Monemvasia – The Fortress Island

Just off the east coast of the Peloponnese, in Laconia, is the tiny island of Monemvasia. Technically, it’s probably not considered an island anymore, as there’s a 200m long causeway that links it to the mainland. The name is actually derived from the fact there’s only a single entrance to it. Prior to the pathway being built the only way to get here was by boat, and the occupants of the island could see you coming, hence it was a safe place. It’s believed that Monemvasia was separated from the rest of Greece after a huge earthquake in 375AD. It’s an awe inspiring landmass, quite alike Gibraltar, consisting almost entirely of a towering plateau some 100 meters above sea level.

Perched on this isolated rock is a medieval fortress town of the same name. It was first established in 583 by people seeking refuge from invaders on the mainland, over time growing to become a bustling maritime trade centre. Such were the defences of Monemvasia that it withstood the 12th century Arab and Norman attacks. Since that time the island has bee the scene of many fierce battles and invasions, with various ruling powers including the Ottomans and Venetians. This dramatic history has shaped the culture and people of the island. They’re proud of their story and fiercely independent, however incredibly welcoming of visitors. In recent times there has been a resurgence in tourism. This has seen the island come back to life, with a lot of restoration work having been carried out, as well as hotels and restaurants springing up to service holidaymakers.

A visit to this unique destination is quite different to most islands in Greece. You don’t come here to sit on a beach or party the night away. Monemvasia is a place you go to see a piece of the old world, to take a step back in time and be surrounded by centuries old walls and walk cobblestoned laneways. The pace of life here is slow compared to most towns in Greece, but with that comes a special experience for travellers. It’s an authentic and charming island that you quickly fall in love with!