- Best Hotels in Monemvasia
- Best Restuarants in Monemvasia
- Best Hotels in Nafplio
- Mainland Greece Travel Guide
- Monemvasia is a magical and romantic Byzantine castle town in the southeast Peloponnese that dates back to the sixth century AD, and the longest continuously-inhabited castle town in Europe. It takes about 4 hours to drive to Monemvasia from Athens, with most of the route along well-maintained highway. There are multiple daily bus routes between Monemvasia and Athens or Sparti.
- A causeway connects Monemvasia’s Old Town (Kastro) to the mainland and the modern village of Gefyra. It’s a 20-minute walk between the Gefyra and the Kastro. There are no cars in Kastro, though cars can drive all the way up to the castle entrance to drop off passengers. A limited amount of parking is available along the causeway and the road leading to the castle gate, and a large (free) parking lot is located off to the right of as you approach the causeway. A shuttle bus runs between the start of the causeway and the Kastro gate from 8am to 11pm every 30 minutes in the summer (until mid-afternoon in the winter) and costs €1.10. A taxi between Gefyra and Monemvasia Kastro is about €4.
- Best Monemvasia Tours: Historic Estate and Olive Oil/Wine Tasting with Dinner • Monemvasia Sea Kayak Tour
- Best Tours to Monemvasia from Athens: Sparta, Mystras, & Monemvasia (2 Day) • Best of Peloponnese (5 Day)
- Best Hotels in Monemvasia: Kinsterna Hotel • Moni Emvasis Luxury Suites • Likinia Hotel
- Best Restaurants in Monemvasia: Chrisovoulo • Voltes • To Kanoni
10 Best Things to Do in Monemvasia, Greece
The very best thing to do in Monemvasia is to simply wander up and down the twisty, cobbled lanes of Kastro (Old Town), basking in the island’s historic atmosphere and drinking in the views of the castle and the sea. It’s a bit like a living museum, with plaques posted throughout that include maps of the island and historical descriptions of Kastro’s unique architecture and its many, many churches. It’s a guarantee you’ll get lost at least once, but you’ll enjoy every minute of it. Here are a few more experiences you shouldn’t miss to experience Monemvasia to its fullest.
1. Hike to Upper Town
The Kastro of Monemvasia is divided into two sections: Lower town, where historic castle structures have been converted into modern-day hotels and guesthouses, shops, and restaurants; and Upper Town, a now-deserted area that was once the site of the settlement’s most impressive homes and the beautiful 12th-century Hagia Sophia, one of Greece’s oldest and most important Byzantine churches.
It takes about half an hour to hike to upper town’s central gate; the path can be accessed via many points below, but the easiest to find is across from the bell tower on Kastro’s main road. Much of the centuries-old stone path is steep and slippery, so wear sturdy shoes, take your time walking, and pack water. Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with fascinating ruins to explore, as well as breathtaking views over Monemvasia and the Myrtoan Sea.
Hagia Sophia is open to visitors on select days that change throughout the year, most commonly Friday to Monday from 8:30am-3:30pm. Ask at the Archaeological Collection in the main square what opening hours are during your visit.
2. Swim at the Portello
Monemvasia’s southern gate opens directly to the sea and is known as the Portello. Once upon a time, it was used as an access point to the castle via ship; today it serves as a unique swimming platform and a welcome respite when the fortress walls bake in the summer heat.
Water can be choppy by the Portello’s rocky edge; there’s a ladder you can use to lower yourself into the water, and then swim out a bit to where the water is calmer. It’s a cool spot for a refreshing swim, but not recommended for small kids. The Portello is easy to find, about midway along the southern sea wall and downhill from the church on the main square. Look for the small signs leading to πορτέλλο.
This small but interesting museum is located directly on Monemvasia’s central square. The building it is housed in has been used at various points throughout history as a mosque, prison, and coffee shop. Today it holds a cozy collection of artifacts found in the fortress and its surroundings that help to tell the history of the Kastro and its connection with the outside world. It’s a lovely space and a quick stop – well worth the small price of admission.
Hours: Open 8:30am-3:30pm. Closed Tuesdays. General admission is €2; reduced admission is €1. • Website
4. Yiannis Ritsos House
Just inside the castle gate is the onetime home of Greece’s lauded poet, Yiannis Ritsos. Internationally renowned and winner of the Greek First State Prize for Poetry and the Lenin Peace Prize, Ritsos was born and raised in Monemvasia, which features prominently in many of his works. Ritsos famously described his beloved island as a “ship of stone.”
Today the house is closed to visitors and the location is simply marked with a plaque and a bronze bust of the artist, but there are plans afoot to restore it and open a museum on the site. Find it by taking your first left after entering the castle, and climbing up.
The Monemvasia region produces many distinct and delicious food products, such as wine (the local Malvasia sweet wine was mentioned in three Shakespeare plays – “drown me in a cask of Malvasia wine,” Richard III), honey mead, homemade liqueurs and preserves, almond-flour cookies, and local olive oil and honey. Here are the best spots to try them.
- Edodimopolio: Located on Kastro’s main street, and stocking a great variety of local edible and cosmetic/skin-care products. Book your tasting ahead for the best experience.
- To Kelari: Just across from Edodimopolio on the main thoroughfare, To Kelari (The Cellar) is a cozy shop that’s packed from floor to ceiling with wine, preserves, liqueurs, and sweet treats. The friendly owners are happy to arrange a tasting for you.
- Byron’s Wine Kamera: Great little wine bar serving lots of local varieties, tucked into the warren of lanes below Kastro’s main square. Generally open for tastings from 6pm on, or earlier by appointment (+30 697 437 0964).
- Monemvasia Winery: Founded in 1997 and dedicated to the production and promotion of unique regional varieties. 15 minutes from Kastro by car. Tour/tastings are offered Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm.
- Liotrivi Estate: Sprawling estate and historic boutique hotel (in the onetime summer home of poet Yiannis Ritsos), making and selling excellent olive oil, wine, and preserves. A 20-minute drive from Kastro, Liotrivi offers an excellent tour & tasting package that includes a delicious meal – and transportation from the castle.
6. Monemvasia Lighthouse
This working and well-maintained lighthouse just beyond the settlement’s eastern wall dates back to 1896. Adjacent to the lighthouse is a tiny museum dedicated to the tradition of Greek naval lighthouses, featuring signs in both Greek and English. It’s worth the few-minutes walk to get out there, if only for the photo ops and wonderful sea views.
Museum Hours: May through September, Wednesday to Sunday 9am-1pm & 6pm-8pm; October through April, Tuesday to Saturday 9am-2pm. Admission is by suggested donation.
Continuing past the lighthouse will lead you to the beginning of a hiking trail around the island. The first section of the trail, leading around the island’s eastern tip, is very rocky and not very well marked, so this trail is best left to experienced hikers.
7. Shop the Main Street
The dozen-or-so shops in Monemvasia’s Kastro can be found along the main pedestrian avenue that runs through its center. Many offer unique handmade goods that make excellent souvenirs. Here are some of our favorites.
- Malva Gallery: Showroom of a Piraeus-born artist who has called Monemvasia home since 1992. His works incorporate intricate pointillism and bold colors; Monemvasia the renowned City is especially iconic. Original works, fine art prints, and posters are available for purchase.
- Anastasia Livieratou: 2nd-generation Monemvasian metalsmith selling handcrafted jewelry inspired by the castle of Monemvasia, ancient Greece, and Greek mythology. Open Orthodox Easter through October; tours of her workshop are offered by appointment, free of charge.
- Karavaki: Beautiful, unique, and locally- and ethically-made housewares, textiles, and jewelry, and decorative goods. Open April through October.
- Niove Boutique: Cozy women’s fashion boutique offering handmade clothing from exclusive Greek designer brands.
The traditional Kinsterna estate, located a 15-minute drive south of Kastro amid 25 serene acres of organic gardens, vineyards, and olive and citrus groves, is home to a gorgeous 5-star resort hotel, and offers a wide variety of cultural experiences that are open to guests and non-guests alike. Options range from year-round activities like cooking and bread-baking classes, honey harvest, and horseback riding, to participatory seasonal events during the wine and olive harvest. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book. • Website
9. Nearby Beaches
There’s no beach to speak of in Kastro, but there are plenty of good ones (and a couple excellent ones) to be found within walking or driving distance.
- Monemvasia Beach: This narrow and pebbly stretch of white-flag beach is located just off the causeway in Gefyra. There are no beach beds for rent here, but a few good beachfront cafes line the shore in the summer. Waves can be rough when winds are high. Excellent view to Monemvasia. • Map
- Pori Beach: Clean and peaceful blue-flag sandy beach a few kilometers north of Monemvasia. There are sometimes sunbeds for rent in the summer, as well as a beach café for snacks and refreshments. • Map
- Elafonissos Island: This small nearby island, accessible via a 15-minute ferry from Pounta is famous for its Caribbean-like golden sand beaches, especially Sarakiniko, Panagia, and Simos – considered one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful. It takes 40 minutes or less to drive to Pounta along the New Road that skips the mountain switchbacks. (Google Map’s default route will take you twice as long.)
- Plitra: Organized sandy beach on the opposite side of the peninsula, with calm, crystal clear waters that are great for families. 40 minutes from Monemvasia by car. • Map
- Bozas: Just north of Plitra, a beautiful and peaceful beach with interesting rock formations, shade-giving trees, and a beachfront taverna. Located within an hour’s drive of Monemvasia. • Map
10. Best Day Trips from Monemvasia
- Gerakas Lagoon: Picturesque harbor town and fishing village (also spelled Ierakas) perched around Greece’s only natural fjord, and the southernmost one in Europe. Expect whitewashed stone houses, waterfront tavernas, a swimming pier, and many boats. 30-40 minutes up the coast by car.
- Elafonissos Island: Small Peloponnesian island famous for its Caribbean-like beaches, accessible via a 15-minute ferry from Pounta. You can drive to the ferry in 40 minutes or so (twice as long if you follow Google Maps suggested route), or book a private half-day tour and just enjoy the ride.
- Kastania Cave: Impressive 3-million-year-old cave jam-packed with loads of interesting stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations. Half-hour tours are offered all day long by super knowledgeable staff. Check the website for opening hours – which are only on weekends during winter months. About an hour’s drive from Monemvasia via the New Road to Neapoli.
- Gytheio: Gytheio is a lovely harbor town in the rugged Mani region. Its Mavrovouni Beach is a nesting spot for endangered sea turtles and features a cool shipwreck. It’s about an hour and a quarter from Monemvasia by car; accessible without a car on this private half-day tour.
- Mystras: An hour and a half north of Kastro, this abandoned Byzantine town and fortress is also an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site. Learn all about its history and distinct architecture (and leave the driving to someone else) on a private half-day tour from Monemvasia.