Our Villa Vager Mani review introduces the beautiful boutique hotel between Kalamata and Kardamili in the Southern Peloponnese. This mansion dates back to 1858 but the design captures the 21st century. For a taste of rural Greek life to sooth the soul, head through the olive groves, up the hill, and overlook the Gulf of Messinia. Our stay was hosted for review purposes but we kept the right to write what we like. As always.
It was the kind of place some would have hated. But we fell in love.
Just fifteen minutes from the main coastal city of Kalamata, the road rose from the sea to thread through the olive groves and dip through the pine. It passed pine farmyards, a tiny taverna, and ended with views of the sea that greeted the ancient Greek gods.
Villa Vager Mani takes its name from the peninsula that holds its earth: the Mani, a strip of land running south in the Peloponnese from the edge of Kalamata to the isolated tip at Tenaro.
This is the land where locals took on the Spartans, Venetians built towers and the cave that led to the Underworld and the god of Hades still stands today.
And it’s not exactly that it’s been forgotten or that no one knows it is here.
Summer sees direct flights from London to Kalamata and holiday companies like Sunvil [hosted] put together packages for the time-poor.
It’s just that life goes as it always has in so many parts, surrounded by this staggeringly wild, authentic, untamed beauty.
Farmers travel door to door selling vine-ripened tomatoes. Beachfronts lie deserted, while waiters tell you not to worry if you don’t have cash on you. Eat today and bring the money tomorrow.
Children, truly, are welcome.
And yet, if you want to dip into the city scene and pep yourself up with coastal cappuccino and cool new eateries, you can do that too.
Just don’t expect that in the tranquil surroundings at Villa Vager Mani.
We first came across the Villa Vager idea on our Big Greek Road Hop, driving through the Peloponnese when Baby Lab was just a baby.
Run by husband and wife couple, Marina and Nikolas (Pirate Captain Niko to Baby Lab,) their renovated mansion high above Megali Mantinia piqued curiosity and sent a balm for the soul.
The “package” is simple: beautifully designed rooms with fresh breakfast. All within an authentic, landscape-filled setting.
Villa Vager overlooked the scented pine of Arcadia. And Villa Vager Mani had chosen a similarly scenic spot.
Boutique design blended with authentic history in a mansion dating back to 1858. Rural setting with view over the Gulf of Messinia.
Rooms are individually decorated – and spacious. The four suites have traditional stone walls and outdoor spaces with views across the countryside and sea.
We stayed in the Jungle Suite, a two-storey area with an open plan and stairs. (As a side note, at nearly 2 ½ this was fine for baby Lab but I would have been concerned around a year ago with no stair gate or closed sides.)
A double bed lives upstairs, and two more beds below. Villa Vager Mani also provided a travel cot, which helped with our luggage and packing.
There’s an ensuite shower and toilet downstairs and a great wide space within the room.
A kind of kitchenette stands behind a kitchen bar with essentials like a kettle and fridge. Just note that there’s no kitchen sink nor hobs in case that’s not clear from the photos!
The best part? The stone terrace with almond trees and a park bench, fragrant flowers and a view across the mountain, the village and down to the sea.
Ah, breakfast. It’s the same each day but it never grows tierd. Orange juice. Coffee. Thick, creamy, rich Greek yogurt with honey. Um, cake and croissants. Slabs of butter and jam on Greek-blue ceramics. Boiled eggs. Hard cheese.
All brought one by one to a table on the terrace.
With no kitchen and no restaurant, it’s reasonable to be concerned about where you’re going to eat. Despite its tiny size, the village has no less than three local tavernas. At least two have an open air terrace with views of the sea.
Expect dishes like saganaki and feta based salads and the variable existence of a menu in English – or even serving staff sometimes (in one place, we were hosted by the friend of the owner, who chatted about what he loved most about living in this part of the world.)
It’s a short, 15 mintues or so drive down to the beach at Santova. It’s a long, flat expanse of sand with pebbles with one big café with a hippy goes clubbing vibe. Online reviews suggest it’s a party place but we spent the whole morning there with only ourselves and four silver swimmers for company!
I’ll be writing a whole piece about things to do in Kalamata but for now think architecture, cute cafes and coastal towns, wild hikes and drives and lots of fresh seafood.
The “big” city is 15 – 20 minutes away, and again there will be another article on lots of things to see and do.
The beachfront is a long strip with cafes and restaurants to cover every budget. The waves can be a little choppy and you’ll find pebbles rather than silky sand.
Of note: the Kalamata Open Food Market and Old Town.
I’d strongly recommend hiring a car to travel around this part of the world. If you only stay in a resort in Kalamata, or on a package with a tour operator, you won’t NEED one. But it would still give you freedom to really get under the skin of the destination and explore.
If you’re staying in Villa Vager Mani then it’s essential.
Sunvil offers a seven-night break to the Peloponnese from £1,330 pp (two sharing), including B&B accommodation (three nights at Porto Vitilo Hotel and four nights at Villa Vager Mani), return flights (Gatwick) and car hire. Call Sunvil on 020 8758 4758 (www.sunvil.co.uk).
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