Samos Island belongs to the Dodecanese archipelago in the eastern Aegean Sea. The Mycale Strait separates it from the Asian Minor (Anatolian peninsula), which belongs to Turkey today. Exactly, the strait is only 1.6 km wide at its narrowest point.
This Greek island has a great ancient history, fantastic sweet muskat wines, crystal clear water, and picturesque cities and villages. It was the birthplace of the famous philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, the astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, and the goddess Hera, the queen of the Greek gods as well. In ancient times it was a very rich and powerful city-state, especially in the 6th century BC.
So, what else do you need for a perfect holiday 🙂 ?
Samos, the island of Pythagoras
How to get to Samos Island?
Samos could be reached by air or by sea.
The Samos international airport (IATA: SMI) was named after Aristarchos of Samos, an ancient astronomer and mathematician. It is located on the island’s south coast, within 5 km from the Pythagorio town, near Potokaki village.
Do you know that Samos Airport is one of the most dangerous landing approaches in Greece?
As a matter of fact, there is a single short runway, about 2 km long, both for arrivals and departures. There is no space for mistakes because the airport is surrounded by the mountains, the Meltemi wind is usually strong and the sea is next to the runway. So every landing and taking off is a real adventure. It demands hand-type flying between mountains, without navigation instruments guidance and following the airport’s pattern to safety approach.
There are two main ports in Samos Island: Vathy, the capital of the island, and Karlovassi on the northwestern side of Samos.
During the summer, the ferries arrive almost daily from Athens, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki. Samos is connected with Rhodes, Hios, Lesvos, Ikaria, and a few other neighboring islands. And the port of Pythagorion also serves for the local ferries, while the marina with modern yachts is one kilometer far from the city.
Getting around Samos Island
Samos is the eighth largest island in Greece and covers the area of 478 km2. More precisely, it is 43 km long and 13 km wide. Samos is pretty much the mountainous island and has two large mountains, Ampelos, and Kerkis, with the highest point at 1,434 meters. It is interesting that Samos has many freshwater springs. Therefore, the vineyards, olives, orange and citrus trees, pine forests, cypresses, plane trees, chestnut tree and a lot of vegetation are covering the island.
If you want to explore the island, there are many agencies in which you can rent a car, motorbike or bike.
Also, there are local KTEL buses that connect the cities and villages. But they don’t run so frequently, especially on Sunday and during national holidays. So check carefully the bus schedules. For example, to reach some particular places or beaches, first, you have to go to Vathy, and then catch a bus from Vathy to a desirable destination. The price ticket is from 0.8 to approx. 5 euros depending on routes. Or you can take a taxi or go for a walk to the neighboring beaches.
The good way to explore the island is the island tours, organized by the local agencies. They also arrange the excursions to Patmos, Ikaria, Turkey (Ephesus). For example, we went to Patmos island and joined the island tour with Regina agency. Both excursions were organized excellently.
What to do and visit in Samos
In Samos, you can find a lot of interesting ancient, architectural and cultural sights, fantastic beaches, decorated bars and taverns, and a variety of shops as well.
It is impossible to see it all in a limited time, of course. So I will tell you what we visited and found out during our holiday in August this year.
Vathy (also known as Samos) is the biggest town and capital of Samos.
It is located on the northeastern part of the island, in a large bay.
Vathy is also the main port. Around the shore of the bay, there is a long promenade with restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, hotels, and apartments. Most of them are situated in modern buildings in the neoclassical style.
Behind them, there is a labyrinth of narrow streets, with some old and new houses, on the slopes of the hill.
What to see in Vathy
There are some interesting places to see in the center of Vathy:
- Pythagoras square: it is located in the center of the city, close to the port. The white marble lion is in the middle, erected in 1930, to celebrate the centenary of Greek independence.
- The church of Agios Spyridon: this church is very important because it is the place where the decision to unite Samos with the rest of Greece was made. The church celebrates 12th December as the day of Saint Spyridon.
- The City Hall with the public library: it is situated in the building of the old Parlament, close to the church of Agios Spyridon.
- Samos archeological museum: it is located next to the City hall. It consists of two buildings with fantastic collections of various objects dating back to the Hellenistic, the Prehistoric, the Geometric and Archaic period. There are many sculptures, pottery, clay figurines, bronze, ivory, and wooden items. Also, there is the largest surviving colossal statue of Kouros, 4,8m high. It was found in Heraion in 1980, and it looks really impressive!
- The Catholic monastery Assumption of Mary: it was founded in 1901, and it is located close to the port. It is possible only to enter the church because the monastery building is privately owned and close to the public.
Depending on your free time, you can visit also the Samos Wine Museum, Byzantine Museum and The church of Agios Nikolaos.
Close to the square, there is a bus station from which you can catch a bus to all the places on the island and to some beaches.
For me, Pythagorion is the loveliest and the most picturesque place in Samos 🙂
It is the main tourist resort on the island with a lot of different types of accommodation. Along the promenade and the port with yachts and boats, there are many restaurants, taverns, bars. From Pythagorion you can go to different excursions and beaches as well.
The main cobbled street is going down directly to the port. It was named after Lykourgos Logothetis, the local leader of the Greek revolution against the Turks. There you can find a lot of shops with clothes, souvenirs, markets, bars, restaurants, local travel, and rent-a-car agencies.
And wandering the narrow and long cobblestone streets in Pythagorion is a real pleasure!
But one street is unique: a blue street.
Actually, it is not an ordinary street. It is more like a narrow passage between the houses. Everything is colored in white and blue, with so many details, figurines, flowers. In a word, it looks just amazing 🙂
The former name of the city was Tigani. In 1955 it was changed the name in Pythagorion, after the great Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, who was born here.
In the port, there is a big statue in the sign of his great work.
What to see in Pythagorion
Today’s Pythagorion is situated on the remains of the ancient city. Once it was one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean Sea. This area is full of ruins of ancient times. Because of a lot of remains and also nearby Heraion, Pythagorion has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1993.
I will talk about them more in the next post. Actually, it is impossible to describe them in a few words. But some of the must-see places in Pythatorion are:
- Archeological Museum: it has a fantastic collection of various items and statues from different periods of Samos’ history;
- The Castle of Lykourgos Logothetis: constructed in the 19th century on the remains of the former castle and old Byzantian church. Today there is also a small cemetery and the Church Metamorfozis from 1824, constructed during the battles with Turks.
- The tunnel of Eupulanio: it is one of the most important ancient technological achievements.
This tunnel was dug in the mid-sixth century BC, by two groups working simultaneously. The amazing thing is that they met each other in the middle of the mountain, with only a small deviation from the straight line!
- Monastery of Panagia Spilliani (The Virgin of the Cave): it is close to the tunnel of Eupalinio, founded in 1586, into a small cave. From the top of the hill, there is a fantastic view of Pythagoreion town and the sea.
Heraion and Temple of Hera
Heraion is located about 7 km far from Pythagorion, near the sea. It is one of the most important sanctuaries of ancient Greece.
According to the legend, the goddess Hera (the sister-wife of Zeus), was born and raised here. The temple dedicated to Hera is the largest Greek temple ever built in her honor. It was destroyed in 6th century BC and only one big column of the temple has remained. It was a little bit strange to walk around the ancient ruins, imagining what the temple and other buildings used to look like.
Today most of the found objects, including some statues from Heraion are exhibited in the museums in Vathy and Pythagoreion. More about the temple of Hera you can read in the next post about the sights of ancient Samos.
Kokkari is a picturesque village with a pebble beach, located about 10 km from Vathy town.
It is a popular tourist place with narrow streets, where you can find a lot of shops, bars, restaurants, apartments, villas, and hotels as well. In the center, you can visit the church of St. Nicolas.
The waterfront is filled with fantastic decorated bars and restaurants.
This is a very nice place where you can enjoy fresh fish and wines all day and in the evening, as well.
Some of the restaurants and cafes are really adorable, with a lot of colors and details 🙂
Karlovasi is located on the northwest side of Samos.
It is the second-largest city of the island and has a rich cultural and industrial history.
Actually, in the early 1900s, was a very important tannery and tobacco manufacturing center. But the Second World War and discovery of the tannic acid made that the economy collapsed and 20 factories were closed. Even today, some beautiful neoclassical houses could be seen, from that period, and the abounded factories as well.
Karlovasi is divided into five sections: Old, New and Middle Karlovassi, the Bay and the Harbour, which is the second important port on the island. And the famous island’s leader during the Greek War of Independence, Lykourgos Logothetis, was born here in 1772.
The Mathematical School of the University of the Aegean is placed here. In Karlovassi you can find a lot of various accommodations, shops, restaurants, bars. There are a few churches as well.
Agios Nikolaos Church and Assumption of Mary Orthodox Church are one of the most impressive churches in the city.
Also, in neighboring Potami there is Metamorfosis Sotiros Church from the 11th century, built in the Byzantine style. And about 4 km south of Karlovassi, in the mountain, there is the monastery of Prophet Elis, constructed in the 17th century.
The Monastery of Timios Stavros
One of the most popular monasteries on the island is the Monastery of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross).
It is located near the village of Mavratzaioi, built around 1592-1604, on the place where the monk Nile found an icon. The monastery complex consists of the church, a three-aisled basilica with a dome, monastery buildings, a bell tower, and an impressive library with old books and manuscripts. In the church, you can see the wooden carved and gilded iconostasis and pulpit from 1873, and the Episcopal throne from 1844.
But taking photos inside is not allowed.
Very important for the monastery is a piece of Holy wood. It was brought from Jerusalem and exhibited to pilgrims. The monastery celebrates on 14th September (the Third Sunday of Lent).
Also, there is something more interesting. The big day is Great Wednesday when the Foot Washing Ceremony takes place. So, every major Wednesday (three days before Orthodox Easter), the Metropolitan of Samos washes the feet of 12 priests, similarily as Christ did to his apostles. Well, we can say that is a really great honor for the priests.
The best beaches in Samos
The coastline of Samos is 159 km long, with many little bays and beaches. Some of them are well organized, and some are isolated with hard access. The water is crystal clear everywhere on the island, and a little bit cold for my taste.
So, let’s talk about the most popular beaches.
Beaches in Pythagorion
On both sides of the Pythagorion port, there are organized pebble beaches that are usually very crowded.
On the left, there is Remitaki beach, with a few restaurants on the waterfront. You can get free sunbeds and an umbrella. But it will be nice to have lunch or take something to drink in the restaurants which own sunbeds. The beach closes at 18h because the restaurants set the tables for the dinner on the beach.
On the right side, there is also a small organized beach with tavern and Tarsanas hotel. This hotel is situated in a beautiful 200 years old and traditionally built stone house. The food is very tasty and in the evening you can enjoy Greek live music.
Close to the Pythagorion and its beach, there is Potokaki village. This pebble-sand beach is long and organized with sunbeds and umbrellas. It is usually very crowded. Doryssa seaside resort 5* is located there as well. The resort looks like a little traditional village, with a little church and Folklore museum in the middle. The hotel includes the main building and 120 little houses-bungalows. Even if you are not the hotel guest, you can rent sunbeds and an umbrella (7 euros set) and have a drink or a meal in the restaurant. Since it is located very close to the airport, you can see the airplanes just above your head while relaxing in sunbeds.
Pappa beach is one of the most interesting beaches in Samos.
It is situated about 900 meters from the Ireon village, in a little rocky bay, surrounded by pine trees and bushes. The small beach consists of a few terraced parts with sunbeds, umbrellas, and chairs. Usually is crowded so you can make a reservation as well.
The owners, Maria and Costas, and their staff are fantastic hosts. They really try to make a great atmosphere that makes everyone feel special. They provide water shoes, snorkeling equipment, books, everything you need. There is also a restaurant with light snacks, salads, and beverages.
In a word, it is an unusual and very nice place to spend a day:)
Lemonakia, Tsamadou, and Tsambu beaches
In the northwest of the island, between Vathy and Kokkari, there are three pebble beaches: Lemonakia, Tsamadou, and Tsambou. All of them are organized with sunbeds, taverns or cafe, and usually very crowded. The water is crystal clear with waves on windy days and a little bit cold.
But the view of these beaches, located in the small bays and surrounded by the hills is just amazing!
On the left side of Tsamadou beach is the famous Navagos beach bar. From the hill, it is terraced down to the beach. It looks very nice, with a little pool, a big terrace with restaurant and separated parts with sunbeds.
It is good to know that one part of Tsamadou beach is for nudists. Well, there is something for everyone 🙂
Long, pebble and organized Kokkari beach is situated in the place with the same name.
Psili Amos beach
The beach is located about 10 km east of Pythagorion. It is accessible by car or taxi boat from the Pythagorion. It is a long, sandy and well-organized beach. Usually, it is very crowded because of the shallow water and is suitable for families with kids.
This beach is the closest point between Greece and Asia Minor which belongs to Turkey. Actually the distance is less than 2 km.
One of the most beautiful and famous beaches on the island is the Potami beach. It is located in the northwest in Potami village and accessible by car or on foot (about 4 km) from Karlovasi. This pebble beach is swallow-shaped and usually windy, perfect for the surfers.
From the hill, there is a fantastic view of the beach. Also, on this belvedere, there is a small church dedicated to St. Nicolas, white-colored and of a very unusual shape.
After Potami beach there is the road to the other two beaches, Micro Seitan and Megalo Seitan. They are difficult to reach, there is no road. You can go there only on foot through the rocks and forest, and it takes one hour or more. As some friends told us, the beaches are beautiful but wild, so take water and everything you need with you if you decide to visit them.
And who wants more adventures about 1,5 km from there, there is Potami gorge and waterfall. As a matter of fact, you have to hike, swim in cold water and climb to reach it. On the way there is a small tavern in you change your mind or can’t go on. In a word, it could be a wonderful experience but think well before you decide to visit it because of the hard access.
Boat excursion to Samiopula and Kakorema beaches
Samiopula is an uninhabited and dome-shaped little island, across the Samos.
It can be reached from Pythagorion in boat excursion. And the most popular among them is with Captain Andreas boat. In Samiopula bay, the water is beautiful, warm and crystal, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. But usually, it can be crowded because of the excursions. There is nothing here except a few free umbrellas. So take the water of whatever you need with you, especially if the excursion takes to a few hours on the sand beach.
We were there for about one hour. And then we come back to Samos and spent time on the isolated and private beach, named Kakorema.
While we were enjoying the sun-tanning and swimming, the captain Andreas with his crew prepared a barbeque for us. Well, it was a very interesting experience, sitting on the improvised covered “restaurant”, under the tree. There were tourists from Greece, Serbia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands… Everybody is talking, laughing, eating fresh fish, cheering, and drinking famous Greek ouzo, sweet Samos wine or special “sexy” instant coffee with cognac!
Tip: take water shoes with you, the beach is rocky.
Samos wines and Greek dishes
And when you get tired of exploring, walking, and swimming, it is time for food and drinks, of course.
Since I love Greek cuisine, it was a real pleasure tasting delicious Greek dishes. There are a lot of taverns and restaurants on the island. Some of them are so charming and beautifully decorated, especially in Kokkari and Pythagorion.
Samos is very famous for its fantastic sweet wines, made of Muskat grape. Because of a lot of sunshine during the year, grapes are very sweet. The most famous wine is Samos DOUX, a very sweet and aromatic liqueur wine.
During our island tour, we visited the Vakakis winery and enjoyed excellent wines. And let’s be honest, everyone likes these wine tours 🙂 . Samos wines are also nice souvenir to take home. By the way, the Samos wines are distributed in the whole of Greece and exported around the world.
But if you prefer fresh juice, then you must try the juice made from sweet and juicy Samos oranges.
Also, there are a lot of local products on the island, such as olives, olive oil, citrus, grapes, honey, spices, cheese, figs, ouzo, liqueur, tea herbs. And the delicious fresh fish and seafood you can taste in taverns and restaurants all around the island.
I have to admit that Samos exceeded my expectations. Not only the beautiful nature, crystal clear water, picturesque villages, but also the fantastic historical and cultural sights, and friendly people make Samos a very nice place for holiday and relaxation.
While I am writing this post, I am drinking delicious Luisa tea of local herbs and lemon from Samos.
But my thoughts are still wandering across the beaches and on the ancient paths around the forests and valleys. The air is filled with the smell of lemon and bougainvilleas, while the wind brings freshness from the blue Aegean Sea.
And somewhere around Heraion, the goddess Hera is strolling through the ruins of her temple and the Sacred way…