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Folegandros: The beauty of the Cycladic tradition

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Folegandros: The beauty of the Cycladic tradition

Looking straight towards Crete, this is the southernmost point of the Cyclades. Up until the mid ‘80s, Folegandros belonged to the islands of the barren line, and this explains how this island remains, until this very day, admirably protected against the massive onslaught of tourism. Its rocky and arid landscape is in perfect balance with the Venetian and Cycladic architecture, that stands unchanged in time.

The Aegean sun is reflected on its white-gray stones, scattered beaches with transparent exotic waters and cobbled paths that run from one end of the island to the other. Its most popular path, of course, leads to the highest point of the island, crowned by the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. On the outskirts of this hill spreads the Chora of Folegandros, one of the most impressive Cycladic sights.

Routes & attractions

The church of the Assumption that overlooks the Chora of Folegandros is the most important religious monument and a landmark of the island. Follow the cobbled, serpentine path that leads to its courtyard atop the steep cliff, and marvel at the unforgettable vistas. Notice the church’s architectural features with its three domes as well as the ancient inscriptions and statue bases scattered around the courtyard and the interior, since the church was built on the site of an ancient temple. The Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary is considered miraculous according to tradition and is associated with the pirate stories of Folegandros.

The Chora of Folegandros is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful capitals of the Cyclades. Perched on the edge of a 210 meters high cliff, it extends in and around the Venetian castle. The castle was built by the Venetians of Marco Sanudo in 1212 and, since then, the hamlet has always been inhabited. Walk through the atmospheric alleys, domes, squares and whitewashed houses covered in bougainvilleas. Notice the proximity of the houses, which aimed to protect Chora, during pirate raids. Inside the castle you will find other important churches of the island, namely Eleousa, Pantanassa and Agia Sophia, with their distinct temples.

When walking in Chora don’t forget to stop at the terrace in the square of Pounta and admire the view of the Aegean stretching in front of you. On a clear day, gaze at the horizon reaching as far as Kimolos, Milos and Sifnos.

The other settlement of the island, Ano Meria or Mera, mainly rural, is located in a short distance from Chora, almost in the heart of the island. Once you’re there, visit the folklore museum to learn about the way of life in a traditional farmhouse in Cyclades: the house, cellar, bakery, olive press with the characteristic round-shaped stone.

Don’t miss the chance to explore the island through its cobbled paths that will take you along amazing routes through rock and bush fields overlooking the vastness of the sea.

It is worth taking a walk to the lighthouse of Aspropounta on the northwest side of the island. You can reach there on foot from Livadaki (15 min) or from Ano Meria (60 min). It was built in 1919 at a height of 58 meters above the sea and its flashing beacon, which is 11 meters high, can be seen from 17 nautical miles away.  

To the northeast of Folegandros is Chrysospilia, a natural monument of archaeological interest. On a remote point on the rock of the Virgin Mary is a 300 meters long cave decorated with Roman cisterns while on its walls and roof there are rock paintings with ancient names of teenage men who arrived here in the 4th century BC to participate in maturity ceremonies. The cave is naturally decorated with shells and stalactites. Access to the cave is difficult and can be either by boat from Karavostasis, or by land through the so-called "Greek Steps".

Beaches & Activities

Katergo took its name from the hematite mines operating in the area and is considered the most beautiful and at the same time the wildest beach on the island. With absolutely no shade at all, the beach is drenched in the sun, while its fine grey pebbles and surrounding white rocks give an impressive molten turquoise colour to the water. Better to visit when the wind is down since access is only by boat from Karavostasis. Alternatively, you can follow a path from Livadi.

Another charming beach, Agali, is not only the largest beach on the island but also the most sheltered. It is located in the bay of Vathi and is ideal for families, although not developed. The beach is accessible by car and offers several food options.

There are also boats leaving from Agali for the beaches of Agios Nikolaos and Livadaki. Agios Nikolaos is a sandy beach with natural shade from tamarisk trees on the shoreline; there are also two tavernas. On the other hand, Livadaki is more remote and surrounded by rocks while the white pebbled shoreline is washed by crystal-clear waters. You can combine a swim in Livadaki with a visit to the Lighthouse of Aspropounta, only a ten-minute walk away.

Between Karavostasis and the namesake rural hamlet is Livadi beach. Protected from the winds, with a golden sandy shore and plenty of tamarisk trees, the beach is a magnet for young people thanks to its water sports facilities. It is accessible by car.

Most of the locals, however, head to the eastern side of Karavostasis for swimming. The reason is Vardia, a family-favourite beach that is easy to access, sandy, comfortable and with plenty of shade. Near Vardia, Vintsezos beach (sheltered from the south) and Pountaki are also perfect for swimming. 

Although accessible only through a path, the pebbled beach of Galyfos offers its regular visitors refuge from the northern winds.

Tastes of the island

The most popular local dish in Folegandros is machata, the handmade noodles with red sauce usually served with braised rooster, and rarely with rabbit. Folegandros has a long tradition in making pies, both salty and sweet. Among them you will find manouropita, chortenia (pie with greens), kolokythenia (zucchini pie), ladenia. The watermelon pie version is also popular, topped with honey and sesame. Don’t forget to try the kalatsouna or sourotenia, a traditional cheese pie filled with local fresh cheese (souroto) and onion.

As in many islands of the Cyclades, the locals here love oven-baked chickpeas, wild capers (cooked) and snail stew, while the island’s proximity to Crete is the reason why Folegandros observes the rakomelo tradition. Try it in all the bars in Chora.

Traditions & Events

At Easter, the icon of the Virgin Mary is processed around the entire island and the houses open their doors to welcome it. Follow the procession as the locals are kin in offering wine, raki and sweets to pilgrimers and visitors. 

On the occasion of the feast of St. Panteleimon (July 27), on the Transfiguration of the Saviour (August 6) and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (August 15), large festivals are organized on the island. Especially on the 15th, all of Folegandros meets in the central square of Dounavi where locals engage in traditional dances around the historic plane tree, the tavernas and bars.

Don't miss...

Marvel at the sunset standing on the rocks that stretch below the church of the Assumption. Stunning vistas, romantic atmosphere, postcard-perfect photos and quite surely, the most beautiful sunset of the Aegean.

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