Modern day Sparta, capital of the prefecture of Lakonia, lies on the eastern foothills of Mount Taygetos in the Evrotas River valley. The city has been built upon the site of ancient Sparta. The lush, fertile plain surrounding Sparta is home to olive and citrus groves, thickets of mulberry and other trees. To the southwest stands Mt. Taygetos with its towering peaks and wild beauty. To the east of the city stands the Parnonas mountain range, which is forested predominantly with Greek fir trees and other pines.
On the northern slopes of Mount Taygetos, just 6 km northwest of modern-day Sparta, a steep foothill rises high and detached from the main body of the range. Mystras, reaching a height of 621 m., occupies an exceptionally strong position as it is physically inaccessible from the south and southeast where the slope drops dramatically into dark depths. As for the other sides which are just as steep, access was restricted with fortifications. The name ‘Mystras’ is etymologically associated to myzithra, from the conical shape of the mountain with its strict contours and dentelated ruins.
Faris extends into the heart of the central and eastern Taygetos region. Attractions include: an ancient bridge built in 50 BC, the Liakakos Tower, the medieval settlement of Koumousta (altitude 750 m.) with five Byzantine churches, three churches in Xirokambi, the forest of Pentavli (altitude 1,200 m.) which is a continuation of the marvelous Anakolos ravine, the mountain settlement of Toriza, and the Taygetos Mountain Refuge (altitude 1,550 m.) which serves as a base for ascents to the summit.
On the left bank of the Evrotas River, southeast of Sparta, lies the site of the mythical and prehistoric city of Therapnai or Therapne. According to tradition, the city derived its name from the daughter of Lelex, the first king of Lakonia. The city was built upon a hill which also served as the site of the Sanctuary of Menelaos; hence, the hill range was known as Menelaio.
Pellana has been inhabited since the Early Helladic period. During the Mycenaean period, great vaulted tombs were built, demonstrating the power and wealth of the lords of the region. During the 4th or 3rd century BC, when Sparta was in grave danger, the acropolis of Pellana was fortified. In his descriptions of Lakonia, the geographer Pausanias mentions the wall, as well as the Sanctum of Asklepios and the Pellanida spring. He also mentions that a young girl fell into the Pellanida spring and disappeared, while her veil later emerged from another spring.
The region of Oinountas is the entrance to Lakonia and has been inhabited since antiquity. An age-old oak forest, known in ancient times as Skotitas, still stands today. In the so-called ‘Fonemenoi’ area of Varvitsa, stone piles have been unearthed and reflect the Herms that Pausanias (2nd century AD) identified on the borders of Lakonia.
Karyes is located in northeastern Lakonia on the foothills of Mt. Parnonas at an altitude of 950 where chestnut and walnut trees abound. The area has been inhabited since antiquity and existed as a stronghold for the Spartans as the ancient town lay to the north of the modern village. Originally an Arkadian town, Karyes later went to the Spartans. The city was known for its sacred enclosure dedicated to Artemis and her Nymphs. Artemis was called Karyatis and her statue stood in the open air where the new maidens, the Karyatides would dance in her honor. The Karyatides became the inspiration for the construction of statues to support the entablatures of many buildings, rather than using columns.