- The island
- The Monastery of Hozoviotissa
What makes Amorgos Island unique and everything you need to know before visiting it!
How to get to Amorgos
Amorgos belongs to the Cyclades complex and is located at its southeastern part. It’s close to the small Cyclades complex and Naxos island and is also connected by ferry with Astypalaia island, which belongs to the Dodecanese complex. It’s one of the Cyclades islands that is farthest from Athens.
One thing you might find confusing is that it has two ports: one is called Katapola and the other one is called Aegiali. The traditional ferry stops in both ports and depending on where you’re going to stay, you’ll get off either at Katapola or Aegiali. Ιt takes around six hours to arrive to Katapola and seven hours to Aegiali. There’s also a high-speed service that goes to Katapola but it takes approximately the same time, the ticket is more expensive and the space is quite limited. I have a sensitive stomach and I usually get sea-sick on the high-speed ferry, thus if I have a choice, I always prefer the traditional ferry where you can always get some fresh air during the journey.
When did I go and what was the occasion
I’ve visited Amorgos island twice. The first time briefly and the second time I spent more than two weeks on the island. The occasion for visiting Amorgos the second time and staying there for this long, was my friend J. who had spent the previous year working full-time on the island and had decided to also spend his summer holiday there. I considered myself fortunate enough not just for spending so much time in such a beautiful place but also for getting acquainted with the people who live there through my friend– as during his stay he got to know many Amorgians. By the time I visited him, he had become very familiar with the island; the best things to do, sights to see, places to eat and drink and so on.
Katapola vs Aegiali: the big decision
Both times I visited the island I stayed in the wonderful seaside village of Katapola. When you visit Amorgos, you’ve got to make a decision about your destination because depending on where you stay, you’ll experience the island in a whole different way. As mentioned earlier, there are two ports you can get off: one is Katapola and the other one is Aegiali. In the old days these two seaside villages were almost like two different islands since the only connection between them was through the sea. Today, if you stay in one of the two places you can still visit the other but since it takes around 40 minutes to drive from one place to the other, it’s not something you’d want to do on a daily basis. Katapola village is a destination that, although it’s more quiet and tranquil compared to Aegiali, it also offers many other options. On its pretty fishing port, there’re some restaurants/taverns and cafés and one café-bar, Moon’s Bar or, how locals call it, Katerina’s Place. Katapola is also very close to Chora, the capital of the island, which is located at a 10 minute drive uphill. Chora, which is striking with white-washed cube houses and narrow stone-paved alleys, has a number of restaurants and atmospheric bars you can go to. The majority of tourists staying in Katapola and Chora are in their late 20s, 30s and above, though you’ll also encounter all types of age-groups staying there. If instead of a club you prefer to have a drink at a bar, then I’d recommend you to stay in Katapola or Chora.
On the other hand Aegiali is a wonderful seaside village too! It’s usually more crowded and more vivid during the small hours of the day. It has a couple of beach bars, the one next to the other, and one of them is the famous and legendary Disco The Que, which has been operating for more than 30 years!
People hang out in these beach bars both during the day, playing backgammon and having a swim, and also during the night. At night (and during high season) they resemble more a relaxed type of club, or better put a disco! Aegiali is more touristic: there’s a hotel and a big organised camping site, many rooms to let, restaurants and shops. It’s also close to the beautiful village Tholaria. In Aegiali you’ll run into a lot of people in their early and mid 20s. You should choose to stay in Aegiali if you consider it important to visit a disco club every night. Of course, wherever you decide to stay, you’ll still be able to travel between these two villages once or twice but you’ll probably not be doing it everyday (it’s a 40-minute drive from one to the other).
Why should you visit Amorgos?
Travel back in time, be yourself, relax without getting bored
One of the main reasons to visit Amorgos is to experience how a Cycladic island used to be in the old days, as it remains rather unspoiled, while at the same time not risk being bored or feel isolated. I think the island combines authenticity and the right amount of visitors during the high season so you can relax yet still feel like you’re in an area where things are happening. This authenticity is partly due to the fact that the island is located quite far away from Athens, it doesn’t have many big hotels offering packaged holidays and it’s less famous than the other islands, like Santorini. Though there are some tourists, the majority are independent travellers. Therefore the high season is rather short, starting from mid-July and ending in mid-August.
Amorgos hasn’t gone under gentrification other islands have and this is what makes it so unique. Local culture prevails through various traditional music events, tavernas that serve exquisite food served simply and offered in very good prices, and the genuineness of its people. Amorgos has a rather relaxed atmosphere where simplicity is appreciated and I’d say when compared to other islands, it can provide you with a certain freedom to be yourself and to just be! For example, you can visit the beach bar-disco club dressed as you like, something you’d never do in Mykonos. I’ve seen people dancing barefoot and it’s a place where it’s very possible to meet new people but not a place to see and to be seen.
Loads of live music
Another reason to visit Amorgos is its music. While I was there, it seemed that every day there was a different live music event. They took place in various café-bars located in different villages of the island and there was a big variety of musical genres. Besides local traditional music, I saw a band playing live jazz, an orchestra playing classical music, many bands playing rebetika (traditional Greek urban music from the 60s) and a band playing avant-garde electro. Impossible to believe but it’s actually true that Nouvelle Vague played at Moon’s Bar in Katapola after Katerina’s daughter – Katerina is the owner of the place – somehow convinced them to!
Value for money and safe
As it’s not that developed touristically, visiting Amorgos is value for money. Generally speaking it’s cheaper to stay, eat, and go out compared to other more famous islands in Cyclades. Due to its less touristic character and the simplicity of the people visiting the island, I think Amorgos is also one of the safest destinations to visit and I’d also recommend it for solo travellers. It’s not that I consider other Greek islands to be less safe but as some of them can be more crowded it’s more possible to have the feeling of anonymity. When I visited Amorgos for the first time, it was during the month of June and it wasn’t very crowded. I’d run into the same people all the time, which creates a feeling of intimacy. Another thing that I noticed was that my friend and his friends would almost always leave their cars unlocked, even when they had things inside (beach towels, jackets, CDs, etc.) and they never lost anything. However, I’d never advise you to do that and recommend that you use caution whether you travel solo or with a group.
Hiking and swimming
Another thing some people do while in Amorgos is to follow one of the many hiking trails the island offers. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to try it but I hope to do it next time I visit the island! Going to the beach is a part of the daily holiday routine while in Amorgos. The majority of the beaches are unorganised, without sunbeds and beach umbrellas, letting you admire the beautiful landscape, unspoiled from any human intervention. Most of them are pebbly and the waters are amazingly crystal-clear, fresh and transparent. The best thing to do while on the island is to gaze the infinite blue and the magnificent views of the Aegean sea. Amorgos has a fascinating rugged coastline. Sometimes, while looking at the horizon separating the light-blue sky and the dark-blue sea scattered with rocks, I felt as if I was on another planet!
Last but not least, I found the locals very friendly, warm-hearted, authentic and not money orientated. I was lucky enough to get to know some Amorgians and my impression was that they were welcoming tourists but more in a way of including them to the local society, rather than focusing on making money out of them. Said this, I’m not suggesting that they didn’t want to sell their services and products or make some profit out of it. It’s just that I never felt they were driven by it. Instead, I felt that there was love among the people and not rivalry or competitiveness. For example, in Katapola there were two boats that were transferring people to Maltezi beach. However the two captains didn’t compete with each other, who’s going to get more customers or not. They had arranged to work in turns.
Le Grand Bleu (Luc Besson, 1988)
The breathtaking sea views must have inspired French director Luc Besson when he decided to film much of his 1988 cult picture, “Le Grand Bleu”, in Amorgos. Besson’s film tells the fictional story of two famous freedivers, Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca, and their competitive friendship that unfolds at the same time when Mayol falls for Johana (Rosanna Arquette). Besson was also heavily inspired by the Amorgian people and their island life, something that’s clear from the use of local culture in his film. There’s a local pride associated with “Le Grand Bleu” being filmed in Amorgos and it was one of the main reasons the island has become better known on an international level and has attracted more tourists.
Le Grand Bleu Café in Katapola
There’s a café in Katapola that is named after the movie. It has a small terrace with a few tables and chairs and a TV screen hanged on its wall. The owners used to screen the movie eight o’clock every evening for more than 20 consecutive years! They stopped after they received some formal complaints. The funniest thing they told me about it was that every evening from the start to the end of the film, the locals would know exactly what the time was just by listening to the lines of its dialogue. For example, when the leading character would say “I’m going to dive”, they would all know it’s 8:45 pm!
During high season – mid July to 25th of August – there are frequent bus routes connecting Katapola, Chora and Aegiali. There are also some routes after midnight, in case someone wants to go out to Chora or Aegiali. The last bus service from Chora to Katapola leaves at 3am, the last service from Aegiali to Katapola at 2:30am and from Chora to Aegiali at 1:45am. There’s a bus service going from Katapola to Chora and back every hour and there are also bus routes connecting Katapola, Chora and Aegiali with the villages Tholaria and Lagkada and Agia Anna cove, where the monastery of Virgin Mary Hozoviotissa is.
Of course having a car is always more convenient but in my opinion it’s possible to move around on a bus as well! There are medical centers in Katapola, Aegiali and Chora. In Katapola there’s an ATM and in Aegiali there’s a bank brunch. Generally speaking you can find anything you’ll need on the island. The island is not as developed for shopping especially compared to other more popular Cycladic islands like Santorini, Ios, Folegandros and Naxos. Still, you don’t have to worry if you need to buy a beach towel, a sun hat or some flip flops.
Visit the picturesque port of Katapola
Katapola is a beautiful seaside village with a charming fishing port. It’s one of the two main settlements of Amorgos (the other one is Aegiali) and is located very close to Chora. It’s where I’ve always stayed while visiting Amorgos and I loved the fact that after my morning coffee I could walk to one of the beaches located nearby.
Eat in Katapola
Café Le Grand Bleu
Le Grand Bleu derives its name from Luc Besson’s famous film that was partly filmed in Amorgos. It’s a traditional café in Katapola and it’s where I usually had my morning coffee. I’ve met one of the owners, who is always in a good mood and smiley, and a guy who was working there for the summer, who was also very polite and nice! They both told me the story of the café screening the “The Big Blue” film for more than twenty consecutive years every single day, which unfortunately they were forced to stop doing after they received a formal complaint. Probably someone had a breakdown caused by listening to the same words and sounds every single day. The movie always started at 8pm and the locals living near the café could figure out what time it was just by listening to the lines spoken in the movie.
Mouragio is a fish tavern located on the far-left side of the port of Katapola facing the sea. It offers high quality food and fresh fish while having value-for-money prices.
Prekas is one of the oldest places in Katapola, a traditional café (kafeneion) where men used to gather, talk and play cards. It also functions as a travel agency, something rather typical for small islands in the old days. It’s a family business and as they cultivate their own fava beans, make sure you try it! They serve one of the best fava dishes I’ve ever tried. They serve an octopus dish made with a unique, spicy recipe. The decor inside is quite peculiar with many old tvs!
Kamari is a café in Katapola and the first thing you’ll see once you get off the ferry. Thus, it’s also the place where people usually have their last coffee on the island before they go on the ferry and the typical meeting point for travellers. It’s also the place from where you can get the small boat that takes you across to the Maltezi beach and where the captain will be having his coffee until the time comes to get on the boat. They specialise in pies and you shouldn’t miss the one made of local Amorgian cheese. There’s a board inside the café with an old menu and its prices. It’s quite funny that it includes a lobster dish for 85 drachmas (something like 25 cents of a euro).
Drink in Katapola
The environment inside the lovely Moon Bar by the sea is relaxing and the view is fantastic. There you can have a coffee, a beer or a glass of wine throughout the day. It can also be very romantic during the night as sometimes they place some of the tables right next to the sea. It’s owned by a lady called Katerina, who is very dynamic and originates from Epirus. I was impressed to find out that Katerina’s daughter managed to convince the music band Nouvelle Vague to give a concert there! Unfortunately I missed it. Besides it’s official name, the bar is also known as Katerina’s place!
Go to The Beach
Beach in Xilokeratidi
Xilokeratidi is a narrow, sandy beach where you can walk to from Katapola port. As you can see in the photo, it’s very small and romantic.
Maltezi is a stunning sandy beach opposite Katapola port. You can go there either by foot – it’s a 30min walk – or by a small boat. I used the boat and I found the overall experience very nice: the captain put loads of traditional music on and while we were arriving at the beach it felt like we were part of a Greek movie during the 60s.
You can take the boat from the front of Kamari Café on the port, the return ticket costs 3.5 euros and there are frequent routes. Maltezi is quite sheltered by the wind and its topaz waters are crystal-clear and gorgeous. There are a few beach umbrellas but unless you go early, you may have difficulty finding one that’s available. Keep in mind that you can also lie there on your beach towel.
Visit Chora – the capital of Amorgos
The Chora (old town) in Amorgos is one of the most beautiful capitals in Cyclades! It’s full of elegant little stone-paved pathways and the typical Cycladic architecture of white-washed cube houses with the blue and green doors and shutters. While in Chora you can’t miss the narrow high rock on which a small 13th century Venetian castle is built. Chora has plenty of places to eat, drink or hangouts!
Eat in Chora
Kallisto is the number one place for dessert and coffee! It’s a no-miss, in the sense that you’ll find a yummy, value-for-money variety of traditional and other sweets, including baklava, unique tastes of ice-cream, and what’s in the picture, a choice that can’t go wrong: Soufflés au chocolat with vanilla ice-cream!
It’s the ideal option if you’re starving and want to eat homemade, authentic food. Kastanis is a value-for-money restaurant/tavern with big portions of traditional Greek dishes. A lovely young couple owns the place. Kastanis is the last name of the husband and his family also owns a farm, a small camping site and rooms to let, which are located on the road that connects Chora to Katapola.
Photodotis is something between an all-day traditional coffee shop and a meze place. Though it’s located a bit further away from the centre of Chora, it attracts many customers for it has affordable and tasty dishes. The owner of the place – Giakoumis – is a young guy who is a very talented traditional violinist and sometimes in the evenings, when in the mood, he might start playing his violin, and besides the limited space people always find a way to dance!
Tranzistoraki is located very central, on the charming, cobblestone main street of Chora. As you can see in the pictures, it’s surrounded by flowers and vines! If you want to experience the ultimate feeling of summer evenings on a Greek island, with the buzz and the voices of people having a good time, you should definitely go there. It’s very popular among young people and it’s a place where you can sit for many hours and share a meze alongside some ouzo or raki (Greek traditional liqueurs) while watching passersby.
Tsagaradiko is a more high-end tavern located on a square between three whitewashed churches, which gives you the precious feeling that you’re in a Greek village! The dishes offered are traditional with an experimental twist (they offer meat, fresh fish and vegetarian options). The staff is extra helpful and multilingual.
Drink in Chora
Botilia is an atmospheric bar in central Chora, hosted in a gorgeously restored two-storey typical Cycladic house with a terrace that gives off a romantic, stylish feeling. The music is nice with a certain fondness for latin – a hint given by the Spanish-Latin American name. The upper inside space usually gets full during high season.
Giasemi is a charming café-bar built from stone and was once a Cycladic house that today offers a lovely view of the island and great music. You can enjoy an awesome breakfast in the morning, a tasty salad in the afternoon, but mainly you go there if you’re looking for a bar to drink the night away with jazz/rock/funky music in the background. During summertime you might also stumble upon a live concert!
Kathodon is a place where they often play live Rembetiko music – urban popular Greek music from the 60s – in the evenings. You can visit the place to have an afternoon coffee or to listen to this interesting, nostalgic type of music while having a meze alongside a drink. Its tables are located in an amphitheatrical way on a lovely square with blooming trees that make shade, which renders the setting ideal to visit both in the afternoon and in the evening.
Tzitziki is a bar with a lovely balcony that has great a view of Chora and its Venetian castle, and a sweet, cozy interior. Often they organise live music events or parties.
Visit the popular seaside village of Aegiali
Aegiali is a beautiful seaside village and one of the most popular destinations to stay while in Amorgos – except Katapola and Chora – especially amongst youngsters. It’s where the second port of Amorgos is located and it has a lovely sandy beach. One of the main characteristics of Aegiali beach, is that it has some big cafés and beach bars. These beach bars also operate as night clubs or better put, as discos. One of them, Disco the Que, is really famous as it exists for more than 30 years. During the day, you’ll often see people sitting at one of the beach bars for hours, playing board games or talking and going for a swim every now and then.
Eat in Aegiali
Asteria is a tavern with a simple, traditional environment and a terrace with a view of the Aegean sea. You can have some delicious traditional Greek dishes like greens, rooster in tomato sauce and zucchini balls. I’d recommend you to go there for the fresh fish, octopus and stuffed calamari. Every day they receive fresh fish from the local fishermen and an important tip is that if you’d like to dine there and have fish, you should visit the place at noon, ask them what fish they have for the day – as the type and amount of fish differ every day – and reserve some for your dinner because it’s possible it’ll be finished or reserved by someone else by the time you arrive at the restaurant.
Drink in Aegiali
Ammos is a very big beach bar/café located on Aegiali beach. During the day people lie on the sunbeds, while having a coffee or a cocktail and during the night people gather close to the bar and occasionally on the dance floor next to it. The environment is very atmospheric and summery, especially in the evening. Comparing to Disco The Que, I’d say it gathers people slightly older – over 30 – at least during the day.
Amorgis is a charming café in Aegiali, with a divine view of the sea where you can enjoy a majestic sunset! I really liked the lovely, romantic décor and the summery atmosphere of the place. They had some nice wine labels – I also like the Amorgian house wine, but I found it nice that I could also try something different there. Throughout the day, they also serve breakfast, brunch and sandwiches.
Disco the Que
Disco the Que, or what it’s usually called – The Q, is a legendary beach bar/disco located on Aegiali beach. The place was very big in the 70s and the owner who is still there today, was considered a pioneer when he opened the place. In many of the discos in Cyclades at that time it was typical to dance barefoot, something I spotted still happening during my stay, though it was rather limited. The atmosphere was quite liberating, cool and a little bit hippie. If you’re in the mood, you’ll get the chance to dance!
Embassa café-bar has a fantastic setting, if you want to relax and gaze at the sea. The atmosphere is quite calm and a bit more posh compared to other places in Aegiali. It’s usually a place where you’d go to have a drink before visiting the disco clubs.
Go to The Beach
Levrossos is an amazing beach located very close to Aegiali. You can reach it either by a small boat from Aegiali – there are frequent routes – or drive for 5 minutes and then follow a very easy trail to the beach. It’s also possible to walk there from Aegiali, it’ll take you approximately 30 minutes but as the road is a bit uphill, it’s not a very good idea if it’s very hot. You can read more about it in the Beaches tab.
Visit Amorgos’ breathtaking Beaches
Agia Anna Beach
Agia Anna is the most famous beach in Amorgos due to the scenes from Luc Besson’s film “Le Grand Bleu”, that were filmed there. It doesn’t come as a surprise as the place has one of the most amazing sea views I’ve ever seen in my life. Furthermore, due to its location just below the most famous sight of Amorgos, the monastery of Hozoviotissa, it’s rather impossible to miss it! It’s a 10 minute drive away from Chora and 20 minute drive away from Katapola.
There are two bays in Agia Anna. The left one, is a small pebbly beach and the right one has some long plane rocks with smooth surface where you’ll be able to sit or lie down. The left one, is very easy to reach. To get to the right one, you’ll have to walk over a small rocky cliff. Both bays have only a few spots that offer some shade but at the right one, you’ll get compensated by the feeling you get when you come out of the water and lie on a smooth warm rock! Just keep in mind that if you spend the whole day on the beach, you’ll probably get roasted by the sun. It’s worth mentioning that after you dive from the right bay, it’s rather easy to climb back up on the rocks again. I’m saying this as sometimes it can be difficult to climb back on a rock if you’re in the sea and there’s nothing you can step on. This bay on the right hand side is also nudist-friendly. Last but not least, in both bays of Agia Anna the bottom of the sea is ideal if you like snorkeling!
Levrossos is my favourite beach in Amorgos! You can either reach it by car in about 5 minutes drive from Aegiali and then walk for about 10 minutes on a very easy trail or you can take a small boat from Aegiali, there are quite frequent routes. Some people also walk there from Aegiali, which takes about 30 minutes. Levrossos is a long sandy beach with transparent green-turquoise waters. It’s not organised, but you can find some shade under the few tamarisk trees or under the rock on the far right end of the beach. I really loved being there, it was so relaxing and wonderful. Though we didn’t go, next to it there are another two beaches, Psili Ammos and Cholakas. You can reach them if you continue walking straight on the same trail you take to visit Levrossos. I’ve been told, since these two beaches are quite secluded and difficult to reach, they usually do not get crowded and they’re also nudist-friendly.
Mouros is located in south-west Amorgos and it’s approximately a 30 minutes drive from Katapola and Chora. When you arrive, you’ll see a café-tavern, also called Mouros, which has one of the most astonishing sea views and it’s rather impossible not to sit there at least for a coffee or a beer after your swim!
Under Mouros café there are three beaches: the main beach of Mouros and two smaller beaches on the left as you look at the sea. You can reach them by taking the trail that starts next to the right entrance of the café and it takes approximately 10-15 minutes to get to the first beach and a bit more to reach the second one. The beaches have thin pebbles and tranquil, crystal-clear, light-blue waters. The two smaller ones located to the left are usually not that crowded and nudist-friendly. As the beaches are protected on both sides by very high cliffs that go into the sea, it’s best to visit them early as in the afternoon the sun is hidden behind the cliffs, creating some natural shade on the beach.
Visit the charming village of Tholaria
Tholaria is a beautiful, traditional village located no more than a 10 minute drive away from Aegiali. The majestic church of Agioi Anargyroi is one of the key spots in the village. It’s a very atmospheric village that I’d strongly recommend you to visit.
Eat in Tholaria
Panorama is a tavern that offers a unique way to have fun in Tholaria! Its uniqueness is derived from its owner, an old man who plays traditional live music with a small band and between the songs he tells some shocking jokes – usually of sexual content. The jokes are in Greek but maybe you’ll be able to find someone nice enough to translate them for you! Even if you don’t understand the jokes though, you’ll be able to feel the atmosphere created by the people laughing and dancing to the traditional tunes played. You should try the “patatato”, which is a traditional Amorgian pot dish with potatoes and goat meat.
Drink in Tholaria
Rakezo is a gorgeous café-bar in Tholaria village. It’s a 200 years-old stone house and in its entrance there’s a beautiful stone tunnel. It has a fine terrace overlooking the hills surrounding Tholaria where you can enjoy a divine sunset. You can have a coffee, a cocktail or the traditional roasted raki while relaxing in the sounds of jazz or rock music.
Seladi is a café-bar in Tholaria village located a bit uphill with a majestic view of the harbor of Aegiali. It’s a place where you go to relax and listen to lounge, soft music towards the jazz or maybe funk end of spectrum. Many people visit the place to see a concert as they often organise live music events there.
Visit the traditional village of Lagkada
Lagkada is a small, picturesque village located above Aegiali bay.
Eat in Lagkada
O Varis is a traditional tavern in Lagkada, with a very charming terrace. They make traditional Greek dishes and you shouldn’t miss the dish with vine leaves stuffed with rice. Every now and then during the high summer season they also organise some evenings with live music where a duo or trio play Greek tunes.
Drink in Lagkada
Pergalidi is an adorable café-bar on a narrow street of Langada. It’s in a renovated traditional stone house with arches. You can feel that the place has been made with love!
It’s owned by a young girl called Maria, who grew up in Athens but originates from the village of Lagkada and took the rather bold decision to move to Amorgos and start her own business! You can visit the place during the day for a coffee or during the night to listen to some cool tunes and have some drinks. One of the times we visited Pergalidi, there was a gig with a band playing avant-garde electronic music.
Don’t miss the chance to experience an Amorgian Panigiri
Panigiria – Feasts
In Amorgos, like in all other islands and regions of Greece, you may come across a Panigiri, a feast that takes place in a village to celebrate the day of its patron Saint. In the old days, when there were no bars and clubs, the Panigiri was one of the few events happening where people would get together to eat, dance, flirt and generally socialise. Today even though there are big nightclubs and numerous parties, events and festivals, in the Greek countryside Panigiria are still very popular. A typical panigiri would start with a mass in the church followed by a traditional meal, live traditional music and dancing until the morning! Usually everyone is welcome in a panigiri and it doesn’t matter if you’re not a member of the local community or if you’re a foreigner. Nowadays, Panigiria really differ from one to another in terms of how they are organised. There are small scale Panigiria, with no more than 100 people attending, and big Panigiria where you’ll find thousands of people attending. They might have a fixed entrance fee, for example 20 euros that includes all you can drink and a very generous menu. They might be completely free of charge or you might need to pay for your order. The type of food and the type of traditional music played in these festivals also differ from region to region in Greece.
In Amorgos, there are numerous of Panigiria and feasts that take place every year and they have some specific traditional dishes that you’ll not find in other regions, such as the “Patatato” (goat meat with potatoes slowly cooked in a pot), the “Xidato” (a soup with goat intestines and vinegar) and “Kofto” (a thick soup with wheat and mizithra, a local cheese made from goat’s milk that it’s white and creamy).
Saint Paraskevi feast, 25th of July
I was very lucky to go to the Panigiri of Saint Paraskevi in Kato Meria village, which is one of the biggest and most famous Panigiria happenings in Cyclades. It takes place every year on the 25 of July and thousands of people attend it.
In the old days, people from other Cycladic islands like Naxos or Iraklia would travel to Amorgos just to attend this panigiri. Next to the church of Saint Paraskevi there’s a venue built especially to facilitate the organisation of the panigiri. This venue, I’ve been told, was funded by a rich Amorgian that migrated to the USA many years ago.
I was totally impressed by this feast for many reasons. First of all, though there are thousands of visitors, everything is free of charge! You sit down and you get served a “Kofto” for the first course and a “Patatato” for the second course and as much wine as you can drink. So, if you’re not paying for your food and drinks, who is? In the old days everyone who would attend the panigiri would bring something to share, food or wine. The reality of today isn’t that different as the panigiri takes place with the donations of the locals.
Hundreds of Amorgians start volunteering a couple of weeks before it happens. There are hundreds of goats donated by local shepherds – people who are not rich but value the traditions of the community and take pride in actively participating in them. Inside the panigiri venue you can see the women cutting innumerous potatoes and men cooking the traditional dishes of “Patatato” and “Kofto” in enormous pots. As many people have to be served, once you finish eating you are supposed to get up and leave your seat for the next person to sit down and eat. The day before the Panigiri of Saint Paraskevi the locals involved in its organisation hold a small celebration just for them as during the actual day they’ll be working. Together with my friend who knew some local people, we managed to get invited to this event as well and some of the pictures here were taken at this pre-fest time.
End of Festival Fest
I went to an event resembling a small-scale panigiri, which was held in order to celebrate the successful completion of the music festival “Constellation of Amorgos”. In this sort of panigiri there were invited people who helped in the organisation of the festival and their friends.
There are plenty of panigiria and other types of festivals and events organised in Amorgos. There’s a festival of “roasted raki” in Katapola on the 26th of July and the festival of “pasteli” (a traditional sweet) in Chora on the 22 of August. “Roasted raki” is something Amorgos is famous for and a very popular, traditionally homemade, liquor. It’s similar to “rakomelo” which is warm raki with honey and cinnamon, in the sense that it also contains honey, it’s sweet and its base drink is raki (traditional Greek booze). But “roasted raki” or “psimeni raki” as it’s called in Greek, also contains annis or carnation and it’s left for some time to rest. When it’s ready, it’s consumed cold – as opposed to “rakomelo” that is consumed warm. What raki is for Cretans, “roasted raki” is for Amorgians. It’s the drink you’ll offer to your guests at home and what you’ll be having in weddings or other types of parties and celebrations. Pasteli is a traditional sweet with sesame and honey. In the Pasteli festival you’ll have the chance to witness the process of making pasteli and then taste it along with some raki.
Visit The Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa
The famous Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, is located in Agia Anna, a ten minute drive away from Chora and a 15 minute drive away from Katapola. It’s the most important sight and a landmark for Amorgos island. It offers a divine spectacle: it hangs above you, carved between raw rocks. In order to visit it, you’ll park your car and you’ll follow the big stone-paved steps that lead you up to its entrance door. Though it’s not as difficult as it looks like to climb up the stairs, I’d recommend you to visit the monastery either early in the morning or in the afternoon to avoid the strong heat of noon. It’s open everyday from 08:00-13:00 and 17:00-19:00. As in most monasteries, there’s a dress code: no shorts for women or mini skirts. You can have a couple of beach shawls with you and use them to make a skirt and cover your shoulders. I wasn’t prepared but I was lucky to find and borrow one of the few shawls available for visitors at the entrance. I found the view from the monastery breathtaking and couldn’t stop staring at the infinite blue. We were welcomed by very friendly monks with a shot of “roasted raki” and a traditional Greek sweet called Loukoumi.
The monastery, which is dedicated to Virgin Mary, was built in the 9th century AD, approximately one and a half century after the end of the second Iconoclastic period (814-842). During the Iconoclastic period, there were battles between those who worshipped and those who condemned holy icons, leading unfortunately to the destruction of many of those. According to the legend, one of the icons that escaped total destruction was that of “the dark-eyed Virgin Mary” whose two halves were thrown to the sea in order to be saved. When one half of the icon was discovered in Agia Anna cove, it was decided to build a monastery in order to host the icon and honor Virgin Mary Hozoviotissa. The legend says that the name Hozoviotissa derives from Hoziva – an area next to Jericho, close to Jerusalem where the icon was prior to being thrown into the sea and subsequently found on the shore of Agia Anna.
The architecture of the monastery is rather impressive. It’s 40 meters long, but only 5 meters wide! It has eight floors and its different rooms are connected with each other via many small stairs and small doors. A restoration took place in 1977 when three cells were merged so that there would be more space for the visitors. There are only certain areas and rooms that are accessible to guests. A noticeable element of the monastery is its particularly small and short door, one needs to bend in order to enter. I was told by a local that this was due to safety reasons in an effort to protect the monastery from enemies and conquerors. First of all, the size of the door makes it impossible for many people to enter simultaneously and when a single person attempts to enter, he has to bend and his head will appear first. In the case that this single person would be an enemy, he could be instantly decapitated.