The clank of crockery carries through Katapola Bay as locals and stray cats awake. Fishermen dock and deliver their catch before the first ferry, carrying the culture-hungry, arrives. Unassuming, yet coyly handsome, Amorgos is the traditional Greek Island, embracing history, culture and arresting architecture.
This is stone wall country. Climbing above the bay up to Moundoulia Hill, you can relive the past by wandering around the bastions of the ancient excavated settlement of Minoa. Its 4th-century BC gymnasium is clearly recognisable, and by the Hellenistic temple stand the remains of a solitary statue. The only other life you are likely to encounter on your slate and limestone rocky rambles is a donkey, goat or a handful of cows.
It’s easy to dip into a sleepy afternoon at Chora, the island’s capital. Uniquely for Greek island-capitals it is hidden inland at the dizzying height of 400 metres above sea level, erected there to deter pirates. Crowning the town’s panoramic peak, and spied upon by ancient windmills, is the 13th-century Venetian Castle of Jeremiah Ghisi, seen as the island’s protector. Its Meltemi-buffeted ramparts behold magnificent views over the entire village and the east-to-west coasts. Similar in many ways to Mykonos’ town, Chora is a graceful melange of whitewashed sugar-cubed houses, but is far from the bustle of its snazzy designer neighbour.
Simplicity and serenity emanates from Amorgos’ 121 square kilometres, home for a population of just 1,850. After sunrise, walking inland along mule trails has you steeped in peace. Amid the pungent wild herbs and rare orchids, century-old farming equipment lays powerless in the baking sun. Picnicking on a lunch of fresh bread, feta, olives and tomatoes might be about the most energetic you’ll get on Amorgos. That is unless you have heard about its vertiginously-mounted architectural phenomenon.
Carved into the mountain, most literally, and only visible from the sea, the 10th-century Byzantine Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa is one of the Greek Islands’ most spiritual historic monuments. Stitched like 3-D embroidery onto the vertical eastern cliff-face of the Profitis Ilias Mountain, it hangs suspended at almost 300 metres above sea level, with precarious balconies sponging up the island’s east coast vistas. Standing here in complete tranquillity, time freezes around you.
Entering the dungeon-like stairway, ducking as you climb, you encounter miniature rooms that seem fit only for dolls’ houses.The few monks that remain here take care of the priceless Byzantine icons and handwritten manuscripts – the island’s treasures. And they are hospitable people, greeting you with a loukoumi; a local sweet similar to Turkish delight.Also offered is a fiery shot of psimeni raki, locally known as rakomelo; a grape-based liqueur made with local Amorgian honey, herbs and spices. It’s welcomely chased down by a glass of water!
If you are energetic enough to climb up to the monastery at sunrise, look out over the sparkling sea of crushed sapphires, and it’ll quickly become clear why the French film-maker, Luc Besson, chose these waters as the location for his cult movie, The Big Blue.
How to get to Amorgos
Getting to Amorgos may require some planning, as it is not the most easily accessible island. However, during the summer months, there are still plenty of ferry options available. The most common route is to take a ferry that passes through Naxos, with Seajets and Blue Star ferries offering daily trips to the island. You can also catch a ferry from Santorini.
Amorgos has two functioning ferry ports: Aegiali and Katapola. These port towns offer typical amenities such as restaurants, hotels, and scooter/ATV rental places, as well as nearby beaches. It is important to know which ferry terminal you will be arriving at in order to plan your transportation to your accommodation. The two towns are quite far apart, approximately 30km, and while there is a bus that connects them, it does not run frequently. Taking a taxi between the two towns can cost around €40-50, so it is advisable to book a hotel in the same town as your arrival port to avoid any inconvenience.
Things to do on Amorgos
Visit The Panagia Hozoviotissa Monastery
As mentioned above, you can’t come to Amorgos and not visit this stunning Monastery. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Panagia Hozoviotissa Monastery is only visible from the sea. To reach it, you’ll need to take a short path from the Chora, which offers breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. After about twenty minutes of walking, you’ll arrive at the entrance of the monastery. However, the real challenge begins here – you’ll need to climb 300 steps to reach the entrance of the building. To make your visit more comfortable, it’s recommended to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The lack of shade and intense sun can make the climb quite challenging, even during the off-season. But the effort is well worth it for the opportunity to explore this unique and historic site.
Chora , the main town of Amorgos, is stunning and vibrant and known for its picturesque narrow streets and whitewashed houses. It is often considered one of the most beautiful Choras in the region, rivaling only Folegandros. As you wander through the streets, you’ll be captivated by the island’s beautiful architecture and the lively yet peaceful atmosphere. At the top of the Chora, you’ll discover the ancient castle of Amorgos. While the main door remains closed, nearby cafes like Loza have a key that you can borrow to explore the remains of this century-old settlement. And for breathtaking sunset views, make sure to visit the windmills, which can be seen from any point in the Chora and are easily accessible on foot.
Located at the highest point in Chora, the windmills offer breathtaking views of not only Amorgos but also the surrounding islands. Despite their rugged and melancholic appearance, visiting the windmills at sunset is a truly magical experience that will leave you in awe. However, it is important to exercise caution when it is windy, as the strong gusts can make it difficult to stand. In such cases, seeking shelter inside one of the windmills is advisable.
Hire a Car To Enjoy Stunning Vistas of Amorgos
Amorgos offers breathtaking scenic drives that will leave you in awe. The island’s steep mountains, often shrouded in clouds, provide a dramatic backdrop as you navigate the roads. Despite the high altitude, the roads are wide and well-maintained, ensuring a safe and enjoyable driving experience. One route that you must not miss is the drive from Aegiali to Chora, especially during sunset. The beauty of the landscape during these magic moments is indescribable.
Looking to create a Greek Island holiday or honeymoon that gets you off the beaten path? You’ll love these three tranquil Greek Islands.