Καρδαμύλη – Peloponnese

Apart from being a peaceful, cosy and relatively untouched Greek coastal village with a great amount of churches, chapels, monasteries, towers and fortresses in the vicinity for those interested in culture and history, Kardamili has a fantastic backdrop – The Taygetos mountains. Include a well preserved network of old paths and kalderimis and you have one irresistible destination for a walking holiday.

I usually try to recommend places to eat and drink, this time it is with some difficulty. Although food is generally good, no knowledge of wine and the storage of wine will probably have destroyed every bottle before it arrives at our table. A shame since Messinian wine is known for both reds and whites made from e.g Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. You will just not get them here (or they will already be ruined). So stick to the simple house wines if that is available or drink beer (“Alfa” recommended). The village of Stoupa to the south of Kardamili reportedly has a good wine restaurant. So let us get back to just the food. One place is special and had some of the best Lamb (and also Bifteki) I have ever tasted in Greece. It is George’s place across the street from Liakoto Hotel and Apartments. I never managed to actually decode the name of that taverna as everything there is in handwriting only… Just one small piece of advice: If you plan on getting to bed some time early you will have to get out before George gets truly into the mood. When he starts dancing and throwing glasses over his shoulder, this is a small sign that it is now too late… The ouzo will flow and you will not be able to leave until he feel he HAS to close for the “evening”, at around two o’clock in the morning or so… If you are to try this experiment do NOT have a cocktail or two before dinner… And drink slowly because he will never stop pouring the stuff, empty glasses are not tolerated… Congratulations on your newly acquired hangover (or worse)…

For really good wines from the Peloponnese buy a couple at the airport instead:

  • 2001 Boutari Cabernet Sauvignon – excellent wine, at its peak now, drink now or very soon
  • 2001 Lyrodos – cabernet / grenache from organically grown grapes in the Messina area

Not that you are likely to find it here, but I have to mention that one of the best wines I have ever tasted comes from the Peloponnese:

  • 1999 Skouras Grande Cuvée Nemea – if you can find this wine anywhere buy every bottle they have

Worth mentioning is also that the Mani area produces olive oil that very well might be the best in the world. Many people claim this.

Selected walks: For walks close to Kardamili take a look in Landscapes of the Southern Peloponnese by Michael Cullen (referred to below as “/Cullen/”) and “Walking in Mani” (Book 1), by Mat Dean (referred to below as “/Dean/”, see picture above, this book is sold locally). For more background on the Taygetos mountains as well as an overview of the color coded path network near Kardamili see Taygetos by Triantafyllos Adamakopoulos and Penelope Matsouka (referred to below as “/Adamakopoulos/”). In this book even longer treks can be found, and if that is your cup of tea also refer to Trekking in Greece by Marc Dubin (referred to below as “/Dubin/”). In addition /Adamakopoulos/ comes with the almost indestructible Anavasi Topo 50 (1:50000) Taygetos map that will give an overview of major paths all over the place. This scale is not ideal for walking, but the publisher also have the Topo 25 hiking maps in 1:25000. These are probably the best maps of this area for the walker, and even better than the usual Road Editions 51 – Mt. Taygetos (in 1:50000).

The bookstore in Kardamili will most probable have all these titles except the out print /Dubin/.

•1 KARDAMILI – PROASTIO – FONEAS CAVE [ – KARDAMILI] (my total time 2h30, includes only short stops for photography and drinking – add a small lunch and a swim and then walk the main road back to Kardamili for a total of little over 4h; +281m -295m, 1 lap): A small variation of walk 9 in /Cullen/, leaving out the village of Petrovouni, you will have plenty of time to look closer at that village later. A fairly easy walk, but good boots are no less required, like all the walks in this area.

Do not turn right at the “first house of Petrovouni”, (the abandoned house on top of the kalderimi) instead continue ahead into the shady valley. This is my favorite route anyway. It will also be yours on a hot sunny day… Fork right twice (at the second fork take a note of the green sign pointing left to Exochori, we will use this path on another walk later) then ignore a very tempting small path right up to Petrovouni (which is way-marked in black and yellow, this is really a part of the Agia Sophia – Petrovouni path which we will use other parts of in a later walk, ref. /Adamakopoulos/), instead take the next and last fork right (just before the path meets the road in a bend). Climb up on this higher part of the road with the church of Petrovouni on your right and on your left you will see the (initially) concrete road towards Proastio.

After this the book gets a bit confusing and it is better to follow the way-marking which IS there at times, including cairns and arrows. At the “miniature chapel” (which it is very hard to realize actually is a chapel, but it is the only small building you can see here) you can again pick up the instructions. If you cannot find your way go back and take the track you passed to the right of a yellow marked tree (to your left in case you are backtracking…) as described under walk 4 in /Dean/, also see my walk 5 below. This alternative route is easier on your feet, and is easier to follow. However this way you will leave the marked trail, and you will have to find it again, later.

Just before the “natural overhangs” be sure to ignore a walled path going down on the right. This is mentioned in /Dean/, but forgotten in /Cullen/.

In Proastio the route through the village is not as easy as you should think. Refer to the street names only, because there are more forks of these streets than those mentioned in the book. By the way the “unnamed lane” in not unnamed anymore (now if I could only remember the actual name…). And the “path” between the church of Agios Nikolaos and the bigger church in the village is of course not a path, but a narrow lane…

•2 VIROS GORGE (my total time 7h25, includes short stops for photography and drinking and a small lunch; +-798m, 2 laps): This is walk 8 in /Cullen/ with the alternative return from Exochori (via the gorge). One fantastic walk! A tough one though, not easy on your feet, but never difficult to follow. Just read the instructions carefully.

But be sure not to miss your “exit” on your way up the gorge as this is a very narrow (but waymarked) path. There is a very tempting diversion here over a small corner of the river bed, where you just miss your path, however if you do not take the diversion, you probably will never notice the overgrown track coming down from the right, the other useful waymark here. So either way I think this can be easily missed. After spotting the track, continue down into the riverbed again, look back down and there is your path.

The only point where I am a little confused is the crossing of the gorge after Tseria. “Down the bed for 100m” and “end of the wall” point at very different locations, as the wall lasts only about 30m or so, and at that point I climbed out of the riverbed. I then just climbed the steep road bank close to the pumping station.

For a great gorge day use the alternative return from Exochori, this route is described in more detail in /Dubin/ and under walk 2 in /Dean/. Not that you will need much instructions, the route is marked and there is usually only one way to go. So at the mulberry tree fork right towards Agios Georgios and the gorge instead of left towards Agia Sophia.

In addition to the main route (not used here) from Exochori there is also another other (even easier) route between Exochori and Kardamili, both will be used in my walk 3 below, which wraps up the case regarding (almost) all the bits of paths we still not have used east of town.

•3 KARDAMILI – AGIA SOPHIA – PETROVOUNI – EXOCHORI – AGIA SOPHIA – KARDAMILI (my total time 4h43, includes only short stops for photography and drinking; +-561m, 2 laps): This walk takes a closer look at most of the small villages east of Kardamili. A fairly easy walk, but still with great views. A few short steep stretches. Although it will use a large number of larger and smaller tracks and paths it should not be difficult to follow. The way I have constructed this walk is also to make use of almost every bit of path still unused by the two walks above.

Start by following walk 4 in /Dean/ to Agia Sophia and down in the direction of Petrovouni. Down in the first valley (you just cross it here) take a note of the path forking right (marked in yellow, ref. /Adamakopoulos/) that swings back below Agia Sophia. We will make use of this one later for some (more) great views over Kardamili. As described in the book this part of the walk does not actually follow the black and yellow marks all the way to Petrovouni (remember, we saw these marks from the route we followed under my walk 1 above), instead it enters the village via the abandoned house we also encountered on my walk 1, where we were “supposed” to enter at that time. So finally we can now take a closer look at this village.

For the second part of the walk retrace your steps from my walk 1 above to the green walkers’ sign pointing to Exochori (or do the same using the black and yellow path if you can find it from Petrovouni). At this point pick up the instructions from walk 3 in /Dean/ for this leg.

When you enter Exochori (Nikovo to be exact) you will need to link to the third part of the walk, the returning route from Hora. This will be the main route from walk 8 in /Cullen/, the one we did not use in my walk 2 above. To link up turn left on the main road in Exochori and cross the small valley turning left at the blue “KATO HORA” sign. After passing through the village you will again be at the mulberry tree where you forked right (for the Agios Georgios and the gorge). This time fork left. From here the timings in the book are a little off but when in doubt just move ahead in the pretty obvious direction.

From Agia Sophia it is of course tempting to just return to Kardamili via the main kalderimi straight away, but remember the yellow marked path in the small valley (now to your left). This will now be the fourth part of our walk. Return to the valley using the same path as on the outward leg, and then turn right onto this yellow marked path. Very nice! But soon you will again be at the kalderimi (you may have noticed the yellow path forking right also at this point on your way up?), turn left for town.

•4 SOTIRIANIKA – KAMBOS – KARDAMILI (my total time 5h40, includes only short stops for photography and drinking; +494m -760m, 3 laps): This is walk 7 in Cullen. You can also use walk 1 in /Dean/, at times this follows a slightly different route. A fairly interesting walk this also, and you will (almost immediately) see some fantastically constructed kalderimi (see picture right). The route is usually pretty easy to follow, but there is a grave mistake in the book just after Sotirianika.

At time of writing (primo June 2004) the north-bound bus from Kardamili was at 8 o’clock in the morning. Alight from the bus IMMEDIATELY when you see the Sotirianika village sign (“Σωτηριάνικα“) on the main road (sign in Greek only). Then walk up to the village.

In Sotirianika the phrase “keep straight” must be taken quite literally at ALL times I think (not try to follow the widest lane), as I missed the small bridge.

The fork at “30min” (if you walk in the initial pace of the book), is a fork to the RIGHT. Then a couple of minutes AFTER that you fork left TWICE for the chapel and the spring.

No big problems continuing, and if you are unsure or loose your way try looking the walk up in /Dean/ also. There are always more forks to be ignored than those mentioned in the books, so you do need to use your head a little. E.g “ignore two left turns” on page 56 of /Cullen/. I did never see a fork prominent enough for me to ignore here, but there were a couple of them to the RIGHT that it is of the utmost importance to ignore!

•5 KARDAMILI – PROASTIO – STOUPA (my total time 2h58, includes only short stops for photography and drinking – combine with my walk 6 below, add a small lunch and then walk the main road back to Stoupa and your bus for a total of 5h23; +386m -378m, 1 lap): This is mostly walk 4 in /Dean/. After some of the bone-crunching walks above this leg-stretcher will feel very good. Not a too interesting walk in itself though.

Use the shady valley below Petrovouni (see my walk 1 above) and then for an alternative to the route used before to Proastio use walk 4 in /Dean/. Follow this then the entire way to Stoupa. If you go down to the “bakery junction” you will find the bus sheds here. At the time of writing (primo June 2004), there is a north-bound bus returning for Kardamili at 15.45 from Stoupa.

There is one interesting marked path that you just pass on this walk (or you are actually on it for three meters or so), you might like to take a note of that for later use. You go “straight at the crossroads of paths”, see page 26. The path forking left here is a marked path towards Saidhona high up in the hills above you. Looks promising?

•6 STOUPA – AGIOS NIKOLAOS [ – STOUPA ] (my total time 0h46, includes only short stops for photography – combine with my walk 5 above, add a small lunch and then walk the main road back to Stoupa and your bus for a total of 5h23; +31m -41m, 0 laps): This is walk 5 in /Dean/. A short and very easy walk. But nice to take a closer look at an interesting stretch of coastline.

If you do not want to return the same way you you can safely walk the main road back. It is wide, and there is not too much traffic.

At the time of writing (primo June 2004), there is a north-bound bus returning to Kardamili at 15.45 from Stoupa (bakery junction).
• Good starting points • You are already there

• How to get there: • By air (charter only) to the nearest airport at Kalamáta

• More info: • HELLASGUIDE.NET – lots of information about The Peloponnese, and especially Kardamili, e.g a presentation of just about every taverna (in Norwegian) • Lilleput – Only Scandinavian charter company offering trips to Kardamili (in Norwegian)

This page was last modified at October 31, 2010.

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