Monemvasia – Stunning, Medieval Town Carved On A Sea Rock
Monemvasia, the castle town is one of the most impressive spots in Greece. You will find it on the southeastern side of Peloponnese. It was built on the backside of a sea rock in Medieval times.
Arriving from the mainland this sea rock is not visible, to avoid enemy attacks. There was only one way to reach Monemvasia, and that was by boat. Later a paved pathway was constructed to connect the castle entrance with the mainland.
Monemvasia “the only passage”
This is the meaning of “Monemvasia”, ‘the only passage.’ On the mainland, just opposite the rock, a new town was constructed. Walking around the castle-town is like a travel into the past with Byzantine churches and beautiful stone mansions. and the view from the castle top is stunning. Do not miss sightseeing and swimming at the tranquil beaches during your holidays in Monemvasia.
Monemvasia is one of the most romantic places in Greece. The Medieval castle town is carved onto the rock slopes and has been inhabited continuously ever since. Today, most of the old houses have been converted into guesthouses and tiny boutique hotels. If you are not lucky to find a vacant room inside the castle town on the rock, the modern town on the mainland has plenty of tourist facilities. You can also combine your trip to Monemvasia with day trips to Gythio, Neapolis, and Mystras in the southern part of Peloponnese.
Where is Monemvasia Greece?
You’ll find Monemvasia at the “first leg” of Peloponnese in the Myrtoo Sea. Just 322 km from Athens, it is one of the favorite destinations of the Athenians for the weekend. Moreover, the path down to Monemvasia leads you through areas with historical sites such as Sparta and Mystras, and some picturesque villages. You can, of course, choose to approach Monemvasia from the sea, when cruising.
Monemvasia on a map
Monemvasia – How to get there?
There is no airport near Monevasia. The most convenient travel option is to the International Airport of Athens, Eleftherios Venizelos. It receives international as well as domestic flights all year. You can reach Monemvasia from there by bus or rental car.
Monemvasia by bus: The national KTEL buses connect the town with both Athens and Sparta.
Monemvasia by car: You need to take the Greek National Road from Corinth to Tripoli, and from there to follow the route to Sparti and Gythio. Before reaching Gythio you will se the signs leading to Monemvasia. The distance from Athens to Monevasia is 329 km and the travel duration is about 3 hours and 50 minutes.
The first thing someone notices once he sees the Gulf of Monemvasia is the imposing rock that dominates the middle of the sea. A thin strip of land connects the castle with the modern city and this is the only entrance to the castle, which owes its name to the region (“moni emvasis” meaning “the only entrance”). Not that the modern town is ugly, but when the “rival” carries so much beauty, any comparison is doomed from the outset.
When was Monemvasia built?
The town and fortress of Monemvasia were founded in 583 by inhabitants of the Peloponnesian mainland seeking refuge from the Slavic and the Avaric invasion of Greece.Read more
From the 10th century AD, the town developed into an important trade and maritime centre. The fortress withstood the Arab and Norman invasions in 1147; cornfields that fed up to 30 men were tilled inside the fortress. William II of Villehardouin took it in 1248, on honourable terms, after three years of siege; in 1259 William was captured by the Greeks after the battle of Pelagonia and in 1262 it was retroceded to Michael VIII Palaiologos as part of William’s ransom.
It remained part of the Byzantine empire until 1460, becoming the seat of an Imperial governor, a landing place for Imperial operations against the Franks, the main port of shipment (if not always production) for Malmsey wine, and one of the most dangerous lairs of corsairs in the Levant. The Emperors gave it valuable privileges, attracting Roger de Lluria who sacked the lower town in 1292. The town welcomed the Catalan Company on its way eastward in 1302. In 1397 Theodore I Palaiologos deposed the local dynast of Monemvasia, who appealed to Sultan Bayezid I and was reinstated by Turkish troops. In 1419 the rock appears to have come into the possession of Venice, though it soon returned to the Despot. About 1401, the historian George Sphrantzes was born in the town. After the fall of Constantinople Monemvasia held out against the threats of Sultan Mehmed II in 1458 and 1460, when it became the only remaining domain of the Despot of Morea, Thomas Palaiologos, claimant of the Imperial throne. He had no forces to defend it; he offered it to the Sultan, and finally sold it to the Pope.
By 1464 the inhabitants found the Pope’s representative feeble and the Pope unable to protect them; they admitted a Venetian garrison. The town was fairly prosperous under Venetian rule until the peace of 1502-3, in which it lost its farm lands, source of its food supply and of Malmsey wine. The food had to come by sea or from Turkish-held lands, and the cultivation of wine languished under Turkish rule. The rock was governed by Venetians until the treaty of 1540, which cost the Republic Nauplia and Monemvasia, her last two possessions on mainland Greece. Those inhabitants who did not wish to live under Turkish rule were given lands elsewhere. The Ottomans then ruled the town until the brief Venetian recovery from 1690, then again from 1715 to 1821. It was known as “Menekşe” (“Violet” in Turkish) during Ottoman rule and was a sanjak centre in Mora province.
The commercial importance of the town continued until the Orlov Revolt (1770) in the Russo-Turkish War, which saw its importance decline severely.
Monemvasia – why visit?
The castle of Monemvasia, anchored on the outer side of the rock is visible only from the sea and this increases the surprise of those who face the distinct beauty for the first time. The buildings in Venetian style with their characteristic arches, small windows and narrow doors, show that the construction was made in times when the pirates were plaguing the region. The narrow streets with intricate shape, helped the residents to gain time and to climb onto the city that was inaccessible to intruders because of its location. You only need to let your thoughts fly the Middle Ages and momentarily you’ll be in another era that now exists only on movie screens.
Monemvasia Beach Guide
You will find various beaches around Monemvasia. A few are organized with facilities like umbrellas and sunbeds while other are secluded in coves. Find the description of 4 popular beaches near Monemvasia below:
- Pori Monemvasias beach – Sandy, organized, family friendly beach located 1 km from Monemvasia.
- Mandraki beach – the pebbled harbour beach is narrow with clean water. You will find it in walking distance from Monemvasia,
- Xifias beach – Sandy, family friendly, long beach near the village of Agia Paraskevi, located 7 km southwest of Monemvasia
- Pera Kakavos beach – a pebbled, secluded beach located 2 km from Monemvasia. It is organized and with a gorgeous view to the rock of Monemvasia.
Taste of Monemvasia
THE BEST OF MONEMVASIA: WINE, LIQUORS, OLIVE OIL, HONEY
Sightseeing in Monemvasia
The Archaeological Museum of Monemvasia, a former mosque built in the 16th century, includes sculptures, ceramics and everyday objects from Christian times until the liberation in 1821. It was constructed in the 16th century by the Turks.
Churches in Monemvasia
6 HOUR’S TOUR OF MONEMVASIA, WITH LUNCH AND WINE TASTING
Monemvasia has three beautiful churches, first of all if you take the ascent to the Upper Town you have the opportunity to visit Agia Sophia Church which is lovely at the top of the hill – but wear good, flat shoes since the path is very slippery, especially on the way down. The other of interest is the Church of Elkomenos Christos, considered the ‘most majestic of all the churches of the East’ according to many historians – with it’s Veneto-Cretan style, retaining the iconic old intricate Byzantine architectural characteristics. The church of Panagia Chryssafitissa is built on the edge of a rock, constructed in the 17th century, is still in use today.
Weather and climate in Monemvasia