As we sat at the water’s edge in Mykonos, crisping in the sun and waiting for our lunch to arrive, our waiter asked the inevitable question. “So, where else in Greece will you be traveling?”
It was Katherine’s turn to answer. “We’ve already been to Athens and Santorini, and from here we go to Folegandros for a few days.”
“Folegandros?” the waiter asked, outwardly amused. “I’ve never been there, but it’s …” He let out a small laugh. “… extreme.”
I smiled, hoping to conceal the slight-to-moderate panic I was feeling inside. Only weeks before, as my friends and I were mapping out our Grecian itinerary, I had suggested ending our trip on the tiny island of Folegandros in the far reaches of the southern Cyclades. It was a name none of us had heard before—but photographs of towering cliffs and deserted blue coves had convinced me Folegandros was the perfect respite from Santorini, Mykonos, and their suffocating summer crowds. Yet the reactions our itinerary had elicited thus far—the surprise, the confusion, the looks that said “best of luck”—had me half expecting to live without electricity for the next few days.
I may never understand why Folegandros remains so unknown, both in and outside of Greece. For the island we discovered a few days later was an intoxicating blend of beautiful landscapes and authentic Greek character, that elusive island quality so often overshadowed by tourism. And what this rocky, 12-square-mile island lacks in Michelin stars and late-night discos, it more than makes up in breathtaking beaches, traditional local cuisine, and one of the most stunningly-situated towns in the Cyclades.
So pack your bags—but let’s keep this to ourselves. I’m letting you in on Greece’s best kept secret for the next three days.
A Chora Line
Resist the urge to panic as your ferry pulls into the miniscule port of Karavostasis (and as the evening bus struggles to ascend the deserted mountain road into town). For the island’s main village of Chora was intentionally built out of sight to avoid pirate raids—a strategic position that helped ensure its flawless preservation. Today, beautiful whitewashed Chora still dangles on the edge of a 650-foot cliff, concealed from pirates, tourists, and much of the outside world.
Occupying the town’s most stunning cliffside real estate, Anemomilos Apartments is the friendly domain of the Patelis family—and your unbelievably beautiful home for the weekend. Each stylish apartment enjoys views of the Aegean Sea, although the best vistas can be seen from the blue studios for only a few euros more. But really, it’s the hotel’s wonderful staff and beautiful shared spaces—including a spectacular pool and garden terrace—that make Anemomilos the island’s best attraction.
What Is Dead May Never Die
Although it was conquered by the Venetians in 1207 and by the Ottoman Turks nearly four centuries later, Folegandros has retained its ancient Greek name—a nod to the island’s “iron hard” terrain. And from the hillside Church of Panagia, you’ll have a commanding view of the agricultural terraces that help coax crops from the unforgiving land. But this picturesque whitewashed church, built over the remains of an ancient sanctuary of Artemis, is best known as the dramatic setting for Chora’s most beautiful sunset views.
Will You Be Having Wine With Your Dinner?
The three main squares of Chora come alive after sundown, as locals and visitors dine under festively-lit canopies of bougainvillea and hibiscus. It’s a vision best enjoyed with a carafe of rosé and a plate of matsata—the local specialty of house-made pasta with rabbit or rooster. Although it’s hard to go wrong amidst so many traditional, family-run tavernas, the courtyard ambience is especially charming at Piatsa (Πιάτσα) and O Kritikos (Ο Κρητικος) in the second and third squares. And tucked away on a charming side street, The Small Wine Cellar (Μικρό Κελάρι) offers Chora’s most atmospheric after-dinner drinks.
Me, Myself, And Vorina
After enjoying a scenic and tasty breakfast on Anemomilos’ garden terrace, pack plenty—and I mean plenty—of water for a spectacular day of swimming at Vorina Beach. The hike ahead of you is steep and rugged, but the reward is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of the Cyclades. Just walk north along the main road toward Ano Meria, and you’ll find the trailhead marked by three deserted windmills. Chances are you’ll have this stunning inlet all to yourself—save a few naked sunbathers, that is.
Do Not Pass Katergo, Do Not Collect $200
Your exploration of remote swimming coves continues today, as you set off in search of Katergo Beach on the island’s southeastern shore. Pack a picnic and, again, plenty of water in Karavostasis, and follow the road south and west to the trailhead near Livadi (the town one mile beyond the beach of the same name). Not sure you’re on the right path? Keep an eye out for red “K” markers—and a beautiful and unspoiled white pebble beach that should shortly come into view.
Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Eva
As you mourn your impending departure from Folegandros, soothe the pain with one final meal at Eva’s Garden on the edge of Chora. Dinner reservations are essential at this humming local favorite, known and loved for its imaginative twists on traditional Greek flavors. But if you plan ahead, you’ll enjoy exceptional preparations of fresh, local ingredients—served in Chora’s most charming garden courtyard.
A Few Notes
Unlike many of the other Cyclades that become impassable in peak season, Folegandros is a delight to visit even in August. Just be aware that you’ll find better prices in May, June, and September—while much of the island shuts down between October and April.
It’s a bit of a haul to ferry here from Athens, but it’s perfectly doable. And OpenSeas is there to help you with all of your timetable and ticket needs.
TITLE: The cliffs of Chora | FRIDAY: The town of Chora; the cliffside location of Anemomilos Apartments; the pool at Anemomilos; a serene scene at Anemomilos; the Church of Panagia; the winding path to the church; a sunset over Chora; the many tavernas of Chora; dinner at Piatsa | SATURDAY: The breakfast terrace; Vorina Beach | SUNDAY: The path to Katergo Beach; Katergo Beach; beach-goers enjoy the cool blue water.