Mount Taygetus is the highest and most impressive mountain not only of Messinia but of all the Peloponnese. Stately and iconic, Mount Taygetos dominates the skyline of Kalamata, and the entire Messinian Mani.
The mountain, whose paths hold many legends and stories, got its name from a daughter of Atlas, the nymph Taygete. Fruit of the union of Taygete with Zeus was Lakedemonas, one of many local heroes, who honoured his mother by naming the mountain after her. Alexandreas Isychios stated that the name of the mountain derives from ‘ Tays ‘, which means ‘ great ‘ or ‘ long ‘. Mount Taygetus separated two towns; to the east Sparta and to the west Fares, current day Kalamata. The mountain, the highest in the Peloponnese, is a haven for many species of both the plant and animal kingdom. The highest peak is Prophet Ilia at an altitude of 2.407m. With a total length of 115km and a maximum width of 30km it is composed of three major mountain ranges: the North and Central Taigetos and Mount Tainaro (or Sangia). A mainly limestone rocky place of canyons, ravines, gorges and caves such as Diros and Lycurgus in Doloi.
Amazing stone paths (Kalderimi) connect the settlements at the foot of the mountain. Many of the paths forming a network between the settlements and monasteries around the Messinian Mani were preserved even after the opening of new highways in the area. Higher up, Taygetos is rocky and barren. The only lines of approach are the gorges of Viros and Koskarakas. Going up the ancient Viros path one reaches deep into the mountain and the magnificent Vasilikis Forest which, like other mountain forests on Taygetos, consists of pure and mixed clusters of fir and Black pine. Both species are found here at their southernmost point.
Wander in the summer along the stony slopes in the alpine zone and encounter the famous native plants Taygetos. The most stunning experience on Mount Taygetos is undoubtedly traversing the long and narrow razor like ridge which is suspended between Messinia and Laconia and between earth and sky. At the peak of Taygetos is Ai-Lias, where on the eve of the celebration of the Prophet Ilias there is an open-air vigil.