Tainaron Blue Retreat in Vathia, Greece

A fortified tower dating back to the 19th century, the Tainaron Blue Retreat was recently converted into a hotel by Kostas Zouvelos and Kassiani Theodorakakou. In updating the space, the architects reinforced the stone walls with kourasani, a traditional mortar made of cement, ceramic powder, lime, river sand, and Theraic soil. They also installed modern extensions, such as the patio and the infinity pool, that are in keeping with the original masonry.

Offering a boutique experience of Vathia, Greece, Tainaron Blue includes just three suites: an executive double room, a junior triple with one double and a single-bed tucked into an alcove, and an annexed family suite with two double rooms. To accommodate larger parties, the rooms may also be connected. Each suite has a private bathroom stocked with O-live toiletries and Coco-mat linens, and the family annex also boasts a bathtub and a private balcony. All of the rooms are furnished with wrought-iron storage and decorated with sculpture by Nikos Karalis.

Each suite has a private bathroom stocked with O-live toiletries and Coco-mat linens, and the family annex also boasts a bathtub and a private balcony.

The kitchen and breakfast areas on the patio and veranda are shared by all guests. Later in the day, the hotel’s private restaurant opens and also serves meals in these relaxing open-air spaces. Chef George Samoilis cooks up authentic Maniot dishes such as mixed greens with smoked pork (siglino), Mediterranean-style beef tataki, and pasta with sundried tomatoes, olives, and smoked cheese (chylopites). The briny meals can be enjoyed with local wine, a mixed drink, or simply a glass of water and a smile.

After fueling up, one should take the time to explore the Mani peninsula, whether by foot, on a bike, or in a car. Vathia itself is home to Cape Tainaron, known to legend as the gate to Hades. The hotel is but steps away from the cape, where a traveler will find caves that are, at least today, more rugged than mystical, guarded by a rocky terrain rather than an infamous three-headed dog. Venturing further along the coast, one can stretch out on a beach or check out the nearby Taygetos mountains, where horses were once sacrificed and criminals tortured. Today, the Taygetos is a popular destination for hikers and can be viewed from a leisurely helicopter tour. For a drop of culture, one can visit sites such as the Towers of Mani, Byzantine churches, Frankish castles, and lighthouses, joining a historical walk or taking in the sights in silence. Though Vathia is a small town, the attractions there and in greater Mani are adventurous and poetic, drawing in nature-lovers and classicists for a rare vacation in southern Greece.

Photography © George Meitner