Monemvasia seen from a distance


This former fortress town comes with a rich history. Monemvasia sits on an island off the Peloponnese in southern Greece, where it is among the most beautiful undiscovered places to travel.

Aerial view of the old town of Monemvasia.

It is unique among ruined medieval cities in that it is entirely built on a rock that appears to be barren when seen from the mainland. This Gibraltar-like town is tied to the mainland by a single thread of causeway and holds treasures that are old even by Mediterranean standards, with town walls and several churches dating to the 12th century.

View of the fortified city of Monemvasia and the road to it.

While Monemvasia doesn’t see as many tourists as other areas in Greece, it is as every bit as charming. The narrow streets are so tiny that in many places only two people can walk side by side. While strolling along these narrow lanes you will see ruined houses and Byzantine churches and the Church of Christ Elkomenos. This cathedral dates back to the 13th century, but features alterations made during the Venetian occupation from 1464 to 1540.

Stunning view from the medieval town of Monemvasia
Stunning view from the medieval town of Monemvasia

Climb to the upper town for an up-close look at the castle and Agia Sophia, a Byzantine church. Wander the lanes of the lower town lined with Venetian mansions, many of which have been lovingly restored.

The Church of Agia Sophia on top of the plateau, with the sea in the Background in Monemvasia, Greece.
The Church of Agia Sophia on top of the plateau in Monemvasia, Greece.

Monemvasia still features what you’d expect to see on a trip to Greece, coastal views and paths that wind between light- and terra-cotta-colored homes. The town boasts dramatic views of the tall cliffs backing it. Along with natural protection, the island hosts a fortress, which protected it from historical invaders. Thanks to this protection, the city got its name, which means “single entrance” in Greek.

Old house and white chapel in ancient Monemvasia, Greece

Despite its status as a hidden city, Monemvasia has a lot to offer. Along with plenty of gorgeous beaches, amazing restaurants that line the coast with delicious seafood fresh from the sea, you can also visit:
• A Byzantine Fortress
• Kastania Cave
• Velies Folklore Museum
• Talanta Watermill
• Monemvasia Archaeological Collection

The new town on the coast of Monemvasia, Greece
The new town on the coast of Monemvasia, Greece

You’ll feel safe from the stresses of daily life in this island town. Escape from the bustle of tourist-packed streets and unplug on your trip to Monemvasia, and when you return home you’ll have interesting stories to tell and unique photos to share.

Flags flying from the Byzantine Fortress on Monemvasia
Flags flying from the Byzantine Fortress on Monemvasia

If you want to explore a mix of obscure travel destinations and nearby sites, the best way to do that is on a cruise that takes you between the well-known and the undiscovered. Athens and other popular Greek locations make for great trips, but for one of the best obscure travel destinations, you can’t go wrong with adding Monemvasia into your itinerary. Visit Monemvasia and other off the beaten path destinations on the 7-day Treasures of the Greek Isles, 8-day Enchanting Greece & the Amalfi Coast, 10-day Ancient Wonders of Greece & Ephesus, and 9-day Antiquities of the Adriatic & Greece.

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Robert Scott
2 months ago

I’ve been there with Windstar and have to say that Monemvasia is an amazing place to visit. As we left under sail many passengers stood taking photos of the village. Then we noticed flashes of light coming from the village- the locals were taking photos of us sailing past their village. That would have made a wonderful photo. I must go back and get a copy one day.

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