Samothraki -the island of Aeolus according to Greek Mythology- emerges through the Thracian Sea, crowned by the highest mountainous mass of the Aegean Sea, the imposing Saos Mountain. According to Homer, God Neptune watched the evolution of the Trojan War from the top of this mountain. The holy mountain of antiquity with the wild peaks (the higher is the “Moon” at 1611m). The pebble beaches, the running waters, the untouched nature, the famous thermal springs, the unique antiquities and the location “Chora” – which is an ornament, compose the charm of this mysterious place.
Island synonym of history …
Samothraki is famous for its archaeological treasures. The first signs of inhabitation on the island are dated from the Neolithic Age. Its great reputation, however, climaxes in antiquity with the thriving of the Kavirian Mysteries – from the most important religious events with particular rituals – equal to the Eleusinian Mysteries. In Paleopoli (6.5 km from the port of Kamariotissa) and in a huge archaeological area of 50 acres the grandure of history of Samothrace becomes obvious.
The Sanctuary of the Great Gods, dedicated to the worship and the fulfillment of the mysteries of the Great Gods (Cavier). Religious activity in the area lasted from the 7th century BC until the end of the 4th century AD. Some of the most important monuments of the archaeological site are the Propylon of Ptolemy B ‘, dedicated to the Great Gods from the Egyptian king (285-281 BC) , the Sacred Circle, circular space for standing spectators (late 5th-early 4th cent.), the square memorial Monument of Philip of Aridea and Alexandros IV (323-316 BC), the Palace where the initiation of the first rank of the Mysteries (1st century AD) took place, the Tholos of Arsinoe (Arsinoeion), dedicated to the Great Gods (288-281 BC), the Temenos, a large marble building with a dominant position in the worship of the Great Gods (about 340 BC), the Santctuary, where the Supervision was taking place (the second rank of initiation, 325-150 BC), the Lodge, which served in the sheltering of the visitors (first half of the 3rd century BC) and the Monument of Niki (Victory), where the statue of Niki (Victory) of Samothraki was placed, on a bow of a ship (early 2nd century BC).
• The Archaeological Museum (tel. 25510-41474), with important findings from the archaeological site and the copy of the Niki (Victory) of Samothrace.
• The three-aisled paleo-Christian basilica of the 5th-6th centuries, from which little traces of foundations are preserved.
• Medieval fortifications of the Gatoulous (1431-1433). The towers dominate a hill overlooking the sea.
• A verdant environment, embellished with ponds and running water is the image that will always be engraved in the memory of the visitor. The northern side of the island, in particular, favored by the microclimate of the area, is literally “drowned” in the green. In high altidude, dominate forests with plane trees, oaks, chestnuts and cedars. At the bottom, a “jungle” of every sort of bush spreads; according to studies, about 20 rare species of shrubs grow in the area. In the grazed areas the air is flooded by the fragrances of nature; thyme, oregano and all kinds of aromatic and medicinal plants.
The Martini Forest is also worth seeing, with its evergreen oak trees – spreading over Therma and Karyotes – a remnant of the large oak forests that once covered the whole island.
Riverside forests are freshened by hundreds of streams of crystal clear waters, springing from the mountain of Saos and rolling down to the sea. Numerous springs span the mountain radially, forming waterfalls and natural stone pools; the famous pedestals. Stunning streams and waterfalls are, in fact, the island’s trademark. The stream of Fonia is one of the most beautiful in Greece, and it’s highest waterfall named Klidosis is 35 meters high! Also, Kremasto, in the southeast, is a real miracle of nature… passing through ferrous rocks, it gets a sweet, pink color before it exudes impulsively straight into the deep blue sea. Behind its water spectacle there is an accessible cave. Famous, are also the waterfalls of Kakia Plaka, Karya, Gratha …
Along the northern and southern coasts many seasonal wetlands are formed. At the estuary of Fonia we meet the important Vdelolimni wetland, a precious station of migratory birds. Of particular interest for bird watchers is also the Saint Andrea lagoon near Kamariotissa.
But do not forget we are on an island! The lacy, mostly pebble, coasts of Samothraki consist of beautiful beaches, others accessible by road and others only by sea. The endless beach of Kipi with its distinctive gray-blue pebbles and shiny pebbles stands out; in the south, the cosmopolitan Pachia Ammos – the only sandy beach on the island – with the magnificent view of the chapel of Panagia Krimniotissa, built on the edge of a rock. From here, a touring boat starts for a nice marine tour of the island’s “unobtrusive” parts: Katarti, Caves, Vatos, Pendant, Gryas Pania and Gyali. The crystal clear waters reveal all the exquisite relief of the seabed and the abundance of sea.
Paradise of alternative tourism
The imposing mountainous volume of the island and the rich untouched nature offer great excitement to the lovers of exploration, adventure and adrenaline: crossing the canyons; climbing; mountain biking; paragliding; climbing; hiking but also rafting, canoe kayak, diving are just a few from the unique experiences that can be enjoyed by the active visitors of the island.
The generous nature “gave” to Samothraki a huge geothermal landscape. The hot sulfurous springs with great healing value dominate the entrance of the settlement of Thermae. The hydrotherapy center in the area offers health and well-being to thousands of Greeks and foreigners who flood the island during the summer season.
Small, hospitable hugs
The capital of Samothraki is Chora, a traditional settlement with amphitheatrical layout, fascinating with the architecture of its houses and its paved streets. At its highest point – built on a steep rock – stands a medieval castle with built inscriptions. Here we find the remnants of the tower built during the period of the Gatelouzas (1300-1400), the interesting Folklore Museum and the Temple of the Assumption (1875).
The bustling Kamariotissa is the port of Samothraki and the point of ferry connection with Alexandroupolis. From here the streets begin all over the island. Alonia, Lakkoma, Prophet Elias and Therma are fascinating with their traditional color and the hospitality of their inhabitants.
*Translated Greek article, first posted at: reader.gr