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Monemvasia is one of the most mysterious and magical Peloponnese towns and a really unique destination. A medieval wonder built into an amphitheatre of rocky cliff, topped by a spectacular castle fortress. Some of the best places to stay in Monemvasia are the restored Venetian mansions turned into boutique hotels in the medieval part of town, though if you're looking for something more modern you'll find plenty of choice in Gefyra.
The Byzantines founded Monemvasia in the sixth century, on a rocky outcrop just 200 metres off the coast of the mainland. Their castle was built on a plateau which rises 100 metres out of the sea, with the rest of the town on a rocky ledge below. The figures are even more breathtaking when you see it.
It may not look it today, but Monemvasia was once a great port on the trade routes between the Mediterranean and the Levant. Around 40,000 people lived here, and they lived well - think fur coats and fine foods. Taken by the Venetians and Ottomans, Monemvasia is a fine example of a city founded by Greeks, transformed and fortified by Venetians, and then restored and fortified again by the Ottomans.
A more modern town has gradually built up on the mainland across from the rocky atoll, with a wonderful, narrow crossing in between. This is called Gefyra. One of the fantastic things about Monemvasia is that you can't really see the town from the mainland, it's hidden - but that does mean that if you stay in Gefyra you won't have the lovely views of the kastro you might imagine...
These days only half of medieval Monemvasia is inhabited, the lower town. But even in the inhabited part there are beautiful ruins in amongst the narrow cobbled streets which also hide a wonderful 16th century Mosque, several Byzantine churches, a Christian Cathedral, the Archaeological Museum and some surprisingly fine restaurants - including one in the roof of an old tower house.
What Not To Miss
- The upper part of town, leading up to the fortress, is where you'll find more Byzantine ruins. The church of Ayia Sofia, a rare 11th century octagonal church which offers spellbinding views over the Aegean - on a clear day you can see all the way to Crete.
- As far as swimming is concerned there's Kakavos, a pebble beach to the left of the bridge, which has a row of cafes and bars behind it, Kourkoula, which is more like a giant rock pool on the rocky atoll, and Portelo, also on the rock, which is pretty unusual place for a dip - right in the shadow of the castle.
- Whilst small, the Archaeological Collection of Monemvasia houses a fascinating collection of ancient artefacts. A nice spot to spend an hour or two.
If you're visiting in the busy summer months be sure to book ahead as the best places to stay in Monemvasia get quickly booked up!
Luxury and Relaxation
- If you're looking for a luxurious escape, the Kinsterna Hotel & Spa is ideal. This collection of 27 rooms is arranged on a working olive and wine estate, in a group of beautiful, traditional buildings and done up in sumptuous style. There's plenty you can do here - explore walking trails, snorkel, visit the sights, or just eat extremely well and totally relax.
For An Apartment Or Villa
- If you'd prefer the privacy of a self-catering option then browse through the wide variety available online with our partner Booking.com.
- Monemvasia's obviously nicest weather-wise in the summer, with the average daily temperature rising to 33°C in July. This however is peak season, so for a quieter and cheaper alternative consider coming in May, September or October.
- International visitors can fly into Athens International Airport, served by direct flights from most UK airports by a number of airlines.
- From the airport, you can take a bus to Monemvasia - though remember to bring a good book as the journey time's around 6 hours!
- For car hire prices, we recommend you visit our online partner Rentalcars.
Still not sure?
Best Hotels in Monemvasia
Kellia 12 rooms from £58Monemvasia
A chic guesthouse located in the historic Castle of Monemvasia. Individually styled rooms are packed full of charm with exposed stone walls, beamed ceilings and antique furniture. Indulgent breakfasts are served and wine and olive oil tasting can be arranged on site.Local exploring - From days by the sea to cultural attractions, Monemvasia has a host of activities to offer.Sights nearby - Visit the nearby Medieval Fortress and Agia Sofia Church,Full of characterSeaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.
Kinsterna Hotel & Spa 27 rooms from £163Monemvasia
Five Star luxury on a beautiful olive and wine estate. A traditional building with romantic terraces stepped into the valley, each with pools and relaxation areas. Sumptuous rooms and suites are chic and understated. Excellent restaurant, beautiful views. Dreamy.Garden - The estate produces its own crop of wine and olive oil.Total relaxationViews - Great views from hotelRomantic - Good for couples.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, CN Traveller, Tablet
Astrolithos 3 rooms from £103Monemvasia
A charming country house boasting fabulous sea views. Traditionally dressed rooms are cosy and characterful with whitewashed walls, dark wooden furniture, exposed beam ceilings and private balconies. Indulgent breakfasts are served on the terrace and there's an array of activities in the region.Local exploring - A tranquil base from which to discover the region's natural and cultural attractions.Sights nearby - Visit the majestic Castle of Monemvasia.Full of characterSeaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.
Moni Emvasis Luxury Suites 3 rooms from £168Monemvasia (Laconia)
A boutique property boasting a unique location inside a Byzantine citadel. Beautifully refurbished rooms keep the building's original charm, showing exposed beams and stonework, while having a clean contemporary feel. Sunny terraces enjoy spectacular sea views and there's a fabulous restaurant too.Local exploring - Being located in the heart of a Byzantine castle citadel means there's plenty to explore.Sights nearby - Make a trip to fascinating Mystras a Byzantine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Sailing - Spend a day exploring the coastline from the sea.Seaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.
Bastione Malvasia 14 rooms from £79Monemvasia
A charming boutique property in the centre of the historic town of Monemvasia. A handful of rooms are uniformly styled with whitewashed walls, beamed ceilings, light wooden furniture and the best have a private terrace. An ideal base from which to explore the cultural attractions of the town.Local exploring - Located in the heart of Monemvasia with many of its sites within walking distance.Sights nearby - Visit the church of Ayia Sofia in the upper city, perched on the cliffs.Romantic - Good for couples.Views - Great views from hotel