Monemvasia: A castle-town taken out of a fairytale
Monemvasia is one of those places that you say “I want to get lost for two days and rest”. This small piece of land with the unsophisticated beauty calls you to meet it, any season of the year. It usually enters the agendas of those who love excursions. This is why on weekends in gets swarmed by people, who come to meet the most beautiful castle-town in Greece, or maybe even in Europe.Is it an island or part of the mainland? Probably something in-between, as it used to be a part of mainland Greece, until it was detached after a powerful earthquake. Nowadays, it can be reached only via one road, and specifically via a bridge, which is where it owes its name. The old Monemvasia, namely the rock, is about 1,500m long and 200m high. It is divided in the new (inhabited) and the old town (uninhabited) and it has many elements of the byzantine, venetian, ottoman and greek culture. If you climb up to the old town and turn your gaze to the Myrtoon Sea, you will feel like you are standing on the bow of a ship, as said by the great poet Yannis Ritsos. Walking down towards the “lively” new town, you will get swept away by the magic of the narrow streets and you will feel you are inside a fairytale…!
Well, does this place have no disadvantage whatsoever? Indeed, it has no disadvantages…well, actually it does (if it can be considered a disadvantage)! What is this? The “difficult” road from Sparti to the south. It needs patience and a strong stomach.
info Monemvasiaa) The icon of Elkomenos Christos is kept inside a display case, which cost more than 200,000 euros and was created by the same company that made the case for Mona Lisa at the Louvre! b) It is known as “Gibraltar of the East”, the “Prominent City” of Emperor Andronikos II, the “Overwhelming Castle” of Morias, the “God-saved city” of the Paleologos Dynasty of Mystras, the “Menexe Kalessi” (Castle of the flowers) of the Turks and the “Stone Ship” of Yannis Ritsos. c) It could fit up to 30,000 residents! d) It got detached from Laconia in 375 A.D., following a powerful earthquake. e) It was first inhabited 8,000 years ago!!
1) Ano poli (Upper town)The now uninhabited Upper town of Monemvasia is a historical place, which offers the best images. From there you can gaze at the Myrtoon Sea, like you are on the mast of a traveling ship. Today, the only remnants are half-collapsed houses, walls and temples, while at its top stands the Acropolis. Access is achieved through the famous “voltes” (steps in S shape).
2) Walk in the narrow streetsThe narrow streets of the castle-town are capable to enchant you and take you on a journey to another era! It is noteworthy how every street, no matter how narrow it is, it is connected with another one…while no two streets are the same! The stone-built houses with the flowers and the smells will make you get lost for hours and take countless photographs.
3) Church of Ayia SophiaDespite the 40 churches and monasteries we meet in the castle-town of Monemvasia, the Church of Ayia Sophia is a unique attraction! It is located in the old town and its architecture resembles the one of Ayia Sophia of Istanbul.
4) Yannis Ritsos House Upon entering the castle-town, at the first arch on the left, you will find the house of Yannis Ritsos, one of the greatest internationally renowned Greek poets. In the courtyard, where the poet found inspiration for many of his poems, you will find his bust.
5) Religious tourWith 40 monasteries and churches, the castle-town of Monemvasia makes for a “strong” religious destination. There you will find constructions ranging from half-collapsed chapels of the byzantine era to well-maintained churches, like the one of Elkomenos Christos (Christ in Chains).
Outside the Castle..
6) Culinary trip in MonemvasiaThe fertile Laconian land offers products that you will not find in any other place. Among them are the amazing sygklino, Monemvasia’s graviera cheese, olives, the tasty olive oil, juicy oranges, lalangia and, of course, the PDO Malvazia wine. Do not miss out on trying any of them!
7) Greek fjord (Gerakas)Unknown to most people, the village of Gerakas is just 25 minutes away from Monemvasia and it is built inside a fjord! Whoever visits the village will witness this rare phenomenon, which you normally find only in Scandinavian countries. Climb up to the acropolis of Zarakas and do not leave without having enjoyed a glass of tsipouro, accompanied by some fresh fish, right by the lagoon.
8) Talanta Watermill The village of Talanta has become known for its watermill, which opens for the public every Saturday. The route, both to the village as well as to walk to the watermill, will fill you with the sounds of nature and quiet. (Distance 20 minutes away from Monemvasia.)
9) Swimming in VlychadaThe bay of Vlychada or the deep ditch (for the locals) is among the places you will love! The journey might wear you out a bit, but the waters and landscape will impress you. It is 40 minutes away from Monemvasia and in order to reach it you will need the help of the locals…..
10) Sea Kayaking MonemvasiaA unique experience for the lovers of adventure is sea kayaking around the rock of Monemvasia. This way you will have the chance to see the entire town from the sea and realize its symmetry and magnificence.
11) Swimming in Ksifias-AmpelakiaThe quality and organization of the two beaches might not be the best, yet they are the closest and most decent options for a quick dive!
Transportation MonemvasiaThe easiest and fastest way to reach Monemvasia is the car. In new Monemvasia you can move around by car, while to go up to the Kastroupoli (castle-town) you must leave it at the parking, before or after crossing the bridge and walk for 15-20 minutes (tiring). You can also take a ride with the car to the castle and, if you are lucky, you might find a spot while driving up or down the hill. The best option is to go by bus (very small cost) and climb down on foot. The bus starts its route 50m before the bridge. Tickets are sold at Malvasia Travel.
Food MonemvasiaFood in Monemvasia is something that will give you some trouble, as there are not many and decent restaurants. Prefer the ones outside the castle. For a meal you will have to pay 15-20€ per person. Do not leave without having tried the amazing local products, such as the graviera, olives, oranges and, of course, the wines, among which the PDO Malvazia stands out.
The best taverns in Monemvasia
Fish tavern Diamantis: Diamantis is located in front of Gerakas’ lagoon and serves only very fresh fish, excellent appetizers in reasonable –for the quality- prices.
Tavern Apomero: What is one looking for during their holidays? A remote tavern with good food. Congratulations, you just found it!
Melitzanakia: A bit outside the rock of Monemvasia you will find dishes that remind those of mom! Servings are generous and prices very reasonable.
Voltes: It is located inside the castle and serves tasty/quality dishes in (slightly) high prices.
Chrisovoulo Restaurant & Wine Bar: It is located on the rock of Monemvasia and serves quality/tasty dishes, with an amazing view, at respective prices. It is recommended for anyone craving some gourmet flavors.
EntertainmentEnetiko Café & Cocktail Bar: Enetiko is a one-way street for entertainment in Monemvasia! 10/10 view, 10/10 environment, 10/10 cocktails! Try the Mediterranean breeze cocktail..
Malvasia Café: It is probably the most quaint and quiet café of the castle-town! Away from the crowds and with an impressive view, this café will offer you many moments of relaxation.
Accommodation MonemvasiaIs it better to wake up on the rock, having the Myrtoon Sea at your feet, or maybe to take your breakfast with the imposing rock of Monemvasia at the background? The dilemma, when one is looking for accommodation in Monemvasia, is big…just like the difference in price. If you choose to stay in an accommodation site in the castle-town you will have to pay 80-110€/night, while if you choose to stay on the opposite side you will have to pay 50-90€/night.
The best hotels in Monemvasia
? Kinsterna: It is one of the best hotels, not only in the Peloponnese, but the entire Greece. The stay at Kinsterna is yet another good reason to visit Monemvasia. Accommodation, quality, amenities, service and activities at their best. Accommodation cost 270€-320€/ High Season.
Ardamis Guesthouse: Very good option for accommodation inside the castle. The location and excellent view, in combination with the functional rooms and good prices bring it high in preference. Accommodation cost 180€-200€/ High Season.
Lithochtisto: It is located 3km away from Monemvasia and has plain rooms, in which the element of wood and quiet prevail. Prices are pretty reasonable. Accommodation cost 70€-100€/ High Season.
Kellia Guesthouse: A VFM accommodation site inside Monemvasia with modern traditional rooms and excellent view. Service and location are also added in the list of its advantages. Accommodation cost 170€-190€/ High Season.
Moni Emvasis Luxury Suites: It is the most luxury option for the castle-town of Monemvasia. Accommodation cost 200€-250€/ High Season.
- Visit the castle-town on a weekday in order to have more quiet and space for photographs!
- The busiest tourist period is the summer season.
- Winds are frequent on the island.
- The best restaurants are located outside of the castle.
- Leave your car at the parking spaces before or after the bridge, with no charge.
- It is very difficult to find a parking spot on the rock, because even on weekdays these spots are occupied by those working inside the castle.
- In the area of Monemvasia, you will not find decent beaches for swimming. The best one is that of Vlychada, 40 minutes away.
- The original PDO Malvazia wine (Monemvasia winery) costs around 120€ per liter and holds dozens of awards.
- The upper town does not attract a lot of tourists as access to it is somehow tiring. Visit it and you will get the most beautiful images.
- If you are in the mood for walking, take a stroll to the lighthouse (30-40 minutes).
- Prices in the castle-town are pretty high on all products as well as for accommodation.
- The busiest spot is the square hosting the Church of Elkomenos Christos.
- The Acropolis is located on the top of Monemvasia, about 20 minutes on foot from the church of Ayia Sophia.
- The square with the old cannon is the castle’s most central spot with an amazing view of the sea and it is a good spot to enjoy some people-watching.
- Prices in souvenirs, gifts and other products inside the castle are up to three times higher.
Get a ticket or enter as a stowaway and travel with the “Stone Ship” of Yannis Ritsos, which is waiting for the last visitor to sail away to another era, more beautiful, more innocent, more magical..