Swiss Isabelle, owner of Monopati residences in Momenvasia, wants her guests to feel at home, and she certainly knows how to make them do so. She and her Greek-Canadian husband Chris, a (war) trauma surgeon, found refuge in the Byzantine Kastro of Monemvasia, where they bought a small historical property which Isabelle initially run as a boutique guesthouse, but now rents out as ‘escape residences’. She welcomes guests who need accommodation for a little longer – two weeks is the minimum rental period – so its perfect not only for relaxing holidays in Greece but also for anyone who wants a wonderful place to spend time during a sabbatical, to write a thesis or to use as an artistic retreat. There are two houses, each with two cosy bedrooms and a living room. Dark wood floors, beamed and arched ceilings, a blend of old and new furniture and some personal touches create a homey traditional setting with a few little twists. You will find collections of books and CDs, properly equipped kitchenettes, and, in the larger of the two houses, a fireplace. Outside, each house has its own space to sit out, and guests are also welcome to join Isabelle at her own terrace, which has the best views, for an afternoon drink.
It is a wonderful experience to stay in the Kastro of Monemvasia, and to have multilingual Isabelle welcome you to your own little house makes it even more special.
The houses are multi/split-level, and there are some stairs. Don't expect luxury, the houses are simply homely and cosy. A minimum rental period of two weeks applies, so unfortunately Monopati is not for little weekend escapes.
1 house for up to 5 persons (2 bedrooms, living room with a fireplace)
1 house for up to 3 persons (this is an apartment with 2 bedrooms and a living room)
En-suite bathroom (bath or shower)
Air conditioning (most rooms)
Both houses have their own little kitchen – perfect for longer stays if you don’t want to eat out all the time. In the Kastro you also have a good choice of small traditional restaurants as well as easy lunch places. Isabelle recommends Voltes, a relative newcomer on the scene. It is a small restaurant (indoor only) serving creative cuisine with fresh and mostly organic ingredients. For an elegant dining experience, the nearby Kinsterna hotel is not to be missed.
The two houses are well laid-out for families with children. Both have two bedrooms, and some of the beds are singles. The smaller house can accommodate a family with one child (the second bedroom as a single bed) and the larger house is suitable for families with two or three children, but if you come with three children, two would have to share a double bed. You should also keep in mind that it is impossible to reach the houses with a stroller, so I don’t recommend staying at Monopati with young children who will have to (or want to) be carried. Also, there are quite a few internal stairways in the houses, so if you come with toddlers, you have to be careful. That said, Isabelle can provide a baby cot, a highchair and some toys, and she can arrange babysitting.
Walk up to the Citadel crowning Monemvasia to see the ruined 6th century castle and to enjoy the sweeping views. Back down in the medieval city, visit the small archaeological museum, go see the icons in the Christos Elkomenos Church, stroll through the cobbled lanes and stock up on traditional products in the local shops.
Walking and cycling
Put on your hiking boots or get a bicycle (there’s a bike rental shop in the new town) to explore the countryside and the coast. Villages are connected by a network of paths, and you will find signposted walking trails routes in the hills, mountains and by the sea. There is a fantastic ten-kilometre trail along the coast, starting from Agios Fokas and taking you to the cave of Kastania.
Dive into the sea (or use the ladder) from the rocks right outside the city walls. If you prefer going to the beach, your best bet is Kastraki, a long sandy beach five kilometres away. For an amazing beach experience, make a daytrip to the island of Elafonisos. A wonderful 50-minute drive over the mountains, a ten-minute ferry crossing (departures once or twice every hour) and a less-than-ten minute drive on the island gets you one of Greece’s most famous beaches. Soft white sand and lagoon-like waters, perfect!
Pick a day without wind to sign up for a sea-kayaking tour around the rock of Momenvasia (and further if you want), with snorkelling and a picnic on the way.
Go and visit the winery of Monemvasia in Velies (15 km by car). The estate is relatively small estate, but the wines (Malvasia, known also as Malmsey in English and Malvoisie in French) are among Greece’s best. Try different ones – between reds, whites and a rosé there are around twenty wines to choose from – and bring back your favourite to enjoy back at your Monemvasia home.
Monopati is in the Kastro of Monemvasia, 120 metres from the entrance gate. The houses are in a spot above the main alley, where it is very quiet. (Cars don’t come in the Kastro, so in any case there is no traffic noise anywhere, but here you won’t here voices of people passing by either.) The restaurants, cafés and shops in the main alley are only a couple of minutes’ walk away, and it takes about five minutes to walk to the spots from where you can dip into the sea.
The drive from Athens (via Korinthos, Tripoli and Sparta) to Monemvasia takes three to four hours. From Sparta follow signs for Gythio and after 24 km (about 18 km before Gythio) you turn left towards Krokees and Skala. You follow the main road from Skala towards Monemvasia (50 km). From the new part of Monemvasia, you cross the causeway to the peninsula and you park your car as close as you can get to the entrance gate to the Kastro. From there you have to continue on foot. Walk along the main alley. A little before the main square, there is a sign to the left for Monopati. Walk uphill, turn right, left and right again.
My husband and I were fortunate enough to stay at Monopati several years ago. The location is lovely and Isabelle is a delightful hostess. Monemvasia, and Monopati, is the one place that continues to call to me to return and spend time just enjoying the slow pace of life and the beauty. It is my plan to spend several weeks at Monopati soon.
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