This imposing mass of rock that looms above the Laconian coastline is linked to the mainland by a narrow causeway and a 130 metre long bridge, to which the town owes its name (“moni emvasi”which means “only access”).
First settled 8,000 years ago, Monemvasia was the only Proto-Helladic settlement on the eastern coast of the region of Epidaurus Limera. Then known as Cape Minoa, it was a port of call for those sailing between mainland Greece and the fast-developing centers of the Cyclades and Crete. During the Mycenaean and Late Helladic periods, Monemvasia continued to be an important crossroads between the Mycenaean and Minoan cultures.
During the Byzantine period, when its defences were completed, the town’s geographically strategic position made it an ideal base for military operations. The Byzantine state declared it an administrative centre for the imperial lands in the Peloponnese. Additionally, it was a religious centre and also functioned as a base for the Byzantine fleet’s battles with the Arabs. The town flourished as a naval and merchant hub, resulting in the development of the Lower Town on the southeastern side of the rock, shortly after 900 AD.
In 1463, Monemvasia had been the last Byzantine stronghold to fall and on July 23, 1821 it was the first Greek fortress in the Peloponnese to be liberated by Greek independence fighters, an event of decisive importance for the struggle against the Turkish occupation as it gave a tremendous boost to morale.
Monemvasia new town (Gefyra)
Built in the shadow of the rock on which the medieval fortress town stands, the new town of Monemvasia has become a lively tourist destination in its own right. A large variety of hotels, restaurants and cafe bars attract thousands of visitors year round.
The fortress is just a short distance away and is served by a regular bus service from Gefyra. In the town itself is the beach of Kakavos and a little futher out are Pori and the beaches of Nomia.
Gefyra’s stores sell the region’s traditional delicacies, the most famous being its almond sweets.
Monemvasia is about 300 dm from Athens and 25 km from Molai. In summer there is a connection by sea with Piraeus, some 84 nautical miles away.