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.