Journey through Ancient Greece

Mani & More!

Churches & Castles of the Southern Peloponnese

May 2007

The village of Vathia

This year we are introducing a brand new Damaris Journey through Ancient Greece. We are not sure whether Damaris herself would approve as the plan is to have a somewhat more leisurely time then usual and to 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 the 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, but in May should be a mass of wild flowers 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 on Saturday midday and go to Sparta for one night.

On Sunday we visit the ruined but magnificent abandoned 13th century city of Mistra. Here there is a castle with stunning views over the Lakonian plain and numerous beautiful churches with some of the best frescoes of the Byzantine period.











The ruined city of Mistra

Frescoes at Mistra

A short drive takes us to Yíthio 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 small Ist century BC theatre.

The lighthouse on Kranae island, Ythio

From here we will 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.

We will also visit Yeráki, like Mistra a deserted medieval town built on a spectacular site. There is a castle and several delightful small churches here some with fine C13th frescoes.


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 will visit the Diros Caves where we travel in a punt along an underground river through the complex of caves. It is a spectacular experience but if caves, or boats, are not your thing there is a beach and a cafe nearby!

The bakery in Areopolis

On Thursday we will 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.

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!

On Sunday 27th we will go back to Athens for the evening flight home.

the Mani coast

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




The Bourtzi at Methoni

Ayios Sotiras, Gardenitsa

A courtyard at Monemvasia