Journey through Ancient Greece

Mani & More!

Byzantine Churches & Castles of the Southern Peloponnese


The village of Vathia

We visit the southern Peloponnese, where we have a somewhat more leisurely time then usual and explore medieval castles & churches rather than ancient Greece!

We will concentrate on the 3 peninsulas of the Peloponnese, the central one of which is known as Mani, a region which for centuries had a wild reputation and was almost unknown to outsiders. It is still relatively unknown and off the main tourist beat, definitely a good area for a relaxing holiday!

The land is mountainous and rugged, and the coast line is one of the most beautiful in the country with views which will make you gasp!

We fly to Athens from Heathrow and go to the spa town of Loutraki on the Gulf of Corinth for one night. Our hotel is near a good swimming beach. Supper on our first night will be in the hotel, where they do one of the best moussaka ever, and is included in the price.

The next day we travel south to Sparta and visit the ruined but magnificent abandoned 13th century city of Mistra. Here there is a castle built in 1249 and numerous beautiful churches with some of the best frescoes of the Byzantine period; there are stunning views over the Lakonian plain.











The ruined city of Mistra


Frescoes at Mistra

In the afternoon a short drive takes us to Yíthio (or Githion), a charming fishing port, known as the gateway to the Mani, where we will stay 4 nights.

This is a lovely place to linger with its elegant 19th century houses in narrow streets joined by flights of steps (scalas). In fact Paris and Helen spent their first night together here on Kranae island; you can swim off the rocks on the island, now joined to the mainland by a causeway, or at the nearby beach.

On the island is an interesting exhibition of early travellers to the Mani. In the town there is a charming small Ist century BC theatre.

From Yithio we will visit nearby Yeraki, like Mistra a deserted medieval town built on a spectacular site. There is an imposing castle and remains of fifteen delightful small churches here, some with fine 12th to 14th century frescoes.

The lighthouse on Kranae island, Yithio

From Yithio we will also visit Monemvasiá; a beautiful medieval town completely hidden behind an enormous outcrop of rock.

To wander through the narrow cobbled lanes is a delight; round every corner is a pretty courtyard, an archway or a church and wonderful views over tiled rooftops to the sea.

There are no vehicles here; only mules and donkeys.

Monemvasia from the mainland

Over the rooftops at Monemvasia

We will spend a day in the Inner Mani, an area dotted with prickly pear, austere stone tower houses, (800 in all, dating from the 15th to the 19th century) built by the feuding Maniates, and dozens of small brick & stone Byzantine churches dating from the C10th onwards.

We'll stop in Areopolis a charming small town where bread is still hand made and baked in the oven in the baker's shop, and also go to Vathia a now almost deserted village where we can wander the narrow streets of tower houses built on the mountain side looking out to sea..

We then travel up the west coast of Outer Mani along a stunningly beautiful coast through the foothills of the Taygetos Mountains to Kardymyli, where we will stop to visit another deserted Byzantine town with tower houses and churches, and an excellent exhibition on the Mani.

The bakery in Areopolis

Then we go west via Kalamata to Pylos, a pretty little town built round a harbour in the bay of Navarino, and guarded by two castles; we will stay here for 3 nights.

Pylos is another good place for relaxing maybe over coffee in Three Admirals' Square or taking a boat trip to the island of Spakteria, where the Spartans were besieged by the Athenians in 425BC. There are spectacular views of the bay and the island from the New (16th century) Castle.

Only 12 kilometres away is Methoni where there is an impressive castle built out to sea next to a good swimming beach.

We will also the Bronze Age Palace of Nestor not far from Pylos.

Finally we will go back to Athens airport for the early afternoon flight home. 

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click here for more information on the Mani Mani: A guide & History by John Chapman

The Mani coast

The Bourtzi at Methoni

Ayios Sotiras, Gardenitsa

A courtyard at Monemvasia