Amorgos

The steep island of the big blue
Amorgos island is one of the hidden gems of the Cyclades islands
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Life on the wild side, mellowed with traditions, firewater and laid-back villages

Many have dropped by the Cycladic island of Amorgos: pirates, 19th-century travellers, 70s hippies who camped at Lakki, islanders who sought oracles from the “chattering waters” of Ai Giorgis Varsamitis. So how about discovering an island whose venerable traditions, old paths and remote villages will make you forget the 20th century, never mind the 21st.

Making a pilgrimage to the beach of Agia Anna, where Luc Besson shot The Big Blue, is a must. As is lighting a candle in the awe-inspiring Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa. Spend your holidays sipping nightcaps of rakomelo, the homemade honeyed firewater. Take a boat ride from Katapola or Aigiali, the island’s two ports. And walk up to the castle-topped main town with its Cycladic cobblestone streets. 

What to do on Amorgos

Panagia Hozoviotissa: An Aegean miracle

This is perhaps the most unusual monastery in the Aegean and one of the most significant sights on the island. Impossibly tall and narrow, at first sight it looks painted onto the sheer rockface. In reality, it’s slotted into it. You’ll have to climb 300 steep steps, enter through a narrow door and make it up a further eight storeys, each one only 5m wide. When you reach the main 1,000-year-old church, adorned with Byzantine icons of the Virgin Mary, you’ll know it was worth the effort.

The beach at Agia Anna

A twisty road leads to the beach at Agia Anna. With its endless view of the sea, you’ll know how Besson’s film The Big Blue got its name. Incredibly clear water and rocks to dive from at one of the most exciting beaches in the Cyclades. Now, you’ll be the star.

“Walking at a slow pace” 

The phrase belongs to archaeologist Lila Maragkou, who walked all over Amorgos for years, turning up archaeological treasures as she went. Walking at a slow pace will reveal the real island to you, too. Things to look for: The remains of three ancient city-states, Arkesini, Minoa and Aigiali; women making fava (yellow split-pea dip), a Cycladic speciality; diviners searching for underground water; locals playing boules; Ai Giorgis tou Varsamiti, where the “chattering brook” was thought to foretell the future; and the no-man’s-land at Krikelos, riddled with mines and gullies. The longer the search, the greater the reward.

Hora and the castle, what the pirates missed

A naturally fortified rocky promontory rises above the Cycladic houses. Hidden from pirates’ eyes, the island’s Hora and its castle reflect their Byzantine and Venetian past. Hike up to the castle for a memorable view. Below you, the lovely Voreina quarter is full of houses with wells and olive presses. You’ll want to investigate the abandoned windmills at Troulos, the shops and cafes at Platystenos, and relax in Kalogerikos Milos (Monk’s Mill Square), a veritable balcony over the Aegean.

Aigiali or Katapola? Not any old port in a storm

Which of the island’s two harbours will you choose as the ideal backdrop for your holiday? The music and lounge bars on the sandy beach of Lakki at Aigiali, or family-friendly Katapola with its traditional cafes and long walks along the shore? Your choice.

Hidden gems of Amorgos

The rock drawings at Asfondylitis

Short-legged dancing figures holding violins… Learn the story of a very special child who left his mark on the rocks of Asfondylitis back in 1888.

Toasted raki and raki mixed with honey

Amorgos’s trademark schnapps-like drinks are inescapable. You’ll be trying them everywhere… in cafes, tavernas and bars. 

The Tower Of Gavras

A 16th-century building of Venetian architecture found in the centre of Hora. Today, it’s a museum with findings from excavations in the surrounding area, featuring some remarkable sculptures and inscriptions.

  • Panagia Hozoviotissa: An Aegean miracle
  • The beach at Agia Anna
  • Hora and the castle, what the pirates missed
  • The rock drawings at Asfondylitis
  • The Tower Of Gavras
  • “Walking at a slow pace”
Highlights

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