Luxury holidays in Mani

This is Sparta. Well, kind of. Though the warrior state reigns no more, you may still come across a Maniot or two, part of the clannish population descended from the ancient red-cloaked army. Nicknamed the middle finger of the three-pronged Peloponnese, the Mani peninsula is appropriately mutinous, and every bit as wild as its history. Somewhere between eastern Oitylo and western Gytheio, an imaginary line splits this region of extremes. In the Outer Mani, the serene coastal village of Kardamyli lies beneath the rugged Taygetos mountains. It’s a place that famously seduced acclaimed British travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, who lived out his life among its olive groves and ephemeral light. Deep Mani, by contrast, remains wonderfully untamed. The fortified tower settlement of Vathia is an enduring reminder of the land’s piratic past, but it’s not the only swash-buckling sight Mani has to offer; shiver your timbers down to Valtaki beach, where the rusting Dimitrios shipwreck lies shrouded in mystery. Tellingly, the peninsula’s historic seat Areopoli takes its name from Ares, the god of war, but if you can look past that, you’ll find (paradoxically) a peaceful town of unparalleled charm, where stone houses and candlelit tavernas line a maze of cobblestone streets.

When to go

Mani’s impeccable climes make it a year-round destination, but the creative pulse of the peninsula comes alive in the summer when the Areopoli municipality organises a host of events, from concerts and theatre to traditional dancing and local gastronomy evenings.

Getting there

  • Planes

    From May to October, you can catch weekly charter flights to Kalamata, just north of Mani, though these can be infrequent and limited to select destinations in Europe. The nearest international hub is Athens, with direct flights from most major UK and European cities, as well as the USA, Asia and the Middle East. From Athens, you can reach Mani in three hours by car or bus. If you do choose to drive, be sure to have cash on hand for the Atikos Odis toll highway.
  • Automobiles

    A car is a must in this expansive terrain. Though roads are generally well-surfaced and traffic is light, acrophobic travellers may want to steer clear of the more mountainous routes in the east.