The mythical threshold of Mani

A land of gods
A land for which Hercules and Apollo once fought over- then reconciled and are both worshipped here ever since. A land where Paris and Helen of Troy once slept, on their way to Troy. Gytheio (“Gy Theon” which translates as “Land of Gods” in Greek) is one of these corners of Peloponnese which a foreign explorer once wrote about that is “the material from which myths are made”.

Part of both the land and the sea, with an island breeze, which is totally part of it mostly, colorful and deep blue, as it reflects the colors of its waters, the threshold of Mani is much more than a simple base for excursions to its villages and the beaches. It is a destination, all by itself.

Strolling around Gytheio

Colorful neoclassical buildings of the 19th century hang on the slope of the green hill that the locals call Akoumaro (it is also called Larysio) with their colors reflected on the waters of the Laconian Gulf. The city’s heart beats at the dock, where ouzo serving taverns and café spread their tables outside near the impressive neoclassical Town Hall that Ernst Ziller designed in 1890, and where roads and alleys climb to the top of the hill, zig zagging among flowery back yards, stone houses and churches.

If you think that the dock is the perfect place to stroll in town- especially when it is painted with the golden colors of the sunset- you haven’t reached its tip yet, where there starts the narrow strip of land that connected in 1886 the small island of “Kranai”, also known as Marathonisi, with Gytheio and the rest of the Peloponnese. On this small, green island the myth has it that Paris and Helen of Troy spend their first night together, on their way to Troy.

On the north tip of the island, upon the debris of Aphrodite’s temple, is built today the tiled, white church of Agios Peter. The most important site of Kranai though is the built in 1829 tower of the Greek Revolution’s chieftain and third bey of Mani, Tzanetakis. One of the most well preserved samples of the architecture of Mani, the Tzanetakis Tower houses today the small Historical and Ethnological Museum of Mani. On the other tip of the island stands as a restless guard since 1873 the impressive, rectangular light house that rises to the 22 meters. 

Gytheio also has its own ancient theatre, at the north tip of the city, on the foot of the ancient citadel’s hill. Built during the Roman era, in the 2nd century, the theatre hosts theatrical performances and musical concerts every summer. On the hill above the theatre are distinct some parts of the ancient walls and of the Roman aqueduct. The main reason though to climb up here is the fantastic view to the city and the sea, especially around sunset.

The best dives around Gytheio
There are two close, and equally beautiful, beaches in Gytheio: The stunning Selinitsa, to which on the one side end up the waters of the Ardelis River, and on the other side is the six kilometers sandy beach of Mavrovouni that windsurfers love. Six kilometers away from Gytheio, Vathi has also nice, pebbled beaches that the crystal clear waters of the Laconian Gulf end up. Of course, as we said before Gytheio is the threshold of Mani,  so you can drive a few kilometers south and dive in some of the best beaches of the entire Peloponnese.







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