Clustered amphitheatrically against the hillside of Mount Taygetos in Laconia, the castlestate of Mystras took centre stage in Greece during the Middle Ages, passing through the hands of multiple empires and becoming a meeting point for great minds of the era. Take a stroll on its cobbled paths to observe striking Byzantine architecture and an unrivalled collection of churches hand-painted with dramatic frescoes; just under two hours away from Perivoli Country Hotel & Retreat is a precious bit of Peloponnesian history that you simply shouldn't miss.
Upon your arrival through the Upper Entrance, following the path to your right labeled with "Castle" signs will lead to an imposing stone fortress which has passed through the hands of the Franks and the Ottomans, and provides a vantage point for jaw-dropping views of the Laconian plain. Though an amazing example of architecture, this is only one of the many buildings which have granted Mystras its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A short walk downhill will lead to Agia Sofia; enter for a glimpse of the "Birth of the Virgin Mary" painted over the doorway, which has inspired piousness in royalty. This is the main palace church, after all, which was visited by great leaders of the past, and its verdant gardens are said to be the place where emperors' wives were laid to rest.
To explore the second most important centre of the Byzantine world, take in the Palace of Despots. This was where visionaries converged during the Middle Ages; notable among them was Georgios Gemistos Plethon, a philosopher who brought previously undiscovered works of Plato to light. When threats of Ottoman occupation began to rise, most artists fled the palace in Mystras for Italy, in order to partake in the creative rebirth of the Renaissance.
If you wish to view the only part of Mystras that has been kept alive to this day, pay a visit to the Convent of Pantanassa. Though it was built during the 14th century it is remarkably maintained by the nuns who inhabit it, all the more for visitors to revel in the aesthetic soundness of its original architecture. Its beauty is breathtaking, yet not overpowering, existing in harmony with its natural surroundings.
Following the cobblestoned path will lead to a pine grove, awash with refreshing, cool shade. Tucked within and built onto a rock is the marble-floored Monastery of Peribleptos, with frescoes that have stood the test of time, filling their beholders with awe to this day. Nothing could quite compare to a visit to Mystras; every visitor to the Peloponnese should experience this best-preserved reminder of the Byzantine Empire.
Tags: Peloponnese Byzantine churches, Peloponnese historic destination, Perivoli Country Hotel & Retreat, Monastery of Perivleptos, Convent of Pantanassa, Agia Sofia, Palace of Despots