Did you know that the 1988 movie “Le Grand Bleu” with Jean Reno was shot on the island of Amorgos, at the south eastern edge of the Cyclades?
Amorgos is one of the most impressive Cycladic islands, boasting marvellous beaches with azure waters, gorgeous caves, ideal spots for diving, scenic bays and ancient footpaths leading through its steep rocky terrain… Inhabited since the Early Cycladic Era, as indicated by archaeological finds brought to light in the area, Amorgos has a long cultural history and tradition. Step off the beaten track and visit an island that has preserved its traditional colour, where the locals welcome you with a smile on their face and make you feel at home!
What to visit?
Town of Amorgos (Chora)
Built at the centre of the island and surrounded by rocky hills, the maze-like Chora of Amorgos is considered to be one of the most picturesque in the Cyclades! Here you can admire a breathtaking setting with scenic squares, traditional Cycladic houses with bougainvillea trees in their court yards and Lilliputian whitewashed alleys. In the morning you can wander around the narrow streets, visit the 13th century castle and the monasteries or relax at a local coffee shop; in the evening pick one of the cosy bars and tavernas scattered around Chora’s streets and squares and enjoy local specialties accompanied by a shot of psimeni raki! Don’t be surprised if you come across a big group of people enjoying an impromptu feast – it is a very common event on the island- feel free to join in!
Katapola is the main harbour of the island as well as a haven for boats and small cruise ships. Set off on a boat trip from Katapola and explore the island’s sun kissed beaches!
Aigiali is the second harbour of Amorgos Island. It is a place very popular among young people as there is a camping site. Along its lively waterfront you will find plenty of cafes and restaurants. Perched on the mountain side beyond Aigiali there are three picturesque villages: Tholaria, Lagkada and Potamos. Make a point of visiting them at the end of the day – the sunset view is beautiful.
Monastery of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) Hozoviotissa
The island’s top attraction is the 10th century cliffside monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin, a spiritual haven and one of the most important ecclesiastic monuments in Greece. Set high up on the steepest rock of Mt. Profitis Elias, 300m above the Aegean, the building resembles a “chest of drawers”, according to the French explorer Pitton de Tournefort. Visible only from the sea, the monastery is an example of human triumph over nature, a wonder that will leave you awestruck.
According to tradition, the monastery was founded by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos in 1088, during the period of Iconoclasm, when the icon of Panayia was sent by a woman from Hozovo from Palestine and miraculously made its way to Amorgos. According to another version, the Monastery was founded in the 9th century by monks from Palestine and was later renovated by the emperor Alexios I Komnenos.
The monastery has eight floors connected by narrow stone staircases carved into the rock. 350 steps lead you to the monastery, the interior of which is like a labyrinth. The cells of the monks are all carved into the rock to form a unique example of traditional architecture. Two icons of the Virgin Mary and other religious relics from the period of Alexios Komninos have been found at the monastery. Important heirlooms such as a manuscript, gospels, vestments and ecclesiastical utensils dating from the 10th to the 19th century are also on display.
There is a stunning view of the island’s wild beauty from the highest balcony of the Monastery. On the 21st of November there is a celebration of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, the highlight of which is the procession of Her holy icon. After the procession there is a massive feast with plenty of food, wine and delicious traditional sweets!
There are seven routes on the island, sign-posted, along which you can discover the island’s diverse flora and fauna and its rich cultural treasures. They offer superb sea views!
Tip: Wear a pair of comfortable shoes and start early in the morning. Don’t forget to take plenty of water with you and a coat to protect you from the strong winds!
- Palia Strata (Chora- Aigiali bay): a demanding route to follow as it’s 11.5 km long! This 4-hour-hike starts from Chora, continues past the Monastery of Hozoviotissa, goes half way across the island to Potamos and on to Aigiali Bay.
- Fotodotis, connecting Chora with Katapola, is an easy one hour’s walk along a cobblestone path with beautiful views to the sea.
- Itonia (Lefkes, Agioi Saranta, Kamari, Kastri, Vroutsi, Rachoula, Arkesini) is a 3-hour difficult walk (10 km). Discover sites of cultural interest, such as the ancient Acropolis, and let the history of the island unfold before your eyes!
- The footpath of Melania (Aigiali Bay, Lagkada, Stroumpos, Panagia Epanohorini, Tholaria) is a 4.5 km route, easy two-hour walk, which goes past traditional settlements and ancient Cycladic ruins. Enjoy the stunning view of the bay.
- The footpath of Pan (Lagkada, Agios Ioannis, Stavros, Krikelos) is 6.5 km long, a two-hour hike, which goes past the Byzantine Monastery of Ioannis Theologos and Stavros Chapel and up to the highest point of the island,
- Mount Krikelos, 812 m. above sea level. Although it is considered to be a difficult path, the superb sea views make it worthwhile.
- Valsamitis is an easy one-hour trek. It goes past Agios Georgios Valsamitis Church and ends at ancient Minoa, where you can admire parts of the ancient stadium, the gymnasium and the Temple of Dionysus.
Taste delicious local specialties:
- Xerotigana (fried pies filled with white beet and fennel)
- Ladotyri: sheep’s milk cheese stored in olive oil, hence the name “ladotyri” (lit. “oil cheese”). It has a strong, salty taste, a pleasant aroma and a hard, dry skin and is off-white and slightly yellowish in colour.
- Patatato (goat cooked with potatoes)
- Psimeni raki (raki – the local spirit – scented and seasoned with herbs)
- Pasteli (sesame bar)
The island boasts scenic bays, underwater caves ideal for diving and golden beaches, most of which are secluded (only a few are organised). You can reach them on foot or by boat.
- On Ayia Anna beach, where the film “Big Blue” was shot, you will find two amazing bays, one of which is home to the church of Ayia Anna. The beach is pebbly, with rocks and caves, crystalline waters and is ideal for snorkelling! Highlight: while you are swimming, enjoy the stunning view of the Monastery of the Virgin Mary Hozoviótissa carved into the steepest rock of Mt. Profitis Elias!
- Mouros Beach with its rocky landscape and secluded caves is superb! Take a moment to admire the breathtaking view from the top of the footpath that leads down to the beach!
- Ayios Pavlos is a small peninsula with pebbles. Take one of the boats departing from here to reach the small island of Nikouria, which boasts two amazing beaches.
- Eyiali beach is a long sandy beach with many beach bars and tavernas. At one end of the beach there is a path leading to the secluded beach of Levrossos.
- Kalotaritissa bay lies in the southernmost part of the island. It is a sandy, organised beach with beautiful blue water and a beach bar. Take a boat out to the stunning beach of Gramvoussa and bask on a white sandy beach with turquoise waters!
- Maltezi is only accessible by boat departing from Katapola. It is an organised sandy beach with blue-green waters and a beach bar.
- Mikri Vlyhada is a quiet secluded pebbly beach with crystal clear waters. In order to reach it you have to walk along a steep footpath (starting from Tholaria) but it is well worth the effort!
- Liveros bay is a small rocky beach with crystal clear waters; here lies the impressive wreck of the ship “The Olympia” which appears in the film “The Big Blue”.