Folegandros: great things come in small packages

1 Sep

What to in the island of Folegandros

I might sound a bit bold but it’s the truth: for me summer means Cyclades; take the ferry from Athens and go to any of the small pieces of paradise laying on the Aegean. Some people will find it hard to compare the barren and fruitless landscape of Cyclades with paradise in any given way. But all you need for your summer vacation, is waiting for you there.

So this year it was time to try something new; a small island in the southern part of Cyclades: Folegandros.

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Photo 1: Panorama of Folegandros Island by Stavros Tsoukatos

The Island

There is one simple and straightforward way to describe Folegandros: it is as if a mountain fell  into the sea. That is exactly the case of Folegandros, a name which according to one possible explanation (the least supported) is derived from a Phoenecian word meaning rock-strewn land; bull’s eye if you want my opinion…

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Photo 2: Panorama of Folegandros Island by Stavros Tsoukatos

But this rocky and mountainous land comes with amazing sceneries; and one of them is the Chora (which means the capital of the island, very common in Greece as every island has its Chora). The Chora of Folegandros immediately brought in my mind a very famous and and globally advertised Chora of another, very closely located island; this of Fira, the Chora of Santorini. In Folegandros though, despite the many similarities, it seems more pure, preserved of mass tourism and crowds. It is built on the verge of a cliff, enjoying the magnificent and endless blue of the Aegean without the disturbing sounds of loads and loads of tourists. It is like Santorini; only better…

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Photo 3: Chora is built on the verge of the cliff, Source Stavros Tsoukatos

Built on a hill just next to Chora, stands a church dedicated to Virgin Mary. It is as this church oversees and protects the whole of the town; or even the island, higher than all the small white houses.

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Photo 4: Virgin Mary always keeps an eye on Chora, Source Alan_W100, flickr

When you see it you may be discouraged to walk the steep route but believe me, the view from up there is rewarding. So, pack some patience and go for it. A good advice would be not to do it during the day as it will be exhausting. Try it at some point early in the evening (keeping in mind that the monastery is open daily 6pm-9pm).

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Photo 5: The steep path of Virgin Mary via Amphithoe, flickr

The Beaches

As it is a very mountainous island, you can easily understand that getting to the beach can be quite a quest. There are beaches where you can go by car but only a few. The majority can be reached by boat or by walking one of the many footpaths along the island. Agkali, being one of the easiest to get to, attracts quite a lot of people something that can create bit of a trouble when trying to find a spot to park your vehicle (if you use one on the island). Good news is that Agkali can be reached by the local bus from Chora which runs frequent services.

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Photo 6: Agkali Beach via alternatips.gr

One level up from driving to Agkali, but totally worth your money is Katergo, probably the most famous beach of the island. Katergo can be reached by boat which sails from Karavostasis (the port of Folegandros) and a round trip costs 8 euros. You can go to Karavostasis by the local bus from Chora. Katergo can also be reached on foot but I am not quite sure about how long this will take or about the quality of the path as I didn’t try it (come on, 8 euros is not that bad, go for it!!).

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Photo 7: Katergo Beach via scyscrapercity.com

Truth is that there are quite a few beaches, some can be reached by car via unpaved roads and others only on foot. But keep in mind that as the landscape is quite rocky and steep, this could mean hours of walking or hiking for a dive…

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Photo 8: Footpath in the north of Folegandros

Also keep in mind the weather can be windy for days making most of the beaches not very pleasurable to swim in. So pick wisely and remember that those in the North side of the island are usually more affected by the winds.

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Photo 9: Agios Georgios Beach by Stavros Tsoukatos

Food

There is one word that you will come across many times in Folegandros: “matsata”. “Matsata” is a type of fresh pasta produced on the island. And it’s absolutely delicious; especially when accompanied by the also locally produced cheese “souroto”. You can have it with all kinds of meat and it is 100% worth the try. My suggestion? Go north, pass Ano Meria, and you will find, on the side of the road, a taverna named Sinantisi. I did not try all the restaurants on the island but I can assure you that if there is one place to try matsata, this is it!

Truth is that you will not have a problem to find a good place to eat; trust your guts and go to whichever restaurant you like. The food is above average in all of them in Chora! Just keep an eye on the prices beforehand in order not to have any unpleasant surprises afterwards!

One restaurant that deserves your attention (and your money…!) is Eva’s Garden. The food is as good as it can get and without a doubt it is probably the best choice for a special night on the island! The food is not the cheapest around but it’s totally worth every single cent. The music, the cocktails, the food and the people walking on the street, mixed together create an amazing atmosphere. Everything was absolutely delicious, created with fresh ingredients and very well presented. Booking beforehand is a must (just a day before should do the trick) in order to avoid the queue(!) on busy summer nights.

Nightlife

Being a small island, Folegandros has not the glamorous nightlife of other Greek islands. But still, there are quite a few places in Chora that you can really have fun. Not hard to spot, if you go for a walk there you will come across people sitting in the middle of piazzas talking loudly, laughing, drinking and having fun enjoying (mainly!) rakomelo. Every piazza works as a unique, autonomous center of interest during the night. All you need to do is decide where you prefer to go and just become part of the festive atmosphere!

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Photo 10: Various plaze of Chora, Sources from left to right Jenny.gr, folegandros.g, taxidiotika grafeia.gr, athinorama.gr

Overall Folegandros is a uniquely amazing, easy going and well preserved small island, totally worth a visit. You can either choose to spend all your holiday there if you want to explore the magic of Cyclades in a more isolated way or spend 2-3 nights there combining it with trips in other islands close to Folegandros like Ios, Sikinos, Milos or Kimolos.

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Photo 11: Full moon from Karavostasis, Folegandros’ port

Don’t miss

  • The view from the church of virgin Mary in Chora. Get up there (probably the best time is during sunset) and enjoy an amazing vista of the island!

  • Eva’s Garden Restaurant. Located in Chora is probably the best choice for a special night out. Enjoy the taramosalata served before the main courses, the really well priced cocktails and the amazing creations of this beautiful restaurant!

  • Try galaktompoureko at “Ki Araxe”, located in one of the many piazzas in Chora.

  • Try hiking in one of the many footpaths of the island that lead to amazing “private” beaches! Make sure to get suitable shoes, water and something to protect you from the sun.

Tips

  • Don’t rent a car/ bike: the heart of the island is the Chora so find a room close there and enjoy the atmosphere. Local buses run frequent services to and from the beaches and the port of the island so you won’t have any problems getting around!

  • Only 2 ATMs on the island so go prepared. Take some cash with you in order not to find yourself low on “fuel”!

  • Have breakfast in Pounta, located in Chora. It seems like everyone is having breakfast there as you might have to wait to get a table sometimes but the food is great!

  • Try also the cafe  just above “Ki Araxe” in Chora for a more cosy and “warm” experience as many locals prefer this cafe!

Stavros Tsoukatos

Extras: 3 great videos from Atlas Visual!

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One Response to “Folegandros: great things come in small packages”

  1. Uncle Spike September 8, 2013 at 11:53 #

    Love the post, thanks for sharing. Certainly has changed over the years, but still looks superb. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

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