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 forest of holm Oaks

Today the Greek landscape looks very different from the time when the first people settled in what were then large areas of forest. Civilisation was quick to compete with nature, resulting in the destruction of large swathes of woodland and many species of flora and fauna.

There is a wealth of historical and mythological references to herds of deer, lions, panthers and other animals that are now extinct in Greece. Already in the Classical period, Plato lamented the lost beauty of the Attic landscape which he describes as the «bones of a diseased body».

Timber was used to construct homes, temples, fortifications and bridges. It was used widely in shipbuilding and as fuel – huge quantities were burnt in furnaces to melt metals.

Fire used for military purposes as well as the forest fires we still see today contributed to disappearance of the country’s woodland. The forest fires started by Ibrahim Pasha during the Greek war of independence, for example, laid waste the Peloponnese.

In more recent times, the development of livestock breeding, including the practice of burning mountainsides to encourage new growth, also caused widespread destruction.

Mt.Parnon was once covered in forests right down to its southern foothills on Cape Males. There are still some stands of Cephalonian fir (AbiesCephalonica) on the northern side of the mountain on the higher slopes (up to 1,800 m). The main forms of vegetation on the southern side (Cape Maleas) are phrygana and maquis (areas of dense shrub up to 3 m), with a preponderance of shrubs such as the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus),  heather (Erica manupuliflora), holm oaks (Quercus ilex), strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo)

However, remnants of what were once the great forests of holm oaks covering Cape Maleas are still to be seen in a gorge on Mt. Vavila, around the Byzantine church of Aghios Georgios, with smaller trees stretching to the gorge of Aghia Ekaterini a little forther north.

Quercus ilexis a variety of oak in the beech family (Fagaceae), which can reach to heights of 20 metres. It is a deciduous tree with leathery, lance-shaped leaves with slight or no indentatios around the edges.  The fruit has a small, semi-spherical cap covering its upper half. It is believed to be the smilax referred to by Theophrastus.

The name of the village Velanidia  is another word for oak in Greek, although it is not certain whether this has any connection with the forests of holm oak that once covered the surrounding mountains.

The remaining forests are important as monuments of nature, traces of centuries past, and as aids to imagining what the Maleas landscape used to look like long ago.

They are also of major environmental importance, given the huge impact human activities have had on southern Parnon, reducing the forests to phrygana, and possibly eventual desertification.

The holm oak forest and the maquis biotope should be protected in order to presrve not only the landscape but as a refuge for fauna, a decisive factor in maintaining biodiversity.



Take the road from Neapoli to Aghios Nikolaos, turning left up the mountain at the intersection after the village of Lahi, at the sign pointing to Velanidia.

On reaching the watershed of Mt. Vavila, from which the sea on both sides of the peninsula are visible, there is an unsurfaced road leading off to the left down into the gorge.

The church of Aghios Georgios is about one kilometre down the hill, and is accessible by car or on foot.

Vies (Vavila region)

Gerakas wetland

A narrow channel links this 40-hectare lagoon to a scenic fjord-like inlet opening to the sea that has always been a safe haven for seafarers.

The lagoon is shallow and provides food and shelter for migratory birds (Little Egrets, Great Egrets, Grey Herons, Little Grebes, Black-necked Grebes) and sometimes even swans and mallards, among others.

The wetland is 20 kilometres north of Monemvasia, about 20 minutes by car. There is plenty of space to park around the lagoon. A bus service links Gerakas and Molai twice a week.

Port of Gerakas