Anyone thinking of a vacation in Greece this autumn could not go wrong by visiting these unusual locations, including unique and amazing caves along with an ancient tourist attraction, once popularized by the Romans. Both located on the Peloponnese peninsula, these places are a little off the beaten track but totally worth the effort.
The history behind the cave at Kastania is an interesting one, as it seems that in the last century, one Kostas Stivaktas was resting after working in his fields when he noticed bees entering, and leaving, a crack in the rocks close by. While he thought it might be his imagination, it seemed to him that the bees looked refreshed when leaving the hole in the rock.
Eventually, feeling very curious, Stivaktas decided to break open the rock around the crack and just couldn’t believe his eyes. What he found was a very unique and stunningly beautiful cave. In the cave were many stalagmites and stalactites, almost like a curtain of unbelievably varied shapes and colors. Further into the cave, Stivaktas found a small well, which is apparently where the bees were headed each time they entered.
His family continued the tradition of visiting the cave, holding a torch made from dried bush, to collect water from the well for refreshment and they did this up until 1958. At that stage, the cave and its well became better known and the community of Kastania saw the need to protect this beautiful place. Now the cave is available for tours through some of its chambers. Whether the bees still get to use the place as their own personal spa is unknown.
Experts say that the unusual and unique formations in the cave have taken some three million years to form, including very rare occurrences within the cave in the form of level stalagmites and disks on the ceilings and walls of the caves.
Located 30 minutes south of Neapoli on the southern tip of the Peloponnese, in the Municipality of Monemvasia, the caves are open to the public each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the summer months.
Covering an area of around 1,500 square meters on two levels, the tour for visitors runs along a 500-meter route within the caves.
The caves are not the only attraction, however, as the area offers beautiful scenery and endless sandy beaches too, as pictured above. The video below takes you on a virtual tour of the caves:
Having seen amazing caves on a vacation in Greece, next is the chance to visit an ancient tourist attraction, made popular back in the day by the Romans.
Offering a little ancient history, the city of Mycenae is located on a hilltop, surrounded by wild flowers in a peaceful setting. What can be seen here are the ancient remains of a once great city. This was apparently an important place back in the Bronze Age, when the city controlled most of the southern part of the country. Trading with faraway places including Egypt, this was reportedly the home of Perseus and the kingdom of Agamemnon.
Mycenae was the fascinating discovery back in 1874 of an amateur archaeologist, Heinrich Schleimann, who had recently been excavating at another famous site, that of Troy.
Fond of the Homeric epics, Schleimann began a huge and systematic excavation in the area and was rewarded by many magnificent finds, including shaft graves and the riches that were buried with their occupants.
According to Schleimann, one of these finds was a golden death mask of a serious looking bearded man (pictured left), which he believes belonged to Agamemnon. This mask, along with other fascinating finds, can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
Besides the tombs, there are some stone steps, leading down the hillside into a long ago filled in ancient cistern, which would have been fed by a spring outside the city’s walls. The video below gives a little of the history of the site and the civilization that used to rule over the area.
What was once a popular and ancient tourist attraction even for the Romans, is still a popular site today with many tourist buses heading up the hill on a regular basis and is worth visiting on a vacation in Greece along with some pretty amazing caves.
By Anne Sewell
Municipality of Monemvasi