NAXOS & AMORGOS A Greek holiday on foot
Perhaps the ferry should have put me off. The creaks and groans of the ship were only slightly outdone by the emphatic wailing of the Greek woman sitting opposite me, her husband’s hand caught in a death grip in hers. We all watched through the portholes as time and again, our brave little ship tilted so severely that the windows of the lounge were submerged beneath the roiling sea. However, this was just another ordinary day for the Express Skopilites; swift-hulled legend of the Cyclades.
I had just spent four wonderful days on the island of Naxos, just south of its better-known cousin, Mykonos. Being an enthusiastic walker and craving some late autumn sunshine, I had booked a self-guided walking tour through On Foot Holidays to the islands of Naxos and Amorgos. Although I had walked with On Foot Holidays before, I had never visited the Cyclades and their centre-based hiking route offered an interesting itinerary. Four days of roaming the Naxian hills combined with a daily dose of swimming in azure waters, meant I was thoroughly relaxed when I boarded the ferry to take me from Naxos to Amorgos…. little was I to know what awaited. Overall, I found the turbulent ferry-crossing highly enjoyable, even if it was only for the pleasure of watching the impassioned antics of my fellow Greek passengers. Much to the Greek woman’s surprise I am sure, we finally arrived at the small island of Amorgos.
Amorgos is much quieter than Naxos and the lack of the tourist taint has left the town and its inhabitants charmingly preserved. After lingering on the sea-view balcony of my hotel room, I went in search of dinner. I had
spotted a few restaurants, their facades decorated with candles and tea lights. I made little progress however as I quickly found myself in the middle of a local celebration. A large crowd of people surrounded the vigorous movements of young men and women, all in traditional dress, dancing in synchronization as instruments were played with astonishing energy. Food and drink was passed around to the crowd and small children weaved their way in and out of the dancers, snatching honey-cakes from the food bedecked tables. I extricated myself from the throng before I too, was whisked away onto the dance floor and I went in search of dinner.
The next few days saw me become thoroughly acquainted with Amorgos in the most personal way possible – on foot. My route notes from On Foot Holidays led me faithfully along tiny forgotten pathways and up over high ridge tops and never failed to deliver me safely again back to my hotel. I passed reluctant donkeys being led up ancient kalderimi (mule tracks) by cheerful old men, their white teeth gleaming in their sunbrowned faces. I sat on verdant hillsides and ate a picnic lunch while tiny lizards scampered over my legs and boots. I visited the unpronounceable Hozoviotissa Monastery and sipped at tea while monks proffered dishes of Turkish Delight.
The walking directions were faultless in their accuracy and attention to detail, allowing me to roam (a single, female walker)
completely at leisure across the undeveloped island. All the walks started from the town where I was staying, so I could pick and choose which walk I wanted to do when. It’s hard to settle upon a favorite walk. During my stay on Naxos and Amorgos I walked about six or seven trails, each in their own way delightful and interesting, but above all, beautiful. The ability to completely immerse yourself in your natural surroundings, undisturbed by the goings on of the world - whether it’s the numbing drone of technology or the exhausting buzz of human commotion - is a luxury peculiar to walking holidays, and one that On Foot Holidays has made their specialty.
I’m not sure which of On Foot’s many walks I will explore next, but I know that wherever it may be, it will certainly be an experience to remember.