It has been inhabited since Neolithic Age. With the settlement of Dorians (1100 B.C.) Sparta became the centre of the new colonists. In 146 B.C. it was conquered by the Romans, in the 13th century by the Franks, in 1262 by Byzantines with head-city Mystras. In the middle of the 17th century it was conquered by the Turks but the region of Mani had a certain autonomy and priviledges. It was liberated in 1828.
95 km. south-eastwards of Sparta, capital of the Lakonia prefecture, is situated Monemvassia, a byzantine and venetian castle-city. It was named Monemvassia because of the fact that for a long period of time this was the only entry to the rocky place. It is connected with the facing seaside of Peloponnese, Nea Monemvassia, through a narrow strip of land.
To reach the rock of Monemvassia you will pass the bridge with the twelve arches. Before entering the castle-city you can observe the walls reaching down the sea and preserve their magnitude. Coming into the city you will be amazed by the narrow stone-paved streets.
Here, Middle Ages meet Byzantium. Castles and walls, old mansions, old low arches, coats of arms, byzantine icons everything gives the impression of an unreal, imaginary city.
The most remarkable churches is St. Anna of the 14th century, St. Nicholas of the 18th century, Panaghia Kritikia, St. Stefanos, St. Paul. Cathedral of Monemvassia is the church of Elkomenos Christ built in the 13th century by the emperor Andronikos the second Palaeologos and restored by the Venetians in 1697.
The uphill road leads to the castle, at the top of the rock. In the steepest edge of the rock is predominantly located the church of St. Sophia built by Andronikos the second between 1287-1328. The view from the castle is fascinating.
For swimming you can go to the beaches of Gefyra, the marvellous Xifia, Pori and to other small beaches you will meet.
You can also reach Monemvassia by speed ship or ferryboat from Riraeus.
Information: Piraeus Harbour Office, tel. (010) 4226000-4
The prefecture of Lakonia has a lot of beautiful towns and villages as Areopoli with stone-paved narrow streets, the most picturesque harbour Limeni, Vathia with its magnificent towers, Geraka in an imposing landscape, the wonderful village Geraki, Neapoli with the fantastic seashores and the statue of the sailor-man in its harbour, the marvellous Oetylo shaped like a horseshoe as well as Neo Oetylo with its wide-spread beach, Ghythio with its islander's environment, the Tower of Diros with the famous caverns.
Very close to Sparta is the byzantine castle-city of Mystras, representative model of a byzantine city of the 14th-15th century.
In a distance of 96 km. from Sparta, in a typical landscape of Mani is situated Gerolimenas, built near the sea. Best way to get to know the southern end of Mani is by boat from Gerolimenas due to the fact that access by land is difficult. You will reach cape Taenaro or Kavo Matapa with the big lighthouse and the amazingly beautiful Port Kayio situated at the most southern part.
Southeast of Sparta, in a distance of 73 km. is situated the country town Molai with serving port Elia, a picturesque village known for its fresh fish and marvellous beaches.
Farther to the south you will meet the picturesque village Archangelos, in a fascinating small bay with successive isolated beaches and crystal clear blue sea.