A three hour drive from our home in the western Peloponnese, we reached the seaside town and capital of Mani, Gythio, by mid-day. With a few hours to spare before our room would be ready, we enjoyed a relaxing lunch in town and headed out for our first adventure, the caves of Diros, a scenic 45 minute drive away.
Following our stop at the caves, we returned to the town of Gythio. Wanting to stay on the beach, we booked a room at Thirides Beach Resort, a five minute drive from the center of town. The accommodations, which included a complementary breakfast buffet, were excellent. However, our beachside location required us to drive and seek out parking when wanting to enjoy food and drinks in town. While not yet open at the time of our visit, Las Hotel & Spa provides an enjoyable and centrally located alternative.
Driving along the winding mountainside roads, we marveled at our surroundings - steep rocky cliffs crashing into the ocean, surrounded by endless blue skies.
A few feet below the historical landmark, we noticed a pathway etched into the ground leading to a pebbled cove. Feeling adventurous, we grabbed our swimsuits and wandered down the rugged pathway. Beyond the path lay a small white pebbled cove. Surrounded by only a few boats and a lone fisherman, we ventured into the water. Protected from the open seas, the water was calm and pristine, its blue color intensified by the white rock of the sea floor.
Buoyed by the salt, we floated quietly, soaking up the peacefulness of our lucky find, appreciating the ancient Greek's choice to locate the Cave of Hades in such a beautiful place - an earthly paradise.
As we drove back, we did make note of the cliffside Marmari Paradise Resort and Tainaron Blue Retreat, vowing to return for an overnight stay in the future.
Located above today's city of Sparta, Mystras was built in the 13th century on the slopes of Mount Taygetos. With beautifully preserved stone structures, pottery, church frescoes, and Byzantine art, the ancient city is a fabulous testament to the richness and complexity of a life lived long ago.