The most obvious way to explore this dramatic area, once known as Kakavoulia (‘evil counsel’) is to follow the road that runs down one coast and then loops round to come back up the other side, starting and finishing at Areopolis.
The total driving time to do this is just under 2 hours with no stops, so doing it in one day is perfectly possible if an early start is taken. The landscape is very different from the outer Mani – much more barren and windswept.
It is such a dry area that a French traveller in the 18th century recorded, “When a Kakavoulian gets married, his first job is to measure how much water is in the cistern because it is one of the most important dowry gifts.
Whoever lavishes a lot of water on the wedding is considered rich. This extravagance makes an impression and all the region learns about how much water the in-laws drank.”
Driving on each of the coasts is also very different.
On the west side the road enjoys a relatively straight course on a wide plateau whereas the mountains come dramatically down to sea level on the east coast, causing the road to bend and twist. This is not their only difference.
The west coast is all about tower villages and churches; the east offers a greater number of swimming opportunities in a series of small, fairly secluded pebbly coves, many of which have beach side tavernas.
Whatever your chosen itinerary, it is a “must do” experience – the combination of the harsh landscape and rugged coastline, the austere tower houses and their violent history and the religious fervour intrinsic to every one of the numerous churches, gives the area a unique, mystical quality, appropriate for an area right on the fringes of Europe.
For a really full day out, or to stay overnight to enjoy a couple of days in the area, there is the possibility of combining this “loop” with a visit to Cape Tainaron. (Source: http://www.insidemani.gr - Inside the Mani - a guide)