Folegandros is one of those tiny, quiet islands where time seems to have
stopped. It is the very prototype for the typical Greek island, with
clear waters, white houses and little winding streets. Located in the
southern part of the Cyclades near the islands of Milos and Sikinos. The
island has an area of 32 square kilometres and a population of 558 . It
is more a large dry rock in the middle of the sea rather than a proper
island where potable water and land suitable for cultivation are rare.
The people living there have as a major source of income the high income
tourism as the island is a place of recollection and reflection for many
famous people. The natural beauty of the
island is based on its wild
rocky character, its imposing vertical cliffs leading to the dark blue
sea and the numerous small secluded beaches with clear waters in colour
of all shades of blue and green. There is a helicopter port but potable
water still arrives to the island with tankers whenever the weather
permits it. The
ground is hilly with not an t important economy is no. Crops are limited
and people engaged mainly in fishing. The island's main economy is the
tourism because the island has many picturesque locations and beaches.
Even though this island belongs to the "calmer" categories, the island can get extremely busy during the high season mainly from Greek tourists. For the few locals this is a blessing, since it keeps their island alive. Most of them are involved with fishing and agriculture, and the extra money tourism brings makes them able to stay here in the winter as well. Although Folegandros has little in the way of tourist amenities or roads, it attracts more and more visitors each year -chiefly those in search of solitude close to nature and away from the spirit of other cosmopolitan islands such as Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos or Corfu .
A steep and rocky island, Folegandros is a challenging place for those who want to explore its' nature. It is definitely worth walking here, and the harsh nature and the many views will give you something to remember.
The island's history is
not very well known in detail, but there is evidence that it was
inhabited at a very early stage. In the 2nd Millennia BC it was probably
under Minoan, Cretan, rule. The island was named from Folegandros, who
according to the tradition was the leader of the settlers. Later on, in
the 8th century BC, the island was settled by Dorians, a Greek tribe
from the north. In the 5th century BC was under the Athenian domination.
Finally was conquered by the Romans who used it as a place of exile.
The island shared the same fate as almost all the Cycladic islands in the 13th century AD, when the Venetians invaded and made the area a duchy of their own, with Naxos as the centre.
This lasted for more than 400 years, when the Turks conquered Greece. Folegandros was liberated in the 19th century after the war of Independence had broken out.
What to see
: The island has three
basic villages, all worth a visit. The capital is Chora, which is a
traffic-free little village with many taverns and shops. Here, the
Castro lies, which was an area of the town built like a fortress. You
can also visit the church of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) just above Chora,
which has an icon said to have worked many miracles. The town of
Folegandros is one of the most beautiful in the Cyclades. It is a
romantic place with strong medieval character, with lots of churches and
a castle, built in 1212 as a protection against the pirates.
Originally the town of Folegandros was confined inside the borders of
the castle for protection but with the passage of time and the gradual
disappearance of the pirates the town "spilled" out of the walls and
reached the sea shore. The castle is built on a rock 200 metres above
the sea is more than a row of guard houses than a proper castle, a style
very common in the Cyclades. Inside the castle there are all the old
picturesque houses and lots of churches with the church of Pantanassa
being the most visited since it has a breathtaking view to the sea.
The town itself consists of small square white-washed houses built in a complex way communicating with a vast network of narrow white streets which create small yards, winding corridors between colourful flowers, jasmines, bougainvilleas and pots with basil. The new quarter is just as pretty, with narrow alleys, stepped walls, courtyards, wooden balconies and typically Aegean churches. Above the town of Folegandros on top of a rock is located the most characteristic structure of the island, the church of Panagia. It is built on top of an ancient temple and one can still see its architecture incorporated to the Christian building. But probably the most important feature of the church is the view to the sea and the near by island of Sikinos.
The port of the island, Karavostasi, is small and it harbours mainly yachts and fishing boats.
Karavostasi is the harbour, and here you'll find many little taverns and a few beaches.
Near the port of Karavostasi is the Chrysospilia, the "Golden cave", a newly found cave not yet explored with golden coloured stalactites. Archaeologists believe it must have been a worship place for God Apollo and Goddess Artemis due to the temple of Apollo built near by and due to the findings inside the cave and a list of ancient names inscribed on the walls. Unfortunately going there takes lots of climbing and the entrance is closed to the public for the time being.
In Ano Meria ("upper part") there is a little folklore museum about the island that includes a complex of vine yards, press houses, store houses, the house of the owners and the houses of the workers with all their everyday objects inside.. This village is where most of the farmers live, and it is quite striking that you see and smell animals everywhere.
What to do
:Folegandros is an excellent place for snorkelling, fishing and just relaxing. Some people like taking walks in the steep nature, and others even go jogging. There are usually boat excursions around the island..
There a quite a few bays on Folegandros you either can reach by walking or by taking one of the excursion boats. The beaches are both sandy and pebbled. Agali is a nice sandy beach with a bus connection, and the beach of Agios Nikolaos is very pretty with quite a few nudists. In general many of the small beaches are accessible by boat.
: Folegandros is not a party island, but in Chora you'll find a few bars. Most people here like to eat out late and then stay at the taverns just relaxing. An evening at a local tavern with good food and wine is the best way to enjoy the summer nights in the small islands of Greece, that you can do as well in Folegandros.
On this island traditional Greek food is to be expected. The fancier restaurants are in Chora, in Karavostasi you'll find quite a few fish-taverns, and in Ano Meria there are very basic little places.
Most shops are in Chora, and they sell souvenirs, as well as little icons and hand made painted ceramics.
: Chora, Ano Meria, Agkali and the harbour are connected by buses, that do not run very often. You can rent a car, but a moped is much more useful. The rest of the island is more or less deserted but it has lots of beautiful beaches some of which can be reached only with a caique. Some of the most beautiful are Katergo, Agali, St Nicolas and Ampeli. There are also little excursion boats that will take you to some of the bays and the beaches.
:You can fly to one of the other Cycladic islands, like Naxos, Mykonos and Santorini and take the ferry boat from there. There are also ferries connecting the island to and from Piraeus port in Athens. There are connections with the islands of Syros, Paros, Naxos, Ios, Kimolos, Sikinos, Kithnos, Serifos, Sifnos, Milos, Santorini and Anafi.
Facts about Folegandros
Size: 32 sq. km
International code: 0030
Population: about 800
Local code: 22860
Tourist Information: 41430
Internet cafe: No
Tourist Police: 41249
Health Centre tel:41222