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Located at the end of a long natural harbor, around which cluster a few tavernas and shops, Gerolimenas was an important port in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sleepy as Gerolimenas now is, it's the most tourist-friendly place in this stark part of the Mani, with several hotels and tavernas and a lively town beach. About 3 km (2 mi) north of Gerolimenas is the hamlet of Stavri, from where you can make a memorable one-hour trek to the Castle of Mina, built by the Franks in 1248 into the rock face at the end of a long promontory surrounded by crashing surf. The most photogenic sight around here, however, is picture-perfect Vathia, which is set 10 km (6 mi) south of Gerolimenas. Although now virtually a ghost town, its small clusters of looming tower houses perched against the sea are one of the postcard icons of Greece. The two- and three-story stone tower houses here all have small windows and tiny openings over the doors through which boiling oil was poured on the unwelcome. Unfortunately, there was an effort to recolonize the village with an array of chic hotels several years ago but that seems to have failed, now heightening, if anything, Vathia's pervasive feeling of emptiness.
The landscape becomes more rugged and even more forbidding south of Vathia, on the way to Cape Tenaro at the tip of the peninsula. The road winds around the mountainsides to Porto Kayio, where a few tavernas face a lovely beach, and then to more beaches at Marmari. A narrow road leads south to barren Cape Tenaro, where the ruins of a small Roman settlement include a mosaic that is perilously open to the elements. An underwater cave here, to which you might be able to convince a boatman to take you, is one of several alleged entrances to the classical underworld. From the cape you can look out over the Mani peninsula and the gulf of Laconia and gulf of Messinia.
Elsewhere in Peloponnese
- Ancient Corinth
- Ancient Messene
- Ancient Nemea
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