Monemvasia (meaning "single entrance") is a small island in southeastern Peloponnese
in the prefecture of Laconia. The island is a few hundred meters from the land and is currently connected to it via causeway. It has elongated shape with large plateau (1 km long and up to 300 meters wide in some parts). There is an old fortified town in the lower part of the island. The place is known as the Gibraltar of the East due to being single huge rock in the sea near the continental land.
The town and fortress of Monemvasia were founded in 583 by Byzantines. In the next 6 centuries it developed as an important port and flourished as cultural and trade center.
In 1248, after 3 years long siege, the Franks captured Monemvasia and ruled it for few years before returning it Byzantine Empire. In the coming centuries the island and its assigned lands share history with local rulers, Venetians, pirates, The Pope and the Ottoman Empire. In 1821 the town was liberated by Tzannetakis Grigorakis and became part of present day Greece. In 1971 a bridge was built and road connected the island with the mainland.
Monemvasia has new and old part. The new part is called Gefira (Yefira) and it is a small village on the mainland where the island bridge starts. The old part occupies the island and is known as Kastro, Kastro Monemvasias or Palia Monemvasia. Kastro lower part (Lower town) is enclosed with big wall that spans from the sea to the steep rock slopes. Many of the old houses are restored and some turned into hotels, souvenir shops, art galleries, cafes or restaurants. In the past there were more than forty churches and some of them survived to present days.
The plateau (Upper town) is circled by walls and can be reached via fortified zigzag path. Apart from the numerous walls, towers and forts there are remains of churches, Byzantine houses, public buildings and cisterns. Still standing is the Byzantine church Agia Sophia.
Monemvasia is a popular destination which can be visited any time of the year. The old fortified town is accessible only by foot. Cars are left on the mainland parking or alongside the road that leads to Kastro Monemvasia.