Ruins of ancient Sparta

A small inland town nestled in the southeast corner of the Greek Peloponnese is home to many of ancient Greece’s most famous myths and heroes. Within the citrus-and-olive-tree-filled Eurotas river valley between the Taygetus and the Parnon mountain ranges rests modern-day Sparta (per the Daily Beast). This land is the ancient kingdom of King Menelaus. His wife Helen — said to be the most beautiful woman in the world — was kidnapped by Prince Paris. The two absconded to Troy, beginning the legendary Trojan War and adventures of Odysseus, writes Visit Greece. The region was also home to the infamous Spartan military forces who fought the Persian Empire in the Battle of Thermopylae and defeated the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War.

Today’s Sparta is located in the state of Laconia, which, as of 2011, had a population of nearly 90,000, according to Britannica. The Daily Beast reports that the region used to be difficult to access. However, in 2016, a new highway opened up the land of the Ancient Spartans to more visitors. It’s an intersection of a bucolic contemporary Greek town made of neoclassical buildings surrounding sweeping squares and the mighty past of its ancestors, still visible in scattered ruins.

Statue of King Leonidas