Easily accessible by plane and ferry – Samos sits just a kilometre or so off the coast of Turkey, the mountains of Asia Minor across the Mykali straits providing a spectacular backdrop. The southern most of the main North East Aegean Islands and just north of the Dodecanese, Samos is a great base for island hopping - if you can bear to drag yourself away - but to use it just as a jumping off point does not do Samos justice.
The island has the usual extraordinary historical sites. It was the birthplace of the mathematician Pythagoras (the square of the hypotenuse etc), as well as the site of the ancient Temple of Hera (not a lot to see now – but still beautiful and serene). The Efpalinos Tunnel – an engineering marvel from the time of Polykrates – deserves a look, though not recommended for agoraphobics, as does the Archaeological Museum in Samos (outstanding Kouros).
But one of the things that makes Samos unique – and much more than merely another collection of gorgeous beaches or a good base to visit Ephesus - is the way it layers its history with the modern life of a rural community. The land is rich with olive groves, tomato and melon plants, fruit trees and flower hothouses. Local produce is widely available in little markets and off the back of trucks and is used in all the restaurants. And then there are the vineyards … Some say Samos is where wine came from and, whether or not that’s true, they still produce a pretty decent drop. The traditional Samos Vin Doux is more like a sherry and not to everyone’s taste, but the drier whites are crisp and clean. They bear more than a passing resemblance to a decent New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – particularly after the first glass or two (“Ayeri” and “Korfes” are our favourites).
Although damaged by fire, Samos is still a green island, and not just from the flourishing fields. There is enough pine forest remaining in the mountains to provide a cool green retreat on hot summer days and some outstanding hiking for those with the energy. Small mountain towns like Manolates and Vourliotes set in the terraced mountain vineyards are oases.
And of course Samos does have gorgeous beaches …. South and east facing beaches are best given the prevailing North Westerlies. Favourites include Mykali beach and Psilli Ammos – a long shallow sandy beach ideal for kids – both off the main Samos/Pythagorio road. Anywhere along Potokaki and Kerveli, Klima and Posidonio beaches – all on the eastern side of the island – are also recommended.
More upmarket options include Glicorisa (the Yalos Bar is excellent) and the Doryssa Bay Hotel between Pythagorio and the airport - especially for those craving a little luxury.
To the north, Kokkari is a must. Potami (and the nearby cataracts) and Micro Seitami and Megali Seitami are also worth a visit – though not for young kids. (Sensible footwear is highly recommended – you can do it in Birkenstoks but it’s not a great idea.)
Samos may not be most famous or glamorous Greek Island but for those interested in more than just gorgeous beaches it is a true star.
Written by Jodie Siganto - Owner of Property 98676 in Samos, Greece