Café-lined squares and orange trees
The old Acropolis amphitheatre
Mystra, an intact Byzantine town

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The port of Ancient Sparta

If you’re fond of history, when you’re vacationing on an MSC Mediterranean cruise in Greece, the port of Gythion will welcome you with open arms. As you step aground from your MSC cruise you’ll realize that modern Spárti, capital of Lakónia, has few ancient ruins, and today is merely the organizational centre of a huge agricultural plain.

The town owes its limited appeal to its very ordinariness – pedestrianized side streets, café-lined squares and orange trees. But the real reason for coming here on your MSC cruise excursion is basically to see Mystra. Mystra is a Byzantine town, 5km to the west, which once controlled great swathes of the medieval world. There are a few ruins to be seen to the north of the city. From the bold Statue of Leonidas, hero of Thermopylae, at the top of Paleológou, follow the track around and behind the modern stadium towards the old Acropolis, tallest of the Spartan hills. 

An immense theatre here, built into the side of the hill, can be quite clearly traced, even though today most of its masonry has gone – hurriedly adapted for fortification when the Spartans’ power declined and, later still, recycled for the building of Byzantine Mystra. Above the theatre a sign marks a fragment of the Temple of Athina Halkiakou, while at the top of the acropolis sit the knee-high ruins of the tenth-century Byzantine church and monastery of Ósios Níkon

Out on the Trípoli road, a track leads to the remains of the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia. This was where Spartan boys underwent gruelling tests by flogging. The Roman geographer and travel writer Pausanias records that young men often perished under the lash, adding that the altar had to be splashed with blood before the goddess was satisfied. All moveable artefacts and mosaics are now on view at the town’s small archaeological museum on Áyios Níkonos

Must see places in Gythion

Discover our excursions

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    Join us on a journey to traditional Greece. After boarding a coach, a 1.5 drive will take you to Monemvasia, located on a small island and connected to the mainland by a short causeway. A visit to “Kastro” is a first introduction to this magic place, walking along cobbled, narrow streets. Your guide will take you on an enjoyable tour of the old city until reaching the house of the famous Greek poet Giannis Ritsos and then, following the sea wall, the church of Panagia Chrysafitissa. Keep your camera at hand to take lovely shots of the upper town and of the deep blue sea beneath. Wandering the cobbled pathways around the town, you will admire traditional houses until reaching the main square of Monemvasia lower town, the square of Elkomenos Christo with the homonymous church that dates before the 11th century A.D. Enjoy some time around the square before strolling down Monemvasia main street with its small traditional shops, tavernas and cafeterias. The excursion also includes a visit the Church of Christ in chains, built in the XII century by the Byzantine. A coach drive will mark the end of your tour and a pleasant return to the port and your cruise ship. Please note: this tour is not suitable for guests with walking difficulties or using a wheelchair as it includes walking on uneven, cobbled streets.
      • Duration
        5:15 h

      • Adults$59.00Price per person

      • Children$42.00Price per person




      From the port an hour coach drive will take you across the Evrotas Valley and to the ancient city of Mystras. Mystras was formerly the fortified capital of the Byzantine Peloponnese and it is here that we will visit an important archaeological site, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage centre in 1989. View the impressive Mystras Palace, a rare example of Byzantine architecture, and the church, Agia Sophia, which has two small chapels containing beautiful frescoes. We will also visit the church of Agios Dimitrios before heading for the town of Sparta which was the greatest military power of Greece and is now a beautiful city with tree-lined boulevards. Brief stop in the main square before returning to Gythion. Please note: as this tour involves extensive walking on uneven ground and uphill this excursion is not recommended for guests with walking difficulties or using a wheelchair.
        • Active excursions recommended only for guests in good physical health

          Difficulty Level

        • Duration
          4 h

        • Adults$69.00Price per person

        • Children$52.00Price per person

      • DIROS CAVE



        Located between the towns of Pirgos Dirou and Areopolis, the Diros Caves are perhaps one of the most fascinating natural sites in Greece. The Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts found here suggest that the caves were one of the earliest inhabited places in Greece. We will leave the port for a 1-hour coach drive inland to reach Pyrgos Dirou. A subterranean river flows inside the caves and we will board small boats for an amazing journey across the cave lake – the best way to admire the stunning, multi-coloured stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes that have formed here over millennia. Gliding across the water, we will enter many cave chambers and caverns, marvelling at this silent underground world. Magical! Please note: life vest onboard the small boats; the temperature inside the cave is approximately 18°. The tour involves walking on slippery ground and is not suitable for guests with claustrophobia, with walking difficulties or using a wheelchair. Heavy rainfall may cause closure of the caves with very short notice.
        • Limited seats

        • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

          Difficulty Level

        • Duration
          3:30 h

        • Adults$72.00Price per person

        • Children$52.00Price per person




        Journey into the heart of Greek identity as you learn about the history of olive oil production, which has influenced this country’s culture and commerce for centuries. A 45-minute coach ride through scenic ancient vineyards will take us to the modern town of Sparta, in the heart of Evrotas valley. Here we will visit a major olive oil museum, a showcase to this essential, beautiful product that is so integral to Greek and Mediterranean identity. Learn about olive oil production and importance of the olive in local culture; see how olive oil was produced as far back as the Byzantine era and discover today’s techniques. Our museum visit is followed with a drive through modern Sparta to admire the principal neoclassical buildings such as the Town Hall. Some leisure time scheduled before moving to a family-owned, local estate, at the heart of Laconia’s land, for an enjoyable wine session. Return to the port. Please note: guests using a wheelchair are advised that they must be accompanied by a paying helper to provide assistance with getting on and off the coach and that wheelchairs must be collapsible/foldable since the coach has neither a ramp nor a lift. Guests using a wheelchair who would like to participate in this tour are requested to contact the Shore Excursions’ Desk promptly once they are on board so that arrangements can be made.
        • Limited seats

        • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

          Difficulty Level

        • Duration
          4 h

        • Adults$62.00Price per person

        • Children$49.00Price per person

      The excursions in the program above are intended to provide MSC Guests with an idea of the different tours that can be arranged in each port of call; this program is merely a guide and confirmation of each excursion and its description and prices will be made during your cruise.
      Shore excursions programs and itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour.


      Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, it is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment. The guides are guaranteed in English. Only for South America cruises, the guides are guaranteed in Brazilian Portuguese. Narration in other languages depends on the availability of guides. Please note that the final language of the tour will be confirmed on board during the cruise.


      Under the protective wing of the gods
      Under the protective wing of the gods

      It would take a lifetime of island-hopping to fully appreciate the 227 inhabited Greek islands scattered across the Mediterranean Sea.
      With sapphire water lapping at rocky coastlines sprinkled with secret coves and sandy beaches, they are the stuff of dreamy travel posters, the very definition of the eulogized Greek summer of sun, sea and sand.

      For anyone with a cultural bone in their body a cruise to the Greek islands cannot fail to inspire. Every culture has left its mark, and almost every town or village has a link to the past, whether it’s a delicately crumbling temple to Aphrodite, a forbidding Venetian fort or a dusty Byzantine monastery decorated with exquisite frescoes.
      But the call to cultural duty will never be too overwhelming on a Greek islands holiday. The hedonistic pleasures of languor and warmth – swimming in balmy seas at dusk, talking and drinking under the stars – are just as appealing.
      Sprawling, globalized Athens is an obligatory, almost unavoidable introduction to Greece: aside from the show-stopping Acropolis it offers a truly metropolitan range of cultural diversions, from museums to concerts; well-stocked shops; gourmet restaurants and stimulating clubs.