One of the most beautiful regions in Greece and an ideal destination for a road trip is the peninsula of Mani. Mani is located in the southern Peloponnese region, in its second “boot” and is divided into two parts: Mesa Mani which is the eastern part and Messiniaki Mani which is the part that belongs to the Messinia region in the west of the peninsula.
The landscape is rocky and covered with endless olive groves where the famous olive oil in Greece is produced. Cypresses grow here and there creating mesmerizing natural vistas. There are beautiful coastal and mountainous villages with amazing sea views almost in the entire region. Last but not least, the villages are centuries old and some of them are left abandoned. Tall stone towers are the main key architectural elements.
Half of the charm of a road trip is improvising. You do not have to stick to a strict schedule in order to check off your list of destinations and places. We promise that as soon as you start driving, the place will unveil its beauty to you, and lists and timetables will be completely useless. After all, road trips are about freedom of choice and getting lost. There is nothing wrong with missing an important site when you just can’t help but spend hours in a traditional kafeneio in a village that is barely spotted on the map!
We share with you 5 of our favorite places in Mani just for reference but feel free to include or not include them in your own self-made Mani expedition
One of the most important towns for the Greek war of independence. Its architecture is well preserved while you can find many taverns cooking delicious local food, cafes, bakeries, and hotels. You can try the local pasta “xilopites” accompanied with rooster and tomato sauce or for a quick snack on the way you can taste a “travixti” which is fried bread with cheese.
This picture-perfect coastal village has it all. Turquoise waters, check. Beautiful stone-built buildings, check. A seafront tavern serving delicious fresh fish, check. If you visit during summer you might find yourself swimming with sea turtles that are spotted frequently in the region.
Vatheia is one of the most popular villages in Mani although completely uninhabited! The ghost village that was turned once into a hotel, remains for decades completed deserted. As you will walk across its stone-paved alleys you will see ruins and traces of another era. A visit there will travel you back in time.
Although not sandy, this beautiful cove with clear blue transparent waters will offer you a fresh dive. In summer there is a small beach bar serving snacks and coffees.
Patrick & Joan Leigh Fermor’s house
The place where Patric and Joan Leigh Fermor resided for many years is a dream house everyone would love to stay at. Lovely decoration, beautiful gardens and terraces, and access to a semi-private beach. It is located in Kardamyli village in Messiniaki Mani region. After their death, it has turned into a museum and a hotel. Remember to check their website and organize your visit beforehand since it is not open daily.
Organizing your trip
Rent a car
Although there are some Ktel buses in the region they only operate between some big towns. If you are not traveling to Greece with your own vehicle, you can rent a car with us.
Your trip in Mani can start either from Messiniaki Mani (i.e. Kardamyli village) or from Mesa Mani (i.e Areopoli village). If you are arriving in Greece by plane from Athens then either starting point is good. You can reach Mani via the National Highway. The distance from Athens to Kardamyli is 273 km and the drive lasts 3 hours and 17 minutes, whereas the distance from Athens to Areopoli is 295km and lasts 3 hours and 20 minutes. If you are arriving in Greece by plane from Kalamata or by ferry from Patra or Killini, then starting your trip from Messiniaki Mani and heading eastwards might be more reasonable but you don’t have necessarily to stick to that.
How many days
Exploring the region will not take you more than 3-4 days. If you want to include time for relaxation at a specific place, then a week or even two is ideal. In any case, in terms of driving, consider that the distance between Messiniaki Mani and Mesa Mani is less than 80 km.
The country roads of Kalamata/Areopoli and Areopoli/Gerolimenas are those that you will mostly be driving on. Of course, small detours are part of the trip too. These roads offer amazing views throughout your journey but they are old and narrow at some points. Your average speed will be around 60km/hour.
When to visit
Mani is a year-round destination. In fact, if you could skip visiting during July and August it will be a blessing! The more off-season you get there, the more enjoyable and authentic it is. Spring and especially Easter are probably the best time to visit. A number of hotels and tavernas stay open even during winter.
There are many other destinations in the wider region of the Peloponnese that can be added to this itinerary. Gytheio, Monemvasia, Kalamata, Pilos, Methoni, Koroni and the astonishing Voidokilia beach can be easily combined in this road trip. Furthermore, Mystras, Elafonissos island and Kythira island are also easily accessible.
You will not have a hard time finding a place to stay in Mani. There are lovely boutique hotels and apartments scattered in different villages. Most of them are stone built, renovated structures or newly built according to the traditional architecture of the region. If you are travelling high season, then early booking is recommended in order to find a place that can accommodate your needs.
Kyrimai: A historic seafront retreat housed in a beautifully renovated 19th-century building in Gerolimenas.
Kyrimi: A value for money bed and breakfast in Gerolimenas
Tenaron blue: A tower turned into a boutique hotel located almost in the middle of nowhere.
Antares Hotel: A great hotel complex just a few kilometers away from Areopoli and overlooking the olive groves and the sea.