Areopoli in the Peloponnese is one of the prettiest towns in Greece. Boasting a small historical centre, charming stone houses, cobblestone alleyways and prominent tower houses- it’s worth adding to your list if you are searching for a destination filled with authenticity, history and culture.
Centrally located in the heart of Mani, it has now become an attractive destination year-round thanks to its friendly locals who keep their traditional taverns, cafes, shops and hotels open summer and winter.
History of the Town
Aeropoli played a huge role in the Greek War of Independence and took its name from the Greek God of War “Ares”. In fact, the people of Aeropoli were the first to raise the banner of the Revolution in Mani. This symbolic white decorated flag (with the Revolution’s symbols) is now exhibited in the Historical Museum of Athens.
The traditional architecture of Mani is highlighted throughout the town via its traditional stone, a raw material found in the cobbled streets, the churches, the houses and the towers of Aeropoli; it’s displayed everywhere you look in the “fortified settlement”. Stone was used not only as it was a material found in abundance throughout Mani but also because it provided the necessary protection for locals who were “hidden” by the eyes of the pirates.
Things to See in Areopoli
–Church of Taxiarches- the beautiful metropolitan church of Taxiarches was built by the family of Mavromichalis. Located in the centre of the city, at the historical square of the 17th of March 1821- it was right here where locals declared the revolution against the Ottoman Empire. Built with well-processed stones, it stands out with its impressive five-storied bell tower. The church’s dome features ten sides and the five-sided arch of the altar area is decorated with small marble columns and marble arches.
–Pikoulakis Tower- has three storeys, with a strong, two- storey tower-house. Here you will also discover the impressive Byzantine Museum of Mani and the Church of Agios Ioannis, built by the Mavromichalis family (check out the lovely wall paintings that date back to 1746.)
–Mavromichalis Tower is a four-storey tower surrounded by a large building complex and a tall enclosure, rendering it a real fortress; for many years it served as a school.
–The Pirgos (Tower) of Biroulakaou and Pikoulaki.
-At the central square of the village “Platia Athanaton” you will come across the statue of Petrompeis Mavromichalis, the famous chieftain and offspring of the Mavromichalis family.
Things to Do in Areopoli
-Stroll around its stone-built alleys that are filled with beautiful bougainvillea and charming homes that reveal so much about the town’s rich history. Hidden between the picturesque streets of Areopoli are many churches large and small, dating from the 17th to the 19th century. Many of them still retain part of their murals and icons. Make sure you sit at a kafenion that’s filled with locals chatting away and enjoy a traditional Greek coffee and a delicious dessert.
– Visit the Caves of Diros, which are among the most important natural sites in Greece and with great archaeological significance. The caves hidden among rugged rocks have revealed Palaeolithic finds- recent excavations at Apidima brought to light a human skeleton from 300,000 years ago, known as Tainaros Man. Access to these caves can be gained over the rocks by the sea to the left of Limeni. Driving south from Areopoli, it is 8 km to the village of Pirgos Dirou, where the road forks off to the underground caves.
-Not far from Areopolis, you will find Limeni, a seaside village where natural beauty, coastal vistas, and history combine. At Limeni, there are plenty of gorgeous places where you can swim, eat and stay at.
-If you are in Aeropoli on a Saturday, check out the open-air market in the main square with a lot of locals selling their organic produce and traditional delicacies.
-Only 1.5km away you will find the village Sotiras also known as Kouskouni. It is an amphitheatrically built village with a beautiful view of Areopoli.
Dishes to try in Areopoli
In Areopoli and in the wider area of Laconia you will find many traditional restaurants serving dishes and specialties of the Mani district. The main ingredient is pork- mainly roasted suckling pig, sausages, and salt pork, which you will find on most menus. The local specialty Sigklino is salt-cured pork, which is smoked and later boiled with olive oil and oranges. Also, try the Pasto (another cured pork meat that is smoked) and Hilopites– homemade pasta accompanied by local cheese. the local Xorta (wild greens) are also amazing. Mani is also known for Kagianas, which are fried eggs with tomato and cheese and Lalagia- fried dough strips. Around the central square, there are a lot of traditional restaurants and cafes where you can taste these dishes and more delightful delicacies.
Around a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Athens, and an hour and 15-minute drive from Kalamata. Ktel Laconia runs three daily buses from Athens to Areopoli (a 4.5-hour trip) via Sparta and Gythio.
Main image courtesy of Web Greece