Above: Mani Port@YSkoulas
Mani Peninsula is a place blessed by nature, a vast “museum” that extends along the second leg of Peloponnese, with 96 traditional villages, 800 towers and 70 beautiful caves. This is Mani, the place where the blue color of the Mediterraenean sea bows before the strength of stone and the persistence of man.
Mani’s rugged landscape will enchant you at first glance. Wild rocks and stone towers, mixed with pebbles, beaches and fragrant wild flowers, thyme, oregano and all sorts of weeds. This place by itself is a vast museum that awaits your exploration.
Mani as a travel destination is not meant for timid or easy travelers or for those seeking idyllic, digestible landscapes. It is for those who love the unique and challenging landscape leaving the rest to be squeezed in the islands.
The peninsula of Mani, also long known as Maina, is a geographical and cultural region in Greece. Mani is the central peninsula of the three which extend southwards from Peloponnese in southern Greece like three legs. To the east is the Laconian Gulf, to the west the Messenian Gulf. The peninsula forms a continuation of the Taygetos mountain range, the western spine of Peloponnese. Mani is the home of Maniots.
Today Mani’s coastal villages are full of cafés and souvenir shops. The peninsula attracts visitors for its Byzantine churches, Frankish castles, secluded sandy beaches and stunning scenery. Some popular beaches during the summer are Kalogria and the beaches by Stoupa harbor, while Kardamyli and Agios Nikolaos have nice pebble and sand beaches too. The ancient tower houses of Mani (pyrgospita) are significant tourist attractions, and some offer accommodation for visitors.
When visiting Mani, I suggest you don’t miss the unique and beautiful Diros Caves. One of the finest, if not the most beautiful lake cave in the world, Dyros is essentially divided into three caves, of which we visited Vlychada. The Diros Caves stretch 14 km in the bowels of the Mani earth , the tourist route, however, has a total length of 1,500 meters. The constant temperature of the caves, ranging between 17-19° at all times, cools visitors and the tour – a boat ride – lasts about half an hour. Snow-white columns rising from the water, stalactites and stalagmites playing in tones of pink and elsewhere red, have given the names to the separate rooms: the Pillars of Hercules, the Lake Okeanidon, Palm Trees, the Chapel, the Stone Flower, the Pink Salons, Velvet Stalactites, the Lighthouse, Golden Rain, the Sea of Wreckage, the Chocolate Room, the Spider’s Net, the Cave of Bethlehem, the Flying Saucer, the Hall of Lovers, the Lake with Fairies are some of those encountered in the path.
The Diros Caves are located approximately 12 miles south of Areopolis and they are part of an underground river. About 5,000 meters have been exposed and are accessible by small boats and through narrow passageways. Archaeological research has shown that the caves have served as places of worship in Paleolithic and Neolithic times and their inhabitant believed that the caves were the entrance to the Underworld.