LACONIA - CASTLES, FORTRESSES AND LEGENDS
The prefecture of Laconia is the southernmost of the Peloponnese and mainland Greece which is bathed by the Aegean Sea, the Messinian Gulf and the Laconian Gulf. It has two main mountain ranges, Taygetos and Parnonas, while between them is the valley of the river Evrotas and Sparta. In Laconia are the famous cities of Mystras and Sparta while legends and myths characterize the area as the sacrifice of 300 men who created one of the most heroic pieces in world history. The Homeric "concave of Lacedaemon" stretches below Taygetos, where, according to legend, King Evrotas created and gave his name to the river of the valley.
Sparta, the capital of Laconia is a city with the best roads, built on the banks of Evrotas. It is surrounded by ancient monuments and the city center consists of many neoclassical buildings and monuments. In Amykles is the throne of Apollo and in Vapheio the Mycenaean tomb, where the two world-famous gold cups are exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. In the city are the statue of the legislator of the city of Lycurgus, King Leonidas and Leonidio, a building where according to tradition the bones of the glorious king were buried. The Acropolis of Sparta is located in the northern part of the city on the acropolis and the great Sanctuary of Athena Poliouchos(Athena Guardian of the city) or Chalkioikos(Athena of the Bronze House) at the top of the hill, above the theater. The Temple of Athena Patron Saint or Chalcioikos is the most important sanctuary of ancient Sparta.
Beneath the sanctuary of Athena is the Ancient Theater of Sparta, one of the largest ancient theaters. The Archaeological Museum presents unique exhibits from the Neolithic to the late Roman era. In the Koumandareio Gallery one can admire the permanent exhibition with oil paintings of great European painters. It has a remarkable archeological museum with findings from the two great sanctuaries of Orthia Artemis and Athena of Chalkio and an olive museum that has as its main purpose to highlight the culture and technology of olive and olive production. Just 10 km from the city of Sparta is the formidable ravine of Kaiadas in the verdant village of Trypi, where according to tradition the ancient Spartans threw disabled babies in an effort of eugenics but also traitors. Nearby, the visitor can admire the gorge of Lagada, where there is a Climbing Park.
Mystras has an important historical heritage with its castle, domes and palaces stretching out like a backdrop for a fairy tale. The cultural heritage is invaluable and has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1989 as a legendary city. The area is full of ruins and relics of its glorious past such as a fortress, tanks and towers, a small palace, stone mansions, and magnificent Byzantine churches and monasteries. Most of these churches are well preserved with beautiful frescoes, representing scenes from the Bible. Hagia Sophia, in Pano Chora of Mystras, is identified with the katholikon of the patriarchal monastery of Zoododos Christou, founded by the first Despot Manuel Kantakouzinos. Mystras also offers a wonderful nature for hiking among a lush landscape, gorges and small villages.
Monemvasia, known to the Franks as Malvasia, is a small historic town. It is built on a rock with a unique access from the mainland, a narrow strip of land from which it got its name. Its natural location had made it a refuge during barbarian raids. The old town is a medieval settlement, perfectly preserved and is a monument of world renown. In the city is the house of Monemvasitis, poet of Romiosini Giannis Ritsos, while the main road with the Byzantine cobbled path, leads to the square with the old cannon and the Church of Christ. In the Castle there are 40 churches, including Panagia Chrysafitissa, Panagia Myrtidiotissa, Panagia Kritikia, Agios Stefanos, Agios Pavlos, Agia Anna, as well as the workshop and museum of silver and gold.
Around the big rock, the villages of Monemvasia, such as Archangelos, Agios Nikolaos, Gerakas and Kyparissi in the north, but also the seaside villages of Vatika in the south, such as Lachi and Velanidia win the most demanding visitor. . In Monemvasia, one can enjoy the beaches to the north, Pera Kakavos and Pori. The sea is unique along the coastal area of Gythio, from the municipal beach, to the sandy beaches of Mavrovouni and Selinitsa, where loggerheads turtles always come to lay their eggs. To the south are the hospitable beaches of Vathi, Ageranos, Skoutari, Kalivia and Paganea, with crystal clear waters. Organized beaches with outdoor activities are the beaches in Neapoli, Archangelos, Vathia, Vlahioti, Molai, Itilo etc.
On the edge of Laconia, hidden behind giant rocks and deep gorges, Kyparissi is ideal for authentic Greek holidays. It is a secluded seaside village whose bay many celebrities and businessmen such as Diana and Dodi or the Bush couple have occasionally chosen for vacations. Important is the Asclepieion, where Asclepius was worshiped in the settlement of Vrysi, the Byzantine castle in the area of Kastelli, and the ancient city of Kyfanta on the mountain slope. The area of Kavomalias also with the monastery of Agia Irini and the Lighthouse of 1860, one of the most famous in the world, is a landscape of unique wild natural beauty. Pavlopetri is perhaps the oldest sunken state in the world, offering a thrilling experience. Kastania cave is one of the most beautiful sights with an area of 1,500 sq.m. and its variety in stalactites and stalagmites is impressive.
Gythio is a beautiful and picturesque city that gives the visitor the feeling that he is on an island. At the foot of the hill is the ancient theater that today hosts various cultural events in the area, while north of the town of Gythio, on the hill, are the ruins of the ancient city. One of the most beautiful caves in the world, the Glyfada Diros cave is located in the Bay of Diros where nature with incomparable art and patience sculpted a miracle. White stalactites and stalagmites, impressive curtains and glittering crystals adorn every corner, creating an incomparable spectacle. It has been described as the most beautiful lake cave in the world, from the known caves so far. Gythio can also be used as a base for excursions, hunting and fishing.
Gerakas is a small seaside village, which is built in a fjord just 22 km away from Monemvasia. The port of Gerakas is the "Successful village" of Pausanias while it consists of three settlements, the Port, Gerakas and Agios Ioannis. Archangelos is a picturesque fishing village with many beauties, windless harbor and clean seas ideal for carefree holidays, water sports and fishing .. Of particular interest is the large sandy beach of Harakia which is very close to Archangelos. Taygetos, which is a natural border between the prefectures of Laconia and Messenia, with its peak at an altitude of 2,407 m., Offers unique mountaineering and hiking routes with exemplary signposting of trails, even for the less experienced mountain hikers. The route from Sparta to Kalamata through Taygetos is also magnificent, while on the borders with the prefecture of Messinia it is worth visiting the mountain park of Lagadas.
Elafonisos also belongs to the prefecture of Laconia, a triangular island, with its rich cultural history, key location, natural and archaeological wealth that makes it one of the most important places. Its beaches and sea characterize it for authentic and alternative holidays all year round. With small sandy beaches the island is famous for two main beaches of Frangos and Sarakinikos, better known as Mikros and Megalos Simos. The beach of Panagia in the western part of the island is equally beautiful, with sand and its seabed has a rich flora while it is suitable for underwater explorations. In the area of Fountianika, one can enjoy a beautiful landscape in which coexist the symbol of ancient civilization, the islet of Pavlos Petri and the imperious Cape Malia. Lake Strongyli is a protected wetland in the area and is a refuge for rare species of migratory birds.
There are many remarkable and pure products in the prefecture such as the olive oil of superior quality with its fine aroma available in the Greek, European and world market and the olives. Citrus fruits and in particular oranges are exported all over the world, as they are famous for their quality and taste. In its vineyards, famous since ancient times, many varieties of wines are produced, with important distinctions. Feta dry mizithra, gruyere, cheeses from local milk,with an excellent quality satisfy even the most demanding palates. High quality honey is also produced throughout Laconia with citrus, pine, thyme, heather, sage, thyme, and thyme (a rare plant of Elafonisos) to give a special taste and aroma. The prickly pears in Laconic Mani are cactus fruits that are found in drylands and are very tasty and nutritious. Fishing in the area offers fish and seafood, which complement the Mediterranean cuisine. The conch (salted pork) is smoked in aromatic plants of Mani and is preserved in virgin olive oil while the smoked sausage and the smoked steak of Mani with orange are known.