This is Sparta…
Sparta is a place blessed with rich history, unique nature and hospitable people. Laconia’s natural beauties and history unfold before the traveler’s eyes. Throughout the year, Sparta has offered a view into history and culture, mystical monasteries, strolls on magnificent mountains and a gastronomic journey of Laconia’s traditional dishes.
Reminiscent of a history park, Laconia’s capital is a place where the traveller can admire remnants of antiquity, amazing Byzantine monasteries, and all of which are surrounded by magnificent nature. This is Sparta. In the upper valley of Evrotas river, under the watchful eye of Taygetos, Sparta looks calm and is always hospitable. The modern city is relatively new – it was built in 1834 by King Othon, in the same place where ancient Sparta once lay.
What to visit
- Leonida’s statue: It is the city’s most photographed point. Situated at the end of Palaiologou Street, outside the city’s stadium, it is the celebrated ending point for Spartathlon, which takes place on the last weekend of September.
- On the pavement of the central square, you can admire the mosaic representing the mythological tale of Europe’s kidnapping by Zeus who disguised himself as a bull.
- Leonida’s tomb (Leonidio). Despite the fact that there is no concrete evidence that it is actually the renowned King’s tomb, tradition has prevailed over the archaeological excavation.
- The Roman Theater: Built in the late Hellenistic period, it could host up to 16,000 spectators!
- Menelaion: Pafsanias was convinced that King Menelaos and his wife Eleni were buried in this ancient temple.
- ‘Halkioikos’ Athena’s sanctuary: The ancient city’s most important temple dominates in the northwestern side of Ancient Sparta’s Acropolis.
- Takis Ayvalis’ Camera Museum: A museum that has won a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Its oldest exhibit is a 133 year-old Kodak N2 Plico! The museum’s collection also includes aerial cameras, even wooden machines.
- Katafigiotissa’s Holy Monastery: Housed in the cavity of a steep cliff, the monastery that is dedicated to Panagia Zoodochos Pigi, is situated about 16 miles away from the city center. The monastery most likely took its name from the fact that the during the War of Independence, rebel fighters used to seek shelter (katafygio) there.
- Taygetos, the “male mountain”, offers opportunities for unique hikes. Natural paths, ravines and gorges meet the old bridges, monasteries and archaeological sites, creating an unprecedented experience. Anakolos Gorge is one of the most beautiful parts of Taygetos.
- Parnonas is a hiking paradise with plenty of well-maintained paths, clear and excellent signalling and routes of varying duration and/or difficulty.
- All the nearby villages worth exploration. Each has a story to tell and waits to enchant you with its unique natural beauties.
- Half an hour from Tsintzina, you will find yourself in front of the stone-built, fortified entrance of the cave that hides the church of Agios Ioannis Prodromos within.
On the way to Mystras
An alternative route to the Byzantine castle town of Mystras, starts from the end of Lykourgos Avenue following Magoulitsa’s Bank. After a 50 minute walk under the shadow of grand trees, you will see the first of Mystra’s structures.
And while on your way to Mystras, you will also find the post-Byzantine chapel of Agios Andreas, a lovely ceramic factory, and the ruins of a watermill at the entrance of the village.
Every year, at the end of May, Palaiologea take place in Mystras to honor Constantine Palaiologos. Paleologea is a series of events (including cultural, religious and athletic events) that are held to commemorate the fall of Constaninople, May 29, 1453.
In Laconia, the old ways of preserving food – such as pork, singlino (smoked pork), and sausages – with oranges are still alive. In addition to the aforementioned delicacies, do not forget to taste the region’s most popular dishes: orange salad, tsigarolahana (greens saute with onion), “bardouniotikos” rooster (chicken in tomato sauce based on an old, byzantine recipe), lalaggia (fried bread), and “tsoyhta” macaroni (macaroni with cheese and olive oil served with fried eggs). Diples (sweet made of sheet like dough), lalaggites (fried bread with honey) and samousades (a sweet similar to baklava), are the region’s most common sweets.
Before you go, be sure to get some olive oil, citrus fruit, olives and trahana for home – it is here you will find some fo the very best in Greece!