There are many beautiful places to visit around Greece, but if you want to see something special I recommend you to visit Monemvasia. This is a place many tourists don’t know about it, so you’ll enjoy a authentic experience.
Monemvasia is an island castle-town, inhabited since the 6th century and dominated by several civilizations during the centuries (Byzantines, Franks, Venetians, Ottomans). It is connected by the mainland via a narrow strip, which makes it look like a “stone ship”, according to the poet Yannis Rithos.
In order to reach this Byzantine town you need to enter through its unique entrance – this is what “Moni emvassi” means. Then, cross the bridge and keep right till the actual fortress. Until there, you can go by foot or by car from the new town, but inside the fortress it is pedestrian access only.
From the entrance till the upper town, you will be fascinated by the castle itself, the narrow streets with cobblestone pavements, churches, arches, byzantine icons, defense walls and much more. Get lost on the streets to feel the vibe of the place. This small labirinth has many hidden corners and amazing views.
How to get there
I came to visit Monemvasia from Neapolis, by using public bus. As there is no direct bus, I had to take one until Molai, and then to change to Monemvasia. The entire journey takes around 2 hours and a half and it costs around 10€. On the way back, I took a direct bus to Athens, which by the way it stops in several big stations like Sparta or Tripoli. The price of one single ticket is 25€.
The fortress can be easier visited by dividing the visit into two. First the lower town, then the upper down. This way you can first enjoy the city and the animation around, leaving the wild part and the trekking at the end. Thus, enjoy the fortress and its free entrance.
The lower town is the core city with narrow streets filled by bars, restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops. The traces of the past are not missing either. You can visit several churches, admire the architecture of the houses, see the old water cisterns and have a further walk till the lighthouse. The lighthouse is also housting a small museum you can visit for free.
I wouldn’t say it is harder to get on the upper town, but for sure is requiring more effort than the lower town – which is mainly flat. You have a few stairs to follow and be careful as are slippery – especially for going down! But, once getting on top, the view over the lower city and the surroundings are amazing. So, you will agree the effort was worth in.
Comparing to the lower town, the upper town is wild. Here you can find many traces of the past like remaining walls, water cisterns and old settlements. The most beautiful surviving building is the beautiful church of Agia Sophia which dominates the top.
This place has the reputation of beeing a very romantic one, so expect to see many couples or families around you. As its placement and the views from all over the island are breathtaking, there is no doubt why it gained this name.
On top of this, if you are an early person and you want to have an another memorable sunrise in your pocket, go on the top of the island – to the upper town – in order to see the sun rising in all its splendor. I personally haven’t done it, and not because I was alone and I couldn’t handle so much romanticism. The reason is I do love sleeping in the morning. In the end, I was on holiday!
If you are looking for nice souvenirs, you’re in the right place. There are many beautiful shops with handmade magnets, decorations, clothes and many more for every taste.
The New City
There is not much to visit in the new city of Monemvasia, apart from eating and drinking. However, as you may have the accommodation here, I do recommend you to walk around the port or enjoy a nice meal there. Like this, you will be able to enjoy the nice views with the island of Monemvastia, the port and the mountains around.
If you’re feeling tired or running low on places to see or things to do, go to the beach. There are several around, but one of them is exactly along the city, offering spectacular views with the island. Take some water shoes with you, as there is no sand, only stones.
As the old city but also the new one are quite small, the accommodation is more expensive comparing to other places. There are no hostels for single travelers (like in many other places around Greece), so you need to opt-in for an apartment as the cheapest option.
Personally, I chose one in the new city center – on the other side of the bridge and the fortress – and I paid 40€ per night. The cheapest price I found it was 35€ per night at Kritikos apartments, but they were fully booked. Bare in mind I did found the accommodation on the place and I didn’t booked in advance. On Booking or Agoda everything is expensive, starting with 100€ per night. So, you should better go and find something at the place, if you’re breave enouth.
And that’s all! I hope someday you will visit Monemvasia and you’ll create your own memories. For more places to add on your bucket list, read more articles here.