Samothrace Unveiled: A Symphony of Waterfalls, Ecotourism Oasis, and the Allure of Chora

The verdant beauty of the Greek island of Samothrace unfolds like a captivating tapestry. Mount Saos, with its rugged rocks towering at 5,285 feet (1,611 meters), transitions seamlessly into gentle slopes adorned with peculiarly shaped plane trees, expansive oak woodlands, and regal cedars. Nourished by the crystalline waters of three rivers, this haven supports the flourishing of rare and indigenous plants. Fields surrounding the port of Kamariotissa, nestled at the island's western edge, boast thriving vegetable crops, while olive trees and solar panels grace terraces along the southern coastline.

Nestled in the Aegean Sea, proximate to Greece's northeastern border with Turkey and just a brief ferry ride from Alexandroupoli on the mainland, Samothrace has evolved from an ancient religious sanctuary into a contemporary haven for ecotourists. Here, the island's allure manifests in various facets.

The Natural Beauty of Samothrace

The Natural Beauty of Samothrace

Samothrace, often described as a "virgin island," remains largely untouched by mass tourism. Its pristine nature, characterized by green forests, meandering rivers, and cascading waterfalls, offers a serene escape for nature enthusiasts. Kaliopi Parselias, who has run Parselias Studios for over three decades, attests to the island's unique appeal. Initially drawing Greek families and a handful of Germans, her B&B now welcomes guests from across Europe, with a singular condition: youthful vigor, as Samothrace beckons explorers with nimble feet.

Therma, situated on the north coast, serves as an ideal launchpad for exploring Samothrace. Accommodations in this region prioritize simplicity, encouraging guests to immerse themselves in the natural surroundings. Who needs opulence when a babbling creek outside your window orchestrates a symphony of serenity?

Camping Varades, situated by the sea, takes its name from "varades," a beehive found within hollow trees. Managed collectively by seven individuals, echoing the cooperative spirit of bees, the campsite seeks to provide an alternative holiday experience. Anastasios Vavouras, the manager, articulates their mission as offering visitors a chance to engage in mountain activities within a tranquil and liberating environment.

Adventure and Exploration

Adventure and Exploration

A hub for Greek campers in their twenties and thirties, such as student Giannis Tsakiltsidis, Camping Varades attracts those seeking an undisturbed and unadulterated perspective of Greece. Tsakiltsidis, drawn by the allure of hiking, finds himself navigating ancient paths that crisscross the mountains, catering to both novice and seasoned trekkers. Embark on a captivating adventure through northern Samothrace, where cascading waterfalls gracefully spill over polished rocks, forming enchanting vathres—nature's own river pools. Among these, the trio nestled along the Tsivdogiannis River, just beyond Therma, beckons explorers with its accessible charm. The initial vathra tantalizes, its depth challenging even the most daring to touch the riverbed with their feet. In contrast, Gria Vathra, the second pool, invites immersion with a more approachable depth. Here, as if plucked from mythology, carefree souls resembling water nymphs gracefully navigate the waters, seamlessly mingling with more conventionally attired swimmers.

Naked hippies, draped in an air of nonchalance, transport their meager possessions atop their heads, traversing the river and ascending a rocky facade to reach the third pool. A harmonious blend of nature's wonders and free spirits unfolds in this idyllic setting.

Venturing three and a half miles east of Therma along the coastal road unveils an additional trio of vathres, tracing the course of the Fonias River. Originating from Mount Saos and meandering its way to the sea, the river lives up to its Greek name, Fonias, meaning "killer," particularly when surging with formidable force. However, during dry spells, the path to the initial vathra becomes a leisurely stroll of less than an hour. Families, some accompanied by toddlers, traverse the riverbed amidst towering plane trees, golden-hued bracken, and weathered gray stones.

At the Fonias waterfall, also known as the first vathra, sunbathers luxuriate while children frolic in the shallow peripheral ponds. Fearless swimmers brave the exhilarating rush of the falls, attempting to maintain their positions beneath the invigorating cascade. Midway up the rock face, a rope tethered to a tree beckons the daring, offering a Tarzan-esque swing before plunging into the icy embrace of the waters below. The landscape becomes a theater where nature and human daring harmonize in a symphony of exhilaration.

A further 30-minute hike beyond the second vathra, Gerania, unveils a hidden gem fed by a captivating waterfall. While the fashionably young dare the ascent adorned in nothing but bikinis and sneakers, seasoned hikers wisely opt for the support of sturdy boots. The initial leg involves a steep climb facilitated by a metal cable, followed by a challenging zigzag through a dry watercourse leading to a narrow track skirting the mountain. Parts of the path are fenced, offering a secure passage. The culmination of the journey reveals a mesmerizing reward—a shimmering iridescent green oasis. Blue-bodied dragonflies, adorned with single yellow dots, gracefully skim the surface as humans engage unperturbed in their rejuvenating rituals.

Cultural and Historical Treasures

Cultural and Historical Treasures

The route to Kleidosi, the third waterfall, bears the moniker "killer" for good reason, dissuading all but the most intrepid adventurers. For those seeking a less strenuous pursuit, Therma boasts springs-fed thermal baths dating back to Byzantine times, complemented by beaches scattered across the island. Kipos, along the eastern coast, showcases pebbles with a captivating bluish hue, while Pachia Ammos in the south stands as the sole sandy beach on the island. Boat excursions originating from Kamariotissa or Therma include stops at Vatos Beach (near Pachia Ammos, accessible via a challenging hike) and a glimpse of Kremasto Nero, the "Hanging Waterfall," where water cascades directly into the sea without touching the cliffs.

Venturing further along the south coast, imposing gray rocks rise ominously from the waves, adorned with what appears to be a colossal work of abstract art—Tis grias ta pania, or "old lady's laundry." Legend weaves a tale of a woman's laundry being swept onto the rocks by a fierce wind. In her fury, she cast curses, transforming her clothes into stone.

For history enthusiasts, Samothrace unfolds its rich past. The Arsinoëion, or Sanctuary of the Great Gods, housed the famed "Winged Victory of Samothrace" statue, sculpted in the second century BCE and now gracing the Louvre. A relic from a time predating classical Ancient Greece, this temple once served as the religious nucleus of the North Aegean. Partially reconstructed, it features a museum with a replica of the iconic Nike statue.

Perched atop Mount Saos, Chora proudly stands as the capital of Samothrace. The 15th-century citadel, a testament to Genoese ruler Palamedes Gateluzzi's influence, offers a breathtaking vista of the town. A visit to the café at its base becomes an essential prelude to indulging in the charming streets below, where vibrant flowers spill from window boxes and tree branches form natural canopies over restaurants and cafes.

The Folklore Museum of Samothrace, resembling a traditional village home, invites exploration. Filled with religious icons, photographs, and household items, the museum unfolds the island's cultural tapestry. Noteworthy is a raki still resembling an enormous turkey baster, adorned with a copper bulb and a lengthy metal nozzle. Beyond conventional souvenirs, the Goat Shop in Chora celebrates the island's ubiquitous goats on T-shirts, bags, and bandannas, reflecting their fame for grazing near the sea and offering delectable meat.

Inland, amid leafy forests or against a backdrop of a stunning sunset, family-run restaurants present the best of goat dishes. Locals, with more than 20 preparation methods, savor goat meat in various culinary delights, from oven-baked with plums to marinated in red wine. Seafood and vegetarian options, such as fasolada tsigirista, a bean stew, diversify the culinary landscape. Therma's restaurants cater to vegan preferences, including non-dairy renditions of traditional Greek dishes like spanakopita.

As night falls, Therma transforms into a vibrant hub with a street market. Islanders showcase finely crafted jewelry, hand-tooled leather bags, and more. The eclectic crowd, featuring dreadlocked women and bearded men, immerses in late-night dining and animated conversations. Haunting renditions of traditional songs create a mesmerizing atmosphere, with everyone eventually joining in. Full-moon nights usher in environmentally conscious parties, epitomizing the island's unique charm.

The locals, deeply connected to Samothrace's wild beauty, actively collaborate to preserve its essence. For Kaliopi Parselias, the island emanates exceptional energy and tranquility, rejuvenating tired souls within a week. Whether drawn by the allure of walking, pristine beaches, or delectable cuisine, visitors are bound to return, captivated by Samothrace's timeless charm. The island's continued efforts in promoting eco-tourism and preserving its natural heritage make it a model destination for sustainable travel.

Modern Day Samothrace: A Blend of Tradition and Sustainability

Modern Day Samothrace A Blend of Tradition and Sustainability

In recent years, Samothrace has seen a surge in eco-tourism, drawing visitors who seek to experience its untouched beauty while supporting sustainable practices. The island's commitment to maintaining its natural landscapes and traditional ways of life has garnered international attention. Initiatives to promote renewable energy, such as the widespread use of solar panels, highlight Samothrace's dedication to sustainability.

The island's agricultural practices also reflect a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity. Olive groves, vineyards, and vegetable gardens thrive, providing fresh, locally-sourced ingredients for the island's culinary offerings. These agricultural practices not only support the local economy but also ensure that visitors can enjoy authentic Gozitan flavors.

Samothrace's culinary scene is a testament to its rich cultural heritage. Local tavernas and family-run restaurants offer a taste of traditional Greek cuisine, with a focus on seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients. The island's signature dish, roasted goat, is prepared in various ways, each recipe passed down through generations. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of seafood dishes, fresh from the Aegean Sea, and vegetarian options that showcase the island's agricultural bounty.

The island's vibrant cultural scene is another draw for visitors. Throughout the year, Samothrace hosts numerous festivals and events that celebrate its rich history and traditions. From religious festivals to music and dance performances, these events offer a glimpse into the island's cultural life and provide opportunities for visitors to engage with the local community.

In conclusion, Samothrace is more than just a picturesque island in the Aegean Sea. It is a destination that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and sustainable practices. Whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, Samothrace promises an unforgettable experience. Its pristine landscapes, historical sites, and vibrant local culture make it a must-visit destination for travelers looking to explore the authentic side of Greece. As the island continues to embrace eco-tourism and sustainable development, it sets an example for other destinations looking to balance tourism with environmental conservation. So pack your bags and set off to discover the timeless charm of Samothrace, where nature, history, and culture converge in perfect harmony.

Explore the enchanting allure of Samothrace with, your gateway to a world where waterfalls cascade in harmony, ecotourism thrives, and the captivating capital, Chora, unveils its cultural treasures. Immerse yourself in the richness of this Greek island, uncovering hidden gems and planning an unforgettable journey that transcends the ordinary. Your key to unlocking the extraordinary on the island of Samothrace.