Amorgos is the easternmost and one of the smaller islands of the Cyclades group. It is very beautiful surrounded by lovely golden beaches, clear water and traditional houses and churches, however, with no airport and a fairly long ferry journey to reach it, it is one of the less popular islands for tourists.
We moored on the town quay in Katapola, it was already busy when we arrived and there was only one space left which was next to our friends from MdR.
Katapola is the main port of the island and ferries arrive daily, potentially dropping their anchor over the chains of boats already moored in the bay. It has a small village and the locals were all very friendly.
It is marketed as a traditional destination which focuses on producing and serving local products. The most well-known being the alcoholic drink of Amorgos, Psimeni Raki. It is a unique version of the traditional Raki found at many other Greek islands. Since ancient times, Amorgos has made ‘Psimeni’ Raki with honey and cinnamon. They consume it on its own or with food, as an aperitif or dessert, and serve as a treat to guests. It has also been a popular, traditional home remedy that can be used to treat sore throats or help stay warm during cold winter days.
There was an ‘Amorgos shop’ directly in front of our mooring allowing you to taste (and of course buy) this and other liquors from their distillery, we stocked up with a bottle or two!
There were a couple of places on the island that we wanted to visit and so hired a car to go and explore.
The most well known site is the Holy Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa. Built high up onto the cliffside 300m above sea level with views over the Aegean. The building is 40m high and only 5m wide, it has 8 stories utilizing the recesses in the rock.
The monastery is the second oldest in Greece, originally constructed in the 9th century and refurbished in the 11th century, it was created as an ode to the Grace of Panagia, known as the Virgin Mary, who is the patron saint of the island. Her icon is believed to have arrived on an unmanned boat from Palestine and is protected in the monastery. Unfortunately photos were not allowed inside.
We parked in the small car park and then proceeded up the 300 stone steps to the monastery, it looked a lot bigger as we approached it.
After admiring the views at the top (and catching our breath) we came to a low marble entrance and were then faced with another staircase leading up to the higher levels and the chapel where treasures and icons are kept.
The monastery still houses three practicing monks who act as guardians. After looking around and going up to see the views from the highest balcony, they ushered us into a room and told to us sit down. Wondering if we were about to be converted, we were very pleased to find that the friendly monks were just being hospitable and wanted to serve us with psimeni raki and loukoumi (a traditional sweet).
After walking back down to the car, our next stop was the pretty town of Amorgos (Chora) in the centre of the island, 400m above sea level, surrounded by rocky hills. The medieval maze like Chora with its whitewashed buildings, narrow paved streets, winding steps and small courtyards is considered to be one of the most picturesque settlements in the Cyclades.
There are the ruins of a small 13th century Venetian castle overlooking the town so we walked up more steps to go and have a look. Unfortunately all the doors were locked, but we discovered that you can collect the key from one of the cafes below. We went down to collect the very large key and then back up for a private viewing. Another very low door, obviously people were a lot smaller in those days! There wasn’t much inside but great views over the town and a lovely spot to eat our cheese and spinach pies from the local bakery.
From the castle we had views of a series of windmills on a hill above the Chora. We walked up to them, renovation work was being carried out but mostly they were in disrepair or locked.
In the evening we visited one of the small traditional tavernas hidden away in the narrow streets where we had some of the local specialties accompanied by a shot of psimeni raki!
After a few days we planned to leave early but waited until after the ferry had gone so as not to get our anchor snagged. There wasn’t any wind as we motored around top of the island passing by the dramatic cliffs and rock faces.
There was some disturbance in the water and fish were jumping out, it seemed that they were being chased by something under the water, and then the birds descended, attacking them from above as well.
It wasn’t long before the wind picked up and there was a perfect force 3-4 southerly which carried us along at a good speed towards Lévitha, one of the Dodecanese group of islands. At one point we had to let the sail out a little to slow us down in order to avoid a collision with a big ship, who didn’t seem to understand the ‘rules of the road’.
With good speeds we soon reached Lévitha. The population of this small island is only five, a family with two children and their grandmother. They have laid mooring buoys in the bay which you can use for free if you eat at their farmhouse over the hill. When we arrived it was deserted, there weren’t any other boats and we wondered if it had closed for the season, however, it started to fill up during the afternoon.
We had a lovely evening meal in the courtyard of the farmhouse where the family served a choice of locally caught grilled fish, or oven baked goat in lemon sauce, all accompanied, of course, with the ubiquitous Greek salad.
I guess this will be the purest Greek island experience that we encounter.