MYSTRAS (Μυστρᾶς)

Former Byzantine capital and fortified city Mystras is spread over a steep mountainside of Mt. Taygetos and surrounded by verdant olive and orange trees. It is the single most compelling set of medieval ruins in Greece (entrance 12 EUR). Treading the cobblestones, worn smooth by centuries of footsteps, we walked with the ghosts, ducking into the ruins of palaces, monasteries, and churches, most dating from between 1271 and 1460. While the Byzantine empire plunged into decline elsewhere, Mystras enjoyed a renaissance. Gemistos Plethon (1355–1452) founded a school of humanistic philosophy here and his enlightened ideas, including the revival of the teachings of Plato and Pythagoras, attracted intellectuals from all corners of Byzantium. Art and architecture also flourished, as seen in the town’s splendid buildings and frescoes. Mystras declined under the Ottoman rule but thrived again after the Venetians captured it in 1687 and developed a flourishing silk industry. The population swelled to 40000. The Turks recaptured the town in 1715 and from then it was downhill all the way; it was burned during the Orlov uprising in 1770 and Ibrahim Pasha torched what was left in 1825.

Parking location – Mystras: 37.076406N 22.369124E