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The Peloponnese The Mani

vathy villageThe Mani

This is the region that occupies the inner of the three 'fingers' of the larger Peloponnese peninsula, a area is famous for its historic high tower-houses which were the scene of long vendettas, outlawed only around the middle of the twentieth century. It is also a region known for spectacular wildflowers in its stony, seemingly barren southern reaches, flowers which appear in spring, autumn, and even in winter.

The Outer Mani (farther north, the Inner being the southern part), features the fine Viros gorge, (which has no doubt been confused by some with the Vikos Gorge in Ipiros) which gives excellent access to the Tagetos mountains. It is near the old town of Kardamili, a good base for wanderings in the gorge and for the area in general. Flowers and birdlife are both very good here, with some orchids in on the lower altitudes. limeni village mani coastAnother gorge, Orovas by name, is farther north, and similar to Viros.

Opposite each other across the gorge have a footpath between them, which is well worth taking. These are Exohori and Tseria; there are beautiful displays of flowers on the terraces below them, and white-blossomed wild pear trees.

Though not an exceptional bird site, there are some birds of prey at passage periods and Bonelli's eagles and buzzards over the gorge at other times. smallest owlOn the coast is found a large beach area of eroded limestone with many coastal flowers, visited by many waders, particularly at passage periods, and further are cliffs with breeding lesser kestrels, and Eleonora's falcons have been seen here, as well as many other birds.

Olive groves between Aghias Nikon and Itilo have beautiful displays of spring flowers, with small owls living in the olive geckos are goodtrees, and geckos in the stone walls that separate the orchards. Near Stoupa golden jackals are seen at night; beech martens are quite common in village areas, and colonies of bats roost or breed in old churches. Though very hot and dry in summer in the Mani, autumn can be a good time to visit, with a good variety of birds and flora.

Diros cavern inner amniThe Inner Mani is farther down the 'finger' of land covered by the Tagetos, south of the Areopolis- Gytheion road, and is dominated by high, barren limestone hills, which, like the Outer Mani (though more extreme) is the result of grazing, forest clearing, fire and an arid climate, but the area is nonetheless very rich in flowers, including some quite unique ones.

You'll miss them if you go too late, however, March and April being the best time (and also for birdlife), and then again in late October and through the winter, though there aren't so many of them during that season. It is amid the low garrigue that, despite heavy grazing and burning, are habitat for many kinds of orchids, pink cyclamens, Barbary nut, blue iris, fritillaries, tulips, and many other flowers.

golden jackalBirds include ravens, Bonelli's eagles, alpine and common swifts, among others. Near Passavas, on the east side of the mountain, are some fertile areas which have some Valonia oak trees and other flowers, in great numbers though less unusual ones.

The caves of Diros Cavern aka Pyrgos Dirou, south of Areoplois are well worth seeing if you like caves and not if you dont, with flowers nearby, including yellow fenugreek and three kinds of orchids, blue larkspur, among others, and in autumn, Sternbergia lutea, crocuses, and saffrons.   A rare tulip is found at the southernmost part of the peninsula, which flowers in march and early April.  

Other breeding birds besides those mentioned above include eagle owls, scops owls, Ruppell's warblers, Eleonora's falcons and peregrines; there are many migrant birds as well, especially in April, and butterflies from early in that month until the end of May and again in autumn. Golden jackal are common, though nocturnal, as are beech martens (near villages, as in the Outer Mani); lizards are also quite common.