Despite the influx of tourism during the late 20th century, the easternmost of the Cyclades Islands, Amorgos, does preserve most of its landscape and much of its old path trail ways network intact. Amorgos has fans, many of them walkers, who keep returning year after year. Walking guides to the island, keep being published, since the mid 1980s. Tourist bureaus, organize walking tours during the season.





Amorgos -unsurprisingly- has been awarded with the "23rd European Tourism Award for Contribution in the Development of Eco-sustainable Tourism". The Award was presented at "3rd International Convention for Culture and Tourism "Yperia" 2005", which was hosted by the Aegialis Hotel, at Aegiali, Amorgos, May 5th-8th 2005.








On the old path between Aegiali and Chora. Astypalea in the horizon. Photo by Reporterre.




Participating the "Yperia 2005", I had the opportunity to walk the traditional pathways of the island with like-minded attendants of the Convention. Due to time restrictions, I couldn't explore as much as I would like to, but enough to be fascinated , and surely love to be one of those year-after-year- returning visitors.

That said, I returned to Amorgos and participated the "Yperia 2006" Convention, which also took place at the hospitable Aegialis, April 27th- 30th 2006.

Both times, I walked the routes described below as “Walk One” and “Walk Two”. In 2006 I was further offered the opportunity to a guided walk of the “Evangelismos Trail”, which is here presented as “Walk Three”.




The photos from 2005 included in this page are courtesy of my colleagues Zdrafka Michailova, and Maud and Laurent of Reporterre. I had then attended the Convention as a correspondent of Mesogeios Radio Station, so I guess I have an excuse for not taking my own camera along. Guess what, in 2006 I returned fully equipped with two cameras!




Walks One & Two, are classic routes, on paths signposted by the Culture Department of the Prefecture of the Cyclades, thoroughly described in the guides published by the same authority, as well as in other guide-books and guide-maps. Of the latter I would recommend "Amorgos, Touring and Hiking Map" by Anavasi, which is readily available on the island. The signposted Routes 4 and 1, correspond to my “Walk One” and “Walk Two”, respectively.










Walk One: Langada - Epanochoriani - Tholos- Astratigos - Tholaria - Lefkes Spring- Aegiali:





Traditional villages, ravines, beaches, springs, old churches, solitary chapels, roman tombs, pine grooves, ancient greek and prehistoric acropolises, terraced fields, cobblestone paths, breath-taking precipices. All ingredients of this 3-hour walk at the feet of the dominant Mt. Krikelos, and around the valley of Aegiali.







Beautifully preserved traditional old house in Langada.







Amorgean traditional silk woven textiles in old house in Langada.





The church of Panagia Epanochoriani is only 15'min out of the village of Langada, on the old pilgrimage path to Theologos and Stavros. The church is of the inscribed cross type with a dome, and there would be nothing remarkable about it, did not it incorporate ancient marbles -one of them being a sizeable anthemion above its entrance- evidence of existence of an ancient sanctuary in the area. Epanochoriani neighbours no less than another three chapels, an adjacent delicious sweet water cistern, and a lively farmer's cottage, penetrated by the smells of freshly made cheese.




Sitting on the dusty cottage's benches and sipping raki with the friendly farmer, joined by two colleagues of mine and another three Amorgean men, the company soon seemed to me like a mini convention when the talk revolved around the future of the island. Like the Prophets of Israel, each seemed to have a different vision: one wanted an airport to be constructed, charter flights landing, aiming at tourism development aggressively; another wanted a ferry-boat bought by the local authorities, to independently handle transportation, for the island's own good; yet another wanted his island to remain unspoiled, as unspoiled as possible, as quiet and serene as possible; the debate went on...




To the north-east of Epanochoriani, the trail proceeds through abandoned terraces, turning the back to the once forested Krikelos, only to join the path between Langada and Tholaria. Near the junction, in a small creek, the spring of Dris lays a few steps below the ground, marked by a squat cement structure, and a groove of trees. It is hard to imagine that as recently as 1836 the massive Mt. Krikelos above us was still covered with its ancient pine forest, to which the region of Aegiali owed its name "Melania" meaning "black forest", only to give way to a huge fire burning for months.




The "discovery" of the inscription. Photo courtesy of Z.M.

Corinthian capital in Astratigos. Photo courtesy of Z.M.












Astratigos (Agios Stratigos - Taxiarchis) church and ruins of a Hellenistic tower. Photo courtesy of Z.M.




The path continues in direction "Tholaria". To the right a cement water reservoir, inspires my curiosity to look for the spring it takes water from up the cleft of the hill. To my surprise I discover a very old, perhaps ancient, built over with a vault, spring, which incorporates a marble greek inscription! The inscription can be transcribed as:  




[...]Η ΧΑΙΡΕ

The inscription puzzled me: if it was still standing in its original place, then this should be an ancient vaulted tomb, and not a vaulted spring. But then again for some reason, some when, someone could have taken it from perhaps the ancient city of Aegialis or from its cemetery and built it into this wall. Who would be this Heroine the inscription refers to, and what heroism had she achieved? Fascinating!




Further on the trail, a solitary tall ruined vaulted structure, standing on saddle at a junction of the path, puzzled me even more. Could this be one of the roman era vaulted tombs of the Tholaria area, as its name "Tholos" suggests? This must have then belonged to a remarkable person of the era, as it remarkable itself and very charming in its decay.




To the east of the Tholos, the main trail forks towards the tiny plateau of Asratigos, with the namesake old church standing next to a sheep-pen, which stands on the foundation walls of a tower from the hellenistic times. In the field, before the church, the path steps almost into the obscure mouth of an old, built in the ground well, still in use today. Adjacent to the church, a chapel-like structure houses human bones and numerous sculls. Inside the church, a massive capital of the corinthian order serves as the Agia Trapeza in the Holy Bema. This is definitely a place of rich history.

















At the Lefkes spring. Photo courtesy of Z.M.




The parish church of the Tholaria Village, the impressive Agii Anargiri, is another example of a church that incorporates ancient building material. From the balcony of the coffee-shop next to Agii Anargiri, there's a nice view over the hill that once occupied the ancient city of Aegialis, one of the three of the island. The lady from the coffee-shop assures us that very few traces of the ancient city remain to be seen today, almost everything being turned into fields.




Leaving Tholaria, the trail descends into the valley passing from the spring of Lefkes, and ends on the main asphalt road next to the Agii Theodori church. Just on the beach, half way sunk into the water, the remains of roman buildings, project from the sand. Further in the charming little port of Aegiali, one block behind the quay, lies the whitewashed little church of the Panagia, which is more than obviously built on the foundations of an older and bigger church, so said, of an early christian basilica. Curious enough to find more evidence to this, I asked the lady at the news agency next door for the keys. "Wait 'till my daughter comes to keep an eye on the shop" she said, but I soon had to go as my time and patience were running out, leaving another mystery suspended.










Walk Two: Aegiali - Potamos - Asfodilitis - Xenodochio - Chosoviotissa Monastery - Chora:





Amorgos boasts two things: the millennium old renowned Monastery of Chosoviotissa, and the millions-fan' Big Blue. This classic trail on the island, featured in just about every hiking and general guide to the Island, has them both. I was lucky enough to walk it on the first Sunday after Easter, when the traditional Procession of the Icons takes place.







The Procession of the Icons departs for Chosoviotissa from Potamos.






At the outskirts of Asfodilitis.






Rock carvings in Asfodilitis. Violins, dances, flags; probably depicting a festive day.



The Icons together with the priests, the monks, the faithful congregation and several enthusiastic hikers like me, set off from the parish church of the Potamos villages after the morning Liturgy. This year this colourful company numbered 76 people.




The youngest were elementary school kids, running ahead the main body of the pilgrims, to ring the churches' bells to welcome and announce the approaching Icons. Walking fast enough, I joined the kids waiting at the Agios Mamas chapel on the ridge above Potamos. Unsurprisingly, Agios Mamas is said to be standing on the site of an ancient building, and curious enough I felt constrained to explore the neighborhood, only to find some old shepherd stone huts, still furnished with beds and closets, but obviously long abandoned. In a newspaper the kids found, the date read May 14th 1965!




The oldest of the group, was Kyra Rinaki, a 74 year old lady from Langada. She has been doing this trip for ages and she does not mean to give up. "Are you sure you are going to make it to the Monastery, Rinaki?" the younger asked her. "I will go as far as my feet and God wants!" she replied. Kyra Rinaki was not of the faint-hearted type. She was very lively, very talkative, and very knowledgeable. She answered all my questions about which plant is what, particularly about a plant that looked and smelled like oregano. She informed me it is 'aragani' a kind of pseudo-oregano, used to adulterate the original oregano.




For many of the pilgrims this Procession is a "taximo" for wellness, and to emphasize their commitment, some are even walking barefoot. They are daughters and mothers and daughters in law, walking barefoot for the 3 hour forty min trek.





After Agios Mamas the trail passes from three uninhabited hamlets. I was surprised that there was a family of farmers waiting for the Procession at the first of them, the Oxo Meria, for the "blessing". Next is the Asfondilitis, larger than Oxo Meria, with small grey stone houses facing south, and its church, Agios Nikolaos, under renovation works. I looked for Kyra Rinaki to show me the stone engravings as I was promised, only to spot her a mile ahead! These rock carvings are supposed to have been made only a few decades ago, but they look just like prehistoric rock designs from the cave-man era!







Another fun-having-company portrait in Asfodilitis.



Last of the three hamlets is Agrilas, a tiny place with a few stone farmers-huts, that seemed unvisited for ages.







The Procession rests at Agios Nikolaos, Asfodilitis.









View from the Xenodochio, Naxos in the background. Kyra Rinaki, followed by me, followed by Zdrafka. Photo by Reporterre.




Just before Xenodochio, the company takes a rest. A great spot to enjoy the view over the north coast of the island, the islet of Nicouria and Gramboussa, the big blue of the Aegean framed by the gigantic island of Naxos in the background.  Just below the path, runs the newly constructed main asphalt road, along the coast to Aegiali. I am relieved that this ancient path-way escaped the modern frenzy of conversion of old paths into motor-ways. Unfortunately, many old paths at the south-west of the island were bulldozed as recently as the late 90's, and yet more are destined to be eaten away by the voracious bulldozer, one of which, I am sad to hear, is the old cobblestone path from Agii Saranda to ancient Minoa.




Xenodochio, meaning "Hotel", used to be the official resting spot on this old high-way between Chora and Aegiali. Shut and sealed today, it comprises of a few stone huts -with some fancy accessories, I must admit-, surrounded by a large stone fence-wall. Facing south now, the path proceeds to the Chosoviotissa. Along this way nothing remarkable but the cliffs and the precipices, best to be avoided by those suffering from vertigo. If only I had known better, to follow Kyra Rinaki who diverged from the main path from Xenodochio, to visit a number of churches higher on the way.




On reaching Chosoviotissa, the women who wish to enter the Monastery must be dressed "appropriately", meaning long skirts and covered busts and shoulders.




Going down the stairs from the Monastery to the parking, I had to confront a crowd going up the opposite way, gathering for the arrival of the Icons. Out of the parking, to the right, the old cobblestone path, the so-called "kalogerikos" (of the monks), ascends to the Chora.





Maria Theologitou, a participant of our Convention, and resident of the Chora has come with her car, to invite us to her place. She insists so much that, to those not acquainted with the greek philoxenia, it might almost seem like kidnapping. Maria is a young woman, who has turned their home's traditional oil-press to a family-run hostel. She lives next to the renovated rooms she lets, where she also runs a small taverna in summer, at the veranda of her house, overlooking the terraced hills to the south west. In the middle, a lush garden, featuring all kinds of season's vegetables, a variety of grapevines and fruit trees, that Maria personally takes care of and is very proud to show everyone around.































Exhausted but happy! Me at the Venetian fort overlooking Chora, at the end of Walk 2. Photo by Reporterre.




She is also very proud to show us around the Chora. Her descriptions and narrations are so spontaneous and vivid, that she even showed us the former garbage dump and the tales told about it. The former garbage dump, at the wind-mills area, looks like an ordinary and usual well from the outside. It has been used for generations and generations without ever filling up. Once you remove its cover, an awful smell pours out, and once you spell a word into its mouth, the returning echo conveys something chaotic. It is said that a cat that once fell into it found its way down to the port of Agia Anna. It is also said that when a goat fell into it, its owner who got down with ropes to retrieve it, found himself in a huge chamber which seemed to continue in several directions. These tales excited my imagination. The only reference to it that I could find, was in Milliarakis' "Amorgos" written back in 1884. Milliarakis refers to it by the name "Vouthonas" and classifies it with the islands caves. Taking in mind that Chora was once exposed to piracy could this be the scapeway of the inhabitants to the sea, or a hide away spot?




Later on, at a cafe, at the Chora's Loza, I had the good luck to meet Mr. Simon Giannakos, the former antiquities warden of the Island. The knowledgeable Mr. Giannakos was kind enough to answer my endless questions about the island, and share my passion to unveiling the secrets of several findings that puzzled me, Vouthonas being simply one of them.














Walk Three: The “Evangelismos Trail”: KatapolaXylokeratidiNeraPeristeraNio Chorio - EvangelismosFtochi Panagia – Mycenean Cemetery – Xylokeratidi.





Katapola, the main of the two ports of the island, is itself well worth a stroll. It used to be the port of the ancient city of Minoa, the ruins of which are being excavated on the hill of Moundoulia, above the harbour. The big parish church, Agios Georgios at Rachidi, incorporates ancient columns and inscriptions, while the Katapoliani church occupies the site of an early Christian basilica with more ancient marbles visible built into the walls or laying in the yard outside.


It’s a pleasant easy walk to the seaside little village of Xylokeratidi, at the opposite side of the sheltered bay. Past the tavernas, the narrow roads and stairways lead out of the village, along the sea. Soon we reach the cemetery by the Tris Ierarches church. The lovely beaches by the promontory of St. Panteleimon church, and the famous Maltezi beach, come to view. The cement paved road, shrinks to the original stone-paved path, by the last solitary houses near the Nera Springs.


The springs at Nera used to be a main source of water for the nearby inhabitants, until recent times, and the water was reputed to be especially healthy. The springs are framed by water holes and gutters, obviously still in use. Don’t forget to leave the fencing gates exactly as you find them.


From Nera, the path ascends inland, and reaches a charming little farming plateau, with fields fenced with dry-stone walls and abandoned stone cottages. To the left, an obvious, yet unmarked fork, takes to the Lighthouse in 30 minutes. To the right, the hill of Vigla, is the site of a settlement of the bronze age, namely the 3rd millennium BC.


The path, continues inland, and soon reaches a ridge framed by a tiny hamlet, consisting of only three stone-built abandoned cottages, and a couple of threshing floors. Taking a peek through the stuttering doors into the houses, is glimpsing onto a freeze frame of an era gone.


The most stunning at this point, is the magnificent wide view over the Katapola bay.


The path now has leveled out, and soon reaches another cluster of abandoned stone huts, with the extravagant name of Nio Chorio, obviously home to farmers during harvesting times, in a not so remote past. The cistern, is still taken care of, there is even a bucket left on top of it.







The Agios Georgios church at Rachidi, incorporates ancient building material.






View over Agios Pandeleimon and the bay of Katapola.






 Reputedly “the God of the paths”; During the restoration works, the crew set up this standing stone, at a small observation post, halfway between the two hamlets.



Soon the path starts to descend in curls, down into the verdant valley of Xylokeratidi. Prickly pear, fig trees and olive trees abound.


Several minutes down the path, a gap in the fence wall to the right, marks the entry to the field that hosts the remarkable Evangelismos Church.


The church is locked, but we were as lucky as meeting the young caretaker just leaving, and convincing him to let us a minute to see the frescoes inside the church.


What makes this hidden-away-in-the-valley-groves jewel-like little church all important?


The church belongs to the unusual and rare architectural type of the so-called “mausoleum”. To describe it as simply as possible, it is a building, square in plan, with a circular dome, which in early Christian or early Byzantine times often had a burial character. A vaulted narthex has been added in later times. Three layers of frescoes are preserved, the earliest assigned to the 9th century, time of the iconoclast controversy. Evangelismos is one of the -only- three churches on Amorgos that retain fragments of aniconic decoration. Marbles probably belonging to an early Christian era, lay loose in the foreyard. Other marbles, possibly spolia, are incorporated in the walls. Take a close look at the soil-wall opposite the church’s north wall, and you will face a series of debris strata. This is an immensely interesting site!


The path continues among lush vegetation, and soon past the chapel of Ftochi Panagia and the sign “to the Mycenean Cemetery” to the right, reaches the houses of Xylokeratidi.


This 5 km long, old path, was restored in Spring 2005, as a pilot project undertaken by the “Foundation Amorgos” with the financial help of a group of loyal visitors of the island.


The Project was presented at the “Yperia 2006” by Mr. Henk Hooft, a Dutch visiting Amorgos for 27 years, and now a home owner on the island, and a vivid advocate for restoring and maintaining its old paths.


Fifty more kilometers of old paths in six designated routes on the island, await their sponsors to be restored and/or maintained.


On the 1st of July 2006, I was wonderfully surprised to hear that, the EPOS Fylis (the mountaineering club of Fyli, Attiki), are running an 8-days’ expedition inviting volunteers to join them clean-up the mountain paths of Amorgos.








View over the bay of Katapola from Nio Chorio.






Deserted stone hut at Nio Chorio.






First sight over Evangelismos.






The iconostasis and altar of Evangelismos.






Aniconic fresco layer in Evangelismos. The hen motif is considered to symbolize the Church.








 A Selected Bibliography:


A Travelogue of Amorgos – Historical and Cultural Guide. “Archipelagos” Cultural Corporation, Cyclades 2001.


Αμοργός: Μια ιδέα-πείραμα που έγινε πραγματικότητα και πώς έγινε ο εθελοντικός καθαρισμός μονοπατιών, με κέφι και ενθουσιασμό !


Αμοργός, Το απέραντο γαλάζιο. Επτά Ημέρες, εφ. "Η Καθημερινή", 29 Μαΐου 2005.


Anastassiou T.: Amorgos, History Sightseeiing. "Archipelagos" Cultural Corporation, Hermoupolis 1996.


Dubin M.: Trekking in Greece. Lonely Planet Publications, 1993, p. 273-277.


Dubin M.S.: Greece on Foot. The Mountaineers, 1986, p. 181-185.


Graf D.: Wandern auf den Kykladen. Dieter Graf Verlag, Muenchen 1999, s. 13-30.


Μαραγκού Λ. Ι.: Αμοργός Ι. Η Μινώα, ο λιμήν και η μείζων περιφέρεια. Βιβλιοθήκη της εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρίας, αρ. 228. Αθήνα 2002.


Μαραγκού Λ. Ι.: Αμοργός ΙΙ. Οι αρχαίοι πύργοι. Βιβλιοθήκη της εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας αρ. 239. Αθήνα 2005.


Μηλιαράκης Αντ.: Αμοργός. Δελτίο Ιστορικής και Εθνολογικής Εταιρίας της Ελλάδος, τόμ. Α', σ. 569-656.


Νίγδελης Π.Μ.: Πολίτευμα και κοινωνία των πόλεων των Κυκλάδων κατά την ελληνιστική και αυτοκρατορική εποχή. Θεσσαλονίκη 1990. 


Schoenrock D.: Amorgos und Kleine Ostkykladen. Michael Mueller Verlag, 1997.


Suhr G.: Amorgos. Richtig Wandern Kykladen, DuMont Buchverlag, Koeln 1987, s. 226-241.








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