Gerolimenas Travel Guide

Gerolimenas

Located at the end of a long natural harbor, Gerolimenas was an important port in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sleepy as it now is, it's the most tourist-friendly place in this stark part of the southernmost Mani, with several hotels, tavernas, and shops and a lively town beach. About 3 km (2 miles) north of Gerolimenas is the town of Stavri, from where you can make a memorable one-hour trek north to Tigani Castle, built by the Franks in the mid-13th century and carved into the rock face at the end of a long promontory surrounded by crashing surf.

The most photogenic sight in this part of the Mani is the picture-perfect Vathia, 10 km (6 miles) south of Gerolimenas. This old village is now virtually a ghost town. A government-sponsored plan to turn it into a sprawling hotel never came to pass, and its clusters of looming tower houses perched against the sea are one of the postcard icons of Greece. Many of the two- and three-story stone buildings have small windows and tiny openings over the doors through which boiling oil was poured on the unwelcome. The majority are in disrepair but signs of life are emerging in a handful of renovations.

The landscape becomes more rugged and even more forbidding south of Vathia, on the way to the cape at the tip of the peninsula. The road forks around the mountainsides to Porto Kayio, where a few tavernas face a lovely beach, and then to more beaches at Marmari. The alternative route leads south to barren Cape Tenaro, where the ruins of a small Roman settlement include a mosaic of the Aria's star, created in the first century, that is perilously open to the elements. A 2 km (1¼ mile) path follows a treacherously rocky route past it to the lighthouse at the peninsula's tip, where you can gaze off the southernmost edge of mainland Greece. A cave here, to which you might be able to convince a boatman to take you, is also one of several alleged entrances to the classical underworld.

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