Built atop a slab of rock that rises from the Aegean Sea, Monemvasia is an atmospheric town on the east coast of the Peloponnese. Its name translates as “single passage”, and it is often referred to as the “Gibraltar of the East” due to its geographical setting. Monemvasia was the site of a powerful fortress during medieval times and is dotted with Byzantine churches and atmospheric old mansions.
Things to do in Monemvasia
Enjoy the charms of Monemvasia as you wander through its historic streets and take the time to admire the 13th-century cathedral of Elkomenos Christos. Gaze up at its high cupola before stepping inside to see the 17th-century icons that adorn its interior, together with marble carvings dating from the Byzantine period. A highlight is the altar screen that was carved by Georgios Kaparia in 1901.
Another religious landmark not to miss in Monemvasia is the Church of Agia Sofia, which is considered one of the most important Byzantine churches in Greece. It was originally established in the 12th century and was converted into a convent under Venetian rule. Perched atop a hill overlooking Monemvasia, it offers spectacular views across the Aegean Sea.
Occupying a former mosque (and one of Monemvasia’s best-preserved buildings) is the Archaeological Museum, which showcases a fascinating collection of artefacts uncovered in the region. Browse the ceramic sculptures, marble temples and everyday objects on display, then learn about the building’s use as a Frankish church, a prison and a traditional cafe before opening as a museum in 1999.
Getting around Monemvasia
Monemvasia is around 1.5 hours’ drive from Sparti and just under four hours from Athens International Airport. Buses connect from Athens to Monemvasia via Sparti or Molai. The centre of Monemvais is ideally explored on foot.