Monemvasia is a small island in southeastern Peloponnese known for its almost intact fortified town, called Kastro Monemvasia. Its name means ”single entrance” because the entire fortification has only one gate. The place is known as the Gibraltar of the East due to being single huge rock in the sea near the continental land.
Kastro Monemvasia is a popular destination which can be visited any time of the year. It is accessible only on foot and it is entirely preserved, as even the restaurants and hotels are in the same style.
Monemvasia in present days
The island is located a few hundred meters from the land and is currently connected to it via causeway. The small village around the causeway is called Gefyra (or New Monemvasia), and the fortified town which occupies the island is known as Kastro, Kastro Monemvasias or Palia Monemvasia. In order to reach Kastro, you should leave your car alongside the road that leads to the single gate of the castle and then continue on foot.
The island has elongated shape with a large plateau (1 km long and up to 300 meters wide in some parts). The fortified town is in the lower part of the island and consists of two neighborhoods - Ano Poli (Upper town) and Kato Poli (Lower Town). The Lower Town is enclosed with a big wall that spans from the sea to the steep rock slopes. Many of the old houses are restored and 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 Upper town is closer to the plateau and it can be reached via fortified zigzag path which leads to the very top. Apart from the numerous walls, towers and forts there are remains of churches, Byzantine houses, public buildings and cisterns.
Monemvasia in the past
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 to Byzantine Empire. In the coming centuries the island and its assigned lands shared 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, and in 1971 the bridge was built to connect the island with mainland.
Stay in Monemvasia
Kastro Monemvasia is one of the most romantic places to stay in Greece and one of the few car-free destinations. The hotels are small and boutique-style, made of stone, and the medieval outlook successfully blends with contemporary amenities in the interior. The only thing you should consider here is that you need to carry your luggage to the hotel.
Even if you do not stay overnight, do not miss to spend a day wandering in the town alleys and treat yourself in one of the traditional cafes and restaurants.