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Samothraki or Samothrace - The island of the Great Gods

The 178 km2 large northern Aegean island of Samothraki or Samothrace rises up like a dramatic mountain from the sea. The relatively green island lies southeast of the better known island of Thassos and is not easily accessible. In ancient times the island was a destination for pilgrims, that visited the "Sanctuary of the Great Gods ", and now it is the destination of a small number of tourists, mostly from Scandinavia and Germany. For this reason not all residents speak English all too well, as you might be used to on other Greek islands. The island has about 2800 inhabitants. The big mountain of Samothrace is called Fengari and this is also the highest mountain in the Aegean Sea. From here according to the legend the god Poseidon watched the Peloponnesian wars.

In the course of time much of the forests on Mount Fengari has disappeared and the viewpoint of Poseidon is now bald and is often exposed to strong northern winds. Yet there are people that climb this mountain from Therma. The hike is largely protected by trees on a path. There are plane trees and fruit trees and there is water available along the route up. At the top on a clear day there are views of the Greek peninsula of Mount Athos and of the Ida mountains of Turkey. Although the island has beautiful beaches (mainly in the south) it is the rich and wild nature with its lakes and waterfalls that attracts both the walkers and mountaineers as some special birds. Most of the tourists are of the kind that try to avoid the crowds, because compared to some other islands it is very quiet at Samothrace.

The port town of Kamariotissa, where the ferries arrive, is located on the west side of the island and is surrounded by hills with grass and some trees, and behind that the high barren mountain Fengari (1660 m) which actually makes the whole picture of the island. Kamariotissa is slightly elongated along the coast and the town is nicer than you might initially think. It's pretty green and there are quite a few restaurants and kafenions. There are also banks and a post office. At the port of Karmiotissa, where the Greek wooden boats are, you will find a supermarket, a ticket office (for ferries) and a pharmacy. In the small park on the waterfront you find the bus station from where buses depart to the capital Chora, to Paleopoli (Sanctuary of the Great Gods) and Thermi / Loutra in the north, and the Profitis Ilias in the south of Samothrace. In the streets behind the waterfront there is a bakery and a greengrocer (near the church). Most of the accommodations and nightlife of the island can also be found in this town.


Normally there is a daily ferry service to the mainland from the port of Alexandroupoli and less frequent from Kavala and the islands of Thassos and Limnos. For times check the special websites for the ferries. If you can not find departure times than in general it means that the schedules have not been approved yet, and you have to try again later. Often the people where you have reserved your accommodation know best when the boats depart and arrive on the island.

The capital of the island of Samothrace is called Chora. It is situated about 5 km east of Karmiotissa. Here between the small and tightly packed houses, go back in time. Chora is situated at the foot of a hill and from the sea it is almost invisible. It was built a bit "hidden away" like that in the Middle Ages to protect if from pirate attacks from sea. This village with its maze of narrow cobbled streets and its Genoese fortress (which was originally Byzantine) is the most beautiful of the island. From the large central square, where you will find a couple of taverns, you have a nice view over the sea. A little further down the village at Palaiopoli there are more fortifications in the shape of three towers from the 15th century (1431).

het standbeeld van de Nike in het Louvre The main attractions of samothrace are located on the north side of the island. Much of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods at Paleopoli / Palaiopoli has disappeared in the course of time, but the location on a wooded canyon is spectacular. Polaiopoli means "old town". Here they found the two-and-half meter high statue of Nike, the "Winged Victory of Samothrace", which is now in the Louvre Museum. In the local museum there is a reproduction. The statue, whose head is missing, is made of white marble from the island of Paros and it looks like sort of "angel" standing at the the bow of a ship. It represents the Greek goddess of victory Nike and it dates from the 2nd century BC. It was made not only to celebrate this goddess but also as a reminder of a sea battle that was won. Probably the statue was situated in a niche of the outdoor theater in the temple complex and looked out on an altar.

The original sanctuari dates from the pre-Greek period (Bronze Age) when the Mother Goddess of the Earth Axieros and the God of fertility Kadmilos were honored here by the first inhabitants of the island. They were colonists from Thrace. The Greek settlers appeared around 700 BC and replaced these gods with their own gods Hermes and Demeter. The sanctuary survived earthquakes and pirate attacks, it was rebuilt several times and was only abandoned after the Romans made Christianity their official religion. At the large site you can see the remains from all periods, including Hellenistic and Roman, but even earlier. There are also remains of a Byzantine fortress made with ancient stones of the sanctuary. The round building that once stood here, the Arsinoeion, was built in 285 by order of Queen Arsinoe of Thrace. This was the largest round building ever made in ancient Greek times and it was a place where sacrifices took place. The so-called Hieron is the most striking building on the site because of the pillars that have remained (erected again in 1956).

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The spa town of Therma is also one of the attractions of Samothrace. The village lies in the north of the island thirteen kilometers from Kamariotissa in a forest of plane trees (a bus twice a day). Here there are healing hot springs with different temperatures. Therma is the best place from where you can go hiking trips. It is a small village with a few inhabitants, but there are some shops, restaurants and accommodations. Also just east of the village there are two campsites. The village is situated on a pebble beach with clear waters and a small harbor, where in high season you can make boat excursions. Even during the Roman period was a Thermal spa.

Just east of Therma, th cold pools and waterfalls of Kyra Vathra can be found. At a walking distance of 45 minutes (5 km) in the Fonias gorge there even more beautiful pools and waterfalls. If you head east after Therma the island of Samothrace becomes flatter and here it is heavily forested. Therma is also one of the starting points for climbing the mountain Fengari, which consists mainly of granite. The trip to the peak and back takes about six hours to complete. A longer but easier route runs from the village Profitis Ilias in the south of the island.

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The beaches and naturist beaches of Samothraki or Samothrace

The best beach on the island of Samothrace is called Pachia Ammos Beach. This beach is located in the south of the island about 15 km away from Kamariotissa and it is accessible by bus. Pachia Ammos is situated between two cliffs, and it is about an 800 meters long sandy beach. During high season there is a tavern and a beach bar and there are sunbeds and umbrellas for rent on one side of the beach and the other part of the beach (the north) is quieter. Another "popular" beach is Kipos Beach on the east side of Samothrace, about 18 km from Therma. This pebble beach is about one kilometer long and a destination for naturists. Kipos Beach is also accessible by bus, but it's very quiet and the water is nice and bright.

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Mariva Bungalows, Samothraki Mariva Bungalows, Samothraki Mariva Bungalows, Samothraki Mariva Bungalows, Samothraki Mariva Bungalows, Samothraki
Mariva Bungalows - Samothraki

Mariva Bungalows located in the north part of Samothraki, only 1 kilometre from the beach and 4 kilometres from Fonias River. Guests staying at Mariva Bungalows can benefit from the wide range of activities offered, including yoga, cycling and hiking. The bungalows, featuring arches, surrounded by lush vegetation, have air conditioning, TV and balcony. Mariva Bungalows offer free parking facilities. Free wireless internet is also available in the reception. Samothraki has a few sandy beaches, but most notably the mountains, the rivers, lakes and waterfalls are the island's distinctive features.

Check availability & prices and book the Maravi Bungalows on Samothraki - click here.


Hans Huisman, Stefaan Lanoo, Mariva Bungalows, 2014
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