A hideaway where nature and man meet in harmony, but ssssh… don’t tell a soul

Picture this scene from a film: A road snakes along a sheer cliff side, above peacock-blue bays, dark cypresses and a sea of olive trees in the heart of the Peloponnese. On one side of the horizon is the placid gulf of Messinia, on the other, the looming presence of Mt Taygetos. Between them the scene of sturdy-looking stone houses, built to last, is softened by the fertile soil at their base.

This used to be a destination for the chosen few – the diamond of Messinian Mani. But its contrasts have captured the hearts of many visitors, and they keep coming back for more.  To get to know it like they do, visit the old fortress town, take a dip at Ritsa beach, spend your nights in one of its many delightful boutique hotels, have a meal at famous tavernas and chill out at some of the sophisticated little bars. By then you’ll be hooked and you’ll never forget Kardamyli.

What to do in Kardamyli

Your first glimpse of Mani’s legendary tower houses
Just a short walk is all that’s needed to plunge you into the stern, unyielding  nature of Mani’s history. Old Kardamyli, a fortified cluster of towerhouses, rises around the 18th-century church of Agios Spyridon. Step through the main gate, try to puzzle out the marble inscriptions and stop to admire the relief sculpture of the two-headed eagle of Byzantium, the empire’s emblem. The elders who created this stone village had a powerful influence on the modern history of Greece.

Cosmopolitan, lively Stoupa
Quite a contrast to Mani’ stern and stony image is this village on the beach, 8km from Kardamyli. Not only does it boast fully organised golden sands facing green-blue water, there are also hotels, restaurants and plenty of shops at arm’s reach. It is one of the most popular beaches in the Peloponnese.

Patrick Leigh Fermor
“Passing by you see Mani in three days, walking in three months and in order to see its soul you need three lives. One for the sea, one for its mountains and one for its people.” So wrote Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor – Paddy, or Kyrie Michalis, as he was affectionately known – who made Mani internationally famous through his writing. One of Britain’s best  loved authors, he lived and wrote in Kardamyli until the ripe old age of 96, his works including the novels  ‘A Time of Gifts’ and ‘The Traveller’s Tree’.

Special places to stay
Whatever your choice, it is bound to prove exceptional: There are elegant small hotels, built of stone and draped in flower, leaf and branch, with spacious verandas and welcoming courtyards; suites in towerhouses  or even entire villas.