Limeni is a small village on the Mani peninsula in the Peloponnese of mainland Greece. In fact, it is really just a hamlet or townlet, and until only a few decades ago, it was just a cluster of houses wrapped around a small, idyllic cove.
In recent years, visitors exploring this part of the Peloponnese have discovered Limeni, often by accident, and it’s become a much-photographed destination that many now go out of their way to find. Our visit was quite deliberate, and we were all so happy to add this to our itinerary when doing a road trip around the eastern half of the peninsula.
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Where is Limeni?
The small village of Limeni is located on the western coast of the Mani peninsula, which itself is on the Peloponnese peninsula on the mainland, some 300kms southwest of Athens – about three and a half hours by car.
Limeni is just 3 kilometers from the nearby town of Areopoli, itself a destination worth staying for a few days, and where you will find supermarkets, museums, and other services. Limeni is technically part of Areopoli, within the municipal unit of Oitylo.
The History of Limeni
The area, including Limeni, has many caves, which were once inhabited by Neolithic people during the Bronze Age.
As mentioned the village was really just a cluster of houses for hundreds of years. An important family from Tsimova ( now called Areopoli) initially built four ‘pirgi’ here, the imposing tower houses found across the southern Mani and designed for maximum protection from invading marauders. The largest of these was known as the ‘palace’ and is now the wonderful Pirgosmavromichali Boutique Hotel.
The village is technically called ‘Itilo’ and Limeni is a derivative of the Greek word Limani, which means ‘Port’. Over 500 people lived in Limeni at one time, but today there are less than 100 inhabitants, many of whom stay during the tourists season. A lot of the business owners and staff live in Kalamata or even Athens.
When to visit Limeni
Limeni is very much a summer destination, although the shoulder seasons of April-May and also October are great for sightseeing. You won’t really see crowds here at any time of year as thankfully there are no cruise ships or tour buses, and all visitors have likely arrived by car.
The average temperature in summer is around 29 degrees Celsius, with mild nights and warm seas. Outside of spring and summer, Limeni is very quiet. Autumn and winter can be cold, and most things shut down.
How to get to Limeni
Athens to Limeni
Many people who visit Limeni are usually touring around the Peloponnese, especially the Mani peninsula. They often come from Corinth and Napflio first, head down to Monemvasia and Gythios before driving over to the Mani and on up to Kalamata and the Messinia region including Olympia. This is one of the great road trips of Greece and a highlight for many.
To arrive from Athens by rental car, you need to drive on the Greek National Road to Tripolis. This highway is big and modern and rarely has much traffic. Tolls apply several times which are best paid in cash. From there continue to Sparta with a detour to Mystras, and then on to Limeni.
If you want to catch a bus then catch it to St Nikolaos or Itilo, usually twice a day. It takes about 3 hours. Check the official Ktel Website for more information.
Kalamata to Limeni
Another option is to fly into Kalamata airport and drive or catch a bus down the coast from there. The drive down the coast takes less than two hours and is very picturesque. Be sure to stop and check out places like Kardamyli, Stoupa and Agios Nikolaos along the way.
Further reading: Explore the Peloponnese
The aforementioned Pirgos Mavromichali is the premier hotel in the area and a very charming and authentic place to stay, steeped in history.
Right next door is the similarly named Mavromichalai, one of the other former restored family mansions, which is smaller and more traditional as well as being cheaper.
Another luxury offering is Limeni Inn on the hill behind these, which is an adults-only establishment.
We chose to stay at Aria Estate, which is in an isolated spot midway between Limeni and Areopoli with incredible sea views and gorgeous stone bungalows and two-bedroom suites. While only a 5-minute drive to Limeni it was blissfully tranquil at night and in fact, we would hear jackals howling when having sundowners on our terrace. They have an amazing swimming pool too!
If you are travelling outside the summer months then it is better to stay in Areopoli, a charming medieval town with a lovely town square and a great base to explore the entire Mani. Our picks there are Petrounis Hotel and Balcony & Tower.
Limeni restaurants & cafes
Being so small, there are only a few places to drink and eat in Limeni, but they are all great.
O’ Takis has been around the longest and is a traditional seafood taverna where you can often watch the fisherman clean the catch of the day while sea turtles snap at their feet, waiting for the scraps.
A few doors up is Teloneio which is a more upmarket place with a modern spin on Greek food. We had an incredible dinner here, with stunning sunset views too.
Other popular tavernas are Taratsa Limeni and Kourmas at the end of the town.
For coffee and snacks, Thodora’s is the only real option, but it’s a good one, while there is also now a gelato shop on the main road.
There are more dining options, of course, in Areopoli or north at Neo Itilo, where you will also find a cheap and cheerful beach club.
Food at Teloneio
Things to do in Limeni
Being such a small place there is not a lot to see and do in Limeni, and to many people that is a big part of its appeal.
Swimming in the azure blue waters, enjoying delicious food, and venturing out to explore the region is how most visitors spend their time, and there is a lot to see in the Mani overall. If you can spend three or four days at least you won’t be disappointed.
One of the best things to do in Limeni is head down to the jetty, where you will find Mani Water Sports.
Here you can book a boat trip out with Andrea or he does private snorkelling tours too. They also offer sunset kayak tours, kayak rentals, scuba diving certification, and guided tours and hiking.
You could easily spend your entire visit with these guys!
The Caves of Diros
Located only 10 minutes south of Limeni is arguably one of the most important sites and natural wonders in all of Greece.
The Caves of Diros are actually two massive caves and the largest, Vlichada, is open to the public and is mostly explored in small boats on the water. The tour is 1,500 meters, of which the first 1,200 are on the water, and it takes about 25 minutes to complete.
Inside the cave, the fossilized bones of panthers, hyenas, lions, deer, and the largest hippopotamus bone deposit in Europe have been found. Near its natural entrance, pottery has been found to indicate the presence of humans. In fact, there is even evidence that this may have been where the first humans arrived in Europe from Africa.
Arrive early and avoid the tour buses and you may have the whole place to yourselves as we did. Make sure to check the official website for prices and opening times which are subject to change.
30 minutes south of Limeni is the small coastal village of Gerolimnas.
Like many other villages in the Mani region, the town has a rich and colourful past. The people of the Mani Peninsula were once well-known for their independence and frequently opposed foreign authority. There are traces of the village’s past in the surrounding area and architecture, suggesting that it has played a part in the history of the area.
Stone tower buildings are a hallmark of traditional Maniot architecture, and Gerolimenas is no exception. The village’s structures have a distinctive look since local stone is frequently used to construct them. In the past, the towers served as a line of defense during hostilities.
Gerolimenas has become a popular destination for tourists seeking a more authentic experience and visitors can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, explore the narrow streets, and savor local cuisine in seaside tavernas. The surrounding area offers many opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, exploring nearby beaches, and taking boat trips.
Vathia is ideally positioned atop a hill, providing expansive views of the surrounding countryside and the ocean. In addition to being useful for defense, its lofty location gives the community a breathtaking background.
It is known for its remarkable tower houses, which are classic Maniot buildings (There are some 800 of these scattered across the Mani). In times of war, these towers were used for defense as well as residential purposes. The tower homes bore witness to the violent past of the area and the village’s rich history. During the 18th and 19th centuries, when the towers were built, there were battles both with outside forces and among the Maniots themselves. The necessity of defense against invasions and attacks is reflected in the architecture.
Only 30 minutes east of Limeni is the beautiful port town of Gythio (chances are you may have stopped in here already if you have come from Monemvasia).
Gythio is home to many excellent seafood tavernas and located close to the main town is the small island of Cranae, believed to be where Paris of Sparta and Helen of Troy spent their first night together, igniting the Trojan War.
Also, close by you can see the Dimitrios Shipwreck at Valtaki Beach and the lovely Lighthouse of Gythio. Selinitsa Beach and Mavrovouni Beach are also lovely spots.
Cape Tainaron, also known as Cape Matapan, is the southernmost point of mainland Greece. In ancient Greek mythology, Cape Tainaron was considered the entrance to the Underworld (Hades). According to legend, this is where Hercules descended to the Underworld to capture Cerberus, the three-headed dog guarding the gates of Hades.
At the tip of Cape Tainaron stands the Tainaron Lighthouse, an iconic structure that has been guiding ships along this treacherous coastline since the 19th century. The lighthouse itself is a historical landmark and offers panoramic views of the surrounding sea and coastline.
The cape is also home to the Tainaron Blue Retreat, a luxury hotel with stunning views of the sea.
Caves of Diros