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Introducing Monemvasia & Gefyra

Vast, imposing, spectacular Monemvasia (mo-nem-vah-see-ah or mo-nem-vah-see-ah) is the Greek equivalent to France’s Mont Saint-Michel. This perfect fortress is an iceberg-like slab of rock moored off the coast, with sheer cliffs rising hundreds of metres from the sea, and a single, highly defendable causeway.

These days Monemvasia incorporates both the rock, whose medieval village is enclosed within the walls of the rock’s kastro, plus the modern mainland village of Gefyra just across the causeway. In summer both places brim with visitors (only around 7 people live in the kastro). Fortunately the extraordinary visual impact of the medieval village in particular – and the delights of exploring it – override the effects of mass tourism. The staunch communist poet Yiannis Ritsos was born here.

From Gefyra you can see little of the fortress. But cross the causeway and follow the road that curves around the side of the rock and you will come to the official entrance, a narrow tunnel in a massive fortifying wall. The tunnel is L-shaped, so the magical town is concealed until you emerge into its narrow artery (with a maze to explore) on the other side.