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Folegandros – remote, wild and wonderfully peaceful
To start with, there is one thing to mention to avoid misunderstandings: those who are looking for even a minimum of entertainment on the beach, places to go in the evening or places to see during the day are not going to be happy on Folegandros. But those who love wild and unspoilt countryside, solitary beaches and total peace and quiet will have found the perfect place. The Cycladic Island of Folegandros is situated in the southern Cycladic Archipelago between Skios and Milos and has become very popular in recent years. The best way to get there is from Santorin via ferry (a direct connection from Piraeus only operates during the summer months). The Greek island is 13 kilometres long and 4 kilometres wide and has a population of just under 700 inhabitants. From above it looks like a rutted rock in the blue Aegean Sea and travel books describe it as ‘remote’, ‘solitary’ and ‘wild’.
Actually, due to its very remoteness, Folegandros was used as a place of exile for undesirable citizens in Roman times, and again for the same purpose much later, during the Greek military dictatorship where awkward critics and enemies of the state were detained on the island until the 1970’s. But those times are long gone, when being deposited on the rough and sparsely inhabited island used to be a punishment. In 2013, the American channel CNN declared the capital of Folegandros, the Chora, to be one of the seven most beautiful villages in Europe. The jury’s decision was justified by pointing out that Folegandros had kept its original Greek character and afforded the same spectacular views as you get on the famous neighbouring island of Santorin – but without crowds of tourists flooding the white-washed lanes. This is very true, the Chora of Folegandros is a car-free zone and really pretty, with three lush little squares in a row, with several very nice taverns. Typically, tables and chairs for clients are placed in the shade of some trees outside the taverns. It just feels like Greece. Did I say there was no night-life at all? This is not entirely true, as every now and then there are musical performances on the squares of Folegandros’ capital. Tables and chairs are pushed to the side to create space for dancing.
Even during the peak season in the summer this feeling of being part of the island population remains with you. The pretty beaches are not stacked with tourists. Prices are naturally higher, though, than they are in May, June and September. If you are planning to go there between October and April, make sure you take into account that the ferries operate a lot less frequently and that a lot of taverns and hotels will be closed. In recent years Folegandros –once a hostile place of exile – has become a real insider attraction. There are now trendy restaurants such as ‘Eve’s Garden’ or luxury hotels like the "Anemomilos Apartments" that have turned the island into a special place for those who seek peace and quiet in style.
Amongst the best out of many beautiful beaches belonging to Folegandros, are for instance the Agali Beach, a sandy beach not far from the Chora in the western part of the island, or Kratergo Beach in the south, best accessible by boat from the harbour town of Karavostatis – or on foot from the coastal road that carries on further inland from here.
Incidentally, the locals on Folegandros are very proud of their excellent food and there is one particular specialty that is exclusive to Folegandros and just not the same anywhere else in the world (or so they keep saying in the taverns): it is a homemade pasta dish with rabbit and chicken sauce. An absolute must!
Pictures from Folegandros
Villages of Folegandros
Ano Meria is the second biggest village on the Cyclades Island of Folegandros. It is actually just a few dozen farmhouses scattered over a mountain ridge. The so-called “Themonia” have been self-sufficient farming units for centuries, with agriculture and cattle. One of them has recently been turned into a “museum of Greek life”, where tourists can follow the simple life on a Greek farm on Folegandros through the seasons. From the road to Ano Meria there are several tracks leading down to the beaches, some of them exceptionally beautiful and virtually deserted like the Agios Georgios Beach north of Ano Meria. There are also some lovely taverns and kafenions in Ano Meria.
In the middle of nowhere, the untamed mountain region of the thinly populated island of Folegandros, lies the picturesque Chora, the island’s capital. Its location on a mountain pass is truly spectacular, with a steep drop of 150 metres on either side affording a unique view. The rocky island of Folegandros was used as an exile for unwanted individuals in Roman times and again for the same purpose in the 20th century during the Greek military junta. The medieval centre of the chora is the most picturesque part, with the ancient “Kastron” and its massive, windowless walls and its whitewashed steps, its passageways and over-brimming flower pots. Outside the fortress there are several charming squares with a line of local tavernas. Those who consider a holiday on Folegandros Chora have to reckon with the meltemi that can be so strong that ferries cannot land on the island – which can last for several days and grant an unexpected extension to their stay.
Karavostasis is situated right next to the small harbour of the small island of Folegandros. With a population of approximately 700, Folegandros is one of the loneliest islands in the Cyclades. The coastal resort has a beautiful pebble beach with crystal clear water, lined with tamarinds that provide cooling shade. North and south of Karavostasis are beautiful, deserted beaches, ideal for holiday-makers who like their privacy; some even pitch their tent there for a Robinson Crusoe holiday. Just off the Livadi Beach is a small island with a tiny little chapel, a favourite spot for sailing boats. Along the cliffs, a walking trail leads all the way to the chora of Folegandros, very steep in parts, but with breath-taking views.
Recommended Folegandros hotels
Boasting a privileged location a few metres away from Karavostasis Port, the 5-star Anemi offers minimal, design accommodation with Cycladic features. It includes a poolside a la carte restaurant and a bar, a fitness centre and a tennis court.... (more)
Aspalathras White Hotel
Within 300 metres from the centre of Chora Village, Aspalathras White Hotel boasts an outdoor pool, wooden sun terrace and poolside snack bar. Rooms feature an island décor and include free Wi-Fi and village views.... (more)