Greece is a destination that’s more than just its, admittedly, many gorgeous islands. For example, the Peloponnese, an 8,320-square-mile region of the mainland, has many beautiful places to explore ranging from traditional villages to a magnificent coastline.
The Laconia region of this peninsula, in the southern Peloponnese, and the unique rock town of Monemvasia — a town built on a rock jutting out at sea — are definite must-visits. It’s here where you’ll find the romantic and historical, multi-award-winning Kinsterna Hotel.
This impressive yet discrete 25-acre estate has been lovingly restored to its natural beauty, ensuring it retains aspects of its eclectic historical roots and is at one with the environment. During my visit, I came to understand firsthand why it’s more than just a place to base yourself when you explore the southern Peloponnese.
I was very fortunate to be invited to and hosted by Kinsterna Mansion Hotel. All opinions are my own.
The Fascinating History Of Kinsterna Mansion
It’s not exactly known when the mansion was built, but it’s thought to have begun around the mid-to-late-1600s. Situated on a hill that overlooks the beautiful Aegean sea, with the Monemvassia rock in sight, made it the perfect place to keep an eye out for invaders.
The building reflects Ottoman, Byzantine, and Venetian characteristics with gun-hole windows, large fireplaces, and chimneys found throughout much of the property.
The Greek Revolution of 1821 saw the Mansion handed to the new Greek state and in 1870, the Greek Kapitsini family purchased it. Much of the estate was uninhabited, except for a small portion where the last Lady of Monemvassia — Lina Kapitsini — lived alone. She died in the 1970s, leaving it abandoned to nature.
In 2002, the property was purchased by new owners, who by 2006, had decided to completely renovate it and respect its ancient past, retaining as many of its historical elements as they could by using original and local materials. In 2010, Kinsterna Boutique Hotel was born.
It was a huge feat to accomplish and the result is a unique, luxury property showing its respect to the traditions of the region and past through its architecture and land — a place that can be shared with all.
Kinsterna Mansion Now
With the many natural springs in the area filtering down to the hotel, the name Kinsterna means “cistern,” (or a water tank) and upon first entering the magnificent courtyard, you’ll find it dominated by a cistern encircled by 20 columns. Take a moment to sit here and relax after your journey, listen to the sheep bleating in the hotel’s farmland, and sip on a freshly-made lemon arrival drink prepared for you.
You’re completely spoiled for choice with rooms. The original building has 27 rooms and suites that have maintained their Ottoman and Venetian influences. In 2015, an extra 25 rooms were opened in a newer wing. Despite not being part of the original Byzantine building, it contrasts well as it blends in aesthetically with the environment.
The result is a total of 51 rooms and suites, most with sea views. There’s also a magnificent, almost 394-square-foot villa with its own pool, if you’re really wanting to spoil yourself.
As mentioned, the decor of all rooms gives a nod to Kinsterna’s historic past, so some rooms have bold fireplaces and you may also find gun-hole windows.
Relaxation is the key ingredient here and with a choice of two pools with sweeping countryside and sea views, you’ll certainly come away relaxed. One pool is for adults only, ensuring peace and quiet. Both pools are fed by the natural spring water that surrounds the property, another nod to the sustainable practices that the hotel lives by.
Although not marketed as a spa hotel, your stay isn’t really complete without using the spa on the premises with its natural local ingredients. I was treated to their 90-minute signature Secret of Olive Oil Essence holistic face and body treatment — a full body scrub using a combination of olive paste, natural clay, and peach pits. Also relax using the selection of spa services such as a hammam and an outdoor and indoor jacuzzi.
The hotel’s choice of three restaurants plus a pool bar and Belvedere terrace bar all use locally-sourced products as well as produce grown on their land, such as the extra virgin olive oil, that’s even pressed on sight; herbs grown only steps away from the kitchens; sage; peppermint; thyme; and rosemary — not to mention honey that’s also produced on-site.
Activities At Kinsterna Mansion
This luxurious mansion also offers several on-site and local activities where you can learn more about the hotel and surrounding region.
One of the first things I’d recommend doing is a mansion tour. It doesn’t take long and you’ll be led through the building to learn about the previous owners, see the unique original deeds of ownership and photographs of the property before the library’s restoration, and see how original elements of the stonework were maintained as you wander through the rooms. You’ll experience firsthand how lovingly Kinsterna has been restored, as well as a chance to wander through the gardens of the estate with over 250 species of plants and herbs. This mansion tour helps you understand how Kinsterna cares for its guests and gives back to the community.
At certain times of the year, guests can take part in harvesting, drying, and pressing the grapes ready for winemaking — creating the traditional Greek drink of tsipouro. See the honey gathered from Kinsterna’s own beehives and the harvest of the olives and production of olive oil.
Kinsterna offers guests the opportunity to help collect the olives by hand using small rakes and nets on the ground beneath the trees. Then, see how the olives are crushed in the mill in the traditional method. These farm-to-table practices allow you to feel at one with the surroundings, especially as you’re able to take home Kinsterna’s own products, such as their own sweet Malvasia wine — a product unique to the region with Protected Designation of Origin status.
There are also cooking classes, and the opportunity to buy handmade items in the mansion’s boutique shop.
Or, simply spend your time relaxing by the pool and in the spa. One thing’s for sure, there’s no pressure and time slips away once you’re inside Kinsterna.
If you’re keen to explore the area itself, you can’t come to this region of the Peloponnese and not take time to visit the unique medieval castle of Monemvasia rock.
The hotel has its own boat that can take guests on a 60-minute boat around it, allowing for a unique view from the sea.
It’s also worth spending time exploring the streets inside. Nicknamed the “Gibraltar of the East,” Monemvasia is a medieval castle town that juts out onto a rock at sea, linked to the mainland by a causeway. Built by the Byzantines in the 6th century, the name means “only entrance” as there’s only one way into and out of the rock town — across that causeway.
All the houses and buildings were built on the sea-facing side of the rock. Wander through the streets to discover up to 40 Byzantine churches, including the huge church of Agia Sofia on the eastern tip — best viewed from your boat trip. You’ll also see the small houses and castle ruins at the top which give gorgeous sea views and, nowadays, many tourist shops and restaurants.
Pro Tip: Monemvasia is a unique place to visit, but very busy in the summer. Spring or fall would be the best time to visit; still warm yet quieter.
Twenty-five minutes by car from Kinsterna, you’ll come to the tiny 7-square-mile island of Elafonisos at the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. A base for pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries, a visit to this tiny island is a complete step away from the usual island package holiday, allowing a step back in time and the opportunity to experience the real Greece.
The beach of Simos has fine white sand, a rare cedar forest stretching along the sand dunes, and the ancient underwater city of Pavlo Petri — a sunken city with many of its original structures still intact.
There’s certainly much to see and do in the wider region, yet, with Kinsterna being a romantic destination in itself, you’re guaranteed to want to stay put and soak up the atmosphere. It’s the perfect honeymoon and couples destination.
Pro Tip: Kinsterna Mansion Hotel is in the small town of Agios Stefanos, just 4 miles from the rock of Monemvasia and a 3.5-hour drive from Athens.
Alternatively, fly to the region’s airport of Kalamata, accessible from Athens and several European hubs in the summer months, and drive from there — that journey is a more palatable 2.5–3 hours.
The mansion is set on a hill and moving around the grounds entails some steep walking. They do have walking sticks available, plus golf carts to help you around the estate.
In high season, rates start from €232 ($247.83) per night for a double room, ranging upwards to €600 ($640.93) onwards for a suite and residence. Head to their website to check their regular offers, especially mid-week.
Check out more of the incredible and diverse atmosphere of Greece: