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 was born there. In ancient times Samos was a very rich and powerful city-state, especially in the 6th century BC.
So, what else do you need for a perfect holiday 🙂
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 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. The airport is surrounded by 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 on the Island: Vathy, 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 neighbouring islands. And the port of Pythagorion also serves the local ferries. The marina with modern yachts is one kilometre far from the city.
Getting around Samos Island
Samos is the eighth largest island in Greece and covers an area of 478 km2. More precisely, it is 43 km long and 13 km wide. Samos is pretty much a mountainous island and has two large mountains, Ampelos, and Kerkis, with the highest point at 1,434 meters. Interestingly, Samos has many freshwater springs. Therefore, the vineyards, olives, orange and citrus trees, pine forests, cypresses, plane trees, chestnut trees, and a lot of vegetation is 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 neighbouring beaches.
A good way to explore the island is the island tours, organized by the local agencies. They also arrange excursions to Patmos, Ikaria, Turkey (Ephesus). For example, we went to Patmos island and joined the island tour with the 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 2019.
Vathy (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 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 centre of Vathy.
◊ Pythagoras square, located in the centre 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. And 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 Archaeological Museum, 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 there 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 Samos 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 coloured 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 to 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.
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.
It is 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! More about this fantastic tunnel you can read here.
◊ 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. Actually, this temple dedicated to Hera is the largest Greek temple ever built in her honour. It was destroyed in the 6th century BC and only one big column of the temple has remained.
Well, 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 following post 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. There you can find a lot of shops, bars, restaurants, apartments, villas, and hotels as well. In the centre, 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.
The restaurants and cafes are really adorable, with a lot of colours and details 🙂
Karlovasi is located on the northwest side of Samos.
It is the second-largest city on the island and has a rich cultural and industrial history.
Actually, in the early 1900s, it was a very important tannery and tobacco manufacturing centre. But the Second World War and the discovery of tannic acid made that the economy collapsed. Twenty 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 some of the most impressive churches in the city.
Also, in neighbouring 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, from the 17th century.
The Monastery of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross)
One of the most popular monasteries on the island is the Monastery of Timios Stavros.
It is located near the village of Mavratzaioi, built around 1592-1604, on the place where the monk Nile found an icon. The 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. It is similar to what Jesus did to his apostles. Well, we can say that it is a really great honour 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. The most popular and beautiful beaches are Potami, Lemonakia, Tsamodou, Potokaki, Pappa beach, Psili Amos, Kokkari, etc.
More about fascinating Samos beaches you can find here.
Samos wines and Greek dishes
And when you get tired of exploring, walking, and swimming, it is time for food and drinks.
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 with delicious fresh fish and seafood. 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 🙂 Also, the wines are also a 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 Samos oranges.
Also, there are a lot of local products on the island. Try olives, olive oil, citrus, grapes, honey, spices, cheese, figs, ouzo, liqueur, tea herbs.
I have to admit that Samos exceeded my expectations. Nature is beautiful and the water is crystal clear. The villages are picturesque and interesting. Also, the fantastic historical and cultural sights, and friendly people make Samos a very nice place for a holiday.
While I am writing this post, I am drinking delicious Luisa tea of local herbs 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 bougainvillaeas. The wind brings freshness from the blue Aegean Sea as well.
And somewhere around Heraion, the goddess Hera is strolling through the ruins of her temple and the Sacred way…