Sparta (Sparti) is the capital of the prefecture Laconia .
A simple town, built in the middle of the Evrotas river valley, in the same site where the ancient city stood.
The plain of Lakonia spreads out around Sparta, green and cool.
A few kilometres distant is the ascent for Taigetos. Snowy peaks and precipitous rocks.
The succession of villages makes you want to wander and poke about them.
Every instant is different. You need love and an adventurous spirit to walk this land.
The Byzantine state of Mistras
As you approach Mistras (5 km from Sparta) you feel as though you’re making a pilgrimage to Byzantine Greece.
Going up the hill, you enter through the castle gate, which welcomes you to wander for a while, delighted, through the narrow lanes of this once invincible fortress.
A barren land. Rocks, stone walls and prickly pears.
Hard stones, naked hillsides. Bays and coves torn by the sea and the wind.
A series of mountain villages higher up.
The towers of the Mani are well-known. Made of stone and fearless souls. You see one tower, then another and another.
Later heavy silence falls and you see Itillo before you.
Deserted beaches for solitary roaming.
Opposite stand the ruins of the fortress of Kelefa.
Further on beneath a steep cliff lies the little harbour of Limeni.
High above looms Taigetos, its peaks forbidding and inaccessible. The haunt of the goddess Artemis.
Areopolis. Sharp rocks and white stones.
A harsh and remote landscape. It takes its name from Ares (Mars), god of war.
Pirgos Dirou. Towers everywhere. The most famous of all is the one belonging to the Sklavounakos family.
The Diros caves. Many-splendoured colours. Stalactites and stalagmites form figures in a tight embrace.
The farthest finger of the Peloponnese.
The Laconic gulf on the west, the Mirtoo sea on the east.
Along both coasts and at some distance from the sea there are scattered villages.
One beach after another and then another even larger.
Everything baked by the sun and basted by the sea.
On the southern coast of the peninsula, looking onto the Mirtoo sea, stands the former Byzantine-Venetian fortress-state of Monemvassia, on its rocky promontory.
From afar it looks as if it could be an island.
In Greek Monemvassia means one entrance: the long causeway joining it to the mainland was and is the only access to the rock.
Time stopped here in the Middle Ages.
Castles and ramparts, old mansions, little houses, narrow lanes paved with stone slabs, churches with crumbling facades, old low archways, semi-destroyed stairways.
Every little detail calls up memories of Byzantium and the Venetians.Apses, escutcheons, imperial marble thrones, Byzantine icons (Christ in chains) give one the impression of an imaginary city, untouched by modern times.
This delight in the past overcomes you and conjures up visions of princes and emperors, knights and bishops.
For Monemvassia is a revelation that leaves one with a heavy heart and a deep nostalgia, a feeling that one would like to stay here forever.
North of Monemvassia the region of Zaraka is full of medieval villages, built high in the mountains alongside ruined castles, churches and houses, with names like Harakas, Rihia, Gerakas, Ag,Dimitris, Glotsoliand Kiparissi. Sixty-one kilometres from Monemvassia across the peninsula lies the seaside market town of Neapolis, the last port of the Spartans on the Laconic gulf.
Beaches, bays, springs, plane and walnut trees (Paradisi), caves lined with stones that look like coloured woven fabrics (Kastania), taverns, cafes, people with warm smiles — it would be easy to surrender to a life of nothing but this.
Opposite Neapolis is the islet of Elafonissi, a dream snatched from the South Seas.
Swimming, fishing, sand, sun, twilight, moonlight, octopus in red wine, fish stew and seafood are the way of life here.
On the horizon beyond lies Kithira, the isle of Eros, the legendary birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite (Venus).
From the moment that you penetrate into the interior of the island you will discover ancient temples, Byzantine churches and monasteries, Venetian castles, caves with stalactites and stalagmites and miniature lakes, villages with the distinctive architecture of the lonian islands, pebbly beaches, sandy beaches, multicoloured shells, greenery, hills and countless birds.
All giving the feeling of a world where happiness and the joy of life reign supreme.
The caique stops its engine at Antikithira, a barren rock in the middle of the sea.
The island is famous because of its shores the wonderful statue of the Ephebos of Antikithira was found.
Here you will spend your days and nights in the embrace of the sea, in company with the sun and the moon and the sea breeze.
Maybe one day a modern-day Aphrodite will rise from the sea foam.