The words ‘secret’ and ‘Greece’ don’t normally fit together.
According to the World Bank, almost 18 million international tourists visited the country in 2013 and that number continues to grow exponentially despite the debt crisis. But there is one place in Greece which has remained hidden away from the bustle of tourists far longer than the rest of the country. It’s called Monemvasia, nicknamed the ‘fortress town’.
Perched off the east coast of the Peloponnese, Monemvasia appears from the mainland as a giant rock, linked to Gefyra on the mainland by a causeway. The name Monemvasia is derived from the Greek mone and emvasia meaning ‘single entrance’. The medieval village is actually hidden from view on the opposite side. At the summit of the town is the domineering Fortress of Goulas.
History embraces you at Monemvasia. In all there are about 40 Byzantine churches scattered along the narrow streets. The churches alongside ancient houses and the town walls provide an insight into Byzantine, Ottoman and Venetian history dating back to the 13th century.
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Monemvasia was settled in the 6th century and was fought over by the Venetians and the Turks for hundreds of years up until the Greek War of Independence in the early 19th century. The population of the Monemvasia municipality peaked at about 40,000 during the decline of the Byzantium Empire as it was a major trading port. The population has steadily gotten smaller until very recently. Now the number of people at Monemvasia is appearing to increase after being rediscovered by international tourists.
The town has impressive architecture and history down every corner in both its upper and lower half. If you prefer, there are beautiful beaches only a few kilometres away. And if you’re up for an adventure, there’s the Kastania Cave to explore; a rare geological formation that has taken millions of years to form.
A recent surge in tourism has led to numerous buildings being restored and some being converted into hotels. There are also numerous places to stop and eat while you explore.
You can get to Monemvasia by cruise, bus or ferry. Be sure to organise a stop to Monemvasia before it is discovered by the rest of the world.
Editor’s note: Considering the current state of affairs in Greece, getting travel insurance before departure should be a must. In fact, if you are planning a trip anywhere, for the love of God don’t forget the importance of travel insurance. I can’t say this enough as it could honestly ruin your holiday, and even your life, should anything go wrong while overseas. My friends have learned the hard way, don’t let that happen to you.