I stumbled on the website of Tainaron Blue Retreat by chance – a Mani tower house imaginatively restored and creatively transformed into a tiny hotel. It is set on the rocks above the sea close to the southernmost point of the Greek mainland, with the most breathtaking views, ever! It was only a week before the hotel would close for the winter, and I felt I couldn’t possibly wait until the next spring to go and see it. So I went – and I was right. What an amazing little place to stay! With only three rooms, it is boutique in the true sense of the word. I stayed in the Master Suite occupying the two top levels of the tower. External stairs take you to the first floor terrace from where you enter the kitchen (a charming small space that doubles as a dining room for the occasional rainy day), and then a steep flight of stairs lead to the suite. It’s not huge – the main floor features a double bed and the bathroom, and there is a mezzanine with a second double bed; you have to climb up a ladder to get there. Another suite and a double room are on the ground floor. Like the Master Suite, they are well laid-out, tastefully decorated, cosy and inviting. You will, however, spend most of your time outdoors – lounging, eating , taking dips… There are comfortable deck chairs perched on the cliff and plenty of sitting corners – olive trees providing natural shade – a canopied daybed, and, oh bliss, a beautiful small infinity pool.
Where to start? The setting, the quiet, the glorious views, the gastronomic experience, the comfy beds, the warm welcome – this is a rare find!
The rooms have small windows and so they are on the dark side. The two suites have some steep stairs to negotiate – book the Executive Double Room for easy access. Bathrooms are small.
1 suite for up to four persons (2 double beds – the second bed on a mezzanine which is accessed by ladder – definitely not suitable for the elderly)
1 suite for up to three persons (single bed on the entry level and a double bed on a mezzanine)
1 double room
En-suite bathroom (small bath or shower)
Small swimming pool
On request: bicycle rental and boat trips
Breakfast is served from 9.30 am onwards. It’s more of a brunch really. Rich, spoiling, absolutely delicious. Mine started with fresh bread and homemade jams, coffee and fresh orange juice (all very nice). That was followed by a hearty onion-cheese pie (fantastic). Then came an omelette with wild asparagus (refined and almost light). And local sausages (very tasty, definitely not light). And for desert, a small rice pudding and a mastiha cream (to die for).
For lunch (really?) and dinner you can choose from a menu featuring inspiring dishes made with heaps of creativity and (the best) local ingredients. Chef Sakis prepares everything on the spot and I was asked to order a bit in advance. No problem! I tried one of the vegetarian dishes (green beans, wild asparagus, roasted walnuts and quite a bit of garlic!) but couldn’t resist the “marinated pork shoulder oven-baked with crunchy onions and prickly pear jam” either. The meat was extremely tender, and the combination of flavours was perfect. There was desert too: crème caramel and panna cotta. Oh my!
Even though it is not a typical hotel to book for family holidays, children from the age of 12 and up are welcome at Tainaron Blue Retreat. A family of four can stay in the Master Suite (but keep in mind, the ladder to the mezzanine with the second bed is not an easy one to climb up and down). If you travel with one child, the triple suite on the ground floor is a comfortable choice. The nearby sandy beaches are great for families, and there are plenty of other things even older children will enjoy doing: exploring Vathia and other stone tower house villages so typical for the region, visiting the caves of Pirgos Dirou (they are fantastic), and walking – there lots of possibilities.
The Marmari ‘twin beaches’ are only two km down the road, and they considered among the best in Mani. Both are sandy (a rarity in the area). The nearest one is organised with sun beds and umbrellas and there’s a taverna, but tends to get busy during the summer. The second beach, where you simply spread your towel on the sand, is quieter.
Walking and hiking
This is walking country, so be sure to bring your hiking boots. Ask Kostas for advice about interesting routes, and be sure to make the walk from the hamlet of Kokkinogia to the lighthouse of Tainaron at the southernmost point of the Greek mainland (2 km each way). You will pass some small archaeological sites, as well as tiny beaches for refreshing dips.
The caves of Dirou
Go and see the caves of Dirou. It’s an amazing experience. You will be taken on a magical 1.5 km boat ride past stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Also visit the small museum with archaeological finds from the Neolithic age (the period between from 6800 to 3200 BC) including ceramics, tools, bone fragments and skulls.
Not far from the caves of Dirou, there’s a horse-riding club organizing treks on horseback taking you through the Mani countryside.
Explore the villages of Mani
Vathia is closest, and also one of most pretty ones of all tower villages of Mani. Have lunch by the sea in Gerolimenas. Spend an evening in Areopoli. Combine a swim with a meal at a fish taverna in Porto Kagio.
The location of Tainaron Blue Retreat is simply amazing. It is set on the rocks 150 metres above the sea, and the views are the best you can get. The nearest village (Vathia) is 2 km north, and towards the south, again 2 km, you will find the Marmari ‘twin beaches’. Both are sandy (a rarity in Mani). The nearest one is organised with sun beds and umbrellas and there’s a taverna, but it tends to get busy during the summer. The second beach, where you simply spread your towel on the sand, is always a lot quieter. A few more km south you reach Cape Tainaron, where you can leave your car at the hamlet called Kokkinogia to visit a small archaeological site and make the half-hour walk (and another half hour to come back) to the lighthouse of Tainaron at the southernmost point of the Greek mainland.
Read more about Laconia
The most southern part of Mani is about 300 km from Athens, and you should count roughly four hours for the drive to Tainaron Blue Retreat. From Korinthos, follow signs for Tripoli, Sparta, Gythio, Areopoli, Gerolimenas and Vathia. You will see the tower on your right, 2 km after Vathia. Alternatively, there is an increasing number of summer charter flights to Kalamata, a beautiful 2-2.5 hours drive away.