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Sofia Ps.
4 mins read

Cape Tainaron: In search of a lighthouse near the Gates of Hades

There is something romantic and fascinating about lighthouses… Simple, yet impressive structures, often in remote and isolated locations, shining their light into darkness, guiding the ships, symbols of hope and safety since ancient times.

The lighthouse at Cape Tainaron in Peloponnese is no exception. The Cape itself is a beautiful place, connected to interesting myths and legends from Greek mythology. So, naturally, I really wanted to go there!

The myths & legends

Cape Tainaron (or Tenaro or Taenarum) is the southernmost point of mainland Greece. It is also known for its medieval name, Cape Matapan, when it was a place of well known feared pirates. And that’s no myth…!

According to Greek mythology, it was named after Taenarus, son of Zeus and founder of the ancient city of Tainaron, which was part of the city-state of Sparta (known in antiquity as Lacedaemon). Taenarus supposedly was also the one who founded the very important temple of Poseidon, god of the sea, in this area.

Sign of the Sanctuary and Death Oracle of Poseidon Tainarios, Cape Matapan, Greece
The Necromanteion (Oracle of the Dead) was a place where the believers were trying to evoke the souls of the dead in order to ask them questions. Creepy or what? The temple of Poseidon didn’t survive, however some of its material was used to built the old church of Agion Asomaton that you see in the background.

This place though, was sacred long before that, when the Greeks used to worship Helios, the sun-god, here. In the Homeric hymn to Apollo we read:

“on Taínaron’s cape and the country of Helios who delights mortals, they came, where there are always deep-fleeced sheep of the lordly, Helios browsing for forage”—

However, above anything else, Cape Tainaron in ancient times was mostly known for something different. Something far more mysterious… The Greeks believed that this is where the entrance to the Underworld was…! Inside the temple, deep in a cave, there were the Gates of Hades, guarded by Cerberus, a multi-headed hound, who was keeping the alive people out and the dead ones in. Some versions of the myth say that Cerberus had just a couple of heads, other versions claim he had 50!

Beach at Cape Tainaron Greece
Near the “Gates of Hades” there is a small, lovely beach where people were swimming and sunbathing, enjoying their carefree time… It’s strange how time can change everything.

There were many brave souls and heroes who have tried to pass the Gates; some of them managed to enter Hades’ kingdom, but not many of them returned. One hero who was successful was Hercules. For his twelfth labour, he actually had to capture Cerberus himself and bring him to King Eurystheus. Hades agreed to let him try, but only if Hercules would manage to capture him without using any weapons, which he did because he was crazy strong (poor little doggo). In the end, king Eurystheus wasn’t really happy with his new pet and Cerberus was returned to the Underworld safe and sound.

Signs at Cape Tainaron Greece
To the left: the ancient temple and the “Gates of Hades”. To the right: the starting point of the trail leading to the lighthouse.

The hike

Nowadays, these myths are a distant memory… but the place is still there and it’s ideal for a relaxing hike! The road ends south of the village Kokkinogeia and the lighthouse is only accessible on foot. You can easily find the starting point of the path, located near the village.

Woman on a rock taking a picture of Arias Star at Cape Tainaron in Greece
Yes, of course I wanted to take a picture of every little ancient rock! I have VERY patient friends...😅 [click by @ninemias.echo]

One of the first things you’ll find along the way is the ruins of ancient Roman houses. It’s worth stopping to see the mosaic floor of a particular Roman mansion (dating to the 1st cent. AD).

Star of Arias mosaic in the roman house at Cape Tainaron
This beautiful Roman mosaic is called the “Star of Arias”

The trail is generally easy to follow and the scenery is absolutely amazing! The barren landscape, characteristic of the Mani region, lies right next to the dazzling blue waters creating a captivating contrast.

Hiking towards the lighthouse of Cape Tainaron
Brown and blue, blue and brown everywhere. And far ahead, a lighthouse.

When we started the hike, some locals told us that it was really easy and it would only take 20 minutes to reach the lighthouse. It does not. I mean, we were hiking under a scorching sun and we were completely unprepared, so that didn’t help. However, the distance is about 2 km so even with a steady brisk pace, it takes at least 30 min., considering that you want to enjoy the scenery and take pictures as well!

It took us about 45 min. because, although it starts easy, the path does have some uneven and rocky spots, and we weren’t wearing appropriate footwear. Moreover, keep in mind that there is no shade anywhere along the route, so make sure to wear a hat, put on sunscreen, have water with you and definitely wear comfortable shoes.

Hiking Cape Tainaron in Greece
I fell in love with this. [click by @ninemias.echo]

All in all, the hike was delightful and the view at the end was really worth it! The lighthouse isn’t open to the public, but there is some space around it where you can sit down and enjoy the view.

It was kind of cool to think that I’m at the southernmost point of the Balkan Peninsula and it felt amazing to gaze at an endless sea…

Southernmost point of mainland Greece at Cape Tainaron, Cape Matapan
That's it: the southernmost point of mainland Greece! Do you notice the tiny thing in the horizon? You can see from here all the Container ships coming and going to Piraeus port in Athens.

We started the hike again about an hour before sunset, to make sure we would have enough light on the way back. That proved to be a very good idea. We had plenty of time to really enjoy the hike because we weren’t worried about the time, and the cooler temperature made the walk so much more pleasurable.

Hiking Cape Tainaron in Greece
The colours on the way back were even more impressive...

All in all, this was a really fun and memorable experience! One thing I love about Greece is that, even when you go out for a simple hike, you find places rich in history, connected to myths as ancient as time… If you’re ever in Mani, this is something I’d definitely recommend you try.

Woman at Cape Tainaron, Cape Matapan, Greece
Goodbye for now dear lighthouse. Until next time! [click by @ninemias.echo]

How to get there:

Cape Tainaron is located at the end of the Mani Peninsula, in the region of Laconia in the south of Peloponnese. The easiest way to get there is by car.

It’s about:

  • 307 km away from Athens
  • 100 km away from Sparti (the closest city from the east)
  • 120 km away from Kalamata (the closest city from the west)


The west road, which goes through Areopoli and Gerolimenas, is faster than the eastern. Either way, you should drive carefully, because the roads are very narrow and there are many cliffs.

You need to reach Kokkinogeia village and head south, where you’ll find the starting point of the path.

Slow sign written on a road in Peloponnese region in Greece
Listen to the road!

[Greek: Ακρωτήριο Ταίναρο ]

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