Samos is the Aegean's easternmost island and is separated from the Turkish mainland by the narrow Strait of Mycale.
The renowned ancient mathematician, Pythagoras, was born on the island in the 6th century BC. Samos also claims to be the birthplace of the goddess Hera, and the remains of a temple built in her honour can be found near the city of Pythagoreio.
Since then, Samos has often passed between Greek and Turkish hands, before returning to Greece for good in 1913. Today, Visitors will find busy holiday resorts, beaches sprinkled with sunbeds and waterfronts lined with tavernas, bars and cafes.
Samos town curls around a semi-circular bay, with pretty pastel-coloured buildings rising in tiers up a green hillside. Numerous other coastal towns and villages encircle the island.
Further inland, travellers can visit delightful mountain villages, where friendly locals and picturesque alleyways offer an authentic taste of Greece.
Samos is blessed with a dramatic, indented coastline, dotted with sand and shingle coves, while inland the slopes of the mountains and hills are covered in vines and verdant forests.
The coast of Samos has many beautiful beaches to enjoy as it is a large, lush island. There are at least 20 beaches which tourists and locals recommend. Mykali beach, south of Samos town, is covered in white pebbles and lapped by emerald waters and is one of the most popular beaches on the island. On the mountainous northwest coast of Samos, visitors will find the secluded Megalo Seitani beach which can only be reached on foot and richly rewards those who make the extra effort. There are a few other beaches on the island which are inaccessible to cars and these tend to be the most private and secluded. The Vlendza beach, just outside the town of Avlakia, has good amenities including sunbeds and umbrellas, as well as a small tavern. Tsamadou beach lies just outside of Kokkari Town and is the only official nudist beach on the island.
The best beach on Samos for children is Psili Ammos beach as kids love to play in its warm, shallow waters and build sand castles on the shore. It is a very safe beach with calm waters. This long sandy strip also attracts migrant flamingos each year in December and the pink flocks are a delightful sight. There are also a couple of taverns nearby to enjoy. Psili Ammos beach is 35 miles (56km) southwest of Vathy.
The largest Greek temple ever built, the Temple of Hera was one of the essential sanctuaries of ancient Greece, and is now a great sightseeing attraction. It was built near the mouth of the Imvrasos river for worship of the goddess who, according to myth, was born and lived there. Only half of one of its 115 columns stands today, but the bases of the columns and other temple foundations are still visible so it is possible to imagine what the giant temple looked like. The Temple of Hera was constructed over a long period of time - or rather, it was added to, renovated or completely rebuilt a number of times over the centuries when it was destroyed by earthquakes or other means. The oldest building phase identified by archaeologists is the 8th century BC. The very large temple, the ruins of which we can see today, was known as the 'Polycrates Temple'. One of the giant statues from this site can still be seen in the Samos Archaeological Museum, which is a good complement to a trip to the temple ruins as it provides context and information. Unlike many other archaeological sites in Greece, however, there is some information given at the temple and visitors receive a free guide leaflet upon entry.
This temple is not to be confused with the Temple of Hera at Olympus where the Olympic Flame is lit for each Olympic Games.
One of the great attractions on Samos is the cave where Pythagoras lived and worked as a philosopher, mathematician, astrologer, doctor and musician. Very little is actually known for sure about Pythagoras but legend has it that he used the caves as a refuge from the tyranny of Polycrates. We know his teachings were mystical as well as mathematical as he was the founder of an esoteric religious movement known as Pythagoreanism. Although some tenets of this religious and philosophical movement are known, for the most part it too is somewhat shrouded in secrecy. Most of the caves are now open to the public. The site is made up of two caves and two chapels, with 'holy water' dripping from their stalactites, and was used for prayer and teaching as well as shelter. The cave is located on Mount Kerkis, an extinct volcano that forms the second-highest peak in the East Aegean, and although it is located near the base the climb may still be a bit difficult for some. The views from the cave are beautiful and there are some great photo opportunities. It is advisable to bring a bottle of water and sensible shoes for the rather steep walk.
The Ancient Theatre of Pythagorion sits just below Panagia Spiliani monastery's ruins. Its stage and some seats are all that remains. Still, these remnants hint at how grand the venue must have been in its time.
Today, performers use the site for plays, as well as concerts and modern recitals. Historians and culture buffs should check the calendar for events.
Otherwise, Pythagorion is the perfect Mediterranean escape. A pretty harbour, gorgeous beaches, and the Mediterranean's oldest manmade port are among the town's highlights. Attractions in and around the port include the statue of Pythagoras, the Castle of Lykourgos, the Church of Metamorphosis, the Ephpalinos Tunnel and Roman Baths. Visitors who wish to explore a bit further can enjoy sailing excursions to other cities, villages, beaches and ancient sites.
The town also has a vibrant nightlife.
Children love to visit these beautiful waterfalls on the northeast coast of Samos Island, although it is certainly not necessary to have children along to enjoy this scenic island attraction. Visitors should follow the road west from Karlovassi that leads towards the harbour, which will bring them to the pristine Potami Beach; just over a mile (2km) further visitors will reach a forest and lake, beyond which there is a series of waterfalls. The rambling walk along the river soon becomes an adventure through the forest leading to the waterfall. Swimming in the small lake is a great way for kids to cool off and there are lovely spots for the folks to sit and relax, or perhaps enjoy a picnic lunch. There are rock valleys and several lovely little pools and waterfalls to explore. There are some beautiful old trees, interesting rock formations and small bridges and visitors may even be lucky enough to spot some turtles or other animals. For the snap happy, this enchanting little forest provides many photo opportunities as well as fun for the whole family. There is no entry fee; visitors simply ramble into the forest from the beach and enjoy the waterfalls.
The castle of Lykourgos Logothetis is a magnificent example of defensive architecture. It is situated to the southwest of the port of Pythagorio, and was built at the beginning of the 19th century, playing a vital role in the Greek Revolution against Turkish rule. The castle was built, with the help of many locals, out of the remains of ancient buildings and monuments, to help repel the invaders and it became the headquarters of the revolutionary movement in Samos and the main asset in their defence against the Ottoman navy. It is named after the local leader of the revolution. There is a temple next door to the castle which commemorates the victory of 6 August 1824 when Samos successfully resisted an attack by the Turks - the anniversary is still celebrated at the church annually. Lykourgos has wonderful views and many interesting architectural features. The hill on which the castle is located may be the oldest acropolis in Samos as a number of prehistoric artefacts have been discovered there, making the whole area captivating and rather mysterious. Kids will probably enjoy exploring the castle as much as adults so it makes a good excursion for the whole family.
Though Samos receives plenty of sunshine during summer, temperatures remain comfortable with the help of cool northern winds called 'meltemia'. Rainfall is heavy, but most of it falls in winter. From mid-April until mid-October, the weather is almost completely dry.
Summer is indisputably the peak tourist season, when beaches, restaurants and clubs are packed full. Late spring and early autumn are good times to visit for travellers who want to avoid crowds.
The island is at its most lush in May, after the rainy season. Water temperatures are also warming up. September has many of summer's virtues, such as warm seas and balmy weather, though it's not as hot.
Pythagorio, Karlosvassi and Vathy are the island's three major ferry ports. Most ferry connections to Samos are via Turkey.
Local KTEL buses provide transport for visitors, stopping at most villages and cities on the island. Taxis are also available.
Car and moped rental offices are in Samos town. Many of the large hotels also arrange motorcycle and car rentals for guests. On a cautionary note, Samos' steep, winding roads can be stressful and accident rates are quite high.
The island is renowned for its natural beauty and there are many lovely walking trails to enjoy.
Gorgeous coasts and sublime natural scenery define Samos Island. White-pebbled Mykali, secluded Megalo Seitani, and nudist Tsamadou are among its best beaches.
Potami is another favourite location, where beach lovers can enjoy forests and waterfalls near the ocean. Kids usually enjoy Psili Ammos Beach's warm, shallow waters.
Beyond its glorious beaches, Samos is home to the Temple of Hera, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's certainly a must-see. Visitors can also explore Pythagoras Cave for an historical and philosophical perspective on the island. The Ancient Theatre of Pythagorio offers cultural insights and perhaps a show, while the castle of Lykourgos Logothetis is a magnificent example of military architecture. Situated southwest of Pythagorio Port, it played a vital role in the Greek Revolution against Turkish rule.
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