Mystras is an archaeological site close to Sparta dating back to the 13th century, and towards the end of the Byzantine period it was the second most important town after Constantinople. Today it’s a huge open air museum, famous for its Byzantine churches complete with frescoes, all overlooked by a castle at the top of the very steep hill, commanding an excellent view over Sparta. It’s also another UNESCO World Heritage site.
It’s only 50-odd km from where we’re staying in Kalamata, but it took a good hour and a half each way across the mountains – not easy in the van – and I was knackered by the time we returned to Kalamata. To quote Lonely Planet:
The 59km Sparta-Kalamata road is one of the most stunning, if time consuming and winding, routes in Greece. The road crosses the Taygetos Mountains by way of the Langada Pass. The climb begins in earnest at the village of Trypi, 9km west of Sparta, where the road enters the dramatic Langada Gorge. To the north of this gorge is where the ancient Spartans left to die those babies too weak or deformed to become good soldiers. The road then follows the course of the Langada River before climbing sharply through a series of hairpin bends, fringed with plane trees and pines, to emerge in a sheltered valley. The road then climbs steeply once more, to the height of 1524m, crossing the boundary from Langada to Messinia on the way. The descent into Kalamata is equally dramatic.
I didn’t get to take in too much of the scenery as I was having to concentrate on the road the whole time, but we did stop a couple of times to enjoy the views.
Here are some photos.
Just a few of the many frescoes: