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Guide To The Lakonia Region, Greece
Home to legends, kings, and powerful kingdoms, Lakonia is a fantastic region in Greece located between massive mountain ranges, the Taygetos Mountains, and the Parnonas Mountains, which shelter the central and eastern peninsulas of the Peloponnese. In this guide, we will cover everything there is to know about Lakonia, including its most important cities and villages, the best beaches to discover, unique landmarks, castles, and archaeological sites, and all the fantastic things you can do when visiting the area.
The best places to visit when planning a trip to Lakonia include the city of Sparta, of course, as well as Mystras and Monemvasia. Elafonisos is a great place for beaches, while Areopoli and Gytheio also get an excellent touristic flow with plenty of things to do and sites to discover.
How To Get To Lakonia
Lakonia, also spelled Laconia, is a Greek region located in the southeastern area of the Peloponnese peninsula; the capital is Sparta, one of the most significant cities in the country.
Sparta is about is 225 kilometers from Athens, and getting there by car takes about 3 hours. If you want to get from Sparta to Monemvasia, you need to drive through a minor road (no highways), so the trip is an additional 2 hours.
The road trip from Sparta to Monemvasia is 2 hours. The road from Sparta to Monemvasia is not a highway but rural, which means it has only one line per direction.
It’s also possible to reach Sparta from Athens by bus, the trip takes 4 hours, and the buses leave from Kifissos Bus Station. From Sparta, it is possible to board a bus to reach other towns in the Peloponnese. You will find more info on the official site.
To reach the area by plane, you need to fly to Kalamata, the closest city with an airport in the region. Kalamata is about 50 km from Sparta (about 2-3 hours by car).
When To Go To Lakonia
If you want to spend time by the sea or enjoy warm temperatures, the best months to visit are the central summer months: July and August. June is pretty warm too, but the water is not yet as hot as you would expect. September also offers warm temperatures during the first two weeks.
These months are also the months when the region receives more tourists (especially August and September). So prices tend to be a bit higher for flights and accommodation. Booking everything in advance, as always, is the only way to mitigate high price tags.
Things To Do In Lakonia With Kids
There are several exciting things to do in Lakonia with the family, starting with the beautiful and kid-friendly beaches that you will find in Elafonisos, such as Simos Beach and Panagia Beach, both with stunning clear shores and fine, clear sand.
Kids interested in the fascinating history of the region will love to explore Ancient Sparta and the Ancient Mystras. Several tours focused on families offer an excellent opportunity to explore the area quickly, ensuring that you do not miss any site. Some of these tours are also day trips from Athens, while others can only be booked and done in the region.
- Ancient Sparta And Mystras From Athens
- Monemvasia From Athens
- Olive Oil And Cooking Class In Laconia
Places To Discover And Things To Do In Lakonia
Sparta is not just the capital of the region, but also the owner of an old and essential history closely related to the history of Athens, both rival cities during Ancient and Classic times.
There are different monuments and constructions you can visit, remnants of Ancient Sparta, including the remains of the Ancient Acropolis, parts of an Ancient Theater, the Agora, and the remains of the Temple of Artemis. Although the remains of Ancient Sparta are not so impressive, the place is quite beautiful and atmospheric.
A visit to the Archaeological Museum of Sparta will certainly unveil more secrets. Hosting artifacts from Sparta’s past, in the museum, you can admire reliefs, bronze, and lead votive figurines, heads, and torsos of various deities, votive terracotta masks, and mosaics from Hellenistic and Roman Sparta.
When exploring Sparta, it is a good idea to visit the Museum of Olive Oil and Greek Olive Oil which takes you on an exploration journey through the production of olive oil since it started being used in the Mediterranean basin (about 60.000 BC) and its differences and similarities to the oil we produce and consume today. Here, it is possible to admire reproductions of ancient olive presses, interact with scale models, and learn about all the uses that Greece’s green gold has, which are not limited to cooking but include cosmetics, the perfume industry, fuel, and more.
Another gem not to miss is the famous Statue of King Leonidas. The warrior’s bronze statue is located in front of the stadium. It features King Leonidas in a defiant position against the Persians.
Modern Sparta is a lively city with enough tourist structures, including many hotels, restaurants, and shops.
Where To Stay In Sparta
These are some of the hotels we recommend you check when visiting the area.
Lakonia Hotel: is a budget-friendly 2-star hotel with simply but comfortable rooms, some of them with a balcony and city views. It offers a comfortable base to explore some of the city’s highlights as it is located less than a 5-minutes drive from the Archaeological Museum. More info here:
Dioscouri Hotel: Perfect place to stay in the center of Sparta if you can spend just a bit more (mid-range accommodation). All rooms come with Taygetos Mountain-view balconies; they are bright and spacious, featuring a convenient minibar. The property stands out for its certified Greek buffet breakfast, including organic products. The hotel is next to the town’s public library, 5 km from the Byzantine village of Mystras and about 40 km from the seaside town of Gytheio. More info here:
Definitely, worthy more of your time than a visit to Sparta, only 5 km from the center of town you will find Mystras, a great place to discover more of Greece’s past in the Peloponnese. This small village, which remains relatively unknown to tourists, is a very important place in the country which played a key role in the history of Greece. In fact, Mystras was the most important Byzantine capital in the country. Its importance is made clear by the different civilizations that occupied and ruled the town, including the Franks, the Venetians, and — of course — the Turks. The city was finally abandoned back in 1832 when the modern city of Sparta was founded.
The ancient city of Mystras is UNESCO protected and worth visiting since it hosts one of the most impressive ruins dating back to Medieval times. You can either join an organized tour or simply stroll around the old alleys of the former city to discover the ancient places that have been abandoned, including monasteries, palaces, the imposing Castle of Mystras, and unique ancient homes.
During the visit, do include a stop at the Convent of Pantanassa, dating from the fourteenth century, and the only structure in the ancient area that is still inhabited and actively working as a nunnery.
For those into outdoor experiences, it is also a good idea to check the different hiking trails in the area (there are plenty), all of them located around the base of Mount Taygetos.
Tip: One interesting spot to visit in the nearby area is the Kaiadas Cave, believed to be the place into which the mighty Spartans would throw traitors, criminals, cowards, and unhealthy newborns. Although there is no proof that this legend is true, a visit to the cave on the slopes of Mount Taygetus is worth the time. The cave is near the modern-day Sparta-Kalamata Road, not far from Mystras.
Where To Stay In Mystras
Although the modern village of Mystras is quite tiny, it is also a picturesque place to stay. Accommodation options are not as many as you would want, but these places are pretty good places to stay if you wish to take a break in the tranquil Mystras.
Mystras Inn: The guest house is located at the foot of Mount Taygetos, and it is built following the traditional architectonic style of the area, with a picturesque stone-paved courtyard overlooking the mountain. The beautiful rooms also have stone walls and wrought-iron beds. The on-site restaurant serves continental breakfast in the courtyard and local traditional cuisine at this inn. The hotel is less than one km from the Archaeological Museum of Mystras and about 4 km from Sparta. More info here:
Pyrgos of Mystra: A 4-star hotel offering a more upscale experience, this pet-friendly small luxury hotel is set in a mansion built in 1850 under the ragged shadow of Mount Taygetos. The building has been transformed into a guest house, preserving its beauty and original traits. The hotel is located in a central position, and it also offers bikes for rent to explore the wider area of Mystras. More info here:
Looking to take a break and relax in the unique turquoise waters of the Peloponnese? There’s no other place like Elafonisos to do so! This tiny Greek Island (which you should not confuse with the more famous and equally beautiful beach in Crete, Elafonisi) is a fantastic beach destination.
The first thing to know is that Elafonisos is really tiny, no more than 22 square km! And that, due to its location, you can either visit as part of a tour of Lakonia or as a day visit from Kythira Island, which is just opposite the coast of Lakonia.
This is the only island included in this Lakonia guide, and obviously, to get there, it will be necessary to board a ferry that departs from the Port of Pounta in Southern Lakonia. The ferry crossing is less than 10 minutes, and you can also board with your car. The ticket is really affordable (1 euro per person and about 12 euro per car). If you are touring the region by bus, it will be necessary to reach the city of Neapoli and then board a bus to the Port of Pounta.
The main reason you will want to explore Elafonisos is the magnificent beaches on the island, with imposing green landscapes surrounding them – the island hosts some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece!
Start your beach tour of Elafonisos visiting Simos Beach, on the southern part of the island, one of the best places to see in Lakonia, and one of the top beaches in the Peloponnese, with shallow and inviting turquoise waters, golden and pink sand, and a refreshing cedar forest in the background. The beach is organized, with some accessible areas.
Another stunning shore on the island is Panagias Beach, a wide stretch of golden sand and beautiful dunes, with crystal clear waters and a handful of small islets off the coast. Some organized structures allow you to rent a sunbed or have a snack at one of the bars.
Highlight: Don’t miss a visit to Pavlopetri Beach. Although this beach is not located on the actual island, but on the coast of Lakonia, it is better to visit once you’re on your way back to the mainland, departing from the Port of Pounta. The beach hosts the ancient ruins of the oldest submerged city globally, and you can easily swim next to them. The submerged ruins date back to a settlement from 2800 BC, and you only need basic snorkeling gear to discover them.
Where To Stay In Elafonisos
Corali Rooms: This is a wonderful and affordable place to stay in Elafonisos, almost directly on the beach, about 500 meters from the ferry port that joins the island with the mainland. The hotel offers a dreamy outdoor dining area facing the turquoise sea and is about 10 minutes by car from the spectacular Simos Beach. More info here:
Alternatively, you can go glamping in Elafonisos, and you won’t regret the experience! Simos Bungalows and Camping is an excellent place for an alternative stay in Elafonisos. There are beautiful, luxurious tents with comfy mattresses, futon beds, and a dreamy, romantic atmosphere; some accommodation units include either seating or a dining area, while guests also have a relaxing garden. They also offer areas for tents and campers at the site and bungalows if you prefer the comfort of a home.
A star of the Lakonia region, this charming medieval town is probably the most visited place in the southern Peloponnese. The picturesque settlement of Monemvasia is joined to the mainland by a narrow, artificial strait dating from the Venetian period. In fact, before the Venetians, the island was only accessible by boat.
Monemvasia was a significant settlement during the thirteenth century, just as the nearby Mystras; however, following the same fate as many Greek cities, it was ruled first by the Venetians and then fell under the Turk domination.
Among the best places to visit in Monemvasia, do not overlook the ruins of Ano Poli and the upper town, including the imposing monasteries, the Ottoman hammams, ancient cobblestone paths, and unique aristocratic mansions. Over here, you can discover the Church of Agia Sophia, an impressive stone chapel dating from 1150 perched on the edge of a cliff.
Also, pay a visit to the Archaeological Collection of Monemvasia, a perfect starting point to discover more about the settlement’s past. Another important landmark to discover is the beautiful Lighthouse outside the fortified walls of Monemvasia.
Tip: One of the best things to do in Monemvasia is to visit the unique local winery Tsimbidis which was created to revive the historic wine produced in the area during the Middle Ages, Malvasia. This revived sweet (and delicious) wine was granted protected designation of origin (PDO) status as Monemvasia-Malvasia, and it is made from blending Monemvasia, Kydonitsa, Asproudes, and Assyrtiko grape varieties.
Where To Stay In Monemvasia
Romeo’s House is an affordable place to stay in the small village of Gefira, overlooking the rock of Monemvasia, about 300 meters from the sea and a brisk 20-minute walk to the town of Monemvasia. The guest house offers spacious studios with views, is practical and comfortable, and includes a kitchenette with a fridge and air conditioning. You will also find pristine beaches, tavernas, and cafeterias within walking distance. More info here:
Wouldn’t it be lovely to stay in the area of the old Castle? Well, you can! Byzantino Boutique Hotel features a privileged location and offers various rooms within the castle of Monemvasia. There are gorgeous panoramic sea views. The hotel, entirely built according to the traditional architecture, comes with beamed ceilings and wooden floors, some of them fitted with a fireplace. The property serves an awarded Greek breakfast in buffet style, based on local recipes with quality fresh products. The hotel is less than 1 km from the new town of Monemvasia. More info here:
Gytheio And The Diros Caves
A small and picturesque town on the eastern shore of the Mani Peninsula, the area of Gytheio (also Gythio), used to be the seat of the Ancient Seaport of Sparta as well as the place where, according to legend, Paris of Troy and Helen from Sparta spent their first night together before departing for Troy, this way starting the Trojan War.
Gytheio is the largest and most important town in Mani. It is a traditional port town, featuring beautiful (and delicious) seaside fish tavernas and authentic cafés. The town is within a short distance from Mystras. The city features gorgeous Neoclassical mansions, interesting boutiques, and souvenir shops.
In the area, you can explore the alleys of the picturesque town and then check the Ethnological Museum, set in the Tzanetakis Tower built during Ottoman rule. Also, check the lighthouse of Gythio, dating back from 1873, a tower that is 25 meters high. The Archaeological Museum and the Ancient Theater from the first century are other highlights in town.
Located about 30 minutes from Gytheio, the Diros Caves are an interesting place to visit. This spectacular natural site is where several objects dating from the Greek Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods were found, proving that the caves stand for one of the earliest inhabited places in Greece.
The ticket for accessing the cave is 15 euro, and the entrance is a few meters above the sea. Once inside, the stairs take you to an underground lake where you board a boat to sail through the caverns and tunnels featuring impressive stalactites and stalagmites. The cave tends to be cold (pack a light jacket or a jumper). At the caves museum, you can see objects found at the site.
Where To Stay In Gytheio
Pantheon City Hotel is a modern place to stay just meters from the coast, centrally located, and offering great views of the sea and the port. It features beautiful rooms and a fantastic breakfast buffet, only a short distance from the best beaches in the area. More info here:
Thirides Beach Resort is a seaside property located less than a 5-minute walk from the beach. The 4-star hotel features a complex of stone buildings, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and 2 bars, just 30 m from the beach. Landscaped gardens surround it, and the rooms come with impressive stone walls in the local style of Mani. Guests highly rate their buffet breakfast and the Mediterranean flavors at the on-site restaurant. More info here:
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Thank you for sharing all these tips with us. Very helpful. Please more for lesser known countries in northern Europe! Keep these up!