East Mani - Best kept secrets
East Mani, Vathia – An amazing village
The Mani’s most spectacular village..Vathia, a tourist destination that is not to be missed…. An amazing village!
The tower houses of the Mani remain a secret treasure of mainland Greece.
“The bond among stone, soil and pride through the marvel of simplicity in the architectural lines”…….
The eye of the visitor is captivated as he reaches the Vathia settlement, consisted of about 70 stone towers, lined up one next to another, at the top of the mountain ridge. Vathia is a fine example of typical Maniot architecture and a real treasure in the history of Greek architecture as a whole.
History buffs will delight in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s account of staying overnight in a Mani tower in his wonderful book “Mani.” Vathia begins to be referred in historical texts of the 16th century.
Building activity was fervent in the 18th century and Vathia reached its heyday in the 19th as it became the capital of the area. Most wealth in the village came from piracy. In 1980, the Greek National Tourism Organization restored several towers into hostels.
Leave your car by the roadside and walk along the narrow lane that winds through the village.
Walk the time strewn paths between the towers, exploring the ruins, especially in spring when wild flowers cover the nearby hills with breathtaking views.
The village is about 2 km away from the sea, and is probably the most photographed area of Mani.
East Mani, Limeni-New Oitylo-Karavostasi
The dominant feature of this area is the glorious bay of Oitylo, once a harbour for shipping and piracy, now a growing resort aimed at attracting tourism. Despite their small distance it should not we make the error unify the “marks of” trick.
Karavostasi – lies at the bottom of the slope. It was also known as “Little Algier” because here found shelter the pirates of Aegean and Mediterranean. There are a couple of tavernas along with some traditional hotels (Mani’s style and architecture). It is also possible to take a boat trip from here that explores Palaeolithic caves and gives a commentary on local history. Call to Mr. Dimitris from “Elixirion” traditional Guest Houses.
In the centre of trick is found New Oitylo , a pebbly beach, that it been born in the 20th century and it is developed tourist, offering lodging in the travellers (a number of cafes/tavernas/hotels stretch along the water’s edge).
……… Impresses with his picturesqueness and the maintenance of characteristics of Mani in the architecture
On your way from Areopoli down the mountain side, in a little bay with deep blue coloured sea and the stone built houses, literally hanging from the rocky slopes, you will encounter a magical place called Limeni. This little village was once a settlement and port belonging to the Mavromichali family. It is very picturesque and of a unique beauty as it combines harmoniously the sea and the unique landscape. Limeni has tall Mani’s houses, proud towers and traditional fish taverns lapped by the waves on the shore. Its crystal clear waters from undercurrent of fresh water that finds its way into the little cove make Limeni a favourite spot for a swim.
The Mavromichalai Palace (the historic tower-house) prevails in Limeni, which is a unique structural block that belonged to the famous captain-mpei of Mani who played a leading part in the Greek rebellion of 1821. The ruined tower-house of the Mavromichalis family, resembling a Norman church, was rennovated on 2007 with great respect to the historic and architectural individuality of the building into a modern hotel and offers its visitors a combination of contemporary luxury with traditional Mani aesthetics.
A short walk in Limeni further along by the rocks brings you to Apidima and Kalamakia where recent archaeological excavations have unearthed major Palaeolithic finds, including a human skeleton from 300,000 years ago and the fossilised bones of prehistoric animals. The church of Panagia Vrettis and its bell-tower make an impressive sight by the shore. (It was a small convent here, now derelict, but some of the frescos are still visible in the chapel that has no roof).
Today Limenii is one of the most picturesque settlements in Greece, renowned for its fish tavernas next to the sea shore and the charming background of the Mavromichalis tower.
Limeni located in just 5 km from Areopoli and approximately 27 km from Gythion.
Believe us…….the colour of the water and the amazing view will stay in your memory for a long time!
East Mani, Areopolis – the city of Ares
Areopoli means ‘the city of Ares’ – the God of War – and the name were only adopted in the late 1830s after the Greek War of Independence in honour of the Maniates’ warlike propensities. Before that it had the Slavic name Tsimova – and it is likely that some locals continue to use this appellation.
It is regarded as the heart of the Mani district and is one of the most attractive traditional villages in Greece. It shares with the villages of Vatheia and Kita, also in Mani, the designation of traditional village of exceptional beauty in Greece. Impressive and imperious, Areopolis literally rises out of the past. Stroll along the cobbled lanes that wind everywhere in the village and you will learn a lot about the tower houses and fortified building complexes of the Mavromihalis, Pikoulakis, Barelakou and Kapetanakou families.
You can walk across historic 17th March Square, where the leaders of the Greek War of Independence in 1821 first prayed in the seventeenth-century church of the Archangels, the one with the tall bell tower, raised the flag of the revolution and then began their task of freeing Greek towns and villages before joining ranks with forces from the rest of Greece.
Byzantine churches with unusual wall paintings, the War Museum, the Cavalry Museum, the old olive press and millstones, the Museum of Maniot Religious Beliefs in Pikoulakis Tower, buildings made of huge blocks of stone that bear witness to its great age, these things and many more combine to make you feel you are walking in a mediaeval castle where time has stood still since the 19th century.
For Mani enthusiasts (who speak or read Greek) it is also worth noting that on the west side there is a rather splendid bookshop which specialises in Mani related matter and is run by local enthusiast Georgios Dimakogiannis, originally from near Kotronas, who also edits and publishes a magazine on Mani (Mani: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow).
Areopolis is an attractive tourist destination summer or winter since it has lots to offer and make your stay a pleasant one at any time of the year. Here you can go on a wonderful journey in a time machine that will show you history and romance and will arouse your emotions.
East Mani, Itilo – one of the oldest towns
The town was a major Maniate centre in the 17th and 18th century and got the appellation ‘Little Algiers’ due to its thriving slave trade. There was an ancient city here, Oitylos, named in Homer, and it is reported by Pausanius that the town was worth visiting for the sanctuary of Sarapis and a large wooden idol of Apollo in the marketplace. The latter has long gone but the town is dotted with ancient columns and capitals built into later buildings and the likely position of the temple to Sarapis is the church of the Soter a wonderful niche in the cliffs below the acropolis of Itilo.
In the 17th century there were two major emigrations from Itilo. The major Turkish incursion of 1670 and the building of the fortress of Kelefa a cannon shot away from Itilo and dominating the bay must have sorely cramped the locals’ dealing in Muslim slaves, and trade with the west would have been taxed mercilessly. In fact Randolph’s list of Turkish garrisons suggests that not only Kelefa was a Turkish garrison but Itilo itself. This, combined with inter-family rivalry, meant that in 1671 the Itriani family moved to Italy and in 1675 the Stephanopoli tribe moved to Corsica, first to Paomia later to Cargèse. (Patrick Leigh Fermor gives very detailed information on these migrations and the settlements the Iatrani and Stephanopoli clans established in Tuscany and Corsica respectively.) Their descendants still live their and there is a stone memorial to this passage in the square above the main church of Itilo and the two towns are still in close contact. As with many of these later town twinning memorials, this one was laid in 1991, the inscription tells one more about the various dignitaries of modern day Cargèse and Itilo than it does of the people who left in the late 17th century.
The nineteenth century French novelist, Jules Verne cruised the Mediterranean in his yacht and visited Itilo in the 1860s. The location, the stories of the wild Maniates and their Piracy so inspired him that his novel ‘L’Archipel en Feu’ starts with the image of a small Levantine craft hugging the wind in an attempt to find harbour underneath Itilo in October 1827. The story, not one of his most famous, concerns the pirates of the Greek Archipelago and is interesting from the point of view about the Maniates.
Itilo has become a backwater now, Areopolis being the leading town in the area of East Mani stretching as far south as Vathia. However it is still a largish village and one can spend a pleasant few hours wandering round its labyrinthine streets and just below its cliffed south-western edge are the church of the Soter and below that the exquisitely decorated monastery of the Dekoulou.
East Mani, Beaches
Limeni, New Oitylo, Karavostasi, Valtaki or Shipwreck, Selinitsa, Mavrovouni, Vathi… The area has unique natural beauties, bays and beaches along the Laconian coast till the Cape Tenaron.
On your way from Areopoli down the mountain side, in a little bay with deep blue coloured sea and the stone built houses, literally hanging from the rocky slopes, you will encounter a magical place called Limeni. Its crystal clear waters from undercurrent of fresh water that finds its way into the little cove make Limeni a favourite spot for a swim.
Karavostasi, Neo Oitylo
The legendary Karavostasi stands on the coastline of Itilo, attracting numerous visitors. It was also known as Little Algeri because it was used as a landing stage by pirates. A bit further, there is Neo Itilo, the seaport of Areopolis. The area offers fine dining in restaurants and taverns and accommodation in beautiful hotels.
The dominant feature of this area is the glorious bay of Oitylo, once a harbour for shipping and piracy, now a growing resort aimed at attracting tourism. There is a pebbly beach at Neo Oitylo backed by a number of cafes and tavernas and further along the coast the smaller bay of Limeni has a couple of fish tavernas overlooking incredibly turquoise water, making a perfect place for lunch.
Beautiful pebbled beach with crystal waters adjacent to the site of Gytheion.
A nice Beach with sand. It is the closest beach to the town of Gythio and is located at the beginning of the road from Gythio to Skala.
Close to Gythio, one of the most beautiful areas of the city. A very beautiful and quiet sandy beach, with stunning beauty.
At only 2 km south of Gythio lies the beach of Mavrovouni. The beach is 5km long and it has the advantage that it is never crowded. In the morning (from 08:00 to 12:00) it is perfect for those who love to swim and later in the afternoon the wind benefits those who love to windsurf. Watching the windsurfers is still a very interesting show for those who lie on the beach. Along the beach you will find several taverns and cafes.
Moreover, it offers a proper environment for the caretta-caretta sea turtles, an endangered species, to lay their eggs. Their nests are protected by Archelon, a greek society for the Protection of the Sea Turtle.’,
Vathi is one of the nicest and largest beaches in Mani, with thin white sand, shallow waters and surrounded by lush vegetation. The beach has sunbeds, parasols and a beach volley court. The village and the resort area attract a lot of tourists during the summer season. There are several hotels, shops and restaurants in the area. Along its crystal-clear seashore, every year little Careta-Careta sea turtles are born on Vathi beach.
Porto Kagio Beach
Sand and pebbles in front of the picturesque harbor with fishing boats, but people come here mainly for the taverns. Porto Cayo, along with marble, which seems to have turned their backs are essentially the only beaches on the southern tip of Mani. Located at the southeastern tip of the peninsula. A winding asphalt road leading downwards to this ‘Cycladic’ port among the barren hills.In the summer you might even get regattas. If you dive for octopus and fish, take with you all the paraphernalia. The area is a famous fishing spot.
A sand-hidden surprise among the bare hills on the road to Vathia – Tenaro, on the southwestern tip of the Mani peninsula. The beach is beautiful, with sand and pebbles, while the lunar landscape around it adds to the charm. On the hill above the beach you will find a couple of taverns and rented rooms.
Small pebbled beach, next to the beach, archaeological site – Temple of Poseidon with amazing mosaic….. Also there is the Byzantine church of Asomatos. The beach is 1 km away from Cape Tenaro with spectacular views of the Aegean. Of course, the beach is not organized, so make sure to bring the essentials.
Gerolimenas is one of the most beautiful beach and traditional villages of Laconia. Located at the southern tip of Mani in the homonym bay, northwest of Cape Teinaro. In front of the homonymous village you will find a small but stunning beach with emerald waters and beautiful pebbles.
Gerolimena derives from the Greek words ‘Ieros Limin’ which means ‘sacred port’. This village was once a port of great interest. Numerous traditional restaurants, cafés and accommodations are open all year round waiting for you to pay a visit. Taste fresh fish by the seashore and enjoy the quiet and fascinating sea view.
The sound of the sea, playing with the shiny pebbles sparkling sea, taking a blue-green color of the olives are reflected on them, making the beach Kotrona one of the best places for swimming and lunch at the northeast of Mani. The beautiful pebble creek we describe, is located between the village and the village Kotrona Flomochori and considered as the ‘Island’ by locals. Although hidden in a quiet spot amidst the olive trees and carob trees, the beach is particularly popular with families that spend their holidays in the region, which combine swimming with ouzo at the taverns.
Valtaki or Glyfada or Shipwreck Beach
The photogenic “Dimitrios shipwreck”, crystal clear sea and tranquility!
If you drive east along the coast road from fishing town of Gythio, at the head of the Laconian Gulf , the beached and burnt-out wreck of the MV Dimitrios hoves into view as you look down to Glyfada Beach.
This vessel caught fire and ran aground on the beach around 30 years ago – and has never been salvaged.
You can walk along the beach to stand in the shadow of the towering, rusting shipwreck – it makes a great photograph – while swimmers and snorkellers head around the boat to examine it up close.
The Dimitrios shipwreck in Glyfada (also known as Valtaki) beach is close to Gythio town, Mani.
East Mani, Kelefas Castle
Kelefas is a castle and village in East Mani near Itilo village.
The Kelefas Castle was built in 1670 by Turks with the collaboration of the pirate Limperaki Gerakari whose origin was from Mani. Today some parts of the exterior walls survived from destruction, two peels and partial structural ruins inside the castle.
The Kelefas Castle prevails among the area of Itilos cove. It worths your visit in order to enjoy the splendid view.
It’s easy to get to the castle these days as the track out to it has recently been asphalted and there’s even a car park.
East Mani, Dekoulou monastery
The unique Dekoulou monastery was built in 16th century. Inside the monastery there is the triune church of Zoodochou Pigis as well as the churches of Agios Nikolaos, Agios Panteleimon.
The monastery is reputed to have some of the best post-Byzantine frescos, from around 1765, depicting stories from the Bible, and of Orthodox saints. You can see inside the first church rare pieces of drawn figures of saints that illustrate among other images, the picture of Pantokratora (one of the attributed names adjectives for Jesus) surrounded by the zodiac circle.
The Ainoi (or praises from the Psalms, from the Bible) is a circular fresco on the ceiling with Christ at the centre and the sun, moon and signs of the zodiac circling around him. It usually also features a swathe of other creatures gathered around to praise Christ, and these can include anything from dragons to fantastical beasts, depending on the imagination of the artist, which is part of the joy of Mani frescos .The artist is working from hearsay and paints it with not very large, almost human ears, a long trumpet-shaped trunk, tusks growing sideways out of its mouth and almost cloven feet.
The west wall is covered with the crucifixion and below this, a large, dramatic rendition of the Last Judgement that serves as a warning to the congregation of their fate if they stray. Christ enthroned is flanked by the Virgin and John the Baptist and hosts of Saints. Below this, an empty throne with the symbols of the Passion (cross, spear and sponge), flanked by Adam and Eve depicts the ‘Second Coming’. A river of fire flows down to the gaping jaws of hell – depicted as a fish-like beast. In the centre, the hand of God holds a balance on which the souls of the dead are weighed. Those that are ‘saved’ are to the left of the picture and include the ‘good thief’ crucified with Christ in fulfilment of the statement that he would go to Paradise. The Archangel Michael is prodding devils with his spear and they are in turn grabbing the condemned souls and hurling them down into the fiery pit. Adjacent to this, partially obscured and faded, is Satan himself, the Great Beast with twisted horns. Over to the right is a human depiction of the sea, a woman ‘riding side-saddle’ on one of many fish all carrying human body-parts in their mouths and holding a ship in her hand – depicting the passage ‘and the sea shall give up her dead’. The whole picture is extremely ‘busy’ and well worth taking the trouble to see. The ornate wooden iconostasis has recently returned from restoration in Crete. The other ruined buildings by the church were once monks’ cells.
The monastery hosted an ultimately unsuccessful diplomatic meeting in 1770 when the Russian envoys, Alexis and Theodore Orlov came to Mani with a force of 1000 men to help in the struggle against the Turks. Putting aside their disappointment with such a paltry army, the Maniats strategised a campaign only for the whole thing to go wrong ending in the Mavromichalis’s and Orlovs falling out and Turks sending in a vicious Turko-Albanian army to restore supremacy in the whole of the Peloponnese (known as ‘Orlofika’).