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While many travelers flock to Greece to see the country’s most iconic sites, such as the Acropolis and Delphi, the region’s lesser-visited medieval towns offer a wealth of history and ancient architecture — without the hassle of massive crowds. With stone-built towers and frescoed churches, the country’s fortified towns are a worthy addition to any Greece itinerary.
Mesta is often credited for being the best-preserved medieval settlement on Chios, the fifth-largest Greek island. The village was intentionally built in a maze-like configuration in order to protect the city from pirates. Visitors will notice narrow streets, homes compacted together and only two ways to enter and exit the village. Mesta’s castle, a highlight of the village, is a marvel of defensive architecture and was constructed during the Genoese domination.
The fortified town of Mystras is situated on a steep foothill of Mount Taygetos, a few miles away from Sparta. Also known as the Wonder of the Morea, the village boasts expansive views and UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Mystras was erected in 1249 as an amphitheater around a fortress. It passed hands among the Byzantines, Turks and the Venetians until the city was abandoned in 1832. Visitors should make a point to visit the Cathedral of Saint Demetrios and the striking monasteries of Our Lady Panagia and of Our Lady Peribleptos.
The Old Town of Rhodes, also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a mosaic of different architectures, languages, civilizations and cultures. Located on the northeast side of Rhodes Island, the town features medieval walls, fortress-like buildings, narrow alleys, fountains and minarets, which are sure to give visitors insight into Greece’s storied past.