The Kardamyli Festival

The Kardamyli Festival | EVENTS

Kardamyli, home for many years to Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor, and surely one of Greece's most beautiful seaside villages, has, since 2021, been the setting for a festival that attracts the sharpest minds from across literature, history and the arts.

We have been involved since its inaugural year and are delighted to be returning again in 2024, offering Slow Cyclists the opportunity to stretch their brains each morning and their legs each afternoon. If previous years have proven anything, it is that this combination, against the backdrop of the Messinian Gulf, is very appealing. 
The Kardamyli Festival 2024 has now sold out. Please get in touch if you’d like to join us in 2025.

Festival highlights

  • Listen to world class speakers at the most intimate festival you’re likely to attend
  • Swim in the Messinian Gulf before breakfast, or after dinner, or both
  • Visit the home of Paddy and Joan Leigh Fermor, one of Greece’s finest, at the festival’s opening drinks party
  • Cycle and walk in the stunningly beautiful hills, valleys and gorges round Kardamyli
  • Dance to traditional Greek folk songs as the sun sets on the festival’s gala dinner on Kardamyli’s quayside
  • Eat sumptuous food cooked by locals at lunches in the mountains and hilltop villages around Kardamyli
Kardamyli Festival dinner fireworks with the Slow Cyclist, Mani, Greece.
Slow Cyclists chatting at the Kardamyli Literary Festival, Mani, Greece.
the speakers

The Kardamyli Festival is no ordinary festival. There will be just 350 attendees and in past years the speakers have been very happy to chat and engage with anyone and everyone. The line-up for 2024 has yet to be announced but promises a host of politicians, nomads, scientists, writers, academics and archaeologists.

Previous speakers include diplomat and politician Rory Stewart, writer Ben MacIntyre, science journalist Anjana Ahuja, historian Tom Holland, Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, historian Bettany Hughes, art historian Neil MacGregor, Shakespeare professor Emma Smith, China correspondent Kai Strittmatter, author Andrea Wulf, museum director George Manginis, and, last but not least, The Slow Cyclist’s very own Joshua Barley.

2022 speaker peter frankopan

“A magical festival in a glorious setting – like stepping into another world, filled with colours, ideas and joy.”

The Itinerary

The festival begins with drinks at the former home of Paddy and Joan Leigh Fermor outside Kardamyli on the evening of Thursday 3 October. Our itinerary begins 24 hours earlier.

Day 1 - Wednesday 2 October - Arrival in Kardamyli

There are direct flights into Kalamata and Athens today. When you arrive in Kardamyli we will be there to greet you and ensure you’re settled at your accommodation, Villa Salvia. We will take you for dinner in Kardamyli this evening.

Day 2 - Thursday 3 October - Kampos Crater

Morning Cycle 25 kms – Afternoon Cycle 25 kms
Your time in the Mani begins today with a wonderful bike ride taking in some of the region’s most incredible landscapes. We climb towards the Ridomo Gorge, arriving for lunch in a meadow with our friend and local restaurateur Thomas. In the afternoon we will pedal through olive groves and tiny villages amid the foothills that rise to become the Taygetos peaks. We’ll pause at a monastery with stunning views over the deep-cut gorge before turning for home with a long descent to Kardamyli. This evening the festival opens with drinks at the former home of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor on a cliff above the sea. We have not included dinner this evening but will happily book you a table at any of Kardamyli’s best restaurants.

Day 3 - Friday 4 October - Festival & Relax, Walk or Boat

Afternoon Walk 2.5 hours
After this morning’s festival talks, and lunch in Kardamyli, you have a few options. The first is to walk with us up through the ruins of Old Kardamyli before climbing up on an ancient Spartan track, past tiny chapels, the majestic Taygetos mountains unfolding ahead of us. We will loop back around to Kardamyli, enjoying spectacular coastal views. Alternatively you may wish to relax and explore Kardamyli, or make use of a speed boat and captain who can show you some of the best secluded swim spots in the area. Whatever you choose to do, we will make sure you are ready for dinner in Kardamyli because Hellenophile, musician and translator Joshua Barley will entertain the festival’s Slow Cyclists at a Literary Dinner this evening.

Day 4 - Saturday 5 October - Festival & Kastania

Afternoon Cycle 21 kms
After this morning’s festival talks we will drive you to the tiny hill-top village of Kastania – home to 11 Byzantine churches – for lunch in a family-run taverna. From there, it’s an easy and incredibly beautiful ride on back roads down first to Exochori, where we can visit the church where author Bruce Chatwin’s family spread his ashes, before zig-zagging down to the sea in Kardamyli. We have not included dinner this evening but will happily book you a table at any of Kardamyli’s best restaurants.

Day 5 - Sunday 6 October - Festival & Relax

After this morning’s festival talks and a light lunch we will leave you to relax or explore as you choose. We will be on hand to provide shuttles to nearby beaches, although the town’s pebble beaches are superb too. This evening is the festival’s Gala Dinner, hosted in previous years on a jetty in the centre of town, during which a stellar cast of festival speakers will entertain us into the night.

Day 6 - Monday 7 October - Festival & Malta

Afternoon Walk 2.5 hours
After this morning’s festival talks you will be transferred to the hamlet of Malta for lunch in the home and olive oil press of sisters Artemis and Corinna. From there it’s a gorgeous 2.5 hour walk, close to the coast and back to Kardamyli, picking up ancient tracks and with extraordinary views over the Messinian Gulf. Dinner will be in Kardamyli to celebrate your last evening in the Mani.

Day 7 - Tuesday 8 October - Heading Home

It’s the end of your time with us in Kardamyli. Again, we have not included an airport transfer but we will be happy to assist with any travel arrangements.


Scheduled Journeys

Joining a set-date Scheduled Journey is a wonderful opportunity to explore the  fascinating parts of the world we cover, to meet like-minded travellers and make new friends in a group of Slow Cyclists assembled by us.


Private Journeys

If you love the look of our cycling and walking holidays in Europe and beyond and would like to experience The Slow Cyclist in a small group of family or friends, get in touch and we will explain how we can make it happen.