Surrounded by mounts Taýgetos and Párnon, Sparta was the kingdom of Menelaus and his beautiful queen, the most beautiful of all mortal women of her age, Helen. But Aphrodite had promised Paris of Troy the most beautiful woman on earth in return of a favour, so the Trojan prince came to Sparta to claim his trophy. He abducted Helen and travelled back to his homeland. Menelaus wanted his wife back and talked all the other kings of Greece into fighting against the Trojans. That’s pretty much how the most celebrated war of the myths started.
Broad streets full of trees, large squares, neoclassical buildings and nice hotels, scented by the olive, orange and lemon trees of the nearby valley of the Eurotas River: this is Sparta!
Things to do
• Visit the Archaeological Museum: its exhibits cover a tremendously long period (Neolithic to late Roman age).
• “Koumantários” Art Gallery: admire oil paintings of prominent European artists of the 16th to the 20th century.
• Visit the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive oil: get to know the culture and technology of a natural product that is inextricably connected with the Greek and Mediterranean identity.
• Take a trip to the perched on the sides of mount Taýgetos villages of Ksirokámpi, Koumoustá and Anavrytí with the traditional stone houses and the old stone fountains. In Ksirokámpi, visit the church of Áyios Níkonas with the frescoes of the 14th century.
The valley of Eurotas is well-known for its olive and citrus trees. But the local cuisine can be proud for “sýglina” and “rafiólia” too. Sýglina is a dish of pork smoked in the aromatic herbs (like savory, thyme and sage) of the mountains of the area. Rafiólia are crescent pies of flaky pastry with mastic liquor, rosewater and white almond pulp.
The caves of Diros
A stimulating trip into the eternal magic of shapes and colours. The lake cave of Vlyháda or Glyfáda consists of several halls which have been given names with a poetic flair, such as “Poseidon’s Palace”, “The Sea of Wrecks” and “White Chambers”. Your boat tour in the cave will last no less than 45 minutes.
The anthropologists will definitely take pleasure in visiting the neighbouring cave of Alepótripa which is proved to have housed a community of people in the late Neolithic age (4800-3200 BC). The Neolithic Museum of Diros at the entrance of the cave hosts all the relevant findings.
In the cave of Katafýgi the stalactites and stalagmites do not only provide a spectacular site, but also marvellous acoustics in the “Hall of Apotheosis”.
Getting to Sparta:
Cruisers dock at the port of Gýthio, with Sparta itself being accessible by car, at just 3hrs from Athens.