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Mani

An old saying goes “It would take you three days to see Mani if you choose to simply walk by it but if you wished to look more carefully it would take you three months, however, you would need three lives to see its soul: one for the sea, one for the mountains, and one for its people”.

In the harsh landscape of Mani there is a pristine beauty that enchants visitors. There is a certain quality in the air and in the proud posture of the locals which silently denotes that this is the only place in Greece that remained untamed throughout its long history of conquerors and invaders. The locals say that Mani is “stones and castles”; indeed, their houses were traditionally built like castles, clustered together in complexes for safety, the windows serving as embrasures from where they could defend themselves. Many such castle-like houses still stand from the 15th century, the times of the Byzantine Empire. In this era, the area of Mani was part of the Dominion of Mistras and occupied a central role in the kingdom of the Palaiologi Dynasty. Now stone arches and Byzantine ruins next to inhabited houses with rose gardens form an incredible mosaic of past and present ready to be explored.

Much earlier than that, the people of Mani, frustrated by the harsh landscape and their poverty, turned to piracy and became particularly good at it. They would hide in caves with their small, speed crafts and wait for the watcher on the rocks above to give the signal. The Maniates were so ferocious and notorious that trade ships systematically avoided Mani. Despite their ferocity though these mighty pirates followed a set of unwritten laws which, if broken, could lead to bloody vendettas. They never trespassed on areas of other families, respected the honor of women and never bought or sold slaves, to name a few. Today the locals organize extravagant “Pirate Nights” that revive those days of glorious piracy.

The landscape of Mani is unique both in its geographic topography and in its architectural style. In Mani, other than stone towers and castles, there are also Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches containing excellent icons and featuring archaeological sites. Most importantly, the villages of Mani maintain the traditional architecture and the particular lifestyle passed down from generation to generation. In Mani you have to take it slow. You feel obliged to stroll on the narrow stone paths and to try to take mental pictures of the wild beauty of its villages. There is a special category of craftsmen here in Mani who build traditional houses and small hotels using only stone and mud and the

know how of generations of stone masters before them. Stop awhile to smell a wild rose or to try local delicacies and dishes whose origin is undoubtedly Greek. One such delicacy is the Wedding Bread, a type of sweet bread Maniates still serve at weddings; what makes it special is the carved decoration on top. It is customary to carve a grape bunch, to symbolize fertility, and a snake, which is an ancient reference whose origins are traced by historians back to Zeus.

Mani is the ideal place to lose oneself in exploration either by car or bike or, for the more adventurous, on foot. Take a local guide and explore the hiking trails, steep canyons and rough caves. There is one cave here that is particularly worth a visit. The Cave of Diros is a true marvel of nature. The vast labyrinth of caves is connected through a network of lakes in which you can paddle around pink, red, brown and gold stalagmites and stalactites whose formations are imaginatively named.

This is Mani, proud, wild and untamed, nestled between the mountains, beautiful and imposing, waiting to tell its story to visitors. We will be proud to show you its most beautiful corners in our trips – find out more here!