For a small island only about 1000 square kilometers, Monemvasia packs in a lot of history and charm. It is one of the most perfect romantic weekend getaways for couples or a great place to travel with friends and family.
The island was originally settled in the 6th century by the Byzantines. It soon became an important trading port for the empire and supplied products to another of my favorite sites in Greece, the Byzantine city of Mystras. During the nearly 8 centuries of Byzantine rule, the population swelled to 40,000 people at one point. Amazing to imagine if you visit today.
After the fall of the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul), Monemvasia was the only Byzantine city not conquered by the Ottomans. The Turkish-Venetian war of 1463 led the citizens of Monemvasia to surrender to the papal rule and then to Venice. The city became known as Napoli di Malvasia under the Venetians and was a key trading hub for wine produced in the Peloponnese. So much so that during the Middle Ages wine shops in Venice were known as malvasie.
Monemvasia is now a popular tourist destination especially in the summer and early autumn. There are plenty of hotels, shops and restaurants in the lovely medieval town. Most of the narrow streets can only be navigated on foot and by donkeys making it a charming place to wander and discover. Monemvasia is great to visit any time of year. In the late autumn and winter the island will be very quiet – you may have it all to yourself – ideal for romantic weekend getaways for couples. Easter week and August are busy, and summer can be very hot, but spring and summer are still beautiful times to visit.
The island was once attached to the mainland but became separated after an earthquake in 375 AD. There was a bridge leading from the mainland to the island which was the only point of entry, thus the name Monemvasia which means “single entrance” in Greek. Now you can reach the island via the 200m causeway or by ferry in the summertime.
The closest airports to Monemvasia are Athens (AIA) and Kalamata (KLX). Although Kalamata is closer it is probably easier to reach Monemvasia from Athens if you do not have your own car. Check Skyscanner for the best flight prices and schedules to Athens or Kalamata.
How to get to Monemvasia? You cannot bring a car into Monemvasia but you can park along the causeway. The drive to Monemvasia from Athens is about 3 or 4 hours and 45 minutes from Sparti. It is also possible to take a shared taxi service that runs a few days a week from Monemvasia to Athens. You can get to Monemvasia by bus from Athens via Sparti or Molai, which takes about 5 hours in total and about an hour from Sparti.
It’s simple to get around in Monemvasia as the ancient streets are narrow. Transport is limited to pedestrian and donkey traffic. But keep this in mind when staying in Monemvasia with heavy luggage. The cobblestone streets are not very conducive to rolling suitcases. However some hotels will arrange for luggage transport from the city gate to your lodgings. But ask before you book.
For a limited time, if you register at Booking.com using this link and then reserve using the links below you can get $20 cash back! It’s a special offer from Booking.com.
Relax while enjoying the stunning views at Malvasia Traditional Hotel or charming rooms at Hotel Byzantino in the town center. Kellia Guesthouse is a charming B&B with affordable prices, and a delicious farmhouse breakfast included.
Moni Emvasis Luxury Suites is a luxurious guesthouse located near the entrance to the town which has an elegant onsite restaurant and attentive staff. It would make a perfect romantic weekend getaway.
I hope this Monemvasia travel guide helped you to make your plans to visit this special place.
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