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Kastro – Medieval Village

Top choice in Monemvasia

Almost wholly surrounded by ocean, Monemvasia's fortified medieval village is divided into the lower town, bisected by a main cobbled street lined with souvenir shops, hotels and tavernas that leads to the main square, and the upper town, with its ruins and fortress. The greatest pleasure of visiting the site comes from wandering the labyrinth: exploring the tiny alleyways and winding stairways that weave between a complex network of stone houses and walled gardens, and ducking into atmospheric nooks and crannies.

In the lower town, the central square is dominated by the Cathedral of Christos Elkomenos, dating from the 13th century. Head up through the stone archway opposite the bell tower and you come across the handsome 17th-century Church of Myrtidiotissa. Down near the waterfront fortifications is the whitewashed 16th-century Church of Panagia Chrysafitissa.

The path to the fortress and the upper town is signposted off the main street in several locations. A walking path (steep steps) skirts the edge of the upper-town ruins all the way to just above the main gate, affording great views of Monemvasia's cluster of rooftops against a cliff backdrop. Some of the upper town's extensive ruins – the central gate complex – have been restored and provide an evocative representation of how the entrance to the upper kastro operated (it's believed that the vaulted passages and spaces were used by the fort's garrison; excellent explanations in English). Don't miss the Church of Agia Sofia perched on the edge of a sheer cliff. Take care and keep to the paths, as the area is covered with overgrown cisterns.

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