Monemvasia is located 300 km away from Athens and 90 km away from the historic Sparta, on the “first leg” of Peloponnese, on the side of Mirtoo Sea.
The name comes from a narrow piece of land (“the bridge”), which joins the rock of Monemvasia with the mainland, creating thus one and only entrance to Monemvasia.
Initially, Monemvasia was called only the castle and the city on the rock and the area before the bridge, while the city is officially called Gefyra; nowadays, the whole area is called Monemvasia. You may hear the name Monemvasia stressed on the third or the fourth syllable; they are all correct!
When you reach the new city, just before the Bridge, you may park your car and have an enjoyable walk on foot.
Starting from the beginning of the bridge and looking at the rock, on our left, passing by the small street of the kiosk, we proceed towards the beach with pebbles and Kakavos, where you can swim and relax, since there are café – bars just above the beaches.
On the right side of the bridge, there is the parking place, where events take place during summer. You can see many café and restaurants on your way to the small picturesque port. The grilled octopus smell is pervasive and the ambience is almost always festive.
When being here, you should not omit buying the marvelous “Amygdaloto” (sweet made of almonds), local wine, pasta but also tasting the delicacies of the area. There are various restaurants, for all tastes. Keep on walking; you will reach a place with taverns for delicious food, having a view of the Rock of Monvemvasia.
The Castle of Monemvasia
“It is a jewel in the Mirtoo sea, just like it is about to break the bond with the earth of Lakonia and set sail in the blue sea”.
It is about a rock of unique beauty, standing in the Mirtoo Sea.
The castle and the city, well-hidden and safe from the north winds, are located on the Southwest side of the rock. Getting closer to the gate, we can see that we will enter an archaeological site, but the surprise is enormous, when passing the very big, heavy door, which has received so many attacks in the past.
Within it, there is a whole Live Medieval city, living on the rhythm of today, but with a magical ambience of the past.
In the castle-city you may find numerous rooms to rent, hotels and motels, but also café, restaurants and shops.
The city is exactly as it used to be. All buildings are original and the reconstruction is done with great respect to the original plans and always under the supervision of the Archaeological Service. In the castle you will see many churches and both the Byzantine and French elements can be noticed in the architecture.
Walking on the main alley, which is the only one with shops in the castle, you will end up at the square of Elkomenos, with the cannon in the middle of it, the Elkomenos Christ church on the left and the museum on the right of it.
From the square you may follow the uphill path to the Upper city. There, you can see the Agia Sofia, a church which is a miniature of the Agia Sofia cathedral at Constantinople. Unfortunately, at the upper city, there are very few buildings.
The Kakavos (pebble) beach on the left side of the bridge, having a view to the castle.
There, apart from the clean water, you will have the facility to direct access to neighboring café-bars.
On the rock, on the way to the castle city, there is Kourkoula, which is like a pool, naturally prevented from all sides. It may be the best point to swim if the wind is strong elsewhere.
In the castle-city, you can follow the signs and swim at Portelo.
Portelo is an exit, below the wall, leading a narrow, small place to swim, but it is a unique experience, since you literary swim under the shadow of the castle of Monemvasia.
On the road to Athens, just 3 km away from Monemvasia, on the right side, you can see Pori beach. It is a sandy beach, ideal for walking and sports. There is a beach bar and some taverns.
On the road to Athens again, at about 6 km away, if you turn left to Agios Ioannis and Yerakas and follow the signs to Epidavros Limiras, you will reach the sea at the area of Kastraki. This is a sandy beach, with enough shadow since there are trees by the sea.
Southwards to Ksifia, at about 6 km away, there is Abelakia beach, with successive little gulfs before and after it.
This is a really nice place to swim and there are enough taverns around it.
Keeping on southwards, you will find numerous successive little gulfs until Agios Fokas, where the road ends.
Local Products / Recipes
What to taste
Monemvasia apart from all that beauty will offer you some delicious tastes.
The place is not rich in water, but nature, where water is rare and precious, offers intense, tasteful, gorgeous tastes. The smell of thyme, sage and oregano entice you while your sight wanders on the colors of the environment.
In the vast area of Monemvasia flourish mainly olive trees, figs and vineyards, as well as thousand of vegetables and plants, creating thus a rich flora. Since the medieval era, Monemvasia was famous for its wine. Actually it was one of the major products that made Monemvasia famous throughout the world. The Franks named it Malvasia, as they named Monemvasia too. This wine was sweet, with great taste, as all old documents testify and it was a fine and rare drink at the Courts of medieval Europe.
Olive oil. Probably, there is not a more sacred plant than Olive tree. Have you ever thought how many thousand – actually millions of women used in the past Pure Olive Oil for their care but also for their diet? When you will fortunately come here, you should buy some olive oil from a producer or a Union. When you taste it, you will get to know what it means pure, virgin olive oil from Monemvasia!
At winter, the nature is climaxing. The slopes are full with every king of vegetables and herbs, which become delicious herb-pies and “saitia’ (small herb-pie), made of pastry and flavorings, cooked on a grill.
Later on, on February, they grow wild asparagus, usually under the olive trees. Their taste is more than unique! If, at any tavern of Monemvasia they offer you “hay”, you should not think that it is what horses eat! In the middle of March and April, they grow the herbs which are used to make the hay. These herbs are drained in the sun, hold by a string, so as to have herbs during the summer. So, don’t forget to taste them even during your summer vacation at Monemvasia. They have a great taste
Later on August, mellow grape appear, so as to become the tasteful, smooth wine. Finally, ancient Gods might have been taking the wine from here so as to enjoy it …on Olympus!
Traditional Sweets of Monemvasia
“When biting an “amygdaloto”, a history, a legend, a perfume and tastes from the past which remain invariant will fill with a unique fragrance. In the ancient times, when the bitter orange trees were blossoming, there was a distillation boiler circulating in the houses of the castle, offering the precious flower water to the housewives. A fragrance filled the castle and the whole place had the smell of flower water. The almonds offered their fruits, the “soul” of “amygdaloto” as well as the almond jam of Monemvasia”.
Other traditional sweets are the following: Rafiolia or Skaltsounia, Flogeres (Flutes), the famous Samousas, Diples, Melitinia, Sugared shortcakes.
Municipality of Monemvasia: Tel +30 2732061222
Police: Tel. +30 2732061210
Medical Center: Tel +30 2732061204
Port Police: Tel +30 2732061266
Museum: Tel +30 2732061403
Sources: monemvasiaonline.gr, monemvassia.gr