Kardamili (Greek: Καρδαμύλη, variously transliterated as Kardamyle, Cardamyle, Kardhamili, and Kardamyli, and sometimes called “Skardamoula”, especially on old maps) is a town by the sea thirty-five kilometers southeast of Kalamata. It is the seat of the municipality of Lefktro in the region of Messenia on the Mani Peninsula.
In the Iliad (Book 9 ), Homer cites Kardamili as one of the seven cities offered by Agamemnon to Achilles as a condition to rejoin the fight during the Trojan War. The village preserves its ancient name.
The area is filled with beaches: Ritsa, Belogianni, Salio, Tikla, Amoni, Santava. The older town includes a mediaeval castle and outworks, and the imposing church of Saint Spyridon. Many of the buildings of Old Kardamili, also known as “Pano Kardamili”, or “Upper Kardamili” were built by the Venetians and feature a mix of traditional Greek and Venetian design. The skyline of Kardamyli, like many other Maniot towns and villages, is dominated by the distinctive regional architectural of the various towers built by scions of the Nikliani clans, the mediaeval aristocracy of the Mani.
Kardamyli is the departure point of many mountain trails, some of which lead to the peak of Mount Taygetus. Kardamili is known in the area for having an especially good view of Mount Taygetus, known locally as the “Profitis Ilias”, literally translating to “Prophet Elias”. Nearby is the Viros Gorge, with a total length of 20 km. The Viros Gorge remains bone dry in summer, however it is known to flood heavily in winter, when snow melts on the mountains and rain falls in heavy downpours. Further afield, one may visit Oitylo, Areopoli and the Diros caverns.
The village of Kalamitsi, just outside Kardamili was, in his later years, the principal home of Patrick Leigh Fermor and his wife Joan. Patrick was an English writer who was made an honorary citizen of the village for his participation in the Greek Resistance during World War II, especially in Crete. He died in hospital in 2011 the day after returning to his other home in Dumbleton in England.
The ashes of the writer Bruce Chatwin were scattered near a Byzantine chapel above the village in 1989.