the mani

Of the three fingerlike peninsulas of the Peloponnese, the middle one is called “The Mani”. It consists mainly of the long stretched range of the Taygetos Mountains, reaching approximately 100 kilometers from the southern tip of the Mani to the center of the Peloponnese. The altitude difference is from sea level up to 2404m. There are many gorges and ravines separating the mountain ranges, which in the past made the area almost inaccessible for humans. Thus pirates and refugees (from the frequently changing rulers of the plains) found shelter on the Mani.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, British author and soldier, who lived in the Mani for many years, describes concisely the turbulent history of the people of the area in his book Mani – Travels in the Southern Peloponnese:

Some of these vendettas grew into miniature local wars and kept the Mani smoking with turbulence and bloodshed for centuries. For centuries, in fact, the only thing that could reconcile them was a Turkish inroad, when, suddenly, for brief idyllic periods of internal harmony, their long guns would all point the same way. Parties would leave to fight as mercenaries in the armies of the Doge. The poverty of the peninsula turned the Maniots into pirates, and their little ships were the terror of the Turkish and Venetian galleys in southern Peloponnesian waters. Their expeditions were undertaken less in search of riches than for the sober domestic need to buy wood,—fuel for lime burning for the building of tall towers in their treeless villages—and guns, with which to shoot at their neighbours through the loopholes when these were built. Many of their piratical exploits, like those of the klephts and armatoles in the mountains of the mainland, had a patriotic reason. The best known case is the destruction of part of the Ottoman fleet in Canea roads with Maniot fire-ships.

Nowadays many of the coastal towns of the Mani are popular tourist destinations and easily accessible by road from Kalamata, but the villages on the higher slopes and in the off coast valleys are much less frequented and often exude the romantic flair of past centuries. My pictures were taken on various trips to Mt. Kalathi above Kalamata, Profitis Ilias (the highest peak of Taygetos), and Ridomo Gorge, which can be accessed from Vorio or Pigadia.

For my panoramic view of the Taygetos Mountains on Google Photos (with the option to zoom in), please click here.

Mt Kalathi is a long mountain ridge, rising steeply above Kalamata in the east.

On the highest summit (2404m) of the Taygetos range there is a little roofless chapel with an altar providing shelter from the wind. It’s called Profitis Ilias (Greek for Prophet Elijah) and the peak is usually called after the chapel. This is a bit confusing, because I found at least three other chapels or hermitages with the same name in the area, but this “Profitis Ilias” is definitely the most famous one. In wintertime the highest parts of  the Taygetos mountains are usually snow covered and even as late as May you may find some snow on Profitis Ilias.

The Ridomo Gorge is on of the deepest and longest grooves in the Taygetos mountains, reaching from the Bay of Messinia to the slopes of Profitis Ilias.

Pyrgos Dirou is famous for its dripstone caves at sea level.

Above the village rises Sangias Oros (1214m). On the way there is another chapel with the name Profitis Ilias. From the chapel there are wonderful views of the Southern Mani and of the Messinian Bay and Taygetos mountains to the north.