Monemvasia boasts a varied and colorful history that can be traced to the 8th-century when Greeks fleeing the Slav invasion of Lakonia found refuge here. In its heyday it controlled sea travel between the Levant and European shores. The wall-encircled Lower Town extends along the slopes of a 985-foot-high crag that projects into the sea on the east side of the Peloponnese. For centuries an impressive stronghold, population dwindled as the inhabitants moved to the mainland. But with the beginning of a restoration program aimed to preserve Monemvasia's heritage, the Lower Town experienced a new lease on life, and people have begun to return.
The Upper Town is situated on top of the Rock of Monemvasia. It is reached via a zigzagging, paved lane. An almost impregnable bastion in earlier days, it has been uninhabited for centuries, but still manages to preserve its magnificent appearance. Visitors today can explore the remains of the ancient citadel-castle and visit the church of Hagia Sofia. From the summit there is also a fantastic view of the surrounding area.
Going Ashore in Monemvasia
The ship is scheduled to anchor. Guests will be taken ashore via ship's tenders. The city center is approximately one mile from the landing pier. Taxis will be difficult to find in this port.
The best shopping area is in the center of the Old Town. Typical items include handcrafted jewelry, glassware, handicrafts and antique reproductions. The local currency is the euro.
Street vendors sell marvelous fruit, including peaches and apricots. Typical Greek fare is found in small restaurants and tavernas. The best choices include squid, mussels, octopus, fish, lamb and grilled meats.
The lower town is entered through the only gate on the south side. Wander the picturesque lanes to the main square, where a Turkish cannon stands near the 14th-century Elkomenos church. The seawall covers the east side of the town with its protective gun embrasure.
A paved lane zigzags its way up to the top of the 985-foot-high rock. In the old days, the upper town was strongly fortified. The massive walls of the old castle crown the summit. On the precipitous crag is the church of Hagia Sofia built in the time of Andronikos (1287-1328). From the top of the rock one has a sweeping view of the surrounding area and the lower town. (Be aware that it takes a 40-minute hike to reach the top of the upper town.)
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Desk on board.