Just off the coast of Alexandroupoli lies Samothraki, an unspoiled and majestic Greek island few have the pleasure of knowing. Locals and devotees of Samothraki pride themselves in maintaining the island’s original character and flair. Indeed, skip Samothraki if you’re looking for cosmopolitan summer vacation; this island is reserved for the true nature lovers, hiking aficionados and adrenaline seekers. Visit Samothraki or otherwise known as Samothrace if you want to make new friends, try hitch hiking for the first time in your life or dance till the early hours of the morning on the beach. For those who want to try twenty different ways of eating goat, home made sweets, traditional pies and fine Greek coffee. This is as raw and authentic as Greek islands get, so without further ado, let’s dive into the complete travel guide to Samothraki, Greece where you’ll find out the top things to do, where to stay, things to see and more!
How to get to Samothraki, Greece
The only way to get to Samothraki is by boat from the Port of Alexandroupoli that takes you to the Port of Kamariotissa. The boat ride is about 2 hours long and runs daily all year round and twice a day during the months of July and August.
Getting around Samothraki
Hitchhiking is the most popular way of getting around in Samothraki. Everyone on the island, both locals and visitors are very friendly and open to the idea of helping those in need of transportation. It is 100% safe and possibly the only place in Greece that I would recommend it with all my heart. There is also public transportation that can take you to certain spots around the island, however the trips are limited and infrequent. Likewise, there are some taxis found on the island, mainly in Chora and Kamariotissa. Your best bet to reach all your favorite spots on the island without depending on anyone else however, is to rent a car from Alexandroupoli or to bring your own. In this case, fill up your gas tank in Alexandroupoli as gas tends to be more expensive on the island.
Where to stay in Samothraki
Accommodation in Samothraki is quite limited and is primarily focused on sustainable and eco-friendly options. Camping is the most popular choice for visitors of the island as the campsite is in close proximity to the village of Therma, where many young adults like to gather in the town’s main café. The campsite is equipped with all the necessary facilities and is right along the water, perfect for a morning dip before your adventures begin. There are also several Airbnb options to choose from on the island as well as a few hotels.
Nature in Samothraki
Contrary to what most tourists believe, many of the Greek islands are made up of vast mountains, and Samothraki is of no exception. In fact more than half the island is made up of mountainous valleys with Mount Saos dominating at an astonishing altitude of 1610 meters (5,282 ft.). This is the third highest mountain found on a Greek island and the locals like to refer to it as “fegari,” meaning moon, due to its tall height. The hike up to the summit is about a 6 hour hike and should only be attempted by experienced hikers due to its steepness. Three quarters of the island’s total surface area is included in the Natura 2000, a network of protection areas in the European Union. Lush green vegetation, rivers, waterfalls and natural thermal pools adorn the rough and rugged mountains on Samothraki. Such diverse and unique landscape offers the adventure-seeking and nature enthusiast plenty of exploring to do during their visit to Samothraki.
Things to do in Samothraki, Greece
Discover the island’s waterfalls
As mentioned above, exploring the waterfalls of Samothraki is the epicenter of all activities on the island. People travel from all over the world to hike Mount Saos and discover the myriad of natural treasures and waterfalls along the way. Streams and rivers descending from the summit form waterfalls and natural pools – or “vathres” – where people can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the mountain’s waters. The waterfalls found on the island can be split into two categories, based on which mountain they are found on: Fonias and Gria Vathra. Both mountains are made up of several natural pools that are found on different levels and the higher you go up the mountain the more pools you’ll come across.
Fonias is a cluster of waterfalls scattered across the mountain starting from Mount Saos’ summit. Fonias, meaning murderer, got its name either because there was once a death in its rapid waters or because there was a murder committed at the medieval tower located near the mountain’s banks. Either way, Fonias’ many waterfalls and hiking trails are all worth visiting nowadays. To reach Fonias, take the main road that circulates the island until you reach the Tavern H Gefira Tou Fonia. Right across the tavern you’ll find a small area will people park their cars under the trees. From there, follow the signs until you reach the first natural pool or “vathra”. The trek to the first vathra is quite easy and only takes about 30 minutes.
Enjoy Samothraki’s raw beauty once you reach the first vathra and take a dip in the ice clear waters under the waterfall! Be sure to get here early to find a spot to place your towel and belongings. Also keep in mind that due to the islands open and friendly atmosphere you might see a few people naked at the waterfalls. In any case, you can stay at the first vathra or continue your hike up the mountain to discover the next waterfalls. The exact number of waterfalls is unknown however it is estimated that there are about ten at Fonias. The higher up the mountain you go the harder the hike becomes, so be extra cautious with every step you take; packing lightly also helps the hike.
Just about 2 kilometers from the village of Therma you’ll find the second group of waterfalls on the other side of Mount Saos at Gria Vathra. There are at least ten natural pools at Gria Vathra, surrounded by rugged and rough nature. The first vathra is also easily accessible and can by enjoyed by families with kids as well. The walk to the first vathra is about 10-15 minutes from the moment you leave your car on the street at the foot of the mountain. You can start your adventure from the first vathra and attempt to climb to the ascending waterfalls or you can start from the top of the mountain and make your way down. Either way, a lot of caution is needed to climb the mountain as there are slipper and wet rocks. Always ask for help if needed and keep in mind to pack lightly.
Take a dip in the thermal hot springs
Visit the mineral springs of Samothraki at the village of Therma, just 15 kilometers away from Kamariotissa and enjoy the water’s therapeutic benefits. Dating back to the Byzantine period, the termal springs have had therapeutic effects for chronic rheumatic conditions, arthritis, peripheral angiopathies, obesity and more. The facilities of the Mineral Springs of Samothraki are located at the beginning of Therma, near the bus terminal, where you can find both group and individual baths.
Try alternative sports
Samothraki is the ideal location for adrenaline junkies looking to test their limits. From climbing the mighty Mt. Saos, to canyoning, to mountain biking to scuba diving, Samothraki is the ultimate destination for alternative sports.
Chora is as charming and picturesque as Greek villages get. Perched on a hill top overlooking the sea, this amphitheater-shaped village, is perfect for wandering around the narrow, cobble stone alleys, having a cup of coffee overlooking the village or for eating a traditional Greek meal at one of the many taverns. The best time to visit Chora is early in the morning before the temperatures get too high. Some noteworthy spots are the museums (mentioned below), gift shops, the café “O Pirgos” which is ideal for coffee or drinks, the confectionery shop, “Samothraki” for divine homemade chocolate and traditional Greek sweets and the traditional bakery dating back to 1853 pictured above. Lastly, a visit to the Chora Castle is worth a visit.
Visit Samothraki’s museums
Archeological Museum of Samothrace
The Archeological Museum of Samothrace is located next to the archaeological site of the Great Sanctuary where you can observe archaeological artifacts found on the island as well as a replica of Nike of Samothrace. Many of the findings exhibited in the museum have been discovered accidentally by locals or by students of the American School of Archeology.
Folklore Museum of Samothrace
The Folklore Museum of Samothrace is located in Chora and has been open to the public since 1985. It is housed in a two-story mansion dating back to the 1900’s and is set up like a real home. You can observe collected items from homes, a rich collection of woven rugs, beddings, agricultural tools as well as a photo exhibition and a carved iconostasis with icons from the island’s churches.
Visit the Sanctuary of the Great Gods
The Sanctuary of the Great Gods is without question the most significant archeological site and point of historical interest in Samothraki. Also known as the Samothrace Temple Complex, this ancient site was once home to secret ritual practices characterized by initiations. Built right next to the ancient city of Paleopoli, a visit to the Sanctuary will give you a glimpse into this ancient form of religion in Greece as well as an idea of where the original Nike of Samothrace once stood.
Beaches in Samothraki, Greece
There are not many beaches to visit in Samothraki, nevertheless there are a few beaches that are worth visiting and are indeed stunning. The best beaches in Samothraki to visit are Therma Beach, Pachia Ammos Beach, Vatos Beach and Kipos Beach.
The first beach worth mentioning due to its proximity to the popular campsite is Therma Beach, home to Saoki Beach Bar. This is one of the only organized beaches on the island, with a fully equipped bar that serves coffee and drinks all day. They only operate during the peak season, however you can expect top-notch parties almost every night that they’re open!
Pachia Ammos Beach
Another organized beach, Pachia Ammos Beach consists of an organized beach with sunbeds, volleyball net, a small tavern and shower facilities. Pachia Ammos Beach is located on the opposite side of the island from Chora however the drive there is worth it. Not only do you drive along the coastlines of the islands but also through myriad of valleys, traditional little villages and countless goats along the way.
From Pachia Ammos Beach you can hop on a boat and visit Vatos Beach, which is only accessed by boat. Perhaps one of the most stunning beaches on the island, Vatos is an unspoiled, sandy beach with clear, crystal waters. Vatos Beach is surrounded by coarse cliffs and lush green trees. Along the way to the beach you can get a glimpse of Kremastos waterfalls, one of the few waterfalls on earth that debouches into the sea.
Kipos Beach is one of those beaches that is worth visiting during the morning hours and the night hours. During the day you’re greeted by an endless black rock shoreline and turquoise waters and by night you’re presented with a sky of infinite stars. Keep in mind there is neither any cell service at the beach nor any facilities, so at any given moment you might literally be the only one on the beach! There is a small cliff side that offers shade during the day otherwise make sure to bring an umbrella, snacks and water with you.
Festivals and Cultural Events in Samothraki
There are several festivals and cultural events in Samothraki that take place all year round. One of the most notable ones is Kaviria Festival, a series of cultural and musical events, workshops and seminars held all year round. On July 17th you can take part in the traditional celebration in honor of Prophet Elias that takes place in the village of Prophet Elias. Likewise on August 15th you can witness the celebration in honor of Virgin Mary in the church of Panagia Kamariotissa. Pulsar Samothraki Art Festival is a three-day music and cinema festival that takes place almost every year is also an amazing festival not to be missed.
Churches of Samothraki
According to historic records there are 999 churches and chapels dispersed all over Samothraki. One of the most remarkable chapels is Panagia Krimniotissa, which is perched right on top of a steep mountain. The dirt road up to the chapel is bumpy at times however the panoramic view of the island is worth the effort! From Panagia Krimniotissa you can also observe islands that once belonged to Greece and are now under the Turkish possession. Another notable church to visit in Samothraki is Pew of Paul the Apostle. This church holds a great deal of historical significance, as Samothraki was the first European destination that Apostle Paul visited. This church is located on the northern side of the island near the Sanctuary of the Great Gods.
Where to eat in Samothraki
Apart from its astonishing raw and untamed nature, Samothraki is also renowned for its amazing cuisine. Indeed, due to the large population of goats on the island – about 30 goats for every inhabitant on the island, there are infinitely many ways of enjoying roasted goat on the island. The best restaurants in Samothraki that you absolutely must visit are: Taverna Karydies, Tavern “O Vrachos” and Tavern “O Fonias”.
For coffee & drinks
Café Therma, Therma Village: The center of all social gatherings in the village of Therma; serves coffee, light sandwiches, traditional sweet preserves and drinks all day long.
Café Trapeza, Chora: A small restaurant found in Chora overlooking the village. Find a table in its small balcony and enjoy your breakfast with a view.
Café “O Pirgos”, Chora: Located in Chora, Café O Pirgos is perfect for enjoying the sunset in the evening or for enjoying your morning coffee.
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