Folegandros is one of those islands not yet overdeveloped from a tourism standpoint. It still has plenty of original character and style. The light of the Aspropounta lighthouse, built in 1919 at a height of 165 feet above the sea, can be seen 17 nautical miles away. The island is ideal for walking, on paths that traverse the island and pass by old windmills, derelict farms, gorges and country churches. The beaches are reachable by small boat, bus or car, though walking is best for the more distant beaches.
Folegandros is located between Milos and Sikinos and is bathed in the bright light of the Aegean. It offers an inexhaustible amount of surprises for the traveller.Intact architecture of its settlements,paths that run through each corner of its nature, beautiful secluded sandy beaches with crystal waters,cobbled streets of Hora and the Castle, its panoramic view of the Aegean sea, its night life and the joyful moments with a cool glass of wine in its taverns, all contribute in leaving visitors with inerasable impressions.
Folegandros has an extent of 32 square kilometres and its population reaches 600 residents.
The capital of Folegandros is Hora, built in and round of the Castle at the top of an abrupt cliff, rising 200 metres above the sea. Hora of Folegandros is a beautiful settlement with houses of genuine Cycladic architecture, paved streets with continuous squares – a unique characteristic in the Cyclades and many picturesque churches: Agia Ekaterini, Theoskepasti, Agios Antonios, Agios Nikolaos (metropolis), Pantanassa, Agia Eleousa, with its beautifully iconostasis and its marvellous post Byzantine icons of the Cretan School of painting. In the central street of the settlement (Kato Roua, as the locals call it) , the white two-storied houses with their colourful doors and windows and their stone staircases, that lead to small verandas, are built one next to the other, and constitute the exterior wall of a Castle, that was built on the 13th century, above the cliff. Gazing at the Aegean Sea from the steep side of the Castle in the square of Pounta is one of the things you must not miss!
Folegandros has been inhabited since the early Cycladic period and its first settlers were the Kares and the Phoenicians. Later come the Cretans, with the son of King Minos (called Folegandros) as their leader. This is where the name of the island comes from. Another version is that the name of the island comes from the Phoenician word “phelekgundari”, which means rocky ground. Later it became part of the Athenian alliance while in the Roman period it was used as a place of exile.
During the Venetian domination its official name was “Polykandros”. At the duration of the Venetian domination, it suffered many attacks from the Turks, who finally occupied it in 1617. In 1828 the island was linked to the newly established Greek state and during the whole19th century it was financially supported by emigrant Greeks from Constantinople and Alexandria. In the 1920’s and up to 1969 it was once again used, as a place of exile.
The traditional settlement of Hora is built at an altitude of roughly 200 metres from the sea, 3,4 kilometres from Karavostasi.
Its paved streets and narrow corridors, its many and continuous squares, that are a unique built-up characteristic in the whole of Cyclades, its well kept houses with their small white painted courtyards and the Castle are the main characteristics of Hora.
Walking in the narrow streets of Hora can be a relaxing as well as a quiet experience since all vehicles are denied access. Parking takes place in spacious parking lots, out of the settlement. The view of the northern, steep side of the Castle at the square of Pounta, a mid-day siesta in the shades of the trees at the Dounavidon square and the evening liveliness of the Piatsa square are some of the first things with which visitors of Hora come in contact with.
Church Koimisis Theotokou (Dormition of Virgin Mary)
The church of Koimisis Theotokou is built on the northeast side of the village and is visible from all places in Hora. It is the most important church of Folegandros, dedicated to the Dormition of Virgin Mary. It is found hanging from a rock above Hora and is probably built in the place of an ancient temple. Building material of that temple was used for its construction. In the courtyard and in the interior of the church you will see embedded ancient signs and bases of statues. The church was a chapel of a nun monastery. It is a multi-domed basilica with a tall belfry. A marble sign from 1687 writes about the renovation of the church, while Virgin Mary took its current form with a remodeling that started in 1816 and finished in 1821.
The marble iconostasis, the archiepiscopal throne and the pulpit is work of the marble sculptor Kaparias from Tinos.
An according to tradition, miraculous, silver-decorated Byzantine icon of Virgin Mary that is kept in the church, is connected with pirate stories and legends of Folegandros. According to an old Folegandros custom, there is a procession of the holy icon in front of all houses of the island during Easter. To reach the church of Virgin Mary, you should follow the paved path that starts from the square of Pounta (15 ‘).
Kastro is the old part of Hora. It is a medieval settlement that was built in order to protect residents of the island from hostile raids and from then on up to today, it has been continuously inhabited. Its northern side is built in the verge of the cliff at a height of 210 metres. The houses, many of which are over ten centuries old, are all in very good condition.
The castle is the preserved part of the traditional settlement of Hora and is protected by the Byzantine Antiquities division of the Archaeological Service.
It is a traditional rural unit (themonia) of the 19th century, in Ano Meria. Here, you will see a typical rural household, as it was up to the middle of the 20th century.
The museum was founded and is managed by the cultural association “Folegandros”.
During summer it is open daily between 5-8 p.m.
Tel.: 0030 22860 41370
With an impressive decoration of stalactites and stalagmites, it is found on a rocky coast under the monastery of Virgin Mary. The cave constitutes an important archaeological site. Research is still continued here; this is why, an authorisation from the archaeological service is required in order to visit it. A great amount of ancient male names are written on the rocks of the cave.
Karavostasis is the harbour of Folegandros. The place is calm and is offered for swimming and relaxation. The central asphalted street which leads to Hora and to Ano Meria begins from the pier of Karavostasis. It crosses the whole island (in length), as well as the coastal street which leads to the settlement Livadi and passes from all the sandy beaches, south of the harbour.
The starting line for the bus to Hora is also found at the pier.
The main beach of Karavostasi is Chochlidia, while the area around has various small, isolated beaches.
It is the second in size settlement of Folegandros, scattered on the northeast end of the island, without an actual central point. Most residences are not simple houses but “themonies”, that is to say small autonomous rural and animal raising units. It lies 6 kilometres from Hora and the serving bus schedules are frequent.
Agkali, which is found in the Vathi bay, on the western coasts of the island, has easy access and several taverns. The path to Agios Nikolaos, with its beautiful beach with small pebbles and a tavern, starts from here. Further north you will find the beaches Livadaki and Ambeli. On the northeast coast of the island, you will meet the beaches Vorina, with the green Stone of Folegandros, Agios Georgios and Serfiotiko, which you can only approach on foot or by fishing boat.
Specialty of Folegandros is the meat in red sauce (kid, rabbit or rooster) with the local pasta “matsata”. Other beloved dishes are the “tarachta” (spaghetti with mizithra), chick peas in the oven, baked capers, the karavoloi (cooked snails) and the marvellous Folegandros pies: with zucchini, onion, watermelon (sweet pie with watermelon, honey and sesame).
In Folegandros, weddings and baptisms are always accompanied by the local nougat with honey.During Christmas landords fry “makarones” (a type of Christmas treat) and on Easter they make tasty honey pies, kneaded with fresh mizithra cheese and thyme honey.
Folegandros is connected by ferry with Piraeus and with other islands of the Cyclades.
For more information: Port Authority of Folegandros, Tel. 22860-41530, Port Authority of Piraeus, Tel. 210 4226000-4, 210 4593140, 210 4593150.
Information GREEK TELECOME: 1440
LIVADI – CAMPING, Livadi, From 10/06 till 10/09
Tel. 0030 22860 41204/41213 Fax: 0030 2286041478, winter phone: 0030 2104112701
For more information: Pan-Hellenic Union of Camping Owners, www.panhellenic-camping-union.gr
Transport on the island is done with buses, taxi (0030 2286041048, 0030 6944 693957), rented cars and motorcycles, and with fishing boats that execute regular itineraries towards the most distant beaches.
POLICE Tel. 0030 22860 41249
PORT AUTHORITY Tel. 0030 22860 41530
MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY Tel. 0030 22860 41285
HEALTH CENTRE Tel. 0030 22860 41222
Sources: www.cyclades-tour.gr, www.folegandros.gr, magazine Greece.