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There was a time when Folegandros was a well-kept secret in the heart of the Aegean, known to a discerning few. Now, more and more people are discovering this gem in the Cyclades with its rugged beauty and easy pace.
Folegandros’ main town, Hora, teeters precariously on the edge of a high cliff, with its many squares framed by graceful, typically Cycladic churches and old-fashioned tavernas with views of the Aegean.
In the evenings, taverna tables fill up and the main town of Folegandros becomes even more welcoming. Honeyed raki flows, music starts, people sing and friends are made. By day, you’ll meet them again on beaches lapped by emerald waters or in the colourful alleyways of the oldest part of town.
Probably one of the most spectacularly situated of all island villages, the Hora of Folegandros adds new meaning to the word breathtaking. Its oldest part, the walled medieval Kastro, is beautifully preserved. Will you dare stand on the parapet at Pounta Square and admire the view? From there, you can stroll to Hora’s other squares. Each has its own character, with an exquisite church and small houses glistening under layers of whitewash. You understand the truth of the saying “small is beautiful”.
In the roofed passage to the walled district of Kastro once hung a bell that would ring out every evening to announce the closing of an iron gate. You wouldn’t want to be left outside in those days! As though moulded from white clay, the little houses of Folegandros’ Kato Rouga neighbourhood are like sculptures embellished with lively colours. Rest for a longer look and then walk to the Church of Pantanassa. From there you can see the islands Milos, Sifnos and Kimolos.
Above Hora, a striking white path zigzags across the face of the mountain, heading up to a special Folegandros landmark, the Church of the Panagia. Don’t hesitate, the walk is surprisingly gentle and short. And the rewards are great. The church is a rare example of Aegean ecclesiastical architecture, with three domes. Inside there is a portable icon of the Virgin, which on her feast days is carried in procession around all the houses of the island – a moving and impressive spectacle. The view is perhaps the best on Folegandros and one of the most iconic in the Cyclades.
Whether you walk, take the bus or jump into a caique, you will find the beaches of Folegandros as photogenic as any other island in the Cyclades. Whatever your choice, fine pebbles or golden sand, you’ll find the water inviting and clear. Angali, Agios Georgios, Vardia, Livadaki, Hochlidia, Katergo will become familiar names. But remember to take a picnic with you. Sun loungers, umbrellas or iced coffees are rarer on Folegandros than elsewhere in the Aegean. Their beauty alone is reward enough.
If you were to measure them, Folegandros’ pathways would be far, far longer than its asphalted roads. Generations of farmers and shepherds carved out dozens of routes to their pastures and crops, which any self-respecting hiker would want to try. Most of them are paved with flagstones. Hike as many as you can. They’ll lead you to some of the most beautiful secrets of the Aegean.
Discover the hiking paths of Folegandros
Ano Meria, Folegandros’ only other village besides Hora, has kept its strictly agricultural character. Here, in an old farmhouse, you can see what a traditional farmstead was really like, with its storage cellar, outdoor oven, olive press and – a Folegandros phenomenon – walled-in lemon trees. The winter wind blows so fiercely that the locals erect high stone walls around each one to protect them.
Eleven metres tall, the lighthouse at Cape Mihelo has been operating since 1912. Put the hike that leads here on your list of interesting walks and take in the extraordinary view as the entire Aegean unfolds before you.
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