Monemvasia’s history goes all the way back to the time of the Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman rulers. The town had become a flourishing port during the reign of these empires. Today, the old city remains, even though only a few people live here year-round. But during its heyday in the 12th century, thousands chose to live in this Greek town to take advantage of its huge shipping and trading industry. But Monemvasia is not forgotten. During your visit, you will be among the many who will come here to uncover its dramatic past.
The old section of Monemvasia is often called Kastro (castle), while the New Monemvasia is known as Yefira. A causeway links the sections to each other. A number of bars, taverns and accommodation facilities in Monemvasia are situated in the newer town, while the Kastro section has kept its traditional appearance.
The Kastro is further divided into two; the lower and upper town. It is in the lower town where you can find the ruins of 800 traditional houses that were originally built here. There are also four original churches that are still standing today. Previously, there were around 40 churches that occupied the town! Don’t miss the opportunity to explore and experience these important pieces of architecture. The oldest of these churches is named St. Paul’s, built during 956. Aside from being a place of worship, this church also maintains a museum. The other churches to explore are the 16th century Our Lady of Hrisafittisa, St. Sophia and Church of the Elkomenos Christ, located in the city central square.
St. Sophia Church (Aghia Sophia) is a well-known 11th century Byzantine monument, situated in the upper town, nestling dramatically on cliffs. One reason why St. Sophia is unique is its octagonal shape, which was a direct result of the architectural influence from Constantinople. It also dazzles visitors with its exquisite marble reliefs and sculptured door. From the upper town, you will find a zigzag road that leads you to the Fortress of Goulas. This impressive castle sits on a hill and gives an outstanding panorama of the entire town.
After seeing the ruins and churches, take your time to drink in the exceptional views of the Aegean Sea. If the day is clear and you get lucky, you may even see Crete from afar. If you like hiking, then go ahead and conquer the lush trail to the highest peak in the upper town measuring approximately 656 feet above sea level. To cool off, make your way to the rocky beaches with clear water and take a short dip or a long relaxing swim, your call!