The entire region of Mani is home to one of the most impressive traditional architectural styles of the Mediterranean: the pyrgos (Greek for tower), a housing unit which resembles a fort, mostly because it usually forms part of a larger, safer settlement like an un-walled citadel. In some cases, their windows are mere slits in the stone-built walls, wide enough for the barrel of an old shotgun.This austere, slightly hostile appearance may make us forget that, once upon a time, real families spent their entire lives in these real homes.
Snugly fit on a narrow hilltop, seemingly away from modern civilization (after all, electricity reached the village as late as 1980), lies Vathia, the once deserted citadel that came back to life, simply to give modern visitors the opportunity to actually live inside this postcard-like scenery, between the wild rocky landscape and the endless coast. The town was known to historians as early as the 16th century, while it took its final form during the 19th century, the period of its great prosperity. After a long time of silence and decay, nine "towers" were refurbished to modern standards, while Vathia now boasts a restaurant, café and bar offering breathtaking views of the sea, as well as one of the most impressive sunsets in Greece.
As an added bonus, Vathia offers easy access to a number of pristine beaches, while the villages of Alika and Kyparissos and the beach of Marmari are perfect choices for a stop on your way to the picturesque port of Gerolimenas. Gerolimenas is a rather young settlement, as it was first inhabited by a wealthy merchant in 1870; in recent years, it was decided that the new provincial road would not pass through the port, making it one of the most serene places along the coast of Mani. Those in the know claim that it is difficult to resist a stop for a shot of ouzo with its accompaniment of delicious, bite-sized treats. After that shot, you may feel more adventurous and take a boat tour to the cave just before Cape Tainaron, considered by Ancient Greeks to be one of the gates to Hades their mythological underworld.