Old town Monemvasia took us unawares. Beautiful winding, cobbled streets with spectacular quaint houses, views of the fortified, towering hills and sparkling coastlines. It was an unexpected pleasure on our travels around the Peloponnese of Greece.
Arrival in Monemvasia
As we approached the new part of Monemvasia, on the mainland, we could see the small, but commanding island which houses the old town of Monemvasia. The island is connected to the mainland by a 200-metre causeway and we easily found a park for the van in a quiet empty car park (coordinates N36.6885 E23.036638). Scooting around outside of the busy tourist season has its benefits.
The old town of Monemvasia clings to the coastline on the island (in the photo background)
Old and new Monemvasia
The next morning, we began our walk across to the island to visit the old town. Just short of the causeway, still on the mainland (new town of Monemvasia), we discovered an ‘Awarded Beach’. Only a portion of it was awarded though – as marked by the signs. Our best guess was that it had most likely won this accolade because it was remarkably clean of litter. We cannot really say the same for many of the other beaches we have been to so far in Europe – I guess we might be a bit spoilt being used to our beautiful, pristine beaches in Australia.
Monemvasia means ‘single passage’; its name derives from the fact that a single passageway linked it to the mainland. The island originally formed when an earthquake struck in 375 AD separating it from the mainland.
The old Town within a Medieval Castle
There is a short walk around the side of the island before you come to the ancient walls of the town. Stepping through the medieval castle wall entrance, you immediately feel like you are in a fairytale book. As you stroll through the old, cobbled streets and arched passageways you occasionally catch a glimpse of the ocean through little doorways, always with the perpetual towering hills watching from above. The architecture and history of the town seep into your bones and you can almost hear the clatter of hooves and chatter of artisans of medieval times.
The main street through this enchanting walled castle is lined with cafes, tavernas, shops and artisans’ workshops. In the upper part of the town are the ruins of mansions, that were once home to the Venetian aristocracy, and from here you have panoramic views of the area. On one of the highest points on the island sits the Church of Agios Sofia. Originally built in the 12th century, it is one of the oldest Byzantine churches in Greece,
In the main square of the lower town, you will find the largest medieval church in southern Greece, Elkomenos Christos.
As we wandered through the intimate laneways, the local stray cats were warming themselves in the winter sun but were keen to stir from their spot for some love and patting.
Excellent Winter Destination
As it was the winter season, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, so we would recommend a winter visit. You then get to experience the magic of this walled castle town, exploring its beauty without the crowds.
Late afternoon, we left mesmerizing Monemvasia behind us and began the next part of our journey. Canons and castles, goats and Greek mythology, filled our next few days as we headed towards Nafplio.
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After finishing my Law Degree I decided to become a teacher. I am passionate about teaching, learning and most of all, about inspiring others. Now, as a writer and blogger, I love sharing our travels and our musings on life’s journey. I hope, through these, we can play a part in inspiring you to do whatever ‘satisfies your soul’.