The villages of Mani in Messinia preserve the local tradition however they have managed to combine it perfectly with a cosmopolitan mood, creating unique destinations for visitors. The landscape is dominated by the mountain, the majestic Taygetos, and the blue of the Messinian Gulf, where some of the most impressive beaches of the area are located, while the small villages give their own color.
With a history since ancient times and a leading role in all periods since, the villages of Messinian Mani are characterized by their own style a mixture of the old and the new, with the imposing towers of Mani and the modern infrastructure ready to host anyone who wants to enjoy the tranquility or explore their well-hidden secrets!
The villages of Messinian Mani, with the inexhaustible natural beauties, are worth visiting one by one, here we present you just a few of those you should not miss:
In an impressive, contrasting natural landscape, 38 kilometers southeast of Kalamata, lies the beautiful seaside village of Kardamyli. The stone-built village with the traditional architecture, the tiled roofs, and the restored towers lies in a sheltered cove at the foot of Mount Taygetos, in the theatrical setting composed by the olive groves next to the blue crystal waters, the lush slopes with the magnificent cypress trees with a background of remote snow-capped mountains and the enchanting sunsets of Messinian Bay.
Ancient Kardamili was the main harbor of the powerful ancient city-state of Sparta, to which it was connected through the mountainous “Royal Road”, parts of which are still preserved along the natural course of the Viros Gorge. The local legend wants the graves of the twin brothers of beautiful Eleni, Castoras and Polidefkis to be on the steep hill overlooking the sea behind the present village, the so-called Old Kardamili, where the rectangular cavities of two Hellenistic chamber tombs are carved on the vertical rock under the medieval castle Of the 12th century.
In this steep hill, where pottery and relics of all times have been found, was the citadel of the ancient city, one of the most well-fortified in antiquity. In the Byzantine years the area was under the Despotate of Mystras and, after the Turkish invasion in 1460, was a shelter for refugees who fled into caves. The Troupakis-Mourtzinou family, as it is known, became one of the strongest, most dominant families of Messinian Mani, ruling the surrounding area for two centuries, from its fortified tower-house in Old Kardamili, while they had a leading role in the declaration of the Greek Revolution, when together with Kolokotronis and other captains from Mania organised the liberation of Kalamata (March 23, 1821).
Paved paths connect Old Kardamili with the neighboring settlements of Petrovouni and Agia Sophia (Gournitsa), the post-Byzantine temple with magnificent panoramic views. In Kardamili is the end of the verdant gorge of Viros, which enchants the nature lovers with countless hiking trails and stunning views of the Taygetos peaks. In front of the picturesque harbor of Kardamili there is an extra jewel of the village, the verdant island of Meropi (or Amygdalonissos), on which are hidden ruins of Venetian walls and the one-aisled basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (1779).
Above the old harbor of Kardamili stands the so-called Vardia of Dimitrios, an observatory tower that supervised the area. From Kardamyli, continuing on the provincial road to the south, we meet the beaches of Kalamitsi, the beach of Foneas, Delphinia, Kalogria, Stoupa and others.
In the southern part of the Kalamon province of Messinian Mani, on the road from Kardamili to Laconia, there is the semi-mountainous (about 450m altitude) traditional settlement of Thalamon. The name was established in the 1940 census for the Kouthefari community, for the prehistoric city of the region.
The founding of the ancient city of Thalamai (meaning a cavity), based on finds that survive in the archaeological museum of Kalamata, dates back to the Neolithic years, but became famous during the period of the Spartan Age, thanks to its Panhellenic-known dream, initially dedicated to Pasiphae and later on to the sea goddess Ino. The worship of Castor and Polyhedra was also established in Thalames, since the city was considered the birthplace of the two Dioscours.
The sights of the area are the old Byzantine churches of Aghios Vassilios (12th century) with an imposing dome and the the very important frescoes, Prophet Elias (12th century), Prophet Elias (12th century) in the village of Somatiana with frescoes of 1280, St. Constantine (1669) and St. John with the unique appearance. In the center of Thalames, in the square with the centuries-old plane trees, there is a built fountain (known as a Jewish Well) dating back to 1714, characterized as a historic listed monument, with a built-in arched facade in which a section of an ancient column has been built and an illegible inscription.
With beautiful natural scenery, lacy beaches with crystal clear blue waters and unobstructed views of the Messinian Gulf, Avia, just 10 km southeast of Kalamata, is a popular holiday area with remarkable tourist traffic. The region owes its current name to the mythical king of Messenia, Kresphontis, who renamed her after the Peloponnese was conquered by the Dorians in honor of Avia, the daughter of Hercules and nanny of the son of Hercules and Diianeira.
Avia, persecuted by the Achaeans, had resorted to this place to save the infant by establishing a temple in honor of her father. It is known that Asklepieion functioned since antiquity and was probably destroyed in some of the barbarian raids that affected the Peloponnese in the early Byzantine period (4th-6th century). In 1775, the present church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was built on the ruins. Other monuments of Avia that have been declared historically preserved are the Churches of St.Haralampos, St. Dimitrios, St. Nikolaos and Evangelismos, as well as the building of the old olive mill in the mansion of Frangoulis.
The area’s attractions include St. George’s church in a panoramic position, the Santovas Gorge, the vast olive grove of the hinterland and the beautiful beaches of Archontiko, Koukkinos, Lykotropia, Paleochora, Portela, Patsourou, Poliana, Akrogiali, Santova.
Amphitheatrically built on a hillside of Taygetos, on the 12th kilometer of the Kampos-Kalamata road, the mountainous village of Altomori, Messinia, is inhabited only in the summer by a few breeders and some holidaymakers. The village, mentioned for the first time in 1618 with a population of 20 families, belonged during the Ottoman domination to the captain and the province of Zarnata and was a refuge of thieves.
It seems that the place took its name due to a robber or a fugitive who had fled there named Altomoros. The church of Agios Athanasios, built around 1865, is the main church of the village, while the post-Byzantine monastery of Agios Georgios belongs to Altomira. An important attraction is the cobblestone path of Mpiliovos, of the end of the 19th century which connected the settlement with the lowland villages of the area, to which most of the inhabitants finally settled after the end of the Second World War. In the summers, the locals return and revive their place with feasts and festivals.
The picturesque village of Doloi in west Mani, 24 km southeast of Kalamata, consists of the Ano and Kato Dolon settlements. Built on two hills, they have the advantage of overseeing the sea, remaining unseen by it. The area is inhabited since prehistoric times, as evidenced by Neolithic and Early Helladic shells (pieces of ceramics) have been found in a nearby cave. The former Doloi community included two other settlements, Callianica, one of the younger settlements of Mani that was probably created in the 19th century from the Kalliani family, and Kitries, a beautiful seaside settlement with lush vegetation and a fantastic beach at the end of the Santova Gorge.
The former Doloi community included two other settlements, Kallianica, one of the newest settlements of Mani that was probably created in the 19th century from the Kalliani family, and Kitries, a beautiful seaside settlement with lush vegetation and a fantastic beach at the end of the Santova Gorge. It is worth seeing the monument of Profitis Ilias in Kallianaiika, with its magnificent bell tower and hagiographies of 1758, as well as the catholic of Zoodochos Pigi, in the central square of the village of Kithrion-Dolon, with a brilliant feast on Easter Friday.
On the road from Kallianaiki to Doloi, on the old cobbled road that connects the two villages, stands the picturesque church of Agios Nikolaos (13th-14th centuries), where later post-Byzantine frescoes survive, while in a magnificent location just above the chapel, is the very interesting stalactite cave “Lykourgou”. Arriving in Kato Doloi, apart from the historic tower Ketsea, the bridge and the fountain (“Merno”), you will find several notable churches, including Agios Nikolaos with frescoes of 1785, in the Ketsa tower, Agios Vasilios (1776), in the central square of the village and Agia Paraskevi.
Amphitheatrically built on a hillside, at an altitude of 360 meters and with amazing panoramic views of Kardamili and the Messinian bay, the sunny Prosilio (former Liasinova) is located 30 km south of Kalamata. It is one of the characteristic traditional villages of Mani, with narrow cobbled streets between picturesque stone houses, towers and tower houses, enjoying the unique location of the longest sunshine in mainland Greece.
The preserved imposing church of Agios Georgios, built in 1833 on the ruins of an older temple, dominates the highest point of the village, built in 1833 on the ruins of an older temple, with a bell tower of 1803. The Patriarch’s Tower in the central square with the well-known traditional Mani architectural is also preserved.
In the verdant gorge of Viros, there is the monastery of Sotiras with an annual big feast as well as the historically preserved post-Byzantine complex of the Lykaki Monastery, with the frescoes dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. The most famous products of Prosilio include the region’s award-winning oil.
It is also called “fairy of the Messinian” for its exceptional natural beauty, it is a newly built settlement that has evolved at a fast pace in a famous tourist resort. Its original name was Potamos, from the river that crossed it, but it was renamed Stoupa. Stoupa has become world famous for its two beautiful beaches, the beach of Stoupa right in front of the settlement and the beach of Kalogria.
The two beautiful, shallow, sandy and organized beaches with clear waters attract visitors from all over the world. At the level of tourist services in Stoupa you can find everything. Charming and comfortable rental apartments and hotels, good quality food, cafes and bars for evening entertainment and, most importantly, people willing to serve you in whatever you need. Apart from the beautiful beaches, it is worthwhile to enjoy the enchanting sunsets from anywhere in the village.