The wonderful Byztantine sites of Mystra and Geraki have their own pages on my website and deservedly so. This page focuses on three lesser known sites which are worth visiting to the south of Sparta: The Menelaion, the Shrine of Apollo and Hyakinthos and the Tholos Tomb at Vapheio.
Tholos Tomb- Vapheio.
Just off of the main Gythio to Sparta road is a rather large Mycenaean Tholos Tomb, approx 1500BC. It’s easy to miss the sign on the main road as it is obscured by a mirror. Drive past the attractive church and through the village of Vapheio and look out for another sign pointing right that is also easy to miss as it is written in Greek. When the road changes to attractive crazy paving, park up and walk the few minutes to the site.
The tomb is set in an attractive olive grove and is currently fenced in. There is a rather unglamourous entrance which means that you are able to scramble in and enter the tomb if you fancy a closer view. The walled approach to the tomb is nearly 100 feet long.
The numerous finds at the tomb which included gems, beads and two rather striking gold cups are now displayed at the National Archaeoligical Museum of Athens.
Shrine of Apollo and Hyakinthos, Amyklai.
Hyakinthos was a pre Helleneic God of vegetation and a friend/ lover of Apollo. This ancient site dedicated to them is from around the 8th century BC. It is atop of a hill just off of the main Gythio road near the village of Amykles and is currently fenced in as the site is still being excavated. It is possible to vault the fence if you are nimble [do not go near any excavations!].
The main reason to visit this site is for the spectacular views of Sparta and the Taygetos mountains. It is signposted on the Tripoli road to the south of Sparta. Take the slip road and park by the quaint church taking a peek inside before walking the remaining twenty minutes or so along the steep gravel road to the ruins on the top of a hill.
The ruins, which look a bit like a small pyramid date from around the 8th Century BC. It is dedicated to Helen and her husband Menelaus who were heroes worshipped by a large cult throughout Greece in ancient times.