The port of Monemvasia in Greece is a perfectly preserved medieval town clinging to the side of a tiny island off the eastern Peloponnese and overlooked by a ruined fortress, or kastro, on its summit. The island, essentially a sheer-sided monolith, broke away from the mainland in an earthquake in 375 AD.
What's interesting about Monemvasia, which in Greek means "single entrance," is exactly that; from the mainland, all you can see is the bare rock. Around the side, though, there's a tunnel through the chunky medieval ramparts, opening out in to the main cobbled street of an exquisite little town. This is the only way in. A short causeway connecting the island to the mainland was built in 1971.
Because of its immaculate state of preservation and historical interest, Monemvasia has become a popular cruise destination, with more than 50 calls a year. Ships anchor nearby or tie up at the jetty and passengers are ferried by bus the short distance to the gate.
This is a perfect place to wander around on your own. Over the centuries, Monemvasia has been occupied by the Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans and each wave has left its legacy. From the 10th to the 18th centuries, it was an important place of trade and strategic importance, with 360-degree views from the fortress at the top of any approaching enemy.
Today, many of the old buildings have been converted to tavernas, craft shops, holistic health centers and boutique hotels. Joint funding from Greece and the EU has helped renovate the ruined fortress on the summit, restoring old walls, creating informative signage and repairing the stone pathways to the top. Exploring is easy; the town is compact and car-free.