The region covered by the Municipality of Monemvasia is one of low impact agriculture and tourism, free of industries. Therefore it is one of the few regions of Greece with such a unique and rich flora and fauna. Discover it in the most interesting and enjoyable way possible, along its beautiful hiking routes.

Flora of the Monemvasia Municipality

Several studies and surveys have been and continue to be made of the flora of the southern Parnon range. Over 600 species of wild plants have been recorded, 300 of which have been recognised macroscopically and are not part of the fungi and mushroom category.

Depending on the rate of registering new species (for the purposes of amateur research), it is currently estimated that there are more than 800 different species in the Maleas peninsula.

Considering that the total for the Peloponnese is about 2,500 species (Grigoris Iatrou, University of Patras) and some 6,000 for the whole of Greece, this means that the Monemvasia municipality is home to a large percentage of the country’s species of flora.

In other words, the municipality, particularly the peninsula of Maleas stretching from Zarakas to the southernmost reaches of Parnon, is a botanical treasure trove. It has attracted the attention of botanists since the 17th century, when Chaubard and Sibthort explored the region.

Their reports, along with later studies, culminated in the work of Constantinos Goulimis, who paid seven visits to the region from 1954 to 1959, recording 150 wild plants including three new species and one variety.

The most important of these new discoveries, later named after him (Tulipa goulimyi) is endemic to the region and to the island of Kythera.

In recent years it has also been observed in Mani (Itylo, Mianes) and in western Crete, indicating the palaio-geographic continuity of the region, the unity of the biotope and the age of this species.

Another endemic plant he discovered was the (Linaria hellenica) and a species of thyme with white flowers (Thymus leucanthum).

Recently another species endemic to this region has been discovered – Linum hellenicum, found only in the municipality from Zarakas to Cape Maleas.

A survey of the flora of the Parnon range has been carried out in recent years by Professor Eleftherios Kalpouzakis of Athens University, adding important additional information regarding Vatika and the wider municipality of Monemvasia.

Exploration of the region’s caves by Poseidon, the local speleologists association, has aided in recording new botanical zones. The fact that all biotopes apart from the alpine zone are to be found in the region accounts for its rich botanical variety.

Fauna of the Monemvasia Municipality

The following species have been observed:

9 species of snake, prominent among them the Balkan whip snake (Columb ergemonensis) and the horned viper (Vipera ammodytes).

10 species of lizards, the most interesting being the Greek rock lizard (Lacerta graeca).

4 species of amphibians (frogs).

5 species of tortoises and turtles, chiefly the loggerhead sea turtle (Carettacaretta) and the marginated tortoise (Testudomarginata). The Caretta caretta nests on most of the sandy shores of the municipality’s western coastline.

The region’s bird species number more than 130 (nearly 35 percent of the bird species found in Greece). About 50 species next in the region, the remainder are migratory. The wetlands of the Strongyli and Gerakas lagoons are important stopover areas for migrating water birds.

The most important and rarest of the bird species are Bonelli’s eagle(Hieraaetusfasciatus)and theEurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo). The former is found only in the eastern Peloponnese and the Cyclades. Only 60 pairs have been found altogether, six of them in the Monemvasia municipality.

At least three pairs of the Eurasian eagle-owl have been recorded. However, in 2010, two individuals treated for injuries did not survive.

More than 10 species of mammals are found in the southern Parnon range, not including small mammals and bats.

Chief among the marine mammals are the bottlenose dolphin (Tursopiustruncatus) and the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachusmonachus). Whales have been observed in the open sea.

The most important of the land mammals is the jackal (Canisaureus) – despite this species’ dwindling numbers, Laconia is considered the kingdom of the jackal. Recently some were spotted near the settlement of Mesochori in Vatika, and at Cape Maleas.

For more detailed information regarding the Monemvasia municipality’s flora and fauna:

The Larnaka Gorge

«There are some beautiful springs and gardens at Molai and two or three large towers which, like those at Paki, are more stoutly built than the usual Turkish towers,» (W.M. Leake, 1805). 

The town of Molai is split by the Larnaka Gorge, so named because of the depression in the ground («larnaka») where water is collected for livestock that come to drink at three connecting watering holes.

The gorge begins at the top of Mt. Kourkoula (916 m. at its highest point, called Strongyla). In the past it used to reach right down to the plain. Today, however, the only section of it still untouched is from the centre of town up towards the mountain.

The gorge now serves as a recreation area for those wanting to enjoy nature.  The lower part of the gorge has been built over and has become a road leading to the hospital.

It was once in fact the heart of the region’s economy, as it was the site of 11 watermills, the last of which was closed during the 1970s when economic conditions changed.

From the geological point of view the gorge consists mainly of  slate and then limestone. There are also deposits of bauxite, granite and pyrites.

The gorge’s steep sides are thickly wooded and display a wide range of endemic flora, decorative shrubs, grasses and aromatic-medicinal herbs, berry trees and various species of mushrooms, among other species.

It is also a refuge for wild birds and animals – weasels, ferrets, foxes, hares, badgers, rodents, bats, tortoises, hedgehogs, foxes, feral cats, reptiles and amphibians such as frogs and crabs.

Mt.Kourkoula and the gorge are a Special Protection Zone for birds. A number of bird species nest there, such as peregrine falcons, Bonelli’s eagle, nightingales and eagle owls. It is also on the route of migrating birds such as doves,  quails, falcons, sparrows, pigeons, robins, larks, goldfinches, crows, blackbirds, woodcocks and thrush.

Next to the gorge at the top of a reddish rock (looking west and towards the mountain) is Molai’s old tower, a small fortress built in a rather inaccessible position with a view over the valley and the road that used to lead to Monemvasia. According to historians, it was either built by the Byzantines or the Turks, and plays a part in many a local myth and legend.

Behind the tower and a little lower down is the ruined chapel of Aghia Eleni. Next to it on the right, looking towards the west and the mountain is a later church of Aghia  Eleni which however was never consecrated and is also now in ruins.

To the left, looking towards the old tower, is the miracle-working church of Aghia Paraskevi, patron saint of Molai. On the saint’s day, 26 July, pilgrims gather here from far and wide. Opposite it to the northwest is the town’s home for the elderly.


Strongyli Lagoon

Strongyli Lagoon is right next to Pounda beach, opposite Elafonisos and Pavlopetri.

It’s an important biotope, an extension of the wetlands of Maganos and Neratziona, part of a NATURA 2000 area, a stop-over site for migratory birds and the home of rare flora. An endangered species of cedar tree also survives here. The whole area is a historical and ecological treasury.

From the village Aghios Georgios, drive on to the settlement of Viglafia and turn left towards the lagoon just past the settlement.

Pounda, Viglafia, Agios Georgios Vion