The Golden Path

Greece may not be the first des­ti­na­tion that springs to mind when pic­tur­ing a walk­ing va­ca­tion. But on a low-sea­son tour of An­dros, in the Cyclades, Re­becca Rose finds that hik­ing the is­land's his­toric trails—now newly pass­able—is an ideal way to en­joy ba

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia - - WANDER - PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY MARCO ARGUELLO

MY POCK­ETS WERE BULGING with wal­nuts, wild pis­ta­chios and mul­ber­ries, and I’d been gorg­ing on figs and black­ber­ries. Yet I couldn’t re­sist pick­ing a cou­ple of low-hang­ing pomegranates, so ripe they had split, ooz­ing translu­cent, rubyred juice and glis­ten­ing seeds. My hus­band, Ni­co­las, and I were on the fi­nal day of a hik­ing tour of the Greek is­land of An­dros, and were go­ing to need sus­te­nance for the af­ter­noon ahead. It was 2 p.m. when we be­gan wind­ing our way down from Vourkoti, a moun­tain vil­lage wrapped in va­porous cloud, via a stone path. As we fin­ished the pomegranates, we could just make out our des­ti­na­tion, Achla—a slice of cobalt sea twin­kling away on the hori­zon. We would need to be at the coast in or around six if we wanted an evening dip be­fore dark.

It was late Septem­ber, and the days were get­ting shorter. The light was softer than in the sum­mer months, when tem­per­a­tures on An­dros reg­u­larly reach the high thir­ties and only the truly de­ranged would set off on a 10-kilo­me­ter hike. Greece is pre­dom­i­nantly thought of as a sum­mer des­ti­na­tion, but it is won­der­ful in the shoul­der sea­sons: spring, when the wild­flow­ers are in bloom, and au­tumn, when, as we dis­cov­ered, the sea is at its warm­est and the visi­tors have dwin­dled.

An­dros, the north­ern­most of the Cyclades, is ac­quir­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a walker’s par­adise, lur­ing a crowd that is at­tracted by the quiet of spring and fall and ea­ger to ex­plore the is­land’s ex­trav­a­gantly beau­ti­ful in­te­rior and many se­cluded coves. This is largely thanks to An­dros Routes, a new grass­roots ini­tia­tive to clear the is­land’s net­work of kalder­imi, or an­cient path­ways, and sign­post them clearly in Greek and English so that even the least ex­pe­ri­enced hik­ers can nav­i­gate their way with­out the use of a map.

When Ni­co­las and I learned that An­dros also has a hand­ful of qui­etly lux­u­ri­ous places to stay—sev­eral of which hap­pen to be at the start or end of day­long walks—an off-sea­son walk­ing trip be­gan to seem em­i­nently doable. So, as the chill of au­tumn set in at home in Lon­don, we packed our brand-new walk­ing shoes and set off.

On the two-hour, early morn­ing ferry ride to An­dros from Athens’s Ra­fina port, we read up on the is­land’s his­tory. An­dros is where much of Greece’s ship­ping in­dus­try be­gan; from the mid-18th un­til the mid-20th cen­tury, it was the coun­try’s sec­ond-big­gest port. The is­land’s large, fra­grant lemons were its first ex­port (to this day, lemon groves and citrus farms still dot the land­scape). Over the cen­turies An­dros be­came an af­flu­ent base for ship­builders, cap­tains, engi­neers and crew, and many of their de­scen­dants still own sec­ond homes on the is­land.

In the decades fol­low­ing World War II, An­dros’s pop­u­la­tion plum­meted from 45,000 to 9,000 as many An­dri­ots headed to the main­land to look for work. While that num­ber swells in the sum­mer with day-trip­pers and Athe­ni­ans re­treat­ing to their coun­try houses, tourism has never re­ally dom­i­nated, de­spite the is­land’s in­cred­i­ble beaches and lush in­te­rior. An­dros couldn’t be less like its glitzy neigh­bor, Mykonos—and is all the more ap­peal­ing for it. We spent our first two nights at Ktima Le­monies, a bou­tique bed-and-break­fast nes­tled in the hill­side just out­side Chora, the main town. Ac­cess to the ho­tel is via a long, fra­grant path­way lined with heav­ing citrus and fig trees, past a small vine­yard (which, we later learned, pro­duces an amaz­ing 800 bot­tles of dry Muscat per year) and an en­vi­ably large, over­flow­ing kitchen gar­den. We were stay­ing in a pig­pen that had been con­verted into a snug lit­tle suite next to a swim­ming pool framed by olive trees. The place is owned by Nelly Gry­pari, a warm, so­phis­ti­cated Athe­nian who first came to An­dros when her ar­chi­tect hus­band be­gan de­sign­ing va­ca­tion homes on the is­land. She em­ploys lo­cal gar­den­ers year-round who tend to her crops and pro­duce the in­cred­i­ble ar­ray of jams we sam­pled the next morn­ing. Th­ese, along with fresh pome­gran­ate and melon, >>

STAY

Check in to the new Hy­att Re­gency Bangkok Sukhumvit, a 273-key ho­tel that will cel­e­brate its open­ing in Jan­uary 2019. With a di­rect link to the Nana BTS Skytrain, guests of Bangkok's new Hy­att eas­ily tran­si­tion from the fre­netic cap­i­tal to an ur­ban oa­sis. The sleek ex­te­rior was de­signed by the award-win­ning Bangkok­based firm OBA and boasts ex­ten­sive out­door spa­ces. The three din­ing venues in­clude two all-day eater­ies: The Mar­ket Café, de­signed in the spirit of a lo­cal mar­ket, and The Lobby Lounge, with live mu­sic at night. Up top: Spec­trum Lounge and Bar, an event venue by day that's a tapas spot in the evening, with a rooftop bar. The new prop­erty also boasts over 1,300 square me­ters of func­tion space.

DO

Get the blood flow­ing with a tra­di­tional Muay Thai ses­sion at YOKKAO, where liv­ing leg­ends Saen­chai and Sing­dam Ki­at­moo9 of­ten train, be­fore head­ing back to Hy­att Re­gency to cool off in the ex­pan­sive out­door pool. Sauna and shower, then ex­plore Baan Kamthieng House, a pre­served Lanna-style teak house that was brought from north­ern Thai­land more than 50 years ago. The mu­seum now stands in stark con­trast to the modern build­ings sur­round­ing it. Stop by H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirind­horn's Ph­u­fah Shop for a one-of-akind sou­venir made by ru­ral crafts­men.

EAT + DRINK

Most know Nana for the nightlife, but its roots are as a mul­ti­cul­tural mar­ket­place. Some of the world's best, most di­verse street food is in the blocks around Hy­att Re­gency Bangkok, with Lit­tle Korea, Lit­tle Ara­bia and Lit­tle In­dia all here. Start with the in­ter­na­tional buf­fet at Hy­att Re­gency's Mar­ket Café. Lunch in the food court at Ter­mi­nal 21, a “life­style mall” with more than 600 bou­tiques. Try a curry at Pun­jab Grill, widely con­sid­ered the best In­dian in town, and wash it down with a cock­tail at Ha­vana So­cial, a hip bar of­fer­ing a glimpse into old Cuba. Still thirsty? Head to Hy­att Re­gency's rooftop bar for a tip­ple and tunes, while tak­ing in the light show that is one of South­east Asia's most elec­tric cityscapes.

house-made cakes and breads, and creamy Greek yo­gurt, made up one of the most de­light­ful ho­tel break­fasts we had ever eaten.

It was lucky we had lined our stom­achs, as Olga Karayian­nis, the pas­sion­ate, knowl­edge­able is­lan­der be­hind An­dros Routes, had an am­bi­tious day of walk­ing planned. As we set off in the golden sun­shine along a cy­press-lined cob­ble­stoned path wor­thy of a Re­nais­sance paint­ing, Karayian­nis, a bronzed Athe­nian with gray­ing hair and in­tense brown eyes, ex­plained how the project had come about.

A reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to An­dros since the early 1990s, Karayian­nis moved there per­ma­nently in 2004 and started to ex­plore the stone path­ways near her house. Each time she went a lit­tle far­ther and dis­cov­ered ex­tra­or­di­nary things—water­falls, crum­bling tower houses, wa­ter mills—hid­den in the is­land’s in­te­rior. The routes were of­ten ob­structed by fallen trees, and their sign­posts were derelict or up­rooted. Re­al­iz­ing the po­ten­tial of the an­cient path­ways, Karayian­nis ap­proached the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to get fund­ing to re­store them. She was not al­ways met with en­thu­si­asm: “‘Why would you want to take a path, when there is a road?’ they asked me.” Since gath­er­ing a team of vol­un­teers, Karayian­nis has man­aged to clear and re­store 160 kilo­me­ters of the is­land’s kalder­imi, about 100 of which have been en­dorsed by the Euro­pean Ram­bling As­so­ci­a­tion. “It’s a huge project and one that needs con­stant main­te­nance,” she said, open­ing up a gate into a lemon farm she wanted to show us, “but it is worth all the ef­fort. It pre­serves a beau­ti­ful land­scape and an an­cient cul­ture, and makes it valu­able for the com­mu­nity.” We stopped at a rusted wa­ter mill once used to grind wheat—one of the big­gest mills in the Mediter­ranean, we learned. The fac­tory build­ing next to it is a skele­ton now, but it used to be a pro­lific pro­ducer of spaghetti. As we set off again, Karayian­nis ex­plained that no one knows quite how old the path­ways are. There has been hu­man pres­ence on An­dros since the Ne­olithic pe­riod; the ear­li­est paths prob­a­bly date from at least A.D. 1200, when they were used to con­nect two cas­tles by mule. Built by hand with slabs of lo­cal stone, now pol­ished by the el­e­ments and cen­turies of foot­falls, some >>

In au­tumn, visi­tors to Achla Beach, on An­dros, will of­ten find they have it to them­selves.

At KtimaLe­monies, a bou­tique B&B on An­dros, much of the pro­duce served at the break­fast buf­fet is grown on the prop­erty.

Hik­ing paths sign­posted by An­dros Routes, a non­profit aimed at pro­mot­ing walk­ing tours of the is­land.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cambodia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.