Greece’s secret green ‘virgin island’

Lisa Morrow, CNN

The Greek island of Samothrace is a vision in eco-friendly. The craggy rocks of Mount Saos, the island’s maximum mountain at 5,285 ft (1,611 meters), give way to mild slopes included in oddly formed plane trees, oak woodlands and majestic cedars.

Fed by the obvious waters of 3 rivers, uncommon and endemic crops flourish. Vegetables prosper in fields about the port of Kamariotissa close to the island’s western suggestion, while olive trees and photo voltaic panels line terraces carved out together the southern coastline.

Found in the Aegean Sea close to Greece’s northeastern border with Turkey — the island is a brief ferry experience from Alexandroupoli on the mainland — Samothrace was at the time regarded across the ancient globe for its spiritual sanctuary. Today it is a magnet for ecotourists. Here are some of its highlights.

An island of ‘young feet’

Therma on the north coast, is a great foundation for exploring the island. Most of the accommodation below is easy, focusing on partaking with the ecosystem as significantly as achievable. Who requires luxury when there’s a creek taking part in a symphony outside the house your window?

Nature is what it’s all about, according to Kaliopi Parselias, proprietor of Parselias Studios for a lot more than 30 years. “Samothrace is a different island,” she claims. “You have environmentally friendly forests, rivers, waterfalls and folks occur to wander up the mountain and some men and women really like the sea. It is a virgin island.”

Parselias has run the B&B for a lot more than 30 yrs, and at first their guests were being primarily Greek people with a number of Germans. “But now we have people today from all above Europe,” she states. With just a single caveat: “Young people today, since Samothrace wants youthful feet for going for walks.”

Several of them select to continue to be at Tenting Varades, appropriate subsequent to the sea, named following “varades,” a form of beehive inside of hollow trees, points out manager Anastasios Vavouras. Bees perform as a cooperative, of class, and the campsite is collectively owned by seven people today. Their goal, he says, is to offer you visitors “an different way of paying their vacations here… targeted on mountain things to do, in a quiet, far more free atmosphere.”

The bulk of campers are Greeks in their 20s and 30s, like Giannis Tsakiltsidis, a student from the mainland on his first pay a visit to to the island. “You can place campers of all ages, here to experience a additional undisturbed and much more undiluted perspective of Greece,” he says.

Tsakiltsidis has appear listed here to hike. Ancient paths crisscross the mountains and the hikes variety from getting suited for beginners via to more major trekkers.

River hikes and waterfall pools

Across northern Samothrace, waterfalls cascade in excess of smooth rocks forming vathres, in a natural way developing river pools. The 3 on the Tsivdogiannis River, just outside the house Therma, are the most straightforward to reach. It is unattainable to touch the base of the 1st vathra with your toes, but Gria Vathra, the 2nd, is not so deep. Bare hippies seem like drinking water nymphs, gliding previous clothed swimmers with aplomb. They wade by means of the h2o, scant possessions bundled on their heads, prior to clambering across and up a rock facial area to the third pool.

3 more vathres are found on a keep track of starting up all-around a few and a 50 percent miles additional east of Therma alongside the coastal street. The river flowing via these is the Fonias, which starts off at Mount Saos and flows out into the sea. Fonias usually means “killer” in Greek, which absolutely fits its brutal ability when the water overflows. In dry weather conditions, even so, the path to the to start with vathra is a reasonably straightforward stroll of under 1 hour. People, some with toddlers, skirt the riverbed together with huge airplane trees, gold tinted bracken and aged grey stones.

At the very first waterfall, also known as Fonias, people sun on their own as young children paddle in the shallow outer ponds, and swimmers try to stay put beneath the bracingly powerful falls of the first vathra. Halfway up the rock confront there’s a rope hooked up to a tree. The courageous swing out, Tarzan-type, ahead of torpedoing into the icy waters below.

The second vathra, Gerania — which is also fed by a waterfall — is a further 30-minute hike.

The fashionably youthful try the ascent clad only in bikinis and sneakers, but hiking boots are beneficial. The to start with part involves a steep climb aided by a metallic cable, then a difficult zig zag up a dry watercourse foremost to a amount narrow track edging around the mountain, (only some of it is fenced). A short closing descent reveals your reward: a shimmering iridescent environmentally friendly entire body of h2o. Blue-bodied, black-winged dragonflies, every marked with a one yellow dot, skitter absent throughout the surface, as the individuals carry on unperturbed with their cleansing rituals.

The path foremost to Kleidosi, the 3rd waterfall, is also nicknamed “killer,” and for great motive. It’s not suggested.

Mountaineering for pros

The spherical journey from Therma to the peak of Fengari, as the Greeks simply call Mount Saos, is just around 11 miles but according to Vavouras, only the “most daring” intention for the prime. “It’s a complicated path to climb, but there are structured paths so you are not at any risk of any hazard, slipping or falling,” he states. Like numerous trails on the island, this a single will come with warning indicators along the way. Recall, you are on your personal if nearly anything goes improper.

Seashores and boating

For the fewer energetically inclined there are springs-fed thermal baths in Therma courting back to Byzantine times, as well as beach locations everywhere you go. Kipos, in the vicinity of the japanese coast, has beautiful bluish colored pebbles whilst Pachia Ammos in the south is the island’s only sandy beach. Boat journeys starting off from Kamariotissa or Therma prevent at Vatos Seaside (close to Pachia Ammos but usually only obtainable by way of a grueling hike), and just take you past Kremasto Nero. Which means “Hanging Waterfall,” at complete move the h2o plummets specifically into the sea with no touching the cliffs, that’s why the identify.

Further more round the south coastline, stark grey rocks loom menacingly more than the waves, included in what seems like a large work of abstract art. This is Tis grias ta pania, or “old lady’s laundry.” Legend has it that 1 working day a fierce wind blew a woman’s washing on to the rocks. Indignant at her decline she rained out curses, turning her garments to stone.

Historical stays

Background buffs are also catered for on Samothrace. The Arsinoëion, or Sanctuary of the Good Gods, is where the statue of Nike, identified as the “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” was located. Sculpted in the next century BCE and now shown in the Louvre, it is 1 of the most renowned historic performs of artwork. The temple pre-dates the time of classical Historic Greece, and was once the religious middle of the North Aegean. It’s been partly reconstructed and there is a duplicate of the Nike in the small museum.


Established large up on Mount Saos, Chora is the island’s cash. At the citadel created in the 15th century by Genoese ruler Palamedes Gateluzzi, it’s worth grabbing a coffee from the cafe at its base and taking pleasure in the see of town. There are quite streets to wander where bouquets spill from window containers and tree branches develop canopies over dining places and cafes.

The little Folklore Museum of Samothrace is laid out like a standard village residence, stuffed with religious icons, photos and household items. Glance out for a raki however that appears like an massive turkey baster, with a bulb made from copper and a long steel nozzle attached. As effectively as standard souvenirs like magnets and windmills you can also invest in shepherds’ crooks.

Goats and veggies

There are goats almost everywhere on Samothrace. In the simply named Goat Shop in Chora they’re on T-shirts, baggage and bandannas. Elsewhere they loiter aimlessly on roads, stand on branches chewing mindlessly and foraging among the the walnut trees. “Our goats are famous all through Greece,” suggests Parselias — but not for the purpose you could imagine. “They graze near the sea, so they are extremely tasty.”

The greatest goat dishes are identified inland at spouse and children-run places to eat in leafy forests or with beautiful sunset sights. Bare-chested youths mingle with multi-generational people, up to their elbows in goat meat washed down with eyeglasses of ouzo or Fonias beer from the island’s microbrewery. Locals have far more than 20 diverse means to get ready goat. Regardless of whether cooked in the oven with plums, marinated in pink wine or smothered in quince, almost every thing on the menu is bred, grown or designed by the people serving you.

It is not all meat, though — there is excellent seafood, as you’d assume from a Greek island, and vegetarian specialties involve fasolada tsigirista, a bean stew that is cooked and authorized to sit for a day in advance of being fried. Quite a few Therma places to eat have vegan alternatives which include non-dairy variations of spanakopita, a conventional Greek pie generally manufactured with spinach and feta.

Some dining places sell their products and solutions on-web site, and you can invest in cheese, honey and olive oil immediate from farms close to the island.

Partying with the hippies

At night time Therma arrives alive with a road industry. Islanders sell perfectly-crafted jewellery making use of semi-valuable stones, hand-tooled leather-based bags and a lot more. Dreadlocked women in very small tops and bearded guys in baggy shorts drift bit by bit into town. They dine late, speaking excitedly, just before slipping silent to pay attention to haunting renditions of traditional tracks. Just before prolonged, every person joins in. When the moon is comprehensive, it’s time to bash — in an environmentally conscious manner of class.

The individuals working in tourism on Samothrace have grown up here, and none of them choose its wild beauty for granted. They work together to guard it, since as Parselias suggests: “Samothrace has really superior vitality. People say it is quiet. When they appear right here they are worn out, have many complications. After a single week, they are new individuals.”

What ever you come for — whether or not it’s the walking, the beach locations or the food — she is aware you’ll be back again.

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