many, but the jewel in its crown is the beautiful beach of Kalogria. Not only because Kalogria beach is notoriously gorgeous, but also because this is where the author Kazantzakis met with Alexis Zorbas in 1917 and their friendship blossomed, inspiring Kazantzakis to write his masterpiece Life of Alexis Zorbas, on which the movie Zorba the Greek is based.


A lot of Greece’s high-profile artists, authors, poets, actors and creators of the era were invited there by Kazantzakis.


The lovely Kalogria sandy beach looks almost tropical and has a selection of bars and restaurants. There are plenty of sunbeds but also areas where you can just lie on the sand and soak up the relaxing atmosphere.


A day trip south from Stoupa

Whilst staying in Agios Nikalaos, we took a day trip south. There were impressive views of the mountains and sea as we drove down the coast to Limeni and Areopoli.


A view over Limeni, Mani Peninsular
Limeni, Mani Peninsular

Limeni

Limeni is a very small village but we were slightly disappointed by it. It was a bit too 'glossy' and lacked authenticity. Mostly pricey, upmarket tavernas, though there are undeniably good views across the bay and to the mountains.


The bakery in Areopoli, Mani Peninsular
The bakery in Areopoli, Mani Peninsular

Areopoli

Areopoli is the capital city of the Laconic Mani. With its paved streets and stunning towers, you can feel the history of the town the moment you get there. Areopolis means ‘the town of Ares’, the god of war. The town is truly an ancient city, but also features in Greece’s modern history; it was the seat of one of the top chieftains of the Greek War of Independence, Petrombeis Mavromichalis, the statue of whom you will see in the town’s central square.


While you are in Areopoli, you must visit the famed tower houses that were built in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some have been turned into hotels, so you can have the experience of staying in one! Do not miss out on its churches, such as the Taxiarchos Church with its stunning belltower. And of course, you must try the food; Areopoli is famous for its pork dishes and local type of pasta, so make sure to sample both.


We had a relaxing coffee sitting in the shade outside Cliba8. Afterwards, it was lovely to wander through the quiet alleyways and soak up the atmosphere. Just make sure you avoid the tourist coach parties as they defrinitely detract from the peacefulness!


Areopoli also has Karavostasi beach, which is a beautiful pebble beach with places from which you can dive in its clear, clean blue waters.


Recommended reading

Bucket to Greece by V.D. Bucket (available from Amazon). An amusing series of books with stories and anecdotes written by a couple who moved to the peninsular several years ago.






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