Samothraki: Victoriously Triumphant
Samothraki is the archetypal lost paradise island. Secluded, inaccessible and green as heck. We’re talking epic views and scenic expanses. This is the island where Poseidon oversaw the scenes from the Trojan war unfold, so goes the lore. More famously this where the Winged Victory of Samothrace (now at the Louvre in Paris) came to be.
Sitting pretty in the North Aegean cluster of islands, it’s one of the last virgin islands. And we here, like to beat that drum, but this really is one of those cases where it does what it says on the tin. And the tin is a blank canvas in terms of expectations. This really is unchartered territory.
And this is partly due to the fact that the terrain in Samothraki is mostly mountainous, with precious little being able to grow and be cultivated. Most of the settlements are up top in the mountains, and due to the lack of a natural harbor, the island was mostly left to its own devices by the Persians, Athenians, Macedonians, Venetians, Romans, Ottomans and Byzantines (whew!). This island was never prized for its resources or strategic location, nonetheless, it’s hard to miss the irony that its relative poverty and lack of wealth also contributed to its survival.
One of the main attractions in Samothraki are its pristine beaches and its indomitable rapids and waterfalls. And we’re not just flapping our gums. The main river is actually called ‘Fonias’, or killer, in Greek. Samothraki is poised to meet your expectations when it comes to outdoor activities. Hiking, mountaineering, climbing, gorge trekking, and of course canoeing. The multitude of ravines and natural made trails make Samothraki one of Greece’s premier outdoor activities spots. Samothraki has a plethora of underwater antiquities and rich marine life, too, and one can join the scuba team for a spot of underwater exploring.
Samothraki is also blessed with thermal springs. In the village of Therma the sulphur particles that mix with the 48 degree Celsius water combine to ail a host of illnesses. At the other end of the spectrum, the village of Sfendami is host to a cold water healing spring. And in between, a visit to the municipal spring facilities offers group and private baths.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
As is wont in Greece, you’ll be able to marvel at some man made stuff. In Samothraki you can feast your eyes on a singular oddity; the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. This little known cult in ancient Greece revered a set of Gods that were ‘land’ gods. A truly fascinating legend that only gets more interesting due to the lack of available evidence. Not to be missed. The Archaeological Museum in situ helps out with joining some of the dots.
More archaeology beckons the hungry enthusiast, 75 kilometres from there. A set of ruined temples and sanctuaries from other epochs still stand, namely a rotunda from Egyptian royalty, a hall and an amphitheater.
Further along the age chart we encounter the Kastro, a 1431 fortification built by the Venetians.
Samothraki may well be off the beaten path, and that’s because this island is reserved for those in the know, the romantics and the adventurers.