Myths & Legends: Uncovering Greece’s Deep Mani

Think of Greece and what images does your mind conjure? Crystal clear waters, ancient ruins, and piles of local food might all spring to mind, but behind the tourist trails, there is a great deal more to be seen in this ancient country. Located in the southern half of mainland Greece, the Mani is one of the most stunning areas of the country, an impressive feat when you consider the extent of Greece’s breathtaking coastal vistas. And while the Outer Mani might well match up to your preconceptions of the area, the Deep Mani is a whole world apart. Wild, rugged, and entirely unique, the Deep Mani deserves its own in-depth exploration.

If you’ve heard whisperings of the Deep Mani already, chances are that they were about its caves. Arguably the most famous attraction in the area, the Diros caves are the perfect place in which to start your exploration there, offering up an experience like no other. The Diros can only be explored by boat, with your very own punting ferryman. Stalactites and stalagmites reflect in the crystal clear waters of the caves, creating a vision that is simply unforgettable. Take time to see the cave systems up close; it’s more than worth it.

There’s a great deal to be seen beyond the Diros caves, so don’t be mistaken into thinking that your journey is over just yet. While the tourist traffic might thin out from this point onwards, the region only continues getting richer, so don’t be afraid of persevering. Along the way, the countryside is dotted with Byzantine churches, ancient ruins, and sleepy fishing coves that are just begging to be seen up close. Many of the sights might be practically in ruins, but they’re worth stopping for along the route.

Take the road southwards and sooner or later you’ll hit the village of Gerolimenas. While the town is a little sparser than your typical tourist trap, it does have a number of hotels from which to choose if you’re looking to rest your head for the night. The Kyramai is arguably the best out of the entire bunch, serving up great food and even better culture within its historical warehouse walls. Spend a few days in this place and learn what disconnecting really means.

Keep on along the route and things only get better. Mountain views slowly but surely give way to the sea, and if you’re looking for the ultimate vantage point, Vathia is surely it. Located at the tip of the peninsula, the town is known for its dominating hilltop tower-houses. While the town is sleepy and windswept today, it was once home to some of the most brutal clan wars in Greek history, in which entire communities were uprooted. The history here is as rich as the spectacular views; stand on the edge of the cliffs and breathe it all in. 

Want to get even more remote? You got it. Take a trip up the east coast of the Mani and you’ll find yourself practically at the edge of the world. In this area the mountains drop, leaving room only for the sea and the odd village, scattered throughout the landscape. If all of that landscape gets a little too much, take five minutes and head to Abela beach. Boasting white pebbles and the clearest waters you’ve ever seen, the bay will give you pause for thought and a great vantage point for the rest of the region.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.