When it comes to choosing your summerscape, you sometimes need a break from the usual, ever-popular island destinations. Let’s think out of the box and try an alternative Greek summer for a change. Choose tranquility over cosmopolitan nights, warm frugal hospitality versus opulent luxury, and quality time exploring breath-taking scenics as opposed to endless party hours.
Here are two close-by island destinations that promise the curious traveller, precisely that.
Folegandros boasts similar rocky coastlines to Santorini, with steep ridges and its pearly white settlement of Chora built on the precipice of a dramatic semi-sheer cliff. You can explore villages that seem to have been merely caressed by time, and enter an almost untouched world in which simplicity equals fulfillment, and beauty is in the wild. Surrender to the bare necessities that will charm you in a way you couldn’t imagine.
Karavostasi, the island’s port is our first point of call; a picturesque settlement that is built on the hillside of Karavostasi, filling the rugged landscape with white washed buildings that stand out from afar. For style that is true to the island’s rustic yet elegant character, check out the Anemi design hotel in Folegandros and be surrounded by the genuine colours and materials that pay tribute to this particular island and its’ Aegean cradle.
The Chora is perhaps one of the most stunning towns you will come across while the Kastro side especially will literally take your breath away. Admire the phenomenal view and the revered ‘Panagia’ church that is poignantly located above the rest of the settlement. About 6km from Chora, you will reach Ano Meria which is probably the most authentic village in the Cyclades. It is still under the influence of the recent past where the inhabitants lived in their ‘themonies’: traditional homes/autonomous agricultural units in which families reared livestock and cultivated produce as part of a closed farming economy. Observe the villagers as they go by their usual island ways and you’ll almost get an unnerving sense that you don’t belong, yet you will be overwhelmed by their kind nature and rustic ways.
Tip: Avoid exploring the villages during the peak of the day, as it may be too hot to bear. Visit Folegandros’ pristine beaches instead to cool off and empty your mind into the endless of the azure blue. Refresh your senses before starting your exploration around 6pm which will take you nicely into the sunset for some truly epic scenics.
Meet the ‘The Big Blue’ itself. Featured in Luc Besson’s eponymous film, Besson was seduced by the striking wildness that overwhelms you. Full of coves, capes, headlands and cliffs Amorgos’ coastline is perhaps the least developed for human enjoyment, thus maintaining its natural character til this day.
Panagia Hozoviotissa Monastery is a massive structure built into the rock, becoming part of mountain. Regardless if you are religious, or even of the same faith, this monastery is more than something special. On Amorgos you get a sense of intimate seclusion; that once you settle in your chosen spot, no one will find you there. No distractions, no concerns, no thoughts that disrupt the serenity of the landscape that transcends through your mind, wiping the slate clean. Two ports, Katapola and Aegiali, serve this island one at each end of the elongated geomorphology that has allowed for various hiking trails that will thrill hiking enthusiasts. Try one that takes you from Chora to Panagia Hozoviotissa and then to Aegiali. Experience spectacular vistas filled with a spellbinding silence that is only broken by the sound of the wind. An instant sense of perfect peacefulness between mind, body and soul can be achieved like that!
Tip: The comfort seekers among beach goers should be warned that Amorgos’ beaches do not offer sunbeds or umbrellas, rather you’ll have to find your own place in the …shade under boulders that act like natural sheds. Yet, this is the magic of it. Pure, basic, astounding beauty. An alternative summer.