Mani, in the southernmost part of Peloponnese is a cape, an expanse, a geographical and cultural area, also long known by its medieval name Maïni (Μαΐνη). Τhe area is scattered with wonderful medieval villages, with Gytheion and Areopolis as its capital towns. A very good job seems to have been done here, both at maintaining and respecting the typical original architecture and ambient. However, what truly rules here is nature! This scenery is nowhere else to be found. The landscape is dramatic: huge expanses of olive trees, a generally arid land with poor flora, massive Rocky mountains and rock formations across the coast. The “scenic drama” before this “grand bleu” is immense for the human eye to fit if you turn your eyes to the sea, while colors and light are too harsh for the bare eye to tolerate if you turn your glance to the land. It’s no wonder why this scenery was stage to huge mythological dramas in the ancient past.
There’s one thing in Mani that cannot be missed; the Cape Tainaron; a journey to the “end of all land”, as many used to claim. Situated on the southern tip of Eastern Mani, the mystical path of cape Tainaron, or else, cape Matapan will give you a feeling of awe —a most unforgettable travel adventure. Mythology has it that the name of the cape derives from the mythical hero and son of Zeus, Taenarus, who was believed to have built a town at the narrow isthmus located near the tip of the peninsula (www.mysteriousgreece.com). They claim that under the cape lies the cave of Hades; known as the Gate to the Underworld, according to the myth guarded by the monstrous Cerberus, a beast that prevented the dead from escaping and the living from entering Hades. Remnants of a temple dedicated to Poseidon, testify the area’s religious significance.
Today, at the tip of the cape, one finds a “faros” (lighthouse), with the height of 16 metres, probably the most iconic one in Greece. The hiking to the lighthouse is not very easy, but it can’t be missed. Try it on a late afternoon, before sunset. We had a wonderful surprise during our hike: dolphins had approached the shore, invigilating our presence. They stayed with us throughout the entire hike to the lighthouse. In traditional culture dolphins are symbols of grace and life itself, heralds of Poseidon, but also a good omen for the future!