Beautiful coast and village scenery abounds in Mani, The Luxury of Remoteness — a 4.5-minute video by TAK Films & Frames
Rugged beauty: Thanks to amazing experiences in the Peloponnese during three visits in the past three years, the region has become one of our favourite holiday destinations in Greece. Though we have covered considerable ground, there’s one significant part of the Peloponnese remaining on our bucket list — the Mani.
A rugged and remote peninsula, the Mani appeals to us not only because it’s off the busy tourist routes, but also since its scenic highlights include marvellous coastal landscapes, picturesque fishing ports, charming Byzantine churches and historic ancient sites, and fascinating fortified villages like Vathia, which boasts a striking skyline of imposing stone tower houses.
We’re even more keen to visit the Mani after viewing the video above, which was produced by TAK Film & Frames and posted to its Facebook page just two days ago.
Should watching the 4-and-a-half-minute film pique your own interest or curiosity in the Mani, here are a few articles and online resources you can peruse for further information, inspiration and advice:
Located just one nautical mile from the town of Marathopoli in southwestern Messenia, Proti Island is a popular day trip destination for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, cliff jumping and trekking. This aerial photo of Proti Island is from the website for the Artina hotels in Marathopoli.
Lagouvardos, shown in this aerial video by Giannis Mpantes, is a long golden sand beach less than 3 kilometers from Marathopoli. It’s considered one of the top surfing spots in Greece, and also attracts enthusiasts of windsurfing, SUP, canoeing and other watersports.
Surf’s up!: In a recent post I noted that the quiet, laid-back town of Marathopoli is an ideal base for travellers wishing to explore Methoni, Pylos, Navarino, Voidokilia and other popular places in the Messenian region of the southwestern Peloponnese.
Even closer to the town are two noteworthy destinations that draw active travellers seeking scenic spots for outdoor sports activities such as swimming, surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, trekking and fishing.
Uninhabited Proti Island, which dominates sea views from the town, is approximately one nautical mile away and can be accessed in summer on boat trips from Marathopoli harbour. The tours take passengers to secluded coves, including Grammeno Bay, and stop at picturesque Vourlia beach for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling or jumping into the sea from rocks and ledges along the rugged coast.
This aerial video of a boat trip to Vourlia beach on Proti island is from the website for Proti Cruises, which offers a variety of daily “mini cruise” excursions from Marathopoli
The Monastery of the Assumption of Gorgopigi is one of the sights that hikers might encounter while walking some of the trails on Proti Island. This photo appears on the websites for Lagouvardos Apartments and other Marathopoli-area businesses.
Trekkers can explore Proti Island on three designated hiking routes, while rock climbers can test their skills on the challenging cliffs and coastal rock formations. Fishing trips and sunset tours also are available.
For those curious to see what lies beneath the waves, Ionian Dive Center offers scuba diving excursions to such island sites as the Anouar shipwreck in Vourlia Bay, the Tiganakia wall and cavern, the Blue Hole cavern with stalactites, Callens Valley and the Beacon Cove.
This video by Ionian Dive Center will take you to the Blue Hole, one of the sights that scuba divers could explore during excursions to Proti Island
Lagouvardos Beach is only 3 kilometers from Marathopoli so it can easily be reached by car, bicycle or even walking. The Culture Trip website has included Lagouvardos on its list of The Best Surfing Spots in Greece, while travel publications and online guides regularly recommend the beach for windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), swimming, canoeing and other watersports. Equipment rentals and lessons are available from the Beach Break surf club at Lagouvardos.
For beach lovers and watersports fans who don’t mind driving a little farther afield, some of Messenia’s most beautiful and world-famous beaches — including Vromoneri, Mati, Romanos, Golden Sands Divari, and the incomparable Voidokilia — are situated within a span of just 7 to 15 kilometers.
Just 7 kilometers from Marathopoli is Vromoneri beach, seen in an image from AllMessenia.com
Located about 9 km from Marathopoli is gorgeous Mati beach, seen in this aerial video by KOABeach Pool Bar
Additionally, the Marathopoli area is ideal for bicycling and mountain biking, while two globally renowned 18-hole courses at nearby Costa Navarino offer golfers the opportunity to tee off in spectacular settings.
Award-winning world-class links await golf enthusiasts at Costa Navarino, just 13 km from Marathopoli. The green pictured above is on The Dunes Course, while the one below is on The Bay Course. Both images are from the Costa Navarino Facebook page.
More stunning photos and extensive information about the two golf resorts can be found in the golf section of the Costa Navarino website.
The southern fortification walls of Methoni Castle, viewed from the Venetian-era Bourtzi fortress (below)
The Venetians built the octagonal-shaped Bourtzi fortress on a rocky islet connected to the castle by a stone-paved causeway
Methoni meanderings: Day 2 of our western Peloponnese road trip turned out to be rather “monumental” for us, figuratively speaking, as our travels took us to churches, archaeological sites and castles — some more than 800 years old — plus a place where two major Greek maritime conflicts occurred.
Next stop was the town of Pylos on Navarino Bay, where two of the most significant naval combats in Greek history took place: the Battle of Pylos which was fought in July of 425 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War, and the October 20 1827 Battle of Navarino, the most pivotal and decisive event of the Greek War of Independence from Turkey. Besides observing the bay from a variety of vantage points in and around Pylos, we managed to see some of the exterior fortification walls of the impressive Neocastro (Castle of Pylos), which was built in 1573. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go inside to tour the castle interior and see its remarkable hexagonal citadel.
Our final sightseeing stop was the town of Methoni, where we paid an afternoon visit to the majestic Methoni Castle.
Constructed in 1209 by the Venetians, Methoni Castle occupies a sprawling site encompassing nearly 38 hectares. The castle is so big we couldn’t explore every sector during the two hours we walked around, but we did cover a lot of ground, and managed to see the highlight attractions, including the Bourtzi sea fortress, the Ottoman baths, and the Church of the Metamorphosis Sotiros. (We might have spent more time meandering through the ruins had it not been so sunny and hot.)
The stone bridge and entrance to Methoni Castle
This pyramid-roofed building was apparently used to store munitions. The inner castle wall beside it is crumbling in places, but visitors can still walk on the top to get views of the entire castle site.
A curiosity inside the castle is a tall, red granite column topped with a Byzantine-style capital. Often called “Morosoni’s Stele,” the column is believed to have been topped with either a sculpture of the winged lion of Venice, or a bust of the Venetian Doge Francesco Morosini.
The round, domed roofs of the former Turkish baths (hamam)
A tall, arched passageway inside the fortification walls
One of the patterned floors inside the Church of the Metamorphosis Sotiros
My favourite castle features were the elegant stone entrance bridge (built by the French in 1829 to replace a wooden drawbridge), the Bourtzi fortress, the interior of Metamorphosis church, and the breathtaking 360-degree views from atop one of the main inner walls. I also was fascinated by the variety of shapes and angles that architects had chosen when designing the castle’s imposing fortification walls and the buildings they protected. These included rounded and pointed archways, square and rectangular houses and public buildings, an arsenal with a pyramid-shaped roof, the octagonal Bourtzi fortress, sloped and vertical defensive walls, and the round, spaceship-like domed roofs of the hamam (Turkish baths) built by Ottoman occupiers.
Admission cost only €2 per person, by the way — a bargain, considering the size of the castle.
Below is a brand-new aerial video of Methoni Castle that was published, coincidentally enough, right while I was putting this post together. On page 2 you can view some of the photos we shot while meandering through the ruins. If you’d like to read more about the history of Methoni Castle, click here to read a detailed description from the Kastrologos Castles of Greece website.
The grandeur and vast size of Methoni Castle are captured in this aerial video published February 28 2018 by George Magoulis
Here’s an intriguing video of Athens that I highly recommend watching — if you haven’t already seen it on social media, where it has been generating considerable buzz since its release yesterday (February 20 2018) by filmmaker / photographer Alexandros Maragos,
City of Athens – A Portrait of a Changing Metropolis runs just under 5 minutes, and features “hyperlapse, timelapse and drivelapse cinematography of the urban area and the skyline of “το κλεινόν άστυ” / the glorious city,” a description on its Vimeo publication page explains.
Shot from such vantage points as rooftops, hills and mountains, the fascinating film captures stunning night-time scenes and images of the city center, the vast urban core, the international airport, the Parthenon, Acropolis and other monuments, and more.
The friend in Athens who sent me the video link called it a “marvellous” film to watch, and I agree that it truly is, showing the city from engaging and unique perspectives that I think will captivate visitors and city residents alike. (I’ve watched it several times already.)
I hope you will find it interesting and fascinating, too.