Monemvasia is a beautiful town in Greece located on the Southeastern coast of the Peloponnese region. For years, visitors have been struck by the hidden island town built into the cliffside. High above the main village are the ruins of an incredible fortress with so much history to explore. Here’s everything you need to know about Monemvasia, the ancient castle, and all about our own experience!
How to Get to Monemvasia Greece
Monemvasia is one of the most popular stops for travelers heading to Peloponnese Greece. There are not many places to stay in the town, so most people go for a day trip on their way to other beaches and attractions.
The easiest way to get to Monemvasia is by car. It’s about a 4 hour drive from Athens, but much closer to other amazing towns on the Peloponnese Coast. We actually made the 2.5 hour drive from Kalamata which is another fun city to spend a few days in.
Buses are available to Monemvasia. Just know it will be a much longer trip! You could also experience it as part of a larger bus or boat tour.
Still, the easiest way to get to Monemvasia Greece would be to rent a car and drive yourself. We always use Discover Cars to compare different rental companies.
On our recent 12 day road trip, we paid around $115 Euros for an automatic car. Keep in mind this was during swing season in early May. Nonetheless, we thought it was quite the steal of a deal!
Where to Stay in Monemvasia
If you have the chance to spend a night or two in Monemvasia we highly recommend it! It’s such a magical feeling to wake up inside the old village and catch the sunrise without any other tourists.
During our visit, we stayed at Theophano Art Hotel. All the rooms are historic century old houses which gives it a very unique feel. It’s also a family run hotel which a mother and daughter run together.
One thing that makes the hotel extremely special is the rooms. Due to the small size of the village, there wasn’t one large building for them to buy. Instead, the family bought different rooms and apartments in the same area then converted them into hotel rooms.
We loved looking out of the sea from our balcony! The breakfast is simple, yet made with quality local ingredients from the area. The homemade jams, bread, olive oil, and local cheese was such a delicious combo.
There are a few other similar style bed and breakfasts dotted around Monemvasia lower town. You can also look across the bridge in New Town for other options.
What to Know About Monemvasia Greece
So you can better understand Monemvasia, we will explain the different parts of this amazing Greek village. The first thing to know that is Monemvasia is in fact an island.
It’s connected to the Laconian coastline by a manmade bridge. Yet, the peculiar things is… When you’re driving on the mainland you would never know a town is there!
That’s right. Monemvasia was built purposely this way facing out to the sea to avoid enemy attacks. If you’ve been to Greece before then you probably already know this was commonplace.
Many of the towns (especially on the islands) are built as high as possible and hidden from plain site. Pirates ran rampant throughout this region in centuries before, and enemy attacks were frequent.
Different Sections of Monemvasia
Lower Town: The lower town is the main village of Monemvasia and where its residents still live to this day. There is a beautiful main street in the center with a few local cafes and restaurants. Some even have rooftop seating overlooking the sea wall!
Upper Town: Sitting high above town is the ancient castle of Monemvasia. This is where the first inhabitants on the island lived and was the ideal place to defend from. You can make the 20 minute hike up to see the ruins and epic views which we will talk more about soon.
New Town: Also known as Gefyra, the New Town sits across the stone bridge from Monemvasia. Here you can find more restaurants, a lively nightlife, and a view of the giant rock without seeing the town. This can be a more affordable place to stay if you don’t mind walking 30 minutes to the castle entrance.
Monemvasia Beach: Okay, this may not be the type of beach you’re used to. Yet, there is one fun place to swim in Monemvasia Greece! Through a small gate at the bottom of the town you’ll find a ladder that dips into the sea. Only attempt to swim here on a calm day as it is rocky.
Quick History of Monemvasia Greece
First of all, you should you know that humans have been living in the area around Monemvasia for over 8,000 years. Amazing, right?? After an earthquake in 375 AD, the massive rock separated from the mainland and formed the island you see today.
Towards the end of the 6th century, settlers moved in and started building fortifications of the upper town. The island made it easier to defend while also becoming the perfect port for trade with the Cyclades Islands.
The name Monemvasia actually means “single entrance” which you’ll understand when you see the one gate to get inside. In the centuries that followed, the lower town would be inhabited more and more.
However, its great location meant it would be fought over consistently by foreign powers. To name a few, the Franks, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans all would conquer Monemvasia and call it their own between the 13th and 19th centuries.
If you can believe it, the Venetians and Turks actually had control twice during two different time periods! The Pope even took control at one point for a short stretch. Like much of this region, it wasn’t until the Greek War of independence in 1821 where Monemvasia was officially handed over.
Strolling Around Monemvasia Lower Town
Entering the gate into lower town will be like taking a step back in time. Walk your way through the cobblestone streets of Monemvasia and take in the sights and sounds.
The rocky floor means it’s not the best place for a roll suitcase. Just keep that in mind if you’re spending the night!
It’s easy to get lost with all the twists and turns as it feels like a beautiful maze. Looking out to the sea, you’ll see a wall on the bottom of the lower town.
While looking up, you will find another stone wall surrounding the Monemvasia Castle. There is a large net which has been built around it in recent years to prevent falling rocks.
Hiking to Monemvasia Upper Town
The lower town is so much fun to explore. However, our favorite experience in Monemvasia was hiking up to the ancient fortress! The Monemvasia Castle is sure to capture your imagination. Take the 15 to 20 minute hike from lower town and enjoy the remarkable views on your way up.
The path may look intimidating from the bottom. Yet, know that it is more of a zig zagging gradual climb. The way down is actually a bit more challenging as the rocks can be slippery. Be extra careful on this hike if there is rain in the forecast.
Exploring the Historic Monemvasia Castle
Once you arrive to the top of Monemvasia get ready for an adventure! The Byzantine fortress dates back to the end of the 6th century with additions added by different empires that followed.
Honestly, this was the highlight of our entire trip to Monemvasia Greece. Seeing the old houses, Turkish baths, and viewpoints over the lower town were absolutely stunning. The church of Agia Sofia sits at the top and is one of the most impressive we’ve saw in Peloponnese.
We had the pleasure of touring the old town with an actual architect who excavated here. This was amazing as she showed us around actual spots she worked on.
It was also very apparent that most of the Monemvasia Castle is still yet to be uncovered. There are small placards around one section of upper town, but it’s definitely better to have a guide if possible.
More Things to do in Monemvasia Greece
After all that, there’s still more fun things to do in Monemvasia! We really enjoyed simply walking around the lower and upper towns and taking in the history. Here are a few other things not to miss.
Giannis Ritsos House: One of the greatest Greek poets of the 20th century was actually born in Monemvasia. The house is currently in the process of being turned into a museum so for now you can see the outside.
Churches: Agia Sofia is the most famous and located inside the Monemvasia Castle. Still, there are 40 more Byzantine Churches to see around town!
Monemvasia Lighthouse: Built in 1896, this lighthouse is worth a walk to from main square.
Cafes & Restaurants: There are so many great restaurants in Monemvasia! We ate dinner at Chrisovoulo Restaurant which served up delicious traditional Greek specialties and seafood.
Kastania Cave: Located just an hour south of Monemvasia, this massive cave is worth a visit if you have time.
Seaside Monemvasia Dinner
One of the reasons we loved staying in the old town was that we could enjoy a long and delicious meal in the evening. We loved being able to easily walk back to our hotel after we were thoroughly stuffed!
As we mentioned, we ate at Chrisovoulo Restaurant which is one of the most popular on the main street of lower town. Earlier that day, we had an amazing wine tasting at Monemvasia Winery and got to enjoy more of the same with dinner.
Is Monemvasia Worth Visiting?
Yes! It may seem out of the way if you’re heading to Peloponnese for the beautiful beaches. Just know it’s so worth the trip.
We’ve truly never experienced a town like this and the history will blow your mind. Even if you just have time for a day trip, don’t hesitate to visit Monemvasia Greece!
If you are looking for where to go next while exploring the area consider visiting Gytheio Greece and the unique shipwreck which is just over an hour away!
Make sure to explore all our Greece articles to help plan your next trip! We cover everything from general travel tips to the mainland and amazing islands such as Santorini, Paros, Rhodes, Karpathos, Crete, Milos & more!
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own favorite things to do in Monemvasia Greece? Leave us a comment below.
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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Greece Travel Planning
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