The Kardamyli Festival

a seaside festival

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 2023, 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. 

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. 
  • Explore 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.
Views of Kardamyli and the sea through a stone arch. The Slow Cyclist.
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 2023 includes politicians, museum directors, nomads, scientists, writers, academics and archaeologists.

They will dig deep into the issues that preoccupy our age. Those confirmed 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 5 October. Our itinerary begins 24 hours earlier.

Day 1 - Wednesday 4 October

We suggest arriving in time for dinner this evening, and a chance to meet your fellow Slow Cyclist festival-goers.

Day 2 - Thursday 5 October

Transfers, 1 hour morning & afternoon
Cycling, 30-40 kms

Today there are two activities on offer. For those who wish to take a cycle on the wild side we head to the southern half of the Mani peninsula. Known as the Deep Mani, it is a remote and rocky land with a spectacular jagged coastline and fortified villages. In Kitta we jump on our bikes and drop down to the lovely authentic fishing village of Porto Kagio for lunch and a swim at our favourite beachside taverna. Then it’s back along the coast road, stopping to wander around Vathia, a stark and remote picture postcard village of traditional Mani towers. For those who do not wish to cycle we can arrange for a visit to Messene, an ancient city founded in 400 BC and one of the most impressive and best preserved in the Peloponnese. Our guide, Haris, will accompany us around the site after lunch in nearby Ithome. We will arrive back in Kardamyli by late afternoon. In the evening the festival opens with a drinks party at the house that Paddy and Joan Leigh Fermor built for themselves outside Kardamyli. Dinner wll be at your leisure in Kardamyli.

Day 3 - Friday 6 October

Morning – Festival Talks, Main Tent
Afternoon – Oil Press Walk, 2.5 hours
Evening – Festival Talk, Main Tent

After today’s talks we will be transferred the short distance to the hamlet of Malta for lunch at a local family-run olive oil press where we will be welcomed into their home. From there it’s a gorgeous 2.5 hour walk, close to the coast and back to Kardamyli, picking up ancient tracks with extraordinary views out over the Messinian Gulf. Dinner is at Tikla in Kardamyli.

Day 4 - Saturday 7 October

Morning – Festival Talks, Main Tent, Kardamyli
Afternoon – Ridomo Gorge Cycle

After the talks finish you will be transferred the short distance to Kampos for lunch at our friend Thomas’ restaurant. From there it’s a beautiful bike ride, through olive groves and tiny villages, into the hills that rise to become the Taygetos peaks. You will stop at a monastery with stunning views over the deep-cut Ridomo Gorge, pass by an unusual crater and then glide back down to Kardamyli with long-ranging mountain and coastal views at every turn. It is the festival’s gala dinner this evening, on the village quayside. 

Day 5 - Sunday 8 October

Morning – Festival Talks, Main Tent
Afternoon – Kastania Cycle, 30 kms
Evening – Festival Talk, Main Tent

We will be transferred to the tiny hill-top village of Kastania after the talks finish. It is home to 11 Byzantine churches and beneath them all, in the main square, is a family-run taverna where we will have lunch. From there, it’s an easy bike ride on back roads down first to Exochori, where we can visit the church where Bruce Chatwin’s family spread his ashes, and then zig-zagging down to the sea in Kardamyli. At dinner this evening festival speaker and Slow Cyclist guide Joshua Barley will entertain you with Greek poetry and traditional folk songs.

Day 6 - Monday 9 October

Morning – Festival Talks, Main Tent, Kardamyli
Afternoon Exochori Walking Loop, 2 hours 

After lunch by the sea in Kardamyli, today’s walk takes us through the ruins of Kardamyli old town before climbing out of the town on an ancient Spartan track towards Exochori, past tiny chapels, the majestic Taygetos mountains unfolding ahead of us. Before reaching Exochori we will turn for home, back to Kardamyli, perhaps for a late afternoon swim. Dinner will be at your leisure in Kardamyli. 




Day 7 - Tuesday 10 October

There are no activities today so we will say our goodbyes after breakfast and wish you a pleasant onward journey. 



To book your place with us at the 2023 edition of The Kardamyli Festival you should get in touch with us directly. Equally, if you are interested in joining us in 2024 please let us know. Tickets tend to sell out quickly upon release.


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