Mystras is a fortified town located on Mount Taygetos in Peloponnese, Greece. Not far from ancient Sparta, the history of Mystras dates back to the 13th century. Over the years, it was alternately occupied by the Byzantines, Turks and Venetians before being abandoned altogether in the 1830s. In 1989, the ruins of Mystras, including the fortress, palace, churches and monasteries, were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The only remaining inhabitants of the town are the nuns at the Pandanassa convent.
One of the highlights of Mystras is the Palace of Despots, which is located at the top of the ruins, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The palace has been undergoing extensive restoration. Another important stop is the 14th century Church of Agia Sofia, which features marble floors and well preserved frescoes. The Cathedral of Saint Demetrius dates back to the 13th century and is home to a small museum of exhibits from ancient and medieval times. The cathedral may be best known as the place where the last Byzantine emperor was crowned in 1449.
One of the best surviving churches in Mystras is the Pandanassa convent, where nuns sell handmade crafts and sometimes offer cool drinks to visitors. Nearby is the Perivleptos Monastery, which dates back to 1310 and contains the most complete set of frescoes in the town. Also of note are the Byzantine Laskaris Mansion, the Vrondohion Monastery and the Church of Agios Theodoroi.
Mystras is located about a two and a half hour drive from Athens. It is also possible to get there by bus from Athens or Kalamata via the town of Sparti. Buses to Sparti leave from the Kifissos KTEL bus station in Athens and take three hours to reach Sparti. From there, catch another bus on to Mystras, just ten minutes away.