Amorgos Island

This rugged island with its steep cliffs has few beaches, therefore it has not been a favourite with package tourists.

Chora this charming village with its windmills and the huge rock on which stands the ancient Kastro. The town has shops, bars and cafes to tempt the visitor. The church of Agios Fanourios is the smallest church in Greece .

Katapola the main port on the island, built around the bay it has a few restaurants and a small pebbly beach.

Aegiali the islands second port with a backdrop of steep slopes and rocky cliffs, the village is also a small resort.

Moni Hozoviotissis this monastery clinging to the cliff face is spectacular to see, painted brilliant white it stands out from the dark cliff. There are a few monks still living here, and it is possible to visit the monastery as long as you respect the dress code (no shorts or bare shoulders).

The island has some decent restaurants and small hotels and is worth the visit.

Amorgos is an island preferred mostly by the Greeks.
I had heard that fresh fish was cheap and lobster local.
That is had magnificent beaches, some in accessible
That it was reminiscent of Santorini and Anafi  something in between.
That is still retained that lazy feeling, typical of a Cycladic siesta.
That those who visit, always return..

Amorgos is an island located in the eastern periphery of the Cycladic island group, near the small Cyclades islands of Koufounissia, Schinoussa and Irakleia, and 140 nautical miles south-east from Athens.
An island not as accessible as most of the better known Cycladic islands, Amorgos has no airport, and as such, tourism has not yet flourished here.
This, rather than a disadvantage, has now become Amorgos’ attraction, and after the success of the French move- Le Grand Bleu, filmed here, Amorgos is gaining attention as one of the surprisingly few unspoiled islands with immense natural beauty, against a typical Cycladic backdrop.

History

Excavations have proven that life was evident on Amorgos during the Cycladic periods, from the 4th millennium B.C. The three ancient cities of Minoa, Arkesini and Aegilai flourished in the 4th century B.C. and were considered to be colonies of Samos, Naxos and Milesia. Amorgos joined the Athenian rule with Delos during the Hellenistic period, in 478 B.C. It fell under Macedonian rule in 337 B.C. and was later conquered by the Ptolemies. During the Roman Empire, it was used as a place of exile.

In 1207AD it was captured by the Ghizi brothers, Andrew and Gerome. It became part of the Aegean Duchy in 1309 A.D. During the 16th century, it fell under Turkish rule until 1823, when it gained independence, and the municipality of Amorgos was founded in 1835, along with Greece’s first high school, an initiative by the Hozoviotissa monastery.

Getting there

Until a few years ago, Amorgos was an island, quite inaccessible. Part of a ferry route with unstable and infrequent connections in comparison to many of the other Cycladic islands, Amorgos enjoyed part anonymity – an island where tourist development had not yet prospered, and that to visit, one had to surpass its inaccessibility and not let it be a deterrent. The one and only long stretch of local road had not yet been constructed, and access from Katapola to Aegiali [opposite sides of the island] was via ferry.

 

Things have since changed:
Amorgos is not only serviced with the normal ferry with frequent departures from Piraeus, but has also become a part of the fast ferry route. During the summer season, there are approximately two departures per week with GA Ferries-Piraeus-Katapola [Amorgos] -Kalymnos, Kos- Rhodes with the duration of the trip lasting more than 9 hours
Blue star ferries have a very convenient connection, departing approximately 4 times per week during the summer season, at 23.30h and arriving at 05.30 am approximately.
There are no cabins to be booked, but you can reserve an airline seat at a small extra cost, ensuring a more comfortable journey.
There is also a fast catamaran [Iason Jets] departing twice per week, from Piraeus to Milos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini and Katapola. The journey lasts approximately 6 hrs.

  1. There are two ports in Amorgos –Katapola and Aegiali.
  2. Amorgos also connects almost daily with Syros, Naxos, and with the smaller Cyclades islands- Donoussa, Koufounissia, Schinoussa and Hrakleia via the ferry “Express Skopelitis”.
  3. Katapola is the busiest port, with constant arrivals and departures, while the port of Aegiali mainly serves the southern route of departure with infrequent departures, mostly in the afternoon.
  4. Amorgos has no airport

How to Get around

Although it comprises an area of 155 sq kilometers approximately, Amorgos has only one main road, linking north to south, and 35 kilometers long. A well paved road connecting Arkesini with Aegiali via Chora. Aegiali is located 25 kilometers from Katapola and 17 kms from Chora. There is also a road that links Chora with Katapola, the main port, which is 6 kilometers long, as well as other minor roads, such as the one from Chora to the Monastery Hozoviotissa and Ayia Anna, for example. Because of the fact that Amorgos does not have a substantial road network, independent travel is recommended, as the bus route system is limited to only three routes-

  1. Katapola- Chora-Hozoviotissa Monastery-Ay.Anna Beach
  2. Katapola-Vroutisis, Arkesini-Paradisi
  3. and Katapola with Aegiali

There are car/bike rental agencies available on the island; two are located in Katapola and one in Aegiali. Taxis, although available, are quite scarce.

Hiking is a desirable alternative for those who have no other means of transport, apart from being an appealing activity, targeting the adventure-minded. There are various hiking trails organized throughout the island, although the barren landscape may prove quite inhospitable in the heat.

Where to Stay

Choosing where to stay, in Amorgos, is quite a simple task, basically because there are very few choices. Accommodation facilities are found in either Katapola, the main port area, or in Aegiali, on the other side of the island, and beyond these areas, there are sparsely located rooms and apartments in selected parts of the island, such as in Chora or in Arkesini.

Aegialis Hotel is the only 5star hotel in Amorgos island with minimal yet luxurious room design.

My preference for Aegiali over Katapola was made simply on the basis that it has the longest stretch of sandy beach on the island. The fact that Aegiali is not a busy port as Katapola is, also reinforced the idea that swimming would be more favorable, along with the fact that until only a few years ago, there was no road connecting Aegiali with Katapola. Transportation was made by ferry connection. Aegiali as such, has remained remarkably undeveloped in regards to tourism.

Katapola cannot be characterized as a bustling port and town. It has regular ferry connections daily, but it is a relatively small, quiet town, comprising of three individual areas, –Katapola, Rahidi and Xilokeratidi, the latter being the most picturesque. The setting is that of a typical Cycladic town-village with whitewashed houses and buildings, churches and narrow pathways.

The drive from Katapola to Aegiali takes approximately 30 minutes. The road is well paved, and offers spectacular views over the Aegean, and the barren, imposing landscape. The smell of wildflowers and thyme is evident. Arriving in Aegiali, it is difficult to comprehend, not to mention a welcome surprise that this idyllic peaceful setting with an impressive sandy beach, has yet to be exploited. Here, there are scattered buildings and vacant blocks of land on all sides of the beach area. Built not far from the beach of Aegiali are the villages of Ano and Kato Potamos.

Perched on a steep mountain {Krikelis, Amorgos’ highest mountain with an altitude of 821 m}, and offering breathtaking views over the Aegean, Aegiali and the island of Nikouria, in the distance, they are clearly visible. If you are fortunate enough to find accommodation here, do not be deterred by the 70 steps or more required to reach the few tourist facilities, from the parking site in Potamos. Uranos Pension is an excellent choice. This newly built pension of four apartments, offer magnificent views and are well priced. The small tavern offers local specialties, or, simply enjoy a rakomelo with a meze, at sunset accompanied by classical music and breathtaking sunsets.

Potamos is a traditional village divided into two sections, Ano and Kato Potamos. The church of Analipsis dominates a majestic location within the village. The villagers use donkeys as their main form of transport, an example that the customary way of life is still quite evident here.

Aegiali offers simple beach accommodation, and a well established camping site, Aegiali camping.

Aegialis Hotel is the only resort hotel Amorgos has to offer. It is an old establishment, recently renovated, and located at the end of Aegialis beach, located on the side of a hill.

The nearly villages of Tholaria and Langada [both located 4 kilometers from Aegiali but in different directions] also offer a limited amount of tourist facilities.
Langada’s amphitheatrically position provides some accommodation with spectacular views over the bay of Aegiali. Vorina traditional guesthouse is a good example.

Nightlife & places to eat

Do not expect to find clubs and bars here. Amorgos is a quiet, sedate island in all aspects and this is reflected in its nightlife. You may find a couple of contemporary café bars in Katapola, Chora and Aegiali, but most of the night entertainment is concentrated in simpler pastimes, such as the pure enjoyment a drinking a rakomelo [the local liquor] with a meze at a local kafeneion, at any time of the day, or in a local tavern savoring the local fish or wild mountain goat, so often seen in the rugged coastal hills from Aegiali to Chora.

Potamos village has two excellent taverns: Kamara tavern serves local traditional goat amongst the local dishes, and Uranos pension serves from rakomelo at sunset with classical music, to local snacks and light meals.

Langada located 4 kilometers from Aegiali, is a traditional village with one very good tavern, Nicos tavern, serving local sweets and coffee during the day, with a backdrop of views over the bay of Aegiali, and local dishes at night. It is considered to be the best choice for dining in Langada, by the locals.

For a real treat, make your way to Tholaria located 4 kilometers from Aegiali, in the opposite direction from Langada, and to the central part of the village. Here in this tiny, narrow “plateia”or square, start off with a rakomelo at the local kafeneion, before making your way to the Panorama tavern, located as the name suggests, at a higher point of the village, offering some panoramic views during the day. Here the owner of the tavern, Nicos, despite his years, will entertain you through his vivacious manner with brief and spicy anecdotes, and song and dance, enticing you to participate in the festivities.

An absolute must in Aegiali is the tavern – to Limani tis Kyria Katina. Located in a narrow pathway, with plastic chairs and tables, don’t be put off by initial appearances, in preference for some of the taverns located by the main road entering Aegiali from the direction of Potamos.

If you are lucky enough to find a table, make sure you savor some of the local fresh pitas [pies] of the day, xinomyzithra [sour cheese] patatata [goat with potatoes] fresh lobster, grilled or cooked with pasta, the local catch of the day, and the specialty, kakavia or fish soup.

Here you will find locals, Greeks and foreigners who come back, year after year.
Don’t expect views [although there is a roof garden which operates from sunset] or extraordinary service. Here you will find good local meals, fish or meat casserole dishes, at some of the most reasonable prices found on the island. Fast, impersonal service, the emphasis here is purely on delicious food, surpassing everything else as a priority.

Sightseeing

Panagia Hozoviotissa- Undoubtedly the prime attraction of Amorgos, and what one associates with Amorgos, is the Byzantine monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa.

The monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who is also the patron saint of Amorgos is located in a north easterly direction of Chora, 300 meters above sea level, embedded in the cliff edge of the mountain Profitis Hlias.

It is said that it was founded in the 9th century by Palestine monks, and later restored by the emperor Alexios Komninos in 1088, although some say it was founded then. It is said that the famous icon of the Virgin Mary originated from Hozovo in Asia Minor, arrived in Amorgos on a burning boat. The location to where the boat stopped is where they decided to build the monastery.

The terrain was difficult, and what they built would collapse. After prayer, a priest was directed to the exact location on the cliff edge. There, the protruding chisel of a local worker indicated the spot, to where they should build. The same chisel is in tact still today, in the monastery.

The monastery is dramatically aligned with the cliff side of the mountain, a contrast of pure white against the sky blue, the epitome of a Cycladic setting. It consists of 8 levels, and to reach the top of the monastery, one passes through narrow, low passages carved into the mountain rock.

In the sacred chapel, one may admire this famous icon, and other ecclesiastical jewels. The balcony by the chapel provides a breathtaking view of the Aegean, and it is difficult to distinguish the sky from the horizon. A visit to the monastery ends with a treat from the local monks, of loukoumia [Turkish delight] and a local liquor or coffee.
Panagia Hozoviotissa celebrates the Virgin Mary with a religious feast on November 21st. During Easter week, there is a procession of the icon throughout the whole island, to bless all the people.

Ancient sites
Byzantine Churches

Regions to visit

Amorgos is a fairly small island, from north to south. There is one road extending approximately 35 kms, and it is quite easy to travel throughout the whole island in a couple of days. It is highly recommended however, to take time to explore the island to get accustomed to its natural beauty, to absorb its relaxing atmosphere, and to become familiar with the slow pace of everyday life here, as it may encompass you, even if for a short while.

The area of Aegiali comprises a beachfront location, with a small local market, and various taverns and cafes. The beach is a long stretch of sandy beach, which is easily accessible and has natural shade. The cafes located by the entrance to Aegiali, from the direction of Chora are ideally located for a superb view of the sunset, in most lazy surroundings. There are also a couple of taverns by these cafes, although the food is much superior elsewhere. The true beauty of this area lies in the three villages located very near – Tholaria, Langada and Potamos.
Tholaria is a small village, typically Cycladic-whitewashed, narrow cobblestone pathways, small churches, and a lively small plateia where the locals gather and drink their rakomelo and discuss the issues of the day.

Langada is also a picturesque village, shaded more by the vegetation, and built on a steep part of Krikelis Mountain, all directions point north to the main plateia and centre of the village, via a very steep climb if you happen to park your car at the second car park, in the lower part of the village.

Nikos tavern serves fresh cakes and coffee in the morning and you may relax here just like the locals, with a game of backgammon. The views are magnificent. Local specialties can be savored here at night here.

A visit to Potamos will serve to provide an image of how people lived years ago. Donkeys transport goods and people, locals live in a carefree environment, not yet accustomed to tourism. Try the patatato at Kamara tavern.

Chora is located 400 m above sea level, at the base of the ruins of the medieval castle.

Amongst the ruins and windmills, Chora is a village with a complex labyrinth of windy narrow paths, small chapels everywhere, and a blend of whitewashed buildings amongst pink and purple boukamvillias and shades of blue.

The atmosphere is very calming, and pleasant, and is usually accompanied by a sea breeze. Plateia Loza is one of the few flat surfaces here, where one may enjoy a coffee and sweet under the shade of the old tree.

Arkesini is located in the southern part of the island. This quiet village is located very near to two beaches, Paradissia, and Kalotaritissa. It is situated in a valley amongst olive groves, and vegetation.

Hiking trails-
As Amorgos acquired most of its road network in the last two decades, most of the transportation on the island was made by walking or donkey. Donkey [and walking] paths are as such still very well paved and now used for hiking trails, a great way to see part of the island on foot, and one of the most popular activities on the island. Ecotourism is also developing, with hiking and trekking a large feature of it.

Some examples of trails include-

  1. Chora- Hozoviotissa monastery to Aegilai, a 16 km hike.
  2. Chora- Ag. Anna beach- a short and easy hike.
  3. Aegiali-Langada-Theologos Church- Tholaria or Stavros-Aegiali. 9 kms.
  4. Arkesini-Rachoula, Vroutisis-Kastri

Beaches

It is interesting to make a note of the characteristic difference between the sandy beaches of Aegiali and the ones in the southern coast.

The clean transparent waters of the remote southern beaches are their most outlining feature.

Convenience takes a backseat here, and comfort is surpassed by the raw natural beauty of them.

It is significant to note that the only beaches with any facilities at all [canteen, tavern etc.,] mentioned here are Aegiali, Lemvrosos and Kalotaritissa. The remaining beaches have no facilities at all, and there is very little natural shade, meaning that you must bring with you all your necessities, plus some food and water. Last boat departures are usually schedules for 19.00 h. If you miss the last boat, you may be stranded there for the night.

Local festivals- local products

Local religious festivals are celebrated with folklore music, song and dance, and local food in outdoor public areas near the church, for all to rejoice and participate in the festivities.

  • Spring festival “Ag. Triada” Langada- Aegiali, 50 days after Easter.
  • 1st July Ag. Anargiron at Tholaria, near Aegiali.
  • 26th July Ag. Paraskevi church near Arkesini
  • 6th August- Religious festival in Chora, in celebration of Christ.
  • 15th August Panochorianni church- Langada
  • 14th September Stavros, near Langada, on Krikeli mountain peak.
  • 21st November- most significant religious festival, in honor of Virgin Mary, patron saint of Amorgos. Local feast with fish [bakalao in particular], folklore festivities held at the monastery.

Local specialties and products are offered in the religious festivities, such as patatato, which is associated with local festivals.

Patatato is a specialty of the island, made of oven roasted wild goat with potatoes, and is served in many taverns. Local wild goat is abundant here
Rakomelo- a unique blend of raki [clear liquor] boiled with honey, and a cinnamon stick is also a favorite of the island, to be enjoyed especially in the late afternoon. You will see locals meeting at the local kafeneia, to enjoy a rakomelo, with meze- an assortment of appetizers to accompany the liquor.

Goat cheeses comprise another local product, all dairy products, local fish, in particular, barbouni and fresh lobster. “Astakomacaronada,  a favorite local dish -lobster spaghetti, not to mention kakavia, fish soup.

Local honey, raki, local sweets [pastelli], and various herbs such as oregano, thyme and rosemary are just examples of some local products which may be sampled or bought.

Low Season visits

The summer season in Amorgos is generally considered to be within the months of May to September. Anything before or after is considered to be low season, or winter season. During these low seasons, Amorgos’ moderate tourist infrastructure shuts down, if not, completely. There are ferries connecting Amorgos with Piraeus approximately three times per week, and schedules between the nearby small Cycladic islands and Naxos are programmed according to local demand, and for the arrival of goods. These schedules are also weather-permitting, so timetables are never fixed.
There are some hotel properties that do remain open throughout the low season, although it is hard to imagine why, since very few tourist facilities operate during the low season, and the island is mostly desolate.
Such include:

  1. Aegialis hotel ” Aegialis ” open from Jan- Dec.
  2. Ag Georgios Valsamitis hotel –  Katapola Jan- Dec
  3. Pagali Apts, Langada, March-Dec

What you need to know

Amorgos is a relatively small Cycladic island with a barren landscape. It has not yet been exploited by tourism, and reflects what many Cycladic islands must have been like a few decades ago. Most beaches are inaccessible by road, and only by walking path or boat. Tourism was deterred by the long difficult ferry trip one was required to undertake from Piraeus, and by the lack of paved roads on the island. This has only recently changed.

Much of the filming of Le Grand Bleu was made on Amorgos, and it has enjoyed some recognition from this. Amorgos represents an island where natural beauty can still be appreciated. It is understood by some, that to admire natural beauty, you have to do that “extra mile”. This is exactly true of Amorgos.

Facilities for the disabled

Unfortunately, Amorgos’ infrastructure has not yet developed to the extent required to provide facilities for the disabled. Some of its terrain is hilly and inhospitable to persons with mobility disabilities. Chora and Hozoviotissa monastery are two places which could not be compliant to wheelchairs. Chora, like the monastery has many steps, and is a labyrinth of narrow irregular pathways.
Aegiali beach and Katapola have a flat terrain, and more preferable. However, there are no official listings for disabled facilities, apart from the Vigla hotel in Tholaria. The hotel is located at the parking area of the entrance to the village. However, to get to the main square of the village, you have to climb at least 40 steps. So, although there is accessibility to the hotel, this does not apply for the village. Aegiali beach is an area which is more favorable. It has many tourist facilities, and small pensions, hotels, and rooms located very near to the beach, as is the case with the Lakki Village, for example.

Connection with other islands

Amorgos connects daily in the summer season with Naxos, stopping at the smaller Cycladic islands – Donoussa, Koufounissi, and Hrakleia on the way, with the ferry “Express skopelitis”. Duration of the trip can be up to 4-5 hours, and expect a bumpy ride, in windy conditions. Morning departures are scheduled.
Alternatively there is a weekly connection with C-link ferries, departing in the afternoon, making stops at Syros and Paros.

A night ferry with GA ferries is scheduled in the summer season, once weekly stopping at the smaller Cyclades and Naxos.

Blue star ferries have one ferry route weekly connecting the smaller Cycladic islands with Naxos and Paros, and Iason super jet has a weekly departure linking Amorgos with Santorini [1 hr] Ios [1.5 hrs] Folegandros [3 hrs] and Milos 4 hrs. Amorgos also connect with Astypalea, in only a 2.5 hr ferry ride, twice weekly during the summer season.

Beaches

Aegiali beach

At a first glimpse, the beach at Aegiali seems to be the obvious choice when choosing a beach. Its long stretch of sandy beach is aligned with a few taverns, a beach bar and a number of cafes. It has a camping site located almost directly on the beach. Simple accommodation is provided on or near the beachfront, or on the hilly slopes nearby. The market at Aegiali is easily accessible and convenient. It has two very picturesque mountain villages nearby, Tholaria and Langada. It also serves as a port, used by the commercial ferries not more than once per day in the high season, and usually in the afternoons. It provides natural shade, but does not have any organized beach facilities [beach chairs/umbrellas]

Useful Info: If you choose to branch out to another beach, then the obvious nearest beach is Lemvrosos. However, once you compare the crystal, transparent waters of other, more remote beaches, you may not return to the somewhat muggy waters of Aegiali.

Lemvrosos Beach

Lemvrosos beach is easily reached with a small boat from Aegiali beach. The ferry ride takes only 5 minutes to cross over to the other side, and departures are frequent. It is also accessible by a walking path originating from Aegiali, or by a paved, steep road. Make sure you go early to find a parking space, in one of the very few spaces however, and then expect a 5 minute walk through vegetation before encountering the beach. It is the first of three bays next to Aegiali.

Once upon a time it was exclusively a nudist beach, but now nudity is restricted to the far end of the beach, away from the tavern. The tavern is perched on a small hill at the other side of the beach, and offers magnificent views over the beach and Aegiali. The beach is sandy and quite shallow.

Susceptible to the northerly winds, Lemvrosos, Psili Ammos and Hochlakas easily accumulate seaweed and rubbish on windy days. Otherwise, they are quite idyllic.

Useful Info: Psili Amos and Hochlakas do not have any facilities and are accessible by walking path from Lemvrosos beach

Ayia Anna

A visit to the Hozoviotissa Monastery can easily be combined with a swim at Ayia Anna beach located nearby. Its clean turquoise waters are inviting, and the rocky outlets and deep waters do not seem to deter the visitors. One may easily perch their belongings on the rocky outlets, and head for the water, which is the determining factor here- deep blue, refreshingly cold waters of the open sea mesmerize the crowds here, together with dramatic scenery, with the monastery in the background. Peace and tranquil views, an indistinguishable horizon, with many shades of blue. The crowds come in bus loads, eager to ensure a dip in this famous beach. If you can remain oblivious to the crowds, then you may enjoy your time here. There are many parking spaces available at the top of the hill and many steps descending to the beach, although not as many as those required for the monastery. Ayia Anna is one of the smallest beaches on the island.

Useful Info: If you want to avoid the crowds that have come for a peek at the beach featured in the “Big Blue” then continue on to Mouros beach.

Mourou

This is a longer stretch of pebbled beach with no facilities. It is reached by way of a rough, narrow downhill path from the parking area of the only tavern in sight. Mouros has shallower waters and is ideal for snorkeling, with much aquatic life, and what the locals claim, the cleanest waters. The sea floor has some rocky and sandy outlets, and there are two caves worth visiting right next to the main beach and reachable only from the water. Once you manage to ascend the path after your swim, you may need some refreshments or a bite to eat at the one and only tavern nearby. It serves local fish and home-cooked meals, and there is a separate café serving only drinks, with wonderful views.

Useful Info: Mourou beach is a favorite with the locals.

Kalotaritissa

If you continue on the southern road after Arkesini, you will eventually be directed to Kalotaritissa beach. Here, as you reach the bay, you are confronted with an impressive stretch of organized sandy beach, with beach chairs and umbrellas and a canteen serving light snacks and refreshments. The water is shallow with an abundance of rocks, pebbles and seaweed, making conditions for swimming a little uncomfortable.

Useful Info: There is a small boat however which makes trips to Gramvoussa, an uninhabited barren islet, 15 minutes away, which has two connecting beaches, with refreshing clear turquoise waters, ideal for snorkeling.

Nikouria

Exceeding all expectations, my personal first choice goes to the three beaches on Nikouria, an islet located only 10 minutes away by small boat from Agios Pavlos beach-port, and inhabited only by wild goat. Here the waters are clean, sparkling blue and most importantly, calm even on the most windy days, protected by the mainland. These beaches are shallower than the southern beaches, and slightly warmer, although much marine life is to be seen. The sand is coarse, and in some areas, pebbly. Beach No. 2 is sandier and more widespread.

Useful Info

Useful telephone numbers-area code: 22850

  1. Police: 71250 [Katapola], 73320 [Aegiali]
  2. Port authority: 71259 [Katapola]
  3. Aegialis tours: 73394
  4. Medical centre: 71207 [Chora], 71805 [Katapola], 73222 [Aegiali]
  5. Post office: 71250 [Chora], 73037 [Aegiali]
  6. Pharmacy: 71400 [Katapola]
Read Previous

Florina

Read Next

Grand Promenade in Athens

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.