Key information: Byzantine Mystras
- Explore the ruins of this important Byzantine city below its castle on its improbable crag.
- A moving and fascinating place, with huge view to boot. Not to be missed if you are in the Peloponnese.
- Walkopedia rating90
- Natural interest10
- Human interest18
- Negative points4
- Total rating90
- Note: Neg: tourists
- Length: 2 hours +
- Maximum Altitude: 638m
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Walkopedia walked the ruins of the Byzantine city of Mystras in early April, when the life and beauty of the wild flowers contrasted with the gentle, lonely melancholy of the ruins of this city. We loved it.
Mystras evolved in the middle ages, on the steep slopes below the castle built on the great crag here by the Frankish Prince of Achaia, Guillaume de Villehadouih, in 1249. It became an important city of the shrinking Byzantine Empire after it was retaken by the Byzantines, and a liberal centre of thought and the arts. It fell to the Turks in 1460, and entered a long twilight period. It was abandoned in the C19 in favour of modern Mystras and Sparta on the plain below.
Mystras' ruins are very well preserved, and extraordinarily evocative. Below the impregnable-feeling castle huddles the walled Upper City, with it churches and palaces, home of the aristos and administrators. Below is the Lower City, also walled, once home of artisans; at its top, the peaceful and charming Pantanassa Convent is the only occupied building in the city.
Start at the Upper Entrance at the top of the Upper City. Walk up paved mule tracks overhung by shrubs and wild flowers to the Frankish Castle on its extraordinary crag. Gaze at the views and salivate over a walk in the wooded slopes above, admiring the drama of the high Taygetus to the west and the huge view over the Laconiac plain to your east.
Descend to and through to the Upper City, inspecting Agia Sofia church with its charming portico and St. Nicholas, in between patches of scrub and rubble.
The Royal Palace is closed for a huge reconstruction.
Descend through the Monemvasia Gate into the Lower City. Make sure you visit the Pantanassa Convent; its church has the atmosphere and quiet serenity of a minor monastic church on Mount Athos. The Lower City is wider spread, with more areas of rubble and scrub. All hugely atmospheric and thought provoking.
Mystras is some 300m to to bottom, so a full exploration is no mean undertaking. We parked at, and walked back to, the Upper Gate; but you can descend on down to modern Mystras. You can also walk up and back from modern Mystras, and a one-way taxi journey. To start at the top makes sense.
Have a look at TripAdvisor - there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on guides, places to hike and places to stay in the area.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more