South of Aeropolis, right the Mani village known as Diros Tower, are the Diros caves. They are a popular touristic destination, attracting both foreign visitors and native ones. Inside the cave run two underground rivers (acting like water runways), framed by stalactites and stalagmites created by the cave’s moisture and mineral deposits. The sight is unique and leaves any visitor awe-struck.
The caves used to be on the ground, but the level of the sea rose and part of them went underwater. The temperature inside is about 18 degrees Celsius, about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with brackish water, since they are near the sea. The caves are well ventilated.
Alepotrypa cave (meaning foxhole) is one of Europe’s most important natural anthropological museums; findings inside indicate a continuous human habitation dated back to early Paleolithic and Neolithic ages.
The cave was discovered by accident by Apostolis Lamprinakos when his dog, hunting for a fox, went inside a hole connected to the cave and came out three days later. The cave has two storeys, an underground river, and has a known length of about 270 metres and a total length, accounting for its multiple pathways, of about 600 metres.
Noteworthy stops on the visitor’s tour are the stalagmite called “Elia” or Olive (tree), near which a clay pot workshop was found, and “Topos Latreias” or Worship Site, with wonderful decorations, blackened by the torches that were used during religious ceremonies.
Vlychadas or Vlyfadas Cave
The Vliychadas or Vlyfadas cave is considered the most beautiful cave of its type, along Zaita cave of Beirut (in Lebanon) and Padirac cave of France. It is in the most recessed point of Diros cape in Mani, 220 metres west of Alepotrypa cave, and is truly awe-inspiring.
During 1949 to 1966, the speleologist couple Ioannis and Anna Petrocheilou explored more than 2,500 metres of watery passages and 300 metres of ground passages. In 1970, the first systematic underwater exploration expedition set off, the team reaching 300 metres in length, and still the total number is unknown. The water passages are divided in two central arteries and in “Stavrodromi” (crossroads) point, they divide in four. To aid in better structuring of a tour, an artificial entrance was opened about 100 metres left of the natural one, and the two central arteries were connected in one; the tour, at the end, is a circle.
One of the noteworthy stops of the tour are what are called “Venice Channels”, which then open to the “Megalos Okeanos” (great ocean), the largest part of the cave, which is full of stalagmites and naturally pigmented white. Many collapsed rooms are around, discovered by German speleologists, as well as the skeleton of an animal unknown to science.
The findings that were unearthed in the cave include, hippopotamus bones (the largest of Europe), hyena bones, panther bones, as well as ceramics that point to human presence.
Katafygi or Katafyggi Cave
Near Selinitsa (little moon) village, in Laconia, is another important cave. It was created by river waters that changed level often, opening a complex system of channels. According to the findings discovered in the area, the cave used to serve as a shelter, which in Greek is “Katafygi”, the namesake of the cave; it was also used for religious purposes.
One of the cave’s main characteristics is that has been formed from marble, which creates a magnificent sight. A truly awe-inspiring sight of the cave is a 0.4 metres disk that is “hovering” from a wall on a 3 metre height, supported only on 1/10 of its circumference.
The caves are open from Octomber to May 8:30 to 15:00 and from June to September 8:30 to 17:30.
A telephone number for information is: +30 27330-5222
Source: “Caves of Greece” by Anna Petrocheilou, Athens 1984, Ekdotiki Athinon