Monemvasia is nothing if not romantic. It could upend Santorini in a heartbeat. Nafplio? Wouldn’t even get a look in. Hydra? Eat my dust. The first question on anyone’s mind upon visiting is how is this gem still unspoilt, followed by why is this place not on a Game of Thrones episode. The answer to both of those questions is simple. Because locals say so. And that’s good enough for us, folks (Good things happen to the environment when you let the locals decide their own fates, it appears. Quel surprise…).
So, what is Monemvasia? It’s an island, literally just off the coast of southern Peloponesse. A very small one at that, but one that is in fact a fortified castle island. It is connected to the mainland by a causeway, making it that extra bit quainter. What stands out about this islet (no bigger than 950 square kilometres in size) is its sheer beauty, combined with its historic importance. Inside this fortified walled city dating back to 583 AD, the activities include long strolls along scenic coastal and craggy terrain, even longer lunches and the occasional visit to one of the many historical sites around the area. There are approximately 24 churches still standing, one of them perched up high on the rock. Just nearby, you can explore the Kastania Cave to walk off that lunch. It is said that this cave took millions of years to form and is full of extreme geological formations.
As is usually the case in Greece, the list of archaeological treasures center around the Ottoman, Byzantine, Frankish and Venetian styles. What that means for you visually is a constant parade of churches, mosques and fortresses in various forms of disrepair. The faded glories of yesteryear are riveting.
Due to the restrictions on tourism the amenities are just what they need to be. There are just enough visitors to keep this place running without it turning into a circus. And that’s good for you. At just under 4 hours from Athens, it’s your go-to love-in.