3 Must-Visit Islands for Greek Easter

Boasting spectacular landscapes and unique local traditions, the islands of Lesvos, Ikaria and Andros are ideal vacation destinations for Greek Easter.


Andros

Spring is particularly generous on this affluent island with its running waters and lush vegetation. Andros is one of the Cyclades’ greenest islands, known for its natural beauty and traditions. Just two hours from the port of Rafina, the island will captivate you with its beaches, as well as its inland trails, rivers, waterfalls, and hot springs.

The Church of Panagia Theoskepasti in Hora, thanks to its scenic location and the zeal of its priest, hosts a one-of-a-kind Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. The candles of the faithful standing on the church steps above Paraportiou beach are lit as soon as the phrase “Come, receive the light” is uttered, creating a shimmering glow that will fill the sky when father Michalis proclaims the much-awaited “Christ is risen.”

Easter Sunday wouldn’t be complete without lampriatis, a traditional dish of goat or lamb stuffed with cheese and vegetables, and maskoula, gunpowder-filled iron cylinders that transform the island into a battlefield. Small bombs are set off across the island, but the village that makes the most noise is Stenies, 6 kilometers north of Hora. On Sunday evening, the icons of the Panagia and Aghios Giorgis churches are paraded through the streets, eventually arriving at the village’s square. Just before sunset, the maskoula are set off, their blasts echoing through the surrounding mountains and creating a unique atmosphere in the middle of the island.

Ikaria

Ikaria is unquestionably the island that, through its values of hospitality and giving, brings you closer to the spirit of Christianity. On Easter Sunday and Monday, the locals in Raches, at the island’s northwestern end, hold collective memorial services to remember their loved ones and express forgiveness to one another. At these get-togethers, it seems as if the families try to outdo each other with their generosity. They bring meat, wine, and bread and prepare everything together. To ensure that no one goes hungry, everyone makes whatever contribution they can. Everyone, including vacationers on the island, shares the meat after it has been blessed by the village priest. And, of course, the feast is accompanied by the revelry for which Ikaria is famous.

Aside from the memorial services, if you visit Ikaria on the night of the Resurrection, you will witness other traditions that are unique to the island. In some villages, such as Karavostamo, the upper and lower parts compete to see who can burn the largest “afano” – a pile of wood collected and stored by the villagers of each parish. Locals in Karavostamo, Glaredo, and Christos near Aghios Kyrikos also burn an effigy of Judas Iscariot under a spectacular display of fireworks that lights up the sky.

Ikaria is a great place for nature enthusiasts to visit in May. The island’s mountains provide beautiful hiking trails through pine trees, chestnut trees, and running waters, while the beautiful Nas and Seychelles beaches are ideal for those looking to get an early start on the summer season. If you visit Ikaria during the Easter holidays, don’t miss Lake Seilini and the Ryaka River waterfall, where water falls from a height of 60 meters from winter to June.

Lesvos

May is the best time to visit Molyvos, one of the northern Aegean’s most picturesque villages. The fragrance of flowers fills the fields and gardens of the houses that have been built amphitheatrically around the castle of Mithymna. Good Friday evening brings a particularly solemn atmosphere beneath the famous castle and above the picturesque port as the words “Oh my sweet springtime” echo through the town’s cobblestone streets, which are covered in a veil of purple salkimi flowers.

Lesvos offers a variety of delicious fasting mezes. You can enjoy sardines, octopus, zucchini flowers, and stuffed vine leaves (dolmades) with a glass of ouzo in Molyvos and other villages of Lesvos such as Agiasos, Plomari, Sykamnia, Kalloni and, of course, Mytilene. On Holy Saturday morning in Mytilene, you can also celebrate the first Easter Vigil at the Church of Aghios Therapontas, which is strewn with bay leaves. On Holy Saturday evening, at the same church, you can witness a unique Vigil in which the priest portrays Jesus and bangs on the church’s gate, chanting “Christ is risen.”

As an alternative, you can take part in one of Lesvos’ most well-known and oldest Easter customs in a number of the villages around Mytilene and on the western part of the island. Every village gathers piles of tree trunks and branches called Koukoures, starting around Halloween, in order to burn an effigy of Judas Iscariot, or Ovrigios as the locals refer to it. Traditionally, the young men and women of the villages make a straw scarecrow symbolizing Judas, dress it up in old clothes, and burn it on Holy Saturday night over the flames of the large bonfire.

Every Easter, some villages revive an ancient and beautiful tradition. Young boys make swings for girls to sit on by hanging rope from tree branches. On Easter Monday, those who sit on the swings sing the “songs of the swing” in exchange for Easter buns and flowers, which are then used to decorate the swings, much to the delight of the village children and the visitors.



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