Vast, ruinous, steep - the Upper Town plateau is a mine field of exploration - old foundations, cisterns, broken down walls, all affording spectacular views. Also, due to the steep nature of access from the old town, chances are that you'll have the place moreorless to yourself. (But take care - sheer drops, uneven surfaces, gaping holes all abound).
The one building remotely still standing is the Ayia Sofia - the 13th century church built in a commanding position looking out to the open sea of the edge of a precipice. Founded as a monastery by Andronikos II, many of the smaller out buildings are little more than foundations, but this is more than made up for it by the chapel - and that extraordinary location.
High above the Lower Town is what was, originally, the larger section of Monemvasia. A steep climb up narrow, medieval steps will bring you onto the vast plateau that was once a thriving town. Now completely ruinous (the last residents descended to the lower town in 1911) with the notable exception of church of Ayia Sofia, a true indication of its extraordinary location is to peer (carefully) over the edge to the Lower Town below and the Peloponnese mainland in the distance.
Built by the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Comnenus in 1293, this great vaulted church is the largest medieval church in southern Greece. Dedicated to Christ in Chains, unusually it was allowed to function as a Christian place of worship following the occupation by the Turks in 1540. It is the largest and most dominant building in the Lower Town.
The largest open space within the village is the beautiful Platia Dzamiou (the square of the mosque).
Not surprisingly, considering the name, there is a mosque in the square (Ayios Petros - converted from a church into a mosque following the Turkish occupation) as well as the Mitropolis Hritsos Elkemenos.
Once across the causeway from the new town on the mainland (Yefira), the town of Monemvasia will finally come into view - a crenallated, imposing wall and gateway. No vehicles can get beyond the gate - beyond is a miasma of narrow alleyways, restored and derelict buildings almost piled one on top of each other (this feeling aided by the very steep terrain upon which the town is built). Its worth simply wandering off the main alley - it would be wrong to say 'get lost' in the alleys as the place is so small you won't be lost for long!-:)
An extraordinary sea journey along the east coast of the Peloponnese from Hydra (and Piraeus) takes you past small villages settling below the sheer cliffs, a few accessible only by water. First view of Monemvassia provides little in terms of the reality of the 'Gibralter of Greece'. An isolated island on the horizon looms in front of you - it's not until you virtually reach the docking point of the ferry at Yefira on the mainland and have 'passed round' from the seaward side to the land side that the monolithic rock makes its presence felt.
Lately in Monemvasia's beaches every summer take place beach parties usually in the 15th of august and after...Young people organise it with music and drinks...Every year those parties get even better and more organised...
WE ARE WAITING ALL OF YOU THIS SUMMER...
This is the East gate into the fortified ancient town of Monemvasia. The gate is staggered so that there was no clear run into the city slowing down and confusing any invading forces. On peering in, it appears only as a long dark tunnel.
Once you pass the tourist shops and small hotels the narrow paths open up to the town square where you will find the church, the museum and the cannons that protected the town. Fantastic views South out over the rooftops.
The initial view of Monemvasia that greets you as you emerge from the darkness of the gate. The main path ahead is very touristy with all the usual niknaks for sale, interspersed with small tavernas and restaurants and hotels, all very pretty.
What I enjoy most when in Monamvasia, is having a coffee with a piece of cake or something similar. Nothing better than sipping your coffee or drink in the Greek way: the longest it takes, the better it tastes ;-)
Follow the steps from the main square of the vilage and go to the top of the castle. The scenery there, is in absolute contrast with the rocky vilage. A "sea" of trees and grass and a number of 366 old byzantine churches (mostly remainings of them), are spread around the area. try to make it there during sunset, great colors for an ultra panoramic view.
The buildings of Monemvasia are a mixture of wonderful houses -both old and "new"- and ruined byzantine churches. Even the few pensions have the same architectural style.
The lower town is inhabited today, many of the ruined buildings keep on being restored.
The houses of Monemvasia are restored, well-preserved. They give the impression of being built one on top of the other.
Stones from the rock environment have basicly been used for their construction, through the centuries...