As we leave Kalamata and skirt the east coast of the bay of Messinia, we pass the beaches near the city and then go through an idyllic lush landscape. But as we penetrate further into the Mani, the surroundings become drier, harsher and wilder; prickly pears and tumbled rocks replace citrus groves and fertile valleys. With the forbidding peaks of Taygetus at our back, we're about to get to know a more austere beauty.
Still by sea, we spy delightful little coves and beaches - serene parentheses among the sea - blasted boulders. Before long we come to Kardamyli, a picturesque village growing ever more popular with tourists. Nearby we catch our first glimpse of the Mani's famous towers, plus the remains of a castle, some ancient walls and the Tomb of the Dioscuri before pressing southward.
The road continues to follow the shore, giving us the chance to visit the ruins of a Frankish castle at Levktro built on the site of ancient Leuctra, take a swim at the budding resort of Stoupa, and enjoy the lovely setting of Agios Nikolaos. All are within easy reach of each other.
Now the road begins to climb and the landscape begins to change. For some time, its main features will be olive trees and stones: seemingly endless, monotonous but none the less impressive. As the road finally descends and approaches the sea once more, we find ourselves in Laconia.
The first stop is Oitylo, situated on a bay but split by a ravine; then Limeni, opposite, the port of Areopolis, which overlooks it. The integrity of this traditional village is preserved by law. You can of course reach Areoppolis from Gytheion on the east coast.
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