Samothraki: Faraway, So Close (To Our Heart)

Its oases and lush hideouts taken straight out of a fairy-tale make the long journey to Samothraki one of the most rewarding ones you will ever embark on.


There is one thing that I will remember forever about Samothraki: for every little thing it takes away from you, it gives you something else in return. You’ll see flaws; but even these “deficiencies,” under certain circumstances, can suddenly become advantages. This island, so fecund and verdant, is at the same time “barren”, off the beaten track, a stop on what boats and planes call an “unprofitable route.” The trip to reach it is seemingly endless: an 800-kilometer drive from Athens all the way to Alexandroupoli and then a two-and-a-half-hour boat ride, before you finally disembark at Kamariotissa, the island’s port.

But in some magical way, when you reach the place you actually feel rested. Samothraki is the ideal place for camping, offering two official campsites. We opted for the more “primitive” one, at Therma, where there is ample space for campers to pitch their tent inside a forest of plane trees.

This campsite may indeed lack hot water, but we were treated to the coolest of slumbers beneath its plane trees, immersed in a shade that lasted till midday. We slept in comfort; the earth was covered in a thick bed of plane leaves. These trees are found throughout the entire island, both in the smaller settlements and in gorgeous, amphitheatrically built Hora, the island’s main town. At sunset, Hora and its plane trees are resplendently bathed in orange.

The only places where you won’t find trees are on the beaches. Samothraki has just two of them: the first, called Pachia Ammos, on a wide bay with turquoise waters, offers more facilities and is also easier to access; the other is named Kipi (or Kipos) and lies in the southeast. Though more difficult to reach and lacking exotic colors, Kipi is immense and a favorite among dolphins.

All the same, the best dips of all in Samothraki are in its vathres (natural freshwater pools). Fonias Canyon is a veritable oasis. The higher up you manage to go, the more pristine and verdant the setting, and the greater the adventure, too. We dove into the water, leaping from rock to rock, like a couple of Mowglis; each plunge felt better and more refreshing than the last, until at last we were sure that we were diving into soda water.

The sweet exhaustion brought on by the climbing, the jumping and the swimming only served to intensify our hunger. Food is yet another paradoxical matter on Samothraki. Despite being an island, its very few fish tavernas don’t offer anything to write home about. In contrast, this is where you’ll get the chance to savor maddeningly delicious oven-baked Aegean Sea mountain goat. For my money, Karydies (Tel. (+30) 25510.982.66) is the premier taverna on the island.

If chic nightlife and popular clubs are your thing, then this island is definitely not for you. That’s not to say, however, that there’s nothing going on in terms of entertainment. The locals don’t need much of an excuse to have a good time, and people dance till dawn at religious feast day celebrations in Hora and Therma. At night, groups of friends assemble at the kafeneio (traditional coffee house) on the square in Therma. There, you might get to hear stories about pixies, or tales about fairies dancing up on Fengari (“Moon”), a nickname for Mt Saos, one of the highest peaks in the whole of the Aegean Sea. Don’t try to scale it unless you’ve had some real climbing experience.

This is the kind of island where you do need a car – despite the fact that you’ll reach its best parts on foot, like Panaghia Krimniotissa, for example. This little church offers a view an eagle would envy. And here’s a bonus secret place for you: the taverna located at the foot of the rock, which serves local specialties – like that wild goat we were going on about earlier.


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