Rising up in the background, the village of Hora cascades down the slopes of Folegandros’s highest point; a rocky, barren hilltop with a church (of course) on top. Making your way off the ferry you’ll immediately notice the time capsule tint that Folegandros exists in; almost like a postcard from a not too long ago era sometime in the romantic 70’s. Nostalgia is never too far away, here. Donkeys have something to do with that, but unlike Santorini, they are in fact used for their intended purpose. The labyrinthine donkey paths that meander through the island like crop circles provide ample evidence.
To say Folegandros is the quintessential Greek island would be to say that Messi can play football; it’s an understatement. Folegandros is everything a Greek holiday should be; a piece of authentic island life, devoid of most of the worldly comforts (ok, ok there’s wifi). As testament to that you’ll be happy to read that the infrastructure is so-so (as in not that many tourists-Yei!) and most of the beaches have hardly any umbrellas and loungers. You won’t be seeing any all-inclusives, and you certainly won’t be seeing any celebrities or pretty people posing in front of selfie sticks (Phew!).
What you will encounter is visceral gold; it’s something money can’t buy. And it’s something that will live with you forever. Which is invaluable.
The island is peppered with charming beaches, some of which provide serenity and quiet. Most are un-organized and accessible after a long hike, and some are only accessible by boat. Agali beach is not one of them. Here you can partake in water sports and find refuge from the sun underneath the rented umbrellas. But if its peace and quiet that you seek, head for Karavostasi beach; ideal for families and nippers. Same with Agios Georgios beach, and although it’s an unorganised beach, the nearby tamarisks are there to offer valuable shade. Ambeli and Ligaria beaches offer similar tranquility, in no small part due to their inaccessibility. There’s many more, notably Aulaki, Dendro, Katergo and Fira amongst others. However, the biggest draw is Chrisospilia. Getting there only by boat in a similar fashion to Milo’s Kleftiko, one is met by a cave lined with ancient inscriptions from the Minoan times.
What’s more, Folegandros has some neat hiking trails. Twenty kilometers (the island is a mere 12 x 4!) of ancient foot paths used by the donkeys and their goat herders have been preserved throughout the centuries. It’s certainly not daunting-one could walk the entire thing in one day-but it is undeniably beautiful. If you start at the top of the hill in Chora, by the church of Panagia, it is an easy trek across to Aggali in a 45 minute journey. Several routes exist, each one with their own distinct theme. Some offer more opportunities to spot fauna and flora, while others showcase the physical landmarks of the island, such as churches, museums and ancient walled structures.
As is customary in a Greek island-and a sleepy one at that-life is dominated by the elements. What you eat and what you do depends on the season. Beyond that, Folegandros affords the visitor a simple yet elusive luxury: good food, a relaxed vibe with no agro, no stress and the promise that every day the sun will be as soul nourishing as the last.