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Gythio, Sparta’s ancient port, is one of the most attractive seaside towns in the Peloponnese. It is a quaint little town, featuring gorgeous neoclassical mansions, narrow alleys, stone towers and lots of seaside fish tavernas. Gythio has all that and more. Amphitheatrically built on the eastern slopes of Mt. Koumaros, it overlooks the Lakonian Gulf and the tiny islet of Kranae, just off the coast. Kranae or Marathinisi as it is widely known, is the place where according to legend, Paris of Troy and Helen from Sparta spent their first night together before departing for Troy. On the tiny island you can check the lighthouse, dating from 1873 and the Ethnological Museum, set in the Tzanetakis Tower. Actually, Kranae is not exactly an island as it is directly connected to mainland.

Other highlights in town are the Cultural Center which was designed by the famous German architect Ernst Ziller, the Archaeological Museum housed in the Town Hall, the ancient theater of the 1st century AD and the sanctuary of Dionysus. Located about 30 minutes from Gythio, the Diros Caves is also a very interesting place to visit. For swimming, there is a number of coves and lovely beaches within reach of Gythio. To the south are the sandy beaches of Mavroboubi and Vathy and if you drive a bit further, is another sandy beach called Skoutari. Mavrovouni is home to the Caretta-Caretta loggerhead turtles, so please respect the signs and keep away from the cordoned parts of the beach. When you are in Gythion, you should visit Valtaki beach. Even though, it is not as beautiful as Mavrovouni beach, it is very famous because of a shipwreck called Dimitrios.


Like the rest of the Greek towns, Gythio has a very rich past where legend and history are intertwined. According to legend, the city was founded by Hercules and Apollo. The first person who wrote about the small port town seems to be the famous traveler and geographer Pausanias, in the 2nd century AD. The long history of the city begins in prehistoric times as evidenced by the findings from the excavations at the northern end of the city and in the acropolis. In antiquity, the town served as Sparta’s port and during the Roman era its port was an important commercial hub for trading purple dye, which was very popular all over the Roman empire. Several monuments of the Roman era are still preserved in the wider area including an ancient theater and a sanctuary dedicated to Dionysos. The ancient Roman theatre is still in use of certain events.

In 375 AD a strong earthquake, followed by a tsunami, shattered the town and part of it was submerged under the sea. In the following centuries, the ancient ruins were further covered by dust and the city disappeared. However, remains of the ancient city, including mosaics, parts of statues and building foundations are still underwater. During the Ottoman era, the town was almost deserted and people started returning after the Greek Revolution in 1821.

Staying and eating in Gythio

Today, Gythio is fairly lively all year round, but particularly in the summer. Accommodation options in Gythio, include numerous hotels and apartment as well as a couple of campsites in Vathy and Mavrovouni. For something more unique, you can choose to stay in a refurbished stone tower. Many of the old towers, have been renovated and transformed into guest houses and boutique hotels. Along the promenade, there are plenty of eating places, modestly priced and with excellent food. The town is within a short distance from Sparta and Areopolis and is a good starting point for exploring the Mani peninsula and the south of Peloponnese.

You will definitely enjoy the chilled and relaxed vide of this authentic Greek town which has its own charms. The easiest way to get to Gythio is by car but you can also reach it by bus from Athens. The town is nice in the spring and autumn and a bit more crowded in the summer. If you are looking to stay at a pretty costal town in the Peloponnese, look no further than Gythion.