"...Big black sea, with so many pebbles all around on the neck, so many colored precious stones in your hair." This is how Nikos Gatsos, the great Greek poet describes Amorgos, this brutally beautiful island of the Aegean Sea, the easternmost border of Cyclades.
Amorgos is definitely not just a typical Cycladic summer destination but certainly a travel experience that awaits to be discovered by everyone. Having a strange long and narrow shape resembling a seahorse, its high mountains, uninhabited islets and the massive cliffs of the island contribute to its feeling of wilderness and remoteness. As a proper alternative destination, Amorgos is about eight hours away from the port of Piraeus by the conventional ferry-ride, making traveling there an experience of its own. Once you set your foot on the island though, prepare to have perhaps the most authentic taste of a Cycladic island almost frozen in time.
Amorgos took its name from a type of flax typical of the island. The people of the island used to process these plants and make clothing out of it. During ancient times, the island was also known with the names Yperia, Patagy, or Platagy, Pagali, Psichia, and Karkisia. The archaeological investigation of the island proved that Amorgos was inhabited since the 4th millennium BC and served as an important center of the impressive Cycladic civilization. Numerous marble figurines found at the grounds of its prehistoric settlements and cemeteries, add to that statement. The Minoans did not miss the chance to exploit the position of the island for their own commercial interests and founded their city where the port of Katapola is located today. The Naxians, the Milesians and many other succeeded the Minoans, founding cities to every side of the island. During classical times, the island had three main city-states, self-governed but with a common currency. In Roman times, the remoteness and wild nature of Amorgos, constituted it a place of prison and exile. After the Greek War of Independence, Amorgos was included into the New Greek State.
Walk at the ancient city of Minoa
The ancient city of Minoa is located just above the modern port of Katapola approximately at the middle of the western coast of the island. Numerous archaeological expeditions, unearthed many of its buildings and artifacts, illuminating the ancient past of Amorgos. Hence, it seems that the habitation of Minoa stretches back to the 4th millennium BC, which continued in the 3rd mill. BC with an abundance of Cycladic figurine fragments discovered in the site. During historic times, the settlement expanded greatly and a huge wall circled it ensuring its security. During Hellenistic times, a renovation programme conducted by the citizens of Minoa offered the today visible ruins of the all-marble temple. Many of the artifacts are on display at the Archaeological Museums of Amorgos along with many others from the other cities and settlements of the island.
Discover the villages of Langada and Tholaria
Langada and Tholaria are two small, picturesque villages in the northern part of the island, less than 5 km away from each other. Both those villages share the bay of Aegiali, a long stretched, sandy beach, the smaller port of the island. Visiting these villages is an experience of its own. The traditional Cycladic architecture but most importantly, the warm-hearted people and the authentic vibe will definitely captivate you and steal your heart right away. Choose to go from one village to another by following the traditional trail that people of Amorgos are using for centuries. Tholaria is situated at the top of a hill where during antiquity the Milesians founded their city. Tholaria is the perfect example of Cycladic authentic lifestyle, with small houses with gardens and the central square that plays a pivotal role in the village's social life. There, you will find the famous taverna of Kali Kardia (meaning the Good Heart) which has hosted the visitors of Tholaria for many years offering them traditional dishes of Amorgos in the most authentic way possible. Stay at the square a bit longer and see how it comes to life during the night. Become a part of the locals' festivities, dance with the sounds of the traditional instruments and perhaps, if lucky enough, enjoy a performance of Karagiozis at the square.
Both Langada and Tholaria, aside from their authenticity and beauty, they are known for two games, each played just to one village. These games originate from ancient times and are being played continuously for thousands of years. At Tholaria, you are going to witness the game of Bilyi, which resembles bowling. The pins are made out of local wood and the rules of the game have remained unchanged for centuries. At Langada, the most popular activity among locals is the Bales, the forefather of French pétanque or Italian bocce. Two teams have their "ballers" competing against each other to collect as many points as possible. At the main square of the village, people still practice this ball sport on the small dirt field designed just for that.
Hagia Anna and the Monastery of Hozoviotissa
Right next to the Chora of Amorgos, attached on the rough cliffs of the eastern side of the island lies the famous monastery of Virgin Mary the Hozoviotissa. According to tradition, during the harsh years of Iconoclasm that swept the lands of the Byzantine Empire, miraculously the Holy Icon of Virgin Mary found its way from Palestine to the small island of Amorgos. There, the inhabitants found a monastery to rescue and honor the miracle that happened in front of their eyes. The monastery is the second oldest monastery to be found all around Greece. Although it was originally built in the 9th century, the Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Alexios Komnenos renovated its premises and granted many privileges to the monks of the monastery. Its bizarre, unique and impressive architecture, holding on the edges of the cliff offers an experience to the visitor nowhere else to be found. Inside the monastery, priceless relics of the Byzantine empire, religious artifacts of hundreds of years old and the humbling atmosphere of the monastery, constitute it a must-see attraction while on Amorgos. Follow the modern trail starting from Hagia Anna's Chapel, the original discovery site of the Holy Icon and gaze at the deep blue Aegean Sea stretching for miles in front of you. The site of the monastery became really popular after Luc Besson's film Le Grand Bleu. Do not miss the chance of finishing your day at the small beach of Hagia Anna, just below the monastery.
The Chora of Amorgos
The Chora of Amorgos is the main town of the island and its medieval capital. Following the medieval trend of relocating to the mainland to protect themselves from the raging piracy, Amorgians founded their town at the top of a mountain overlooking the sea passages at both sides. Perhaps the most authentic/traditional Chora of Cyclades you will immediately feel enchanted by its beauty. Walk around the small alleys of the town, engage in as many moments as possible, mingle with locals and feel how life in the Aegean Sea used to be. Do not miss the chance to visit the Venetian castle of the 13th century and the ancient church of Hagia Leousa. In order for you to do that though, ask the locals to give you the key of the castle! Relax at the two squares of Chora, the Low and Upper Loza, visit the traditional windmills and explore the ancient tower dating back to Hellenistic times.
Amorgos is a jewel, offering a rare glimpse of the authentic Cycladic life. Ideal for the alternative traveler it offers everything from a well-organized trail network, sites of historical and archaeological interest and magical beaches to picturesque traditional villages, camping areas and an awe-inspiring energy that floods your body. Except for all that, on the island, you have the chance to mingle with locals, taste the local cuisine, scuba-dive in its pristine waters and gaze at the night sky with telescopes. Do not let its remoteness to deter you from going there, plan your own visit to Amorgos and check out one of our Greece tours.