A journey to Laconia, however, reveals a landscape that matches the sound of its name, not the narrow confines of linguistics and the Oxford English dictionary. Laconia breathes in olive oil and winding roads, the soft chime of bells from churches and livestock amid fragrant soap, dusty footsteps and bright, tumultuous, ready- to- burst fruit.

Tomato seller in the Mani Tomato seller in the Mani
Limeni Limeni

The region includes the middle and far eastern “fingers” of the Peloponnese that stretch south into the Aegean Sea. And it’s an area that seems to have pulled off the magician’s feat of travel. Easy to reach, through direct flights from London to Kalamata and car rental on the spot at the airport. Plentiful hotels and resorts dotted along the coast.

Yet it’s also so easy to escape those hotspots. To feel alone, walking the roads that have stood here since the time of ancient Greece, Hades, the Underworld, and the challenge of Hercules. That’s no exaggeration. This truly is the place where these legends came to life. And there’s a third trick up Laconia’s sleeve. It is truly family friendly. Not in a fake way, all multicoloured plastic and ear-splitting echoey kind of a way. But in the true meaning of the words. Friendly. To families.

Fresh produce from the Mani Fresh produce from the Mani

We travelled, the three of us, mum, dad and toddler lab, with car from Kalamata, taking in beaches, monuments, fresh food markets and olive groves. And everywhere we went, people greeted toddler Lab with a smile. By the end of the trip, she’d received handmade presents, extra honey, pirate games and enough fresh almonds to last her for life. And so, with that generosity of spirit in mind, here are some hidden gems and insider tips for a trip to Laconia. Hire a car. And head deep into the Mani and the legends of Ancient Greece…

Drive to the tip of the Mani
To reach the southernmost point of the Mani, you’ll need to hike. But the drive to nearly the southernmost point is worth it, with retina-blazing views of blue seas and hidden coves. It was here that ancient Greeks stared out at the horizon and decided that the entrance to the Underworld, guarded by Hades, lurked in a nearby cave.

Ship wreck, Valtaki beach Ship wreck, Valtaki beach

The Rusty Shipwreck
Beautiful Areopoli, with its tiny streets, tumbling pink flowers and cosy cafes does attract the crowds. But not far from here, you’ll find Valtaki beach, a stretch of deep honeyed sand beloved by locals and a striking, blood-red ship marooned on the shore. Called the Dimitrios, it teeters on the shore like a rumpled and ruffled ghost who doesn’t want to hear the news that it’s time to move on and leave. Visit at sunset to catch the most striking views and capture a sense of timelessness.

Gerolimenas, Peloponnese Gerolimenas, Peloponnese
Traditional Greek lunch Traditional Greek lunch

Lunch in Gerolimenas
The name means “old harbour” and lunch in this tiny cove makes it clear that “pretty old harbour” would have been even more fitting. It’s a pebble beach but with water as clear as glass and deep blue glistening on the horizon. Fishermen weave their nets at the edge of the shore and waterside tavernas drip olive oil, feta and red onion into Greek salads worth waiting for. Inside tip: hire a car and take your beach clothes with you. The Mani peninsula has plenty of isolated coves and beaches with no-one else around. Pull over and enjoy an impromptu dip!

Abigail King

Abigail King runs Inside the Travel Lab, an online community for thinking travellers who care about the people, places and cultures they visit. She’s written for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She also likes marmite toast, buttered just right, and likes to keep a healthy distance from camels.

The Sunvil Family

By The Sunvil Family

13th June 2019



The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family

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