September 29, 2023
Samothrace, Greece’s secret inexperienced ‘virgin island’

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The Greek island of Samothrace is a imaginative and prescient in inexperienced. The craggy rocks of Mount Saos, the island’s highest mountain at 5,285 ft (1,611 meters), give approach to light slopes coated in oddly formed airplane timber, oak woodlands and majestic cedars.

Fed by the clear waters of three rivers, uncommon and endemic vegetation flourish. Greens thrive in fields across the port of Kamariotissa close to the island’s western tip, whereas olive timber and photo voltaic panels line terraces carved out alongside the southern shoreline.

Situated within the Aegean Sea close to Greece’s northeastern border with Turkey – the island is a brief ferry journey from Alexandroupoli on the mainland – Samothrace was as soon as identified throughout the traditional world for its spiritual sanctuary. Right now it’s a magnet for ecotourists. Listed below are a few of its highlights.

Therma on the north coast, is an efficient base for exploring the island. Many of the lodging right here is straightforward, specializing in participating with the surroundings as a lot as doable. Who wants luxurious when there’s a creek enjoying a symphony exterior your window?

Nature is what it’s all about, in keeping with Kaliopi Parselias, proprietor of Parselias Studios for greater than 30 years. “Samothrace is a unique island,” she says. “You will have inexperienced forests, rivers, waterfalls and folks come to stroll up the mountain and a few folks love the ocean. It’s a virgin island.”

Parselias has run the B&B for greater than 30 years, and initially their company had been primarily Greek households with just a few Germans. “However now now we have folks from throughout Europe,” she says. With only one caveat: “Younger folks, as a result of Samothrace wants younger ft for strolling.”

Lots of them select to remain at Tenting Varades, proper subsequent to the ocean, named after “varades,” a type of beehive inside hole timber, explains supervisor Anastasios Vavouras. Bees work as a cooperative, in fact, and the campsite is collectively owned by seven folks. Their purpose, he says, is to supply guests “another manner of spending their holidays right here… targeted on mountain actions, in a quiet, extra free surroundings.”

The vast majority of campers are Greeks of their 20s and 30s, like Giannis Tsakiltsidis, a scholar from the mainland on his first go to to the island. “You’ll be able to spot campers of all ages, right here to expertise a extra undisturbed and extra undiluted view of Greece,” he says.

Tsakiltsidis has come right here to hike. Historic paths crisscross the mountains and the hikes vary from being appropriate for rookies by to extra critical trekkers.

Samothrace, Greece’s secret inexperienced ‘virgin island’

Throughout northern Samothrace, waterfalls cascade over clean rocks forming vathres, naturally occurring river swimming pools. The three on the Tsivdogiannis River, simply exterior Therma, are the simplest to achieve. It’s unattainable to the touch the underside of the primary vathra along with your ft, however Gria Vathra, the second, shouldn’t be so deep. Bare hippies seem like water nymphs, gliding previous clothed swimmers with aplomb. They wade by the water, scant belongings bundled on their heads, earlier than clambering throughout and up a rock face to the third pool.

Three extra vathres are positioned on a monitor beginning round three and a half miles additional east of Therma alongside the coastal street. The river flowing by these is the Fonias, which begins at Mount Saos and flows out into the ocean. Fonias means “killer” in Greek, which positively fits its brutal energy when the water overflows. In dry climate, nevertheless, the trail to the primary vathra is a reasonably straightforward stroll of beneath one hour. Households, some with toddlers, skirt the riverbed alongside big airplane timber, gold tinted bracken and aged grey stones.

On the first waterfall, additionally known as Fonias, folks solar themselves as youngsters paddle within the shallow outer ponds, and swimmers try to remain put beneath the bracingly sturdy falls of the primary vathra. Midway up the rock face there’s a rope hooked up to a tree. The courageous swing out, Tarzan-style, earlier than torpedoing into the icy waters under.

The second vathra, Gerania – which can be fed by a waterfall – is an extra 30-minute hike.

The fashionably younger try the ascent clad solely in bikinis and sneakers, however climbing boots are helpful. The primary part includes a steep climb aided by a steel cable, then a difficult zig zag up a dry watercourse resulting in a stage slim monitor edging across the mountain, (solely a few of it’s fenced). A short remaining descent reveals your reward: a shimmering iridescent inexperienced physique of water. Blue-bodied, black-winged dragonflies, every marked with a single yellow dot, skitter away throughout the floor, because the people proceed unperturbed with their cleaning rituals.

The trail resulting in Kleidosi, the third waterfall, can be nicknamed “killer,” and for good purpose. It’s not really helpful.

The spherical journey from Therma to the height of Fengari, because the Greeks name Mount Saos, is simply over 11 miles however in keeping with Vavouras, solely the “most daring” purpose for the highest. “It’s a tough path to climb, however there are structured paths so that you’re not at any danger of any hazard, slipping or falling,” he says. Like many trails on the island, this one comes with warning indicators alongside the best way. Bear in mind, you’re by yourself if something goes improper.

Pachia Ammos is the island's only sandy beach.

For the much less energetically inclined there are springs-fed thermal baths in Therma relationship again to Byzantine instances, plus seashores in all places. Kipos, close to the jap coast, has stunning bluish colored pebbles whereas Pachia Ammos within the south is the island’s solely sandy seaside. Boat journeys ranging from Kamariotissa or Therma cease at Vatos Seashore (close to Pachia Ammos however in any other case solely accessible through a grueling hike), and take you previous Kremasto Nero. Which means “Hanging Waterfall,” at full circulation the water plummets straight into the ocean with out touching the cliffs, therefore the identify.

Additional around the south coast, stark grey rocks loom menacingly over the waves, coated in what appears like a large work of summary artwork. That is Tis grias ta pania, or “previous woman’s laundry.” Legend has it that at some point a fierce wind blew a lady’s washing onto the rocks. Indignant at her loss she rained out curses, turning her garments to stone.

Historical past buffs are additionally catered for on Samothrace. The Arsinoëion, or Sanctuary of the Nice Gods, is the place the statue of Nike, often known as the “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” was discovered. Sculpted within the second century BCE and now displayed within the Louvre, it’s probably the most well-known historic artworks. The temple pre-dates the time of classical Historic Greece, and was as soon as the spiritual heart of the North Aegean. It’s been partially reconstructed and there’s a duplicate of the Nike within the small museum.

Medieval Chora is the island's main town.

Set excessive up on Mount Saos, Chora is the island’s capital. On the citadel constructed within the fifteenth century by Genoese ruler Palamedes Gateluzzi, it’s value grabbing a espresso from the cafe at its base and having fun with the view of city. There are fairly streets to wander the place flowers spill from window containers and tree branches create canopies over eating places and cafes.

The small Folklore Museum of Samothrace is laid out like a conventional village house, crammed with spiritual icons, pictures and home items. Look out for a raki nonetheless that appears like an infinite turkey baster, with a bulb constructed from copper and a protracted steel nozzle hooked up. In addition to common souvenirs like magnets and windmills you may as well purchase shepherds’ crooks.

There are goats in all places on Samothrace. Within the merely named Goat Store in Chora they’re on T-shirts, luggage and bandannas. Elsewhere they loiter aimlessly on roads, stand on branches chewing mindlessly and foraging among the many walnut timber. “Our goats are well-known all through Greece,” says Parselias – however not for the explanation you would possibly suppose. “They graze close to the ocean, so that they’re very tasty.”

One of the best goat dishes are discovered inland at family-run eating places in leafy forests or with beautiful sundown views. Naked-chested youths mingle with multi-generational households, as much as their elbows in goat meat washed down with glasses of ouzo or Fonias beer from the island’s microbrewery. Locals have greater than 20 other ways to organize goat. Whether or not cooked within the oven with plums, marinated in pink wine or smothered in quince, virtually every little thing on the menu is bred, grown or made by the folks serving you.

It’s not all meat, although – there’s nice seafood, as you’d count on from a Greek island, and vegetarian specialties embrace fasolada tsigirista, a bean stew that’s cooked and allowed to take a seat for a day earlier than being fried. A number of Therma eating places have vegan choices together with non-dairy variations of spanakopita, a conventional Greek pie normally made with spinach and feta.

Some eating places promote their merchandise on-site, and you should buy cheese, honey and olive oil direct from farms across the island.

Visitors come to enjoy Samothrace's laidback vibes.

At evening Therma comes alive with a avenue market. Islanders promote well-crafted jewelry utilizing semi-precious stones, hand-tooled leather-based luggage and extra. Dreadlocked ladies in tiny tops and bearded males in dishevelled shorts drift slowly into city. They dine late, speaking excitedly, earlier than falling silent to hearken to haunting renditions of conventional songs. Earlier than lengthy, everybody joins in. When the moon is full, it’s time to celebration – in an environmentally conscious method in fact.

The folks working in tourism on Samothrace have grown up right here, and none of them take its wild magnificence as a right. They work collectively to guard it, as a result of as Parselias says: “Samothrace has superb vitality. Folks say it’s calm. Once they come right here they’re drained, have many issues. After one week, they’re new folks.”

No matter you come for – whether or not it’s the strolling, the seashores or the meals – she is aware of you’ll be again.