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Areopoli traditional village

Areopoli is a town on the Mani Peninsula, Laconia, Greece. The word Areopoli means "city of Ares", the ancient Greek god of war. It was the seat of Oitylo municipality. Areopoli was called Tsimova by the invading Slavs during the 7th century AD. The Greek War of Independence was started at Areopoli on March 17, 1821 by Petros Pierrakos, also known as Petros Mavromichalis, the last bey of Mani. Now Areopoli has grown into a flourishing town. Its tower houses, constructed with field stones, are distinct from the traditional blue and white buildings that characterize many Greek villages.

Areopoli is situated near the west coast of the Mani Peninsula, 1.5 km from its port Limeni. It is 20 km southwest of Gytheio. There is lively open air market in the main square each Saturday, with a lot of local producers present.

In Areopoli, the traditional architecture of Mani gives a thundering "presence." The stone, irreplaceable building material, is found in the cobbled streets, the churches, the houses and the towers you face if you head to the "fortified settlement". It is not only that it existed in abundance but also that it provided the necessary cover, since the stone settlements were made with the rocks of the surrounding area and were "hidden" by the eyes of the pirates.

Arna village

Arna is a village on the eastern slopes of the Taygetusmountain range, at an altitude of 700 to 850 m. The nearest major towns are Gytheio, 35 km to the southeast, and Sparta, approximately 40 km to the north.

The area has a rich history. Near the village, at the Arkina site, a two Mycenaean-era domed burial chambers have been found, most likely built by Minyan or Boeotian settlers. Artefacts from many periods have also been found at Arna and Arkina, mostly ceramic containers. These findings support the conclusion that the site has been since ancient times a stop on the road connecting Sparta and Messenia.

The residents of Arna featured prominently in the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829). A close-by reminder of that struggle is the "Kolokotronis Cave", on the north slope of Mt. Annina. Folk tradition has it that Constantine Kolokotronis (father of famed hero Theodoros Kolokotronis) had sought refuge in this cave after being wounded defending the tower of the nearby village of Kastania, at the side of fellow revolutionary Panagiotaros Venetsanakos, a Maniot from Mesa Mani. He was discovered there the next day and killed; his body was thrown into the cave.

Today, Arna's population is on the decline, as is the population of the Greek countryside nationwide. The 1971 census counted 324 residents in the village; today, fewer than 150 remain. There are, however, positive signs of increased activity: the number of visits from emigrant Arniotes is on the rise, year round.

The annual Chestnut Festival is held during the last days of October in the village of Arna. It is a 3-day festival that features artistic events and a charming open air market.

Arna is part of the E4 path. There are beautiful routes of Mt. Taygetos that are worth to follow.

Kalamata Dance festival

There are numerous historical and cultural sights in Kalamata, such as the Villehardouin castle, the Ypapanti Byzantine church, the Kalograion monastery with its silk-weaving workshop where the Kalamata scarves are made, and the municipal railway park. The Church of the Holy Apostles is where Mavromichalis declared the revolt against Ottoman rule in 1821. Art collections are housed at the Municipal Gallery, the Archaeological Museum of Messenia and the Folk Art Museum.

Interesting sites in or near Kalamata are the following:

  • Benakeion Archaeological Museum of Kalamata, located in the heart of the historical centre of Kalamata.
  • Cultural events, such as the Kalamata International Dance Festival
  • Kalamata Castle from the 13th century AD.
  • The marina and the Port of Kalamata, located SW of the city centre, is the main and largest port in Messenia and the southern part of the Peloponnese.
  • The Railway Museum of the Municipality of Kalamata, a railway museum which first opened since 1986.
  • Ancient Messene, 20 km north-west of modern Messini. 

Leonidio climbing park

In the picturesque alleys of Leonidio, the traditional manor houses stand as specimens of the “Tsakonian” architecture and exude a stately air. Travelers can relax by taking a stroll in the market with the small shops, the cafes, and the taverns.

Leonidion is undoubtedly a “blessed land” anyway one looks at it. Steep rocky cliffs on Mt. Parnon combine with the azure coastline of the Myrtoon Sea to form the natural perimeter of a fertile valley, at the same time creating a splendid landscape.

“Kokkinovrachos”, an impressive red-rock cliff, rises like a natural stone wall and, as many believe, is the town’s landmark. In recent years, Leonidion has made a dynamic entrance in the climbing arena with the creation of the “Climbing Park Leonidio”.

Leonidion has over 300 climbing routes and has already started the implementation of the second phase, which provides the completion and expansion of the climbing park, with the creation of 200 additional climbing routes. 

Traditional architecture of Leonidio and the narrow alleyways offer a journey back in time reviving memories from another era. 

For the fans of hiking, there are wonderful paths which give you the opportunity to admire the fertile valley of Leonidio with its citrus and olive trees and the endless blue of the Argolic Gulf. The routes towards the churches of Saint George, Saint Athanasius, Prophet Elias and Panagia Xatzaliou, are the most remarkable.

Another place of worship worth visiting is the monastery of Saint Nicholas (Sintza), which is suspended between the earth and the sky, creating an intense atmosphere of devotion.

Plaka is a picturesque harbor, 4kms from Leonidio, with traditional fish-taverns and coffee places. Following its coastal route, which has 3kms length, we encounter the beach of Lakkos. Swimming, scuba diving and ski sports are some of the activities the area offers. Moreover the route from Leonidio to Plaka is suitable for cycling.

The location of the Monastery of Elona takes one’s breath away. It is miraculously suspended above the chaos below, overlooking a gorge. Its position causes awe and serenity to the worshipers.

Small villages, such as Tsitalia, Amygdalia, Pigadi, Fokianos, Peleta, Kounoupia, Houni, Vlisidia, Mari, are scattered in the large plateau of Parnonas. They are suitable for daily excursions and escapes in the pure and wild surroundings. You can visit the historic monuments and the monasteries of the settlements and you can relax in one of the beautiful taverns or cafes of their squares. The seaport of Pigadi, Fokianos, is an amazing area with transparent sea waters and virgin natural beauty which capture every traveler.

The remarkable beach of Vathy Avlaki is a must-see and must-swim beach.

Mavrovouni beach

The port of Gythio is rich in fish taverns, beautiful old Turkish style houses and a bustling waterfront, which is the town's center of gravity. There are long sandy beaches nearby. Marathonisi, which used to be an island but is now connected, is supposedly where Paris spent the night with Helen when he first abducted her from King Menelaous of Sparta. There is an ancient acropolis and a small museum in the town hall. Most people use Gythio as their base when they travel around south Peloponnese.

At the long beach of Mavrovouni beach, which is the beach of Gythion, it is an ideal place for wind and kite surf. Before twelve o'clock the sea is calm and everyone can enjoy swimming in the crystal clear water, but usually after 12.00 the sea is granted to those who love the extreme sea sports. The show is amazing! 

The sea and the beach are very clean and this is why the sea-turtles caretta caretta choose this place to lay their eggs in early July. If you are lucky you can see a mature sea-turtle come out of the water to build her nest early in the summer or her babies that are born one month later.

In Mavrovouni beach you will find a very well organised with modern facilities camping, namely Camping Gythion Bay.

Nafplio

Nafplio is a seaport town in the Peloponnese in Greece that has expanded up the hillsides near the north end of the Argolic Gulf. The town was an important seaport held under a succession of royal houses in the Middle Ages as part of the lordship of Argos and Nauplia, held initially by the de la Roche following the Fourth Crusade before coming under the Republic of Venice and, lastly, the Ottoman Empire.

The town was the capital of the First Hellenic Republic and of the Kingdom of Greece, from the start of the Greek Revolution in 1821 until 1834.

Nafplio is now the capital of the regional unit of Argolis.

It is one of the most beautiful cities in Greece. Τhe paved streets with your tasteful shops give you moments of unforgettable moments while at the same time you feel like you are on an island. The local kitchen is influenced by the italians, so you will find many pizzerias and ice cream shops with handcrafted ice cream.

Kosmas village

Kosmas is a mountainous village in Arkadia near Leonidio. It is built at 1119 m height. in a scenery full of green, a lot of small rivers and a forest of fir trees. It has been characterized as a traditional settlement due to the fact that it has retained its image and its local character. 

The central square of the village is covered with 7 terrific platans planted in 1883. At the center of the square dominates the Church of Agioi Anargyroi.

Behind the stone-built church there are three traditional fountains, the "Lions" that constantly spill the waters from the abundant springs in the area. The taverns and cafes of Plateia offer high quality services at very low prices. Do not forget to try boiled (emblematic and mythical dish!) And local sausages.

The houses are made of local stone from the Lagadians, Macedonians and Kosmites craftsmen and follow the local traditional architecture.

The village overlooks the Saronic Gulf and when the horizon is clear, the islands of Spetses and Hydra are visible.

The road from Leonidio to Kosma crosses the imposing gorge of the Daphonas River, passing through amazing landscapes, bridges, giant rocks and dense vegetation.

It is an excellent route but rather slow as the road is narrow and full of turns. The road passes through the famous monastery of Panagia of Elona and then goes up to Parnonas in a majestic fir-tree forest.

The road after Elona offers uninterrupted views of the southern peaks of Parnon and the mountains of Zarakas, leading to Kosmas.

The same route, through Leonidio, applies to those who come from the Northern Peloponnese.

 

Tenaron Lighthouse

Tenaron is the southest part of coastal Europe. Here existed according to Pausanias, the temple of Tenariou Poseidon, who was worshipped especially by Lakones, and it became the center of the “Brotherhood of Freelakones”.

It is said that the ancient temple of Poseidon was build near the chapel of Asomatos. They believe that they took stones and other materials from the ancient temple in order to build it. It is also noted in the writings of Pausanias and Ploutarhos that there was a Necro-temple that they made use of sciomancy in a small, desolated cavern in Tenaro.

It is believed that there existed the entrance the Adis (underworld). Follow the path that leads to the southest part of continental Europe and the Lighthouse of Tenaro. The distance is around 20-30 minutes by feet, but as soon as you get there you will be rewarded with the sense of ultimate freedom. The Lighthouse was built in 1882 by French, was renovated in 1950 and it still continues to offer its services to the local fishermen until today.

After your visit to the Lighthouse you can reach the cavern of Adis by following the ridge between the sea and the village near cape Tainaron and by climbing some rocks and ascending and descending a non well signified path. It is worth visiting this place as you will be swimming at the southest part of coastal Europe all alone. There is also the possibility for jumping into water from the rock above the cave.

GPS coordinates for the parking: N 36.402370, E 22.486182

GPS coordinates for cave of Ades: N 36.398859, E 22.477891

Stalagtites in Diros Caves

Diros Caves have been described as the most impressive limnetic caves of the whole world. They consist of three different caverns: the Alepotripae, Katafygi and Vlyxada that is the only one that is open for visits.

Those caverns were first explored in 1950. The temperature in the interior area of the cavern is around 16-20o C and the water temperature is around 12ο C.

You can explore the inside of the cavern with little boats along with the boatman showing you around and giving you information about the history of the cavern. The total length of the tour is about 1.2km long on boat and 300m on foot, and the duration is about 20-25min by boat and another 5-10min by feet.

Inside the Neolithic Museum that is located beside the cavern, you can see many priceless historical findings that can be dated back in the Paleolithic period.

Diros caverns and the Neolithic museum are two of the most famous attractions for all Mani visitors.

Tip: In high season or national holidays visit the Caves of Diros early in the morning, around 9.00 o'clock as it is very crowded.

The renewed watermill

A plentiful supply of water in Talanta kept the town’s 11 watermills busy for decades and provided a good living for the townspeople. Thousands from the surrounding region used to come there to grind their wheat. The water was channeled as far as Plytra on the coast. Even the town’s name is an indication of its former wealth (talanta is an ancient word for a unit of weight and for a monetary unit).

The mechanisation of milling led to the abandonment of the water mills and their eventual collapse.

Eventually however, through the efforts of the village cultural assocation, one of the former mills in the Balis Gorge was restored in 2006. Every Sunday the millstone is set in motion again to give visitors a taste of what was once a way of life. The flour ground from local varieties of wheat is also on sale.

The mill is situated in an idyllic setting, known to locals as Paradisos, of shady plane and walnut trees and shrubs, running water and rocks sculpted by the flow of water.

The mill is also the starting point of a hike through the gorge that terminates at Harahias beach near Daimonia. 

Tip: Before starting your hiking experience through the watermills it is advised to ask if the path is open until the Harahia beach or it is blocked by the wild vegatation of the river. Even though you can hike a smaller part of the path. You will definetely enjoy the hike among the old watermills.

GPS coordinates: N 36o40'10.53" E 22o56'03.47"

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