We spent a month living in magical Laconia, Peloponnese in the South of Greece… and here are our recommended top 5 most beautiful places to visit.
Firstly, you may want to get a better idea of where this Greek gem of a region is hidden. I had never heard or investigated the Laconia area of Greece, but as luck would have it this is where we ended up.
Above mark our 5 best places to visit in the Peloponnese. So to find out more about about Laconia and each of these special places, then read on.
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Kastania Cave – Peloponnese
This cave came recommended by many of the locals and I thought okay, a cave, why not. A Peloponnese cave might not immediately jump out as a first choice on a list of most beautiful places. But from inside, it doesn’t take long to see why.
First of all, it was super quiet, so our little group could have been mistaken for a private tour. But before you decide yes or no, let me tell you some more about their beginning…
How the Caves Were Discovered?
What I loved most about this place, was the story of how the cave was found. One day in 1902, a Greek farmer was sitting on his plot of land, a full day donkey ride from town. He watched some bees disappear into a small crack in the ground. Logic told him, the bees were going for water. He thoughts he’d better explore this, because after all… a full day trip to get water from the nearby village was an arduous task.
Upon excavating a small home in the ground, he found a larger cavernous space. So, he lit a fire to make a torch and entered. Low and behold… he had just uncovered one of Europe’s most dramatic caves. But the story doesn’t end here.
The farmer tells no one, not a soul. Water is such a commodity in this region and he needs it for himself and his animals. Each day he lights a fire climbs to the same place within the cave slowly filling a bucket with his precious water. He keeps the cave a secret for 50 years!!!
And what encourages him to finally let on in 1952?
Well everyone in the village gets a Christmas card and on the front is a picture of some beautiful and very famous caves. “That’s nothing” he tells the locals, “I’ve got a cave much better than that.”
And so, you have the farmer who FINALLY shares his secret cave! Pretty special story right!
The cave is on the east coast of the peninsula. It is an extremely easy destination to get to and very well signposted. While I had Google Maps ready to go, I had no need for it at all. You will definitely need a car as there is no public transport heading in their direction.
More About the Cave
There is a small café to stop and have a coffee or a bite to eat.
The entrance fee is 7 Euros per adult and takes around 50 minutes. Follow this link to check the schedule of the tours.
If you are lucky you will meet the resident cricket that lives in the cave. It is blind and deaf and the kids will love it!
There are two lovely little pebble and sandy beaches only 5 minutes from the caves. As you leave the cave take the first road to the left and head down the hill. These two small beaches, outside of the summer season are very quiet and a lovely place to spend the afternoon. Get to the second one by following the little track over and around the rocks.
Also on the east coast is a small island that juts out from the mainland. It is the magical island of Monemvasia. Now I say it’s an island, but that isn’t entirely correct… it is connected to the mainland via a causeway.
And where do I begin, because describing it in just a few words is no easy task.
Let’s Begin Here…
Cars cannot enter the walled city. To be more precise, they physically cannot, as the tunnel entrance is too small. So, find a park and begin the walk. Or if you are there during the summer, park in the town of Gefira opposite and jump on a shuttle. We walked over, and it was a beautiful way to enter the island and to admire Monemvasia in all her glory. Which by the way means one way or single entrance – this makes sense when you see it for yourself.
As you walk towards the walled city, look up at the rock face above and you’ll begin to get an idea of the grandeur of what is to come. Old walls and city ruins are waiting for you. As you approach the city wall you’ll note the tunnel entrance is the only one way in.
Within the wall, you are immediately surrounded by history and culture combined with contemporary style. This district is not simply a destination for tourists to stop by and check out, people are living here. Narrow streets lined with cute shops and restaurants surround you tempting you from all angles.
Walk further and you’ll arrive at a larger square. Here you will find the Monemvasia Archaeological Collection and the Christ Elkomenos Orthodox Church. There is also a beautiful view across the ocean and from here you’ll be able to get your bearings on where you are. Look up at the rock face and get ready to take the climb.
Monemvasia View from Above
Before you think, oh no, I didn’t sign up for exercise on my holiday, I’m here to say… well you can’t miss this. I walked up with my five and eight year old. We took our time, and had plenty of hydration stops to catch our breath. (Be sure to bring lots of water.)
The path winds its way up to the top, with breath taking views along the way, which just keep getting better. As you near the top the rocks get a little slippery so take your time and make sure that you bring shoes with good grip.
As you enter the small tunnel like entrance you know you’ve arrived at the beginning of the city ruins and upper plateau. These spread out across the island rock some 100 metres above the lower village. And there is plenty to explore up here. Be sure to take your time, reading the numbered signs that explain the purpose for each crumbling ruin and the era during which it was primarily used.
From here meander, there is no one specific path. They all spread to different areas of this higher village and each just as interesting as the last. The Church of Agia Sophia has been well renovated and is a beautiful place to stop and take a deep breath.
Views Towards Gefira
Carry on further up the hill past the church towards the Citadel. It is a well walked track and signposted along the way. This extra walk is only 10 minutes further and gives a stunning view back towards the town of Gefira.
Then of course, it’s time to turn back around and make your way back down to the bottom. Depending on how many stops you take the round trip will take in total between two to four hours. To give you an idea, I take a lot of photos, and we (meaning my children) get very distracted along the way looking at every little detail. And it took us four hours from start to finish.
Top Tips for Monemvasia
Take the walk to the top during the golden hours to get the best lighting and to avoid the main heat of the day.
There is a fabulous swimming hole half way between the beginning of the island and the city wall to cool of at as you make your way back to the car.
To save some pennies eat at Gefira. Our recommendation is Mamakia which is a great place to stop for a pizza, crepe and cold beer. Take an outdoor seat for the perfect central location for people watching.
Stay at Almi Guest House which can be booked through Airbnb. It is very difficult to book but if it’s available grab it. This little place is along the main road before the city walls. It is the perfect tiny Airbnb in terms of location, and pure dreaminess!
Elafonisos Island – Simos Beach
If you are looking for the most stunning stretch of beach in the Peloponnese region, then you’ve found it. Elafonisos island is the perfect day trip… we loved it so much that we did the day trip twice. So, if you love beaches then put this destination at the top of your list.
Elafonisos island sits just off the west coast of the Laconia peninsula. And a simple ferry ride from Pounta transports you straight to paradise.
Crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches just on the other side of the island are a tranquil way to spend the day. You will need a car or you can rent a motorbike on the island when you arrive from the ferry.
For everything you need to know in detail about Elafonisos visit my dedicated post on Simos Beach and Elafonisis right here.
Petrified Forest – Agia Marina Paralia
This was one of my favourite places in the Peloponnese and was completely unexpected. Off the beaten path destinations excite me and if you also like this kind of travel then this could also be for you.
At the most southern point of Laconia is a Fossil Forest. And while it is signposted, it might still be a good idea to have Google Maps ready so that you can be sure you are heading in the right location. The final drive into the Petrified Forest is on an unsealed road. It can be tricky in a small rental car, but it can be done… because we did it in a Twingo (I’ve never heard of a Twingo until this trip).
Park just above and then take the short walk down the path towards the sea. Already you’ll begin to spot the fossils along the path. Carry on and they become even more spectacular.
What to Look Out For
At the first small plateau of rocks just above the sea there are some amazing clusters of petrified trees. There are also some holes that appear to once have had trees but that maybe never petrified. Because these narrow deep holes reach the ocean below and the water rises and falls, as the incoming waves push water in and then out.
Before moving on, jump into the ocean and take a snorkle along the rocks and out to the point, the fish life is abundant here.
Put the walking shoes back on and climb the rocks toward the south. Over the next rise there is a bigger plateau of rocks here and even more petrified tree trunks to admire. They are dotted around everywhere you look, and each seems to tell a slightly different story. It will certainly leave you pondering what this forest might have looked like back during their time… some 2 million years ago.
And of course, along with the petrified tree trunks scattered everywhere about, there are the fossils to admire. Frozen in time, clusters of shells are held fast in a stony trap. They had us captivated!
The Small Beach
Carry on further around and the path begins to become a greater challenge. But push on and you’ll come to a tiny beach hidden under an outcropped cliff. Hopefully you’ll get it all to yourself like we did, and you can enjoy some alone time.
Swim out, then look back towards the beach and observe slightly up. It gives a different perspective, and in some places, you’ll be able to see the petrified tree roots which drop down from the overhang.
Sparta – Mystras
Like the movie! You know… Gerard Butler and his group of brave warriors that protected their land in the film 300.
Well just outside Sparta (or Sparti) is the archaeological and UNESCO world heritage site of Mystras. It is incredibly large AND fascinating and so you will need to allow several hours in order to see it all.
Perched on a mountain side are the remains of several churches and monasteries. Each is unique and stands out from the next, the stone ruins, the frescoes, the places of worship, the grounds and the views. And by the end of the day the history and beauty of this place fills you will an over whelming sense of awe. I think its fair to say, the photos tell the full story.
Begin at the lower carpark for the first part of the journey. Here at the main entrance you will pay access for the entire site, including the upper ruins. But later you can drive to the upper carpark to view these as the second half.
When you pay the entrance, be sure to grab a copy of the map, because trust me when I say you’ll get lost without it! I even found myself reverting to google maps for assistance several times throughout our exploration of Mystras.
Our Recommendations for Mystras
I recommend planning your trip for a clear day as the views are breathtaking and you don’t want to miss them. Also bring plenty of water and snacks, solid walking shoes, sun hat and google maps just incase you are terrible with directions like me!
More to Explore in and Around Laconia Peloponnese
Activities and Tours to Explore
- For an experience of true Laconia living, then you might like to book a Greek Farm tour and organic cooking class in Kalamata – see here for more.
- Alternatively, if olive oil and wine tasting in Kalamata is more your thing – then book that right here.
- For those looking to take the hassle out of their journey and leave the planning up to someone else – then book this day trip from Athens to Monemvasia.
- And of course if you don’t want to cram all this into one day, there is an option for you too – see here for more about the multi-day tour options of the Peloponnese.
Where to Stay
If you are looking for somewhere to stay then browse through the map below to find somewhere that suits you.
Airbnb in Elika / Marathias
If you want my recommendation then see this perfect little Airbnb that became our home for over a month. It was PERFECT. From here you can see all of the places listed above in the Peloponnese as day trips. Well priced, small enough not to need a lot of tidying and cleaning, and big enough for myself and the kids. The location was perfect and the host is super helpful and friendly! Not to mention the friendly neighbours that are always happy to suggest new places to visit.
The sunsets across the bay here are incredible, and the beaches provide a quiet haven to hide away for days on end. There is a small convenience store in the village of Elika and a bakery to get the staples. Best of all, this beautiful little spot feels less trodden. And places like this will leave you feeling as though you are truly living Peloponnese Greece, not just touristing.
Walk up to the hill, to a small lookout castle over the bay at sunrise. A fresh early morning start and this 30 minute walk will get you moving in the right direction for the day.
This is simple life and slow life at its best. I promise you… you will fall in love here… we did!
If you liked these places in Peloponnese, you might also like more of our series on the Greek Islands.
- The ultimate itinerary for 14 days in Greece
- Greece with kids – how to do it right!
- Beyond the tourist trail in Santorini (+ how many days you’ll need)
- Simos Beach, Elafonisos – one of the best beaches in the Peloponnese Greece!