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A tour on the Mani peninsula

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 14 May 2014

Wednesday 14 May, a tour on the Mani peninsula

Today we are going to make a long car ride on the peninsula of Mani. The Peloponnese has three foothills in the south that stick like fingers in the Mediterranean Sea and Mani is the middle one. It is a mountainous and difficult accessible area, in the past you could only reach many coastal villages by boat.
Dirou bay Caves of DirosFirst we can take a reasonably good road to the west and at Areopoli we go to the south, to the caves of Diros, also called the Vlychada caves. Diros lies on a large bay and the caves are a few kilometers south of the village. The caves are famous for the beautiful halls and colors but we have seen so many caves that we label them as pretty nice. Elisabeth says that this is really the last time she visits a cave, we will see. In the summer there must be long queues here, but we can go directly with the first trip which takes about 40 minutes.
Boating through the caves of Diros Boating through the Diros cavesActually you only visit one of the caves, the Vlichada, but we go in a boat through it and that gives the tour extra atmosphere. Elisabeth happy, she does not have to walk either. I myself love caves and I want to see them all inside, even though Elisabeth is right that most are a lot like each other. I am always surprised by the power of nature that manages to form such halls full of stalactites and stalagmites. And the rooms here are nicely lit which is not always the case.
The deserted village of Vatheia The deserted village of VatheiaAfter our cave visit we drink some coffee and then go south on the winding coastal roads where we have to go slowly. Our goal is Vathia, also called Vatheia. Because the Greeks have a different alphabet, the letters have to be translated to our alphabet and that gives sometimes differences in writing. Vathia is an almost deserted village in the mountains with so-called residential towers or tower houses with several floors. The only people who still live here are there for the tourists who come here en masse. Fortunately, we are before the high season so it is not too crowded though there are already a few coaches in the parking lot in front of the village.
The deserted village of Vatheia The deserted village of VatheiaIt is bizarre to walk through such a ghost village where a single house is still occupied and where the resident then runs a cafe. Most of the buildings (90 houses in total) are empty and abandoned as if the entire population had suddenly left the village. In the summer of 2000, fires destroyed almost all forests in the area surrounding the village but the fortified houses managed to survive the fire. In the past there were families of 4 clans living here who were very hostile to each other. We can imagine a TV series based on that.
View on the Mediterrean from Vatheia Coast at ?The village is strategically located on a high hill that dominates the landscape and we have beautiful views of the sea and the coast. After this rather impressive walk we get back in the car and drive along the coast where we cross all kinds of typical Greek coastal villages, with a boulevard and a little harbor and, higher on the hills, the residences of the people. We have cameras with GPS but that does not always work well, because, according to the GPS information this picture was made somewhere in the interior which is obviously not true but we don't remember in which village it was taken.
Church near Loukadika Coast from FlomochoriWe drive criss-cross through the peninsula and in the neighborhood of Loukadika we encounter a church for the holy Anastasia. It is so small that we wonder if it is a chapel or a real church. It doesn't offer place for many people. The yellow flag with the two-headed eagle was used by the Byzantine Empire in the Middle Ages, but nowadays also by the monks of Athos, perhaps this is an annex church of the monasteries of Athos.
On the map the sea seems far away but because the roads are so high up the hills we have almost a continuous view of the coast.
Statue at KotronasIn Kotronas it's time for a longer break, we have spent a lot of time in the car today. The village was already inhabited around 1,500 BC. and there are all sorts of ruins in the area but we are not going to visit them today. At the harbor is a nice terrace along the beach and we eat something. Eating out in Greece is relatively cheap compared to the Netherlands, the drinks often cost just as much.
Of course there is also a statue in the harbor and it will undoubtedly be someone who was important in the war of independence in the 19th century, the Greeks are still full of that, we keep noticing again and again.
After dinner we walk around and drive back to our apartment. In this mountainous area you should not be in a hurry, the roads are often bad with a lot of unclear curves and the Greeks themselves are not always the most relaxed drivers. And the environment with the sea views invites you to look around, not to drive quickly from A to B or from alpha to beta as they would say here.


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