Continuation from June 30, (here) to the Peloponnese
The new month of July opened with temperatures in the 40c , so cooling off today at
the the Ionian Mediterranean sea, at early morning hours, was a real relief.
However it was time to depart the plush Navarino Dunes resort, but unfortunately our plan to find a respite inside the coolness of the famous Dirou Caves, had to be changed.
As much as it sounds strange, to our disappointment the caves are now "under “ renovation” until July 15th, Thus we missed the real sailing experience inside the caves on this trip, The video link being shared is a minor compensation for now.
Caves of Dirou (info) in Pirgos Dirou
Cave visiting hours vary; in general, daily 9am-5pm in summer 27330/52-222
The vast network of spectacular caves formations in shades of rose, green, amber, black, blood red, and purple, was discovered in 1955 by a dog that crawled through a hole into the caves, and returned several days later coated in red clay.
Sailing with boats on the lake, which is considered to be part of an underground river,, through the cave tunnels, and walking through the narrow passages, is apparently a special experience, we will need to catch up with, on another time.
Paleolithic and Neolithic remains found here. The Pirgos Dirou Caves are one of the oldest inhabited spots in Greece
Despite the heat-wave,
late that the afternoon, a curvy ride up the mountains of the Messenia region, led us to charming Ancient Messini
The important archeological site on its spectacular remains, is situated below the newer
mountainous village, bearing the same name, and partly built over the ancient acropolis.
Ancient Messini was founded in 369 BC according to Hippodamian town planning system, by a Theban General Epaminondas, at the foot of Mt Ithomi , after the battle of Leuctra, the first Theban invasion of the Peloponnese,
The site is natural fortress protected from 3 mountainous sides,
Most of the area of Ancient Messene contains the ruins of the large classical city-state The new Messene, today's Ancient Messene, was constructed over the ruins of Ithome, an ancient city, originally of Achaean Greeks, destroyed previously by the Spartans and abandoned for some time.The site was never totally abandoned.
The substantial ruins were archaeologically excavated and partly restored or preserved.
Description of the city, mentioned chief temples and statues, springs, market-place and gymnasium, the Asclepieion, place of sacrifice, the tomb of the hero Aristomenes and the temple of Zeus .Ithomatas on the summit of the acropolis The other buildings which can be identified are the big and small theaters, the stadium, the council chamber or Bouleuterion, and the propylaeum of the market, while on the shoulder of the mountain are the foundations of a small temple, probably that of Artemis
In addition to us, there were maybe 4 other people on site, who were nuts enough to visit on that hot day.
Since it was life hazardous to roam around the large site, during the high heat of even the late afternoon, (all sites are open from 8:00am to 8:00pm), thanks to the help of the super nice idle Greek keeper, who happily guided us to the essential highlights, we kept to the short version of the tour, before the blazing sun almost "melted " us completely.
The new Ancient Messini village with its red-roofed houses rolling off the surrounding slopes, is quite charming,
A small quint shaded Cafe at the entrance to the village, situated above the archeological site is worth the drinks and views. The owner was very helpful .
following this excursion to the mountains
revived us, and we decided to return to the Mani coast driving further down south way below Kalamata.
The flat pebbled beach scenery changed on the way to our next destination, when climbing up through a very verdant high mountain range, and until we stopped, an hour and a half later, for the night, in midway of this southern Mani coast at Kardimili.
A Night in Kardamili
Most charming sleepy sea-side fishing village 35 km southeast of Kalamata.
Much of the town built on the remnants of a prehistoric lava flow, that can be seen as the lava rock outcrops, separating many of the local rocky beaches: Ritsa, Belogianni, Salio, Tikla, Amoni, Santava.
The town is the departure point of many mountain trails, some of which lead to the peak of Mount Taygetus
Many of the buildings of Old Kardamili, also are known as "Pano Kardamili", or "Upper Kardamili" were built by the Venetians and feature a mix of traditional Greek and Venetian design, mostly built with local stone.
The village centers around the high street dotted with upmarket boutiques, cafes and bars, so it was fun strolling there.
Its population is of about 400 this number doubles when the tourists arrive between April and October, and peaks at about 1200 at Easter, the Kardamyli International Jazz Festival, and during August. It
From the 2 best hotels recommended in the village, both are situated in a lovely setting facing seaside views , the one we preferred and stayed in, which I highly recommend:is
email@example.com +30 697 7460421
A new modern hotel, we stayed in, with large rooms and a great open-air large balcony facing and above a small harbor where good breakfast is served.
The other hotel, is
Elies restaurant/hotel - traditional Greek in a beautiful out-doors garden by seaside.
The continued fantastic drive from Kardamili along the South/West Mani coast was long, and took us along and above the curvy cost, passing through a high ridge of barren mountains, of steep slopes and deep drops, overlooking gorgeous small bays, sea side outlets, and mostly rocky beaches next to tranquil bluish water, to which narrow side roads lead off the main mountain cliff road..
The charming small sleepy village of Stoupa about 5 km away from Kardamili, at which we briefly stopped, was discovered by more British, German, French and Italian tourists besides Greeks,in the past few years
Its popular sand beach contains about 20 restaurants, lining the beach road, along a few small hotels, and many rental houses. Read more
Driving further south via Areopli - a picturesque town on the feet of the mountain Agios Elias, offered a great views to the western parts of the Messinian Gulf. and to tower houses, constructed with field stones, distinct from the traditional blue and white buildings, that characterize many Greek villages.
Further south, a side road store marketing the known brand-name Olive oil
Morea ... was also selling local beautiful wood art work made of Olive trees.
The southern tip point we reached and stooped at, to take a dip in the bluish tranquil small bay's water and have lunch , before turning toward the Estern side of the land outlet, back and up North was Grolimanes.
Gerolimenas -"Old Harbour" -
A quint very small (about 100 residents) remote coastal village, at the southern end of the Mani Peninsula, by a gorgeous elongated bay, with looming mountain ridge above it.
Until the 1970s Gerolimenas was reached mainly by boat. Old stоnе buildings agaist thе bасκgrоund οf fishing bоаts аnd smаll shеltеrеd pеbbly bеасh, welcome the visitors
In the past it was a pirates territory, a major fishing center, and also featured substantial infrastructure such as a shipyard, ice supplies, and a fish market. Today the main industry is tourism
There are maybe 3 hotels and 5 restaurants serving the passing guests.
We had a great lamb chops at one called Taverna Mani Mani
On the way up North on the Eastern side of the peninsula, one passes
Spira a small mountainous traditional settlement., and further up alos
This long , hot and exhausting but exhilarating drive ended the day in the town of Gythio
To be continued...