(CNN) — 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 option to light slopes coated in oddly formed aircraft timber, oak woodlands and majestic cedars.
Fed by the clear waters of three rivers, uncommon and endemic crops 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.
Positioned within the Aegean Sea close to Greece’s northeastern border with Turkey — the island is a brief ferry trip from Alexandroupoli on the mainland — Samothrace was as soon as identified throughout the traditional world for its non secular sanctuary. Right now it is a magnet for ecotourists. Listed below are a few of its highlights.
An island of ‘younger ft’
Therma on the north coast, is an efficient base for exploring the island. Many of the lodging right here is easy, specializing in partaking with the atmosphere as a lot as doable. Who wants luxurious when there is a creek taking part in a symphony outdoors your window?
Nature is what it is all about, in line with Kaliopi Parselias, proprietor of Parselias Studios for greater than 30 years. “Samothrace is a different island,” she says. “You have green forests, rivers, waterfalls and people come to walk up the mountain and some people love the sea. It is a virgin island.”
Parselias has run the B&B for greater than 30 years, and initially their visitors had been primarily Greek households with a number of Germans. “But now we have people from all over Europe,” she says. With only one caveat: “Young people, because Samothrace needs young feet for walking.”
Lots of them select to remain at Tenting Varades, proper subsequent to the ocean, named after “varades,” a form of beehive inside hole timber, explains supervisor Anastasios Vavouras. Bees work as a cooperative, after all, and the campsite is collectively owned by seven individuals. Their intention, he says, is to supply guests “an alternative way of spending their holidays here… focused on mountain activities, in a quiet, more free environment.”
The vast majority of campers are Greeks of their 20s and 30s, like Giannis Tsakiltsidis, a pupil from the mainland on his first go to to the island. “You can spot campers of all ages, here to experience a more undisturbed and more 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 learners by means of to extra severe trekkers.
River hikes and waterfall swimming pools
The island is understood for its ‘vathres,’ or waterfall-fed swimming pools.
Throughout northern Samothrace, waterfalls cascade over clean rocks forming vathres, naturally occurring river swimming pools. The three on the Tsivdogiannis River, simply outdoors Therma, are the best to achieve. It is unattainable to the touch the underside of the primary vathra together with your ft, however Gria Vathra, the second, isn’t so deep. Bare hippies appear as if water nymphs, gliding previous clothed swimmers with aplomb. They wade by means of 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 observe beginning round three and a half miles additional east of Therma alongside the coastal highway. The river flowing by means of these is the Fonias, which begins at Mount Saos and flows out into the ocean. Fonias means “killer” in Greek, which undoubtedly fits its brutal energy when the water overflows. In dry climate, nonetheless, the trail to the primary vathra is a reasonably simple stroll of beneath one hour. Households, some with toddlers, skirt the riverbed alongside big aircraft timber, gold tinted bracken and aged grey stones.
On the first waterfall, additionally known as Fonias, individuals solar themselves as kids 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 is a rope connected to a tree. The courageous swing out, Tarzan-style, earlier than torpedoing into the icy waters under.
The second vathra, Gerania — which can also be fed by a waterfall — is an extra 30-minute hike.
The fashionably younger try the ascent clad solely in bikinis and sneakers, however mountaineering boots are helpful. The primary part entails a steep climb aided by a steel cable, then a difficult zig zag up a dry watercourse resulting in a degree slender observe edging across the mountain, (solely a few of it’s fenced). A quick ultimate 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 also be nicknamed “killer,” and for good motive. It is not advisable.
Mountaineering for execs
The spherical journey from Therma to the height of Fengari, because the Greeks name Mount Saos, is simply over 11 miles however in line with Vavouras, solely the “most daring” intention for the highest. “It’s a difficult path to climb, but there are structured paths so you’re not at any risk of any danger, slipping or falling,” he says. Like many trails on the island, this one comes with warning indicators alongside the way in which. Bear in mind, you are by yourself if something goes fallacious.
Seashores and boating
Pachia Ammos is the island’s solely sandy seaside.
Giovanni Rinaldi/Adobe Inventory
For the much less energetically inclined there are springs-fed thermal baths in Therma relationship again to Byzantine instances, plus seashores in every single place. Kipos, close to the japanese 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 title.
Additional around the south coast, stark grey rocks loom menacingly over the waves, coated in what seems to be like an enormous work of summary artwork. That is Tis grias ta pania, or “old lady’s laundry.” Legend has it that at some point a fierce wind blew a girl’s washing onto the rocks. Offended 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 called the “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” was discovered. Sculpted within the second century BCE and now displayed within the Louvre, it is one of the vital well-known historical artworks. The temple pre-dates the time of classical Historic Greece, and was as soon as the non secular heart of the North Aegean. It has been partially reconstructed and there is a reproduction of the Nike within the small museum.
Medieval Chora is the island’s major city.
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 is price 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 bins and tree branches create canopies over eating places and cafes.
The small Folklore Museum of Samothrace is laid out like a standard village house, stuffed with non secular icons, pictures and home goods. Look out for a raki nonetheless that appears like an unlimited turkey baster, with a bulb created from copper and an extended steel nozzle connected. In addition to common souvenirs like magnets and windmills you may also purchase shepherds’ crooks.
Goats and veggies
There are goats in every single place 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 famous throughout Greece,” says Parselias — however not for the explanation you would possibly suppose. “They graze near the sea, so 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 arrange goat. Whether or not cooked within the oven with plums, marinated in pink wine or smothered in quince, virtually every part on the menu is bred, grown or made by the individuals serving you.
It is 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 is cooked and allowed to sit down for a day earlier than being fried. A number of Therma eating places have vegan choices together with non-dairy variations of spanakopita, a standard Greek pie often made with spinach and feta.
Some eating places promote their merchandise on-site, and you should purchase cheese, honey and olive oil direct from farms across the island.
Partying with the hippies
Guests come to get pleasure from Samothrace’s laidback vibes.
At night time 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 saggy 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 is time to social gathering — in an environmentally conscious method after all.
The individuals working in tourism on Samothrace have grown up right here, and none of them take its wild magnificence without any consideration. They work collectively to guard it, as a result of as Parselias says: “Samothrace has very good energy. People say it is calm. When they come here they are tired, have many problems. After one week, they are new people.”
No matter you come for — whether or not it is the strolling, the seashores or the meals — she is aware of you may be again.