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Samos: Rediscovering the Island of Pythagoras

Updated on October 1, 2013

Samos, one of the islands in the eastern Aegean Sea south of Chios, is traditionally a family-oriented island. However, the past few years has been going through a cultural renaissance with the organization of new events that give travelers the opportunity to discover Samos all over again.

The transformation came slowly. Three years ago the violas and violins sounded for the first time at the ancient theater of Pythagoreion, in an unprecedented for the island international festival of classical music (Samos Young Artists Festival), which this summer celebrated its fourth year of life. A year later another international festival appeared (Coastal Film Festival Samos), as well as a gallery of contemporary art housed at the renovated “Pythagoras” hotel and inaugurated with works of renowned artist Harun Farocki. Add to the above the archaeological wealth, the waterfalls, the caves, the sandy beaches, the sea of "50 shades of blue," the greenish wooded slopes, the youthful trendy nightclubs and beach bars and you have the perfect destination for any type of traveler.

In order to really get to know Samos, you must stay at least a week and make sure to rent a car as the distances are long. The first imagesof the island of Pythagoras will surely impress you: the picturesque harbor of Pythagoreion with its sailboats, the capital villagi of Vathi with its mansions and the former tobacco factories, the lively Karlovasi, the second city and port of Samos in the northwest.

Samos, with its long history and lush countryside, is ideal for hiking and discovering its history. For antiquity lovers, a visit to Heraion and to the ancient aqueduct tunnel are a must. For nature lovers the island has to offer the Niagara River, the green stream of Aidonia and the Paleontological Museum and, of course, plenty of hiking paths on the mountains Karvouni and Kerkis. Apart from sightseeing, however, Samos will compensate you with a wide range of beaches vast and organized ones in the south and more private ones to the west.

The serene beach of Small Seitani
The serene beach of Small Seitani | Source

Top resorts of the island are the village Pythagoreion with its luxury hotels near the airport, that is filled with Scandinavians every summer, and the Kokkari which attracts mostly young people, followed by Marathokabos, ideal for hiking and water sports. If you prefer to mingle with the greek tourists choose Karlovasi and for a totally non-touristic destination, the village of Vathi is the way to go.

As for the beaches, there are many choices. Psili Amos, meaning Fine Sand, for shallow emerald waters, Votsalakia for the deck chairs and tree shade, Tsamados for golden sand, the Big and Small Seitani for tranquility (require a 1.5 hours and 45 minutes walk respectively, but totally worth it), Avlakia for nudism, Kokkari and Mycale for watersports...those are only some of the possibilities.

For the nights, there are many places of entertainment in various parts of the island. At the village of Vathi you can find the "Blue Club» and at Karlovassi the «Cinema Café» and «Pansamiako Playroom Sports Cafe» that are side by side. The youth mostly prefer the beach bar «Castaway" at Tsamados, while the cutest cocktail bar is “Eu Zin” at Pythagoreion. In addition, the samian cuisine is full of delicacies and traditional flavors, so don't leave without tasting rooster cooked in wine, smoky eggplant with feta cheese, pork shank with rosemary and orange, lamb with green beans, marinated octopus and oven-cooked bean soup.

By boat from Vathi or Karlovasi you can reach in half an hour the neighboring Ikaria to feel the relaxing rhythms of the island, dance to some of the legendary Ikarian festivals or enjoy the healing effects of the thermal baths. Another alternative for a day trip is a rocky island of Spatharei, south of Samos, popular cause of its sandy beach and turquoise waters. During the summer there is a working tavern for fresh fish and samian wine. Finally, from Vathi and Pythagoreion you can catch one of the daily organized tours for a quick visit to Minor Asia to see the huge bazaar in Kusadasi and ancient Ephesus.

The entrance of the Great Holy Cross Monastery
The entrance of the Great Holy Cross Monastery | Source

When to go

The best season to visit is definitely during the summer, in order to fully appreciate the nature and beautiful beaches.

What to see

  • The Archaeological Museum at Pythagoreion: Opened in November 2009, after 47 years of efforts. The museum highlights, through seven exhibition sections, the importance of Samos in the ancient Greek world, from prehistoric times to the Byzantine period.
  • The Archaeological Museum of Samos: The museum hosts a rich collection of archaic sculpture, ceramics, bronze, ivory and wooden objects, figurines and miniatures.The most impressive exhibits are the colossal kouros (statue of a young male) with a height of 5.50m that was created during the first quarter of the 6thcentury B.C. and the constitution of statues by sculptor Genelo from Heraion.
  • Vathi: Amphitheatrically built on the shores of a large bay, the capital is ideal for a stroll through the beautiful squares and pedestrian streets with beautiful old tiled-roof houses (mainly in the traditional settlement of Ano Vathi).
  • Vourliotes: This village is called the balcony of the Aegean, with running waters and vineyards where the local muscat grape is grown.
  • The Eupalinian Tunnel: In between Pythagoreion and the airport, an aqueduct was built in the 6thcentury. This is an important achievement of ancient technology with an impressive 1,036m long tunnel.

A little more info on the Eupalinian Tunnel

  • Heraion: The archaeological site is located in thesouthern part of Samos, in the region of Pythagoreion.You can see the ruins of the baths and the temple of Hera with the unique pillar that is still standing.
  • Karlovasi: Erstwhile commercial and industrial center of the island, the second largest city and port of Samos lies in three districts in the northwest coast. It has mansions, large churches, old factories, the University of Samos and the Tannery Museum. The latter is housed in an old stone tannery where you can still see the tools and machinery used, tanned leather and other related exhibits.
  • Kokkari: The picturesque fishing harbor, which evolved into a tourist resort, lies on a peninsula in the northeast of Samos, located 10 km from the capital.
  • Kosmadei: A quiet mountain village with stone houses, tucked in the green slopes of the volcanic mountain Kerki. From this village startsa small dirt road leading to the monastery of Zoodohou Pigis (meaning the life giving fountain)at Kakoperato, hidden in wooded ravine.
  • Koumaradei: A village particularly famous of its pottery. In the surrounding area there are two of the most famous monasteries of Samos, the Great Madonna and The Great Holy Cross (with an iconostasis dating from 1845).
  • Koumeika: A mountainous village near Marathocampos with a picturesque square and an interesting folk museum.
  • Manolates: One of the most picturesque mountain villages, 19km from Vathi, with old stone houses, taverns and open view of the vineyards of the north side and Minor Asia. Beautifulhiking paths connect the village with the neighboring Stavrinides.
  • Mytilinioi: Classic intersection square with trees and tavernas, where the Paleontological Museum can also be found. It is 12km from the Vethi and 5km from Pythagoreion.
  • Natural History Museum of the Aegean - Paleontological Museum of Samos: Here there is on display a large number of paleontological discoveries - 300 kinds of minerals, rocks and shells, 350 species of fish, 40 species of birds, 30 species of animals (among them the famous Caplani embalmed), reptiles and amphibians of Samos and approximately 3000 herbs. It is open from April to October.
  • Virgin Vrontiani: The oldest monastery of the island at an altitude of 480m and 2km away from the village of Vourliotes.

Still standing, the ancient pilar of Heraion reminds us of Samos' rich history
Still standing, the ancient pilar of Heraion reminds us of Samos' rich history | Source

Getting there

The main port of Samos is Vathi, but Samos has two more ports at Karlovassi and Pythagoreion. Ferries from Piraeus and the Cyclades usually stop at both Vathi and Karlovassi, while there is also a daily overnight ferry from Pireaus. For a quickest trip to Samos, you can catch a flight from Athens' International airport or from some of the other greek islands.

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