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Mystras Archaeological Site

A Beautiful Byzantine Site to Explore
In a country full of beautiful historic sites, this may have been my favorite to explore. It has so much: a beautiful hilltop setting that offers views for miles; ruins that you can clamber over; restored Byzantine churches with incredible fresco work covering the walls and ceilings, and peaceful courtyards draped with bougainvillea; a working nunnery, where you might spot a nun going about her daily business; plus lots of cats. There's an upper section, which is where you'll find the ruins and the views. We drove up there first, and the nice woman at the ticket desk told us we should explore the upper section, then drive down to the lower, and drew out a route for us so that we could see everything. We spent about 3 hours total wandering and taking it all in. If you're into Byzantine art, you could spend longer. And, unlike a lot of sites in Greece, the information panels are helpful and interesting, explaining different aspects of daily life in that era: who got to live inside the walls of the fort; where they got their water; burial practices. It's a fair amount of walking, so stay hydrated, and take breaks in those peaceful courtyards. Then, if you want a spectacular drive, go from here over the mountains to Kalamata. The scenery is spectacular.

Magical Byzantine Ruins of Mystras
It's truly amazing to find a complete ruined city and archaeological wonderland. The abandoned Byzantine city of Mystras in the mountains just above Sparta in the Southern Peloponnese, is one such frozen city. You can walk through the largely intact streets and complete religious buildings of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and be right back in 1350 AD.

You'll need a full day to explore this sprawling lost city but it is one visit you'll never forget.

One of the most important historical sites in the Peloponnese, Mystras grew up around a fortress built in 1249 on the northern slopes of Mount Taygetos. The Byzantine Empire took control soon after the original fortress was completed, and lavish palaces, churches, monasteries and libraries were added to the site. Much later, after Greece’s liberation and the founding of modern Sparta, 12 kilometers (seven miles) to the east, Mystras was abandoned. The ruins were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989; today this open-air museum stands as a testament to medieval glory. Wear sturdy shoes to navigate the steep cliffside paths.