10-day Summer Family Vacation Itinerary in Mani

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If you are looking for a family vacation itinerary for a leisurely summer vacation with kids of all ages -babies, toddlers, school-age kids and teens- in Mani peninsula, Greece, this itinerary is just for you!

By Eleni Fotiou, travel journalist & MAMAKITA family travel advisor

This day-by-day trip plan created by MAMAKITA family travel advisors is a summer family vacation itinerary that includes sightseeing the highlights and swimming at the kid-friendliest beaches in East Mani, around Gythio, and West Mani (the so-called Messenian Mani) around Kardamyli and Stoupa. Here, you will also find day trips with ideas for family friendly guided tours and kid-friendly activities at the “inner heart” of Mani and its towers, Areopoli, Gerolimenas, Diros Caves & Cape Matapan, Elafonisos beach, Monemvasia and Ancient Messene; a “Game of Thrones” interactive guided tour at the castle-town and site of Mystras, as well as a “treasure hunt” with olive oil tasting and food pairing at the beautiful city of Kalamata, the “capital” of olives and extra virgin olive oil.

Mani is full of hidden gems for families to discover in various ways and by several means. On foot, by bike or by sea, you can breathe Mani, smell it, taste it in its excellent local products and authentic taverns. With the help of this summer family vacation itinerary, meet the family-friendly side of the land of world globetrotters, admire the overwhelming views of the Mani towers, slow-down and appreciate life in the Mani beaches and coves.

Brief Summer Family Vacation Itinerary in Mani

  • Day 1: Ancient Messene, Treasure Hunt & Olive Oil Tasting for Kids
  • Day 2: Swim in the Mani kid-friendly beaches & Slow down
  • Day 3: Explore the coast of Mani by sea
  • Day 4: East Mani, Areopoli, Diros cave & Cape Matapan
  • Day 5: Explore West Mani, Kardamyli & Stoupa       
  • Day 6: Monemvasia day trip
  • Day 7: Mystras day trip
  • Day 8: Authentic villages & pristine beaches
  • Day 9: Swimming, Farming & Cooking
  • Day 10: Departure & Kalamata Food Tour

Detailed Summer Family Vacation Itinerary in Mani

Day 1: Ancient Messene, Treasure Hunt & Olive Oil Tasting for Kids

Before arriving to your hotel in Mani, you can drive towards Ancient Messene, one of the greatest and best-preserved cities of antiquity in terms of size. Founded in the 4th century BC, Ancient Messene is perceived as a very “new” archaeological site due to its recent opening to the public. You can walk around the ancient city, the Temples and the Agora and admire the Stadium and the Theatre. Especially when traveling with kids, you should bear in mind that there is no shade apart from some olive trees, and that visiting especially with toddlers on a sunny day may turn into a nightmare! Hats, sunscreen and water are “obligatory” accessories. Drinking water can be found close to the Stadium, more than half-an-hour on foot from the entrance. Most of the findings of the excavations are kept in the museum of Ancient Messene, just outside the archaeological site.

After your tour in the ancient city, you have the chance to taste the Kalamata olives and olive oil. Walk through the olive groves and marvel the perennial olive trees while kids indulge themselves in a treasure hunt in an olive grove, next to the Castle of Princess Izambo. In an olive oil testing & food pairing seminar designed for families, a certified olive oil sommelier will help you discover the richness of the Messenian taste. Traditional meal will follow.

Recommended guided tours and activities:

The Olive Taste in Messenia

Day 2: Swim in the Mani kid-friendly beaches & Slow down

This is a day to relax and enjoy the sea and sun. Discover the pristine sandy beaches around Gythio, like Vathy or Mavrovouni, or the small-pebbled around Kardamyli and Stoupa, like Kalogria and Ritsa, depending on your location of accommodation.  

If you stay close to Gythio, Vathy is a sandy beach with blue, clean, warm waters, watersports and a couple of traditional taverns. Apart from Vathy, there are three more kid-friendly beaches close by: Mavrovouni beach with one of the best taverns in the area “Demestihas”, deeper waters, usually preferred for camping and surfing; Selinitsa with bars and cafes; as well as the Dimitrios Shipwreck on Valtaki beach with a beach bar and restaurant.

What kids say about it!

“Vathy is the most beautiful beach in Gythio. We reached this sandy beach passing through an olive grove. The sand is golden with small crystals and the water fresh and light blue. Many seashells and very clear waters. Just take your umbrella and your sunscreen. I’ve been there in September and I liked the fact that it was quiet”.  

If you stay in West Mani, in Ritsa beach, you will find taverns, sunbeds and umbrellas in parts of the beach. Bear in mind that the beach is a mix of pebbles and sand, it deepens abruptly, its seabed is ideal for snorkeling and that the water is cold, due to the river flowing through the Vyros gorge (which was part of the ancient royal road connecting Ancient Sparta with Kardamili).

In the afternoon, an artist will be available to engage your kids in a mosaic and handmade art workshop inside your hotel, on the beach, your balcony or another spot under the trees, or in her atelier in a traditional village.

Recommended guided tours and activities:

Creative mosaic and handmade art workshop for kids

Day 3: Explore the coast of Mani by sea

Enjoy the beaches along the Maniot coast. The coast of Mani embodies the rich scenery of this land that is why you are recommended to take a boat trip or a guided sea kayak tour along the West or the East Mani coast -depending on your accommodation.

Recommended guided tours and activities:

Guided sea kayak tour (small group or private in West Mani)

Rib boat trip (private in East Mani)

Day 4: East Mani, Areopoli, Diros cave & Cape Matapan

This day is dedicated to the “heart” of Mani. Ascend to Areopolis, visit the Cave of Diros, swim along your way and reach Cape Tenaro, the southernmost natural harbor of the Greek mainland, mythologically perceived as the Gate to the Underworld.

In Areopoli, visit the Museum at the Pikoulakis tower and learn fascinating stories from the glorious days of the Maniot “captains”. Walk from Athanaton square to the March 17 square with the worth visiting Taxiarhes church, and taste the awarded bread by Milia, in the oldest bakery in the Peloponnese (Fournos tis Milias).

Almost at sea-level, the Cave of Diros is one of the most beautiful lacustrine caves in the world. The cave covers an area of 16.700 square meters and since 1949 about 2.800 water passages have been explored. A 2.5-km-long winding passageway is the main route for sightseeing. During a 40-min boat trip, you will come across an intricate network of passages and galleries, decorated with gleaming stalagmites and stalactites, whose reflection in the water accentuates their natural beauty. The guided tour takes place by boat and on foot – part of it is on land.

End up in cape Matapan and the “end of the living world”. A network of underground caves was believed to be the entrance to Hades, the Underworld. The gates were guarded by Cerberus, the multi-headed dog, the “hound of Hades” that -according to Greek mythology- prevented the dead from escaping and the living from entering. Imagine you become Hercules trying to enter the Underworld and to kidnap Cerberus in order to fulfil the 12th labor.

Walk around to trace the hypno-oracle, the sanctuary and death oracle of Poseidon, the roman mosaic ground and the lighthouse of Matapan (Tenaro). Be aware of the sun and the absolute lack of shade. The land looks literally like the end of the world. No trees, no tents, no facilities. You will need sunscreen, sunhat and water.

Day 5: Explore West Mani, Kardamyli & Stoupa       

Swim in the beautiful kid-friendly beaches of Stoupa and Kalogria and enjoy your lunch at one of the traditional tavernas along the coast.

Kalogria beach is an oasis amidst the wild Maniot landscape. The golden sand to build sandcastles, the shallow waters -always fresh thanks to the sources flowing from the seabed- and the rocks in the northern coast with the numerous little crabs create an ideal scenery for families with babies and very young children. You will find sunbeds and umbrellas (you will pay a fee to use them), as well as taverns and cafés on the beach, where cars and other vehicles are forbidden.

To the south of Kalogria, you will find the small coastal village of Stoupa. The beach of Stoupa is a favorite for Greek families in August and parking might be a problem. The coastal street is full of taverns and cafés offering umbrellas and sunbeds (for free) and in the afternoon, cars are prohibited along the coastal road. Bear in mind that Kalogria and Stoupa become really crowded in August and in case you need the car to reach the beach, parking will be a problem. If you wish to find your quiet during your vacation, you are strongly advised to swim in early morning or late afternoon hours, or just avoid August.

In the afternoon, explore by bike one of the most restful places in Messenian Mani, the coast from Stoupa to Agios Nikolaos and the small harbor of Trahila.

Recommended guided tours and activities:

Guided bike tour in West Mani

Day 6: Kardamyli or Monemvasia day trip

Depending on your “base”, explore Kardamyli, the land that captured the heart of leading travel writer sir Patrick Leigh Fermor and his wife, photographer Joan Leigh Fermor, back in the 1960s and hosted them until the end of their lives.

In Kardamyli, you can visit the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House and in summer afternoons, you can enjoy a short walk and your coffee, juice and snacks at one of the beautiful cafes along the coast, such as Aquarella. Just before sunset, dive off the dock in front of the tavern Harilaos, where the last scene of the third film of the “Before Trilogy” “Before Midnight” was shot, where on the last night of their idyllic Greek vacation, longtime lovers Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) reminisce about their lives together and what different choices might have brought.

Alternatively, if you stay in East Mani, visit Monemvasia. Stroll along the cobbled paths of the Medieval Castle Town, a natural fortress and Europe’s only castle that has never ceased being inhabited. Walk amidst the mansions and the Byzantine churches and grasp the opportunity to taste Greek local wine varieties in an old cellar or create natural olive-oil soap together with a local host. [Not suitable for strollers].

Recommended guided tours and activities:

Photo tour for families with teens

Day 7: Mystras day trip

Visit the Byzantine city of Mystras, one of the most important centers of the Byzantine Empire (1280-1400 AD). You will have the opportunity to walk around the Acropolis of William, and visit the museums within the cluttered walls, full of elements of daily life and monasteries where nuns still live. If you are a company of friends or families travelling with two cars, leave one at the lower entrance of the castle and drive with the second to the upper entrance in order to walk downhill. Walking in the Castle Town with children is safe, but an experienced tour guide will make your tour easier and more attractive for kids with stories from the life of the last kings of the Byzantine Empire.

You can also visit the unique museum of Olive Oil in Sparta and for lunch, head to a restaurant, popular even beyond Peloponnese, called “Hromata” (“Colors”) at Pikoulianika, a real hidden gem! With a veranda overlooking Sparta and a sophisticated Greek cuisine, it is ideal for an early dinner.

Recommended guided tours and activities:

Mystras guided tour

Day 8: Authentic villages & pristine beaches

Depending on your “base”, swim at one of the kid-friendly beaches of the area and in the afternoon drive to the authentic villages up the Mount Taygetus to appreciate the views and sense Mani’s uniqueness. Let your imagination depict the everyday lives of the “Captains” of the Greek War of Independence, unfold their stories that are well-kept in the inimitable Maniot towers, take your time to comprehend their dual use, as tools of warfare and as residences, as well as their “ability” to narrate the evolution of the Maniot society and its distinct family bonds.       

Alternatively, drive to Elafonisos, which is surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise seas and has some of the finest and longest sandy beaches in Greece, Simos beach.

Day 9: Swimming, Farming & Cooking                           

Enjoy your last day of your family vacation in Mani on your favorite beach. In the afternoon, take part in a farming and cooking experience and explore rustic life and the rich cultural heritage of the area in an eco- farm. Visit the crops, the animal farm and the vegie garden; pick fresh fruit and vegetables, feed the animals and marvel at the unique treehouses, built from all-natural materials. Then, a local cook will unravel the secrets of the Greek cuisine. After the meal, kids have the opportunity to attend a pottery workshop and take their creations with them when they leave. Alternatively, enjoy your dinner by the water at an authentic fish restaurant.

What kids say about it!

“In Skoutari, we found the best tavern ever! While off the beaten path, located on a secluded beach with golden sand, the food was very good. The most impressive were the tiny fishermen’s houses by the water, and the numerous fishing boats. We liked especially the grilled feta and the Greek salad. It was not crowded (in May) which is exactly what we have been looking for. We have been told that in August, one should be very patient or not hungry!”

Recommended guided tours and activities:

Farming & cooking class

Day 10: Departure & Kalamata Food Tour

Departure with a stop in the Messenian capital, Kalamata, which is famous for its olives and olive oil. It is also, probably, the most beautiful city of the Peloponnese, with interesting museums and an authentic historic center around its Castle, that you can explore with a food tour. Cherish your day in its beautiful beach and walk in the old railway station, which operates as an open-air railway museum with old wagons, ideal for children to discover and play.

Recommended guided tours and activities:

Kalamata walking food tour

What kids say about it!

“My most precious memory from my family vacation in Mani were the local cats! I met all kinds of them. They are friendly, sweet and they wander everywhere. It might not be so much important for sightseeing, but this was the highlight of my trip to Greece”.

Need some help in trip planning by the best family travel agents in Greece? MAMAKITA family travel specialists can customize this summer family vacation itinerary in Mani according to your preferences, age of kids, travel pace and budget. Enjoy your family holidays in Greece without worrying about family friendly accommodation, kid-friendly tours and activities by making your request here.

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