Samos

Samos is an island in the North Aegean Sea and one of the East Aegean Islands. Its capital is the town of Samos, formerly known as Vathi. The Samians still call their capital Vathi instead of Samos. If you need oral directions ask for Vathi, but if you look on the map or at the road signs, you should look for Samos. In this guide the name Vathi is used for the capital of the island.

The island lies very close to the Turkish mainland and is a popular stopping off point for travellers between the two countries as it lies on the route between Athens and Izmir. Tourist season in Samos, when you can expect much higher prices, begins the first week of May.

Understand

History

Samos was the birthplace of many eminent personalities, philosophers, scientists and great artists. Among them are:

Aesop, Agatharchus, Aristarchus, Colaeus, Conon, Creophylus, Damo, Epicurus, Hermodamas , Melissa, Melissus, Myia, Phyto, Pythagoras, Semonides , Rhoecus and Theodorus

Samos has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC; its history is both long and interesting. The earliest inhabitants were Pelasgian tribes, before the invasion of what became the classical Greeks.

The first mythological king of Samos was Ancaeus, a hero of the Argonautic Expedition who, following an oracle of Delphi, colonized the island with Arcadians and other Achaeans. Ancaeus build the first wooden temple and placed in it the golden status of goddess Hera. According to mythology, Hera was born on the banks of the river Imvras and was the protector of Samos.

Around the 11th century BC another Greek tribe, the Ionians, came to dominate the island.

Pythagoras

At the time of Polycrates, Pythagoras was born in Samos, descending from the lineage of Ancaeus. Having studied first in Samos, he continued his studies at Miletus, Phoenicia, Egypt and Babylon. Then he returned to Samos and established a school. Chased by Polycrates he left and following initiations in Orphic mysteries at Delphi, Delos and Idaean Dactyls of Crete he arrived in Croton of Magna Grecia where he taught for many years.

During the reign of Polycrates (546 - 522 BC) Samos reached its pinnacle. Polycrates built a fleet of one hundred penteconters (known as Samainas), strengthened the army, expanded city’s fortifications and founded colonies, establishing naval supremacy in the Aegean Sea. Samos’s strength and the imposing temple of Hera attracted relationships and gifts from all the kingdoms of the known world.

After Polycrates' death, Samos was taken by the Persians. In 499 BC Samos joined the general revolt of the Ionian city-states against Persia, which failed with heavy consequences for the Greeks of the East. Then came the Persian Wars, with the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea, during which Samos was already enslaved to the Persians. On the same day of the battle of Plataea, was also carried out the naval landing of Mycale (479 BC) in which, Samians were both the instigators of the battle and the fathers of the victory, averting the Persian threat forever.

Phyto, the Samian Sibyl had prophesied about Pythagoras and Jesus Christ.

Then the Delian League was founded where Samos participated in able parity with Athens due to its naval supremacy. This supremacy annoyed Athens which, for an insignificant cause, organized an expedition led by Pericles against the Samians who, after a protracted siege, were forced to capitulate. The Athenians imposed forcibly a democratic regime and from then on, violent confrontations started between the oligarchs and democrats which lasted for generations, weakened Samos and led to a gradual decline. Plans and efforts for dominance of Athenians, Spartans, Macedonians, Hellenistic kingdoms and Rome, included also Samos for its excellent port and its position.

Samos has hosted, during their tour and/or for leisure, several famous personalities of the past. Among them was the pair Antony and Cleopatra who chose Samos to enjoy their love, by having (literally) royal holidays with conducting festivals and fairs for several months which attracted the best artists of their time.

The new order came with the gradual dominance of Rome in the second century BC, the inclusion of Samians into the subjugated of Roman Empire, the moving of cultural treasures of Samos to Rome and the transfer of island's defense to the will of a central sway which in many crunches was absent.

From the 4th century A.D. Samos was incorporated into the Byzantium becoming the seat of the namesake theme, named also "theme of the sailors" as it served chiefly to provide ships and troops for the Byzantine navy.

Following the disruption of the empire by the 4th Crusade in 1204 (Frankokratia), the island was attributed to the dominance of Genoa and the economic exploitation of Maona which was the first historical colonial trading company. Under the ruling of Genoa, the island was hard hit by several attacks and sacks by invaders and pirates, mainly Saracens. Genoese, unable to cope with piracy decided in 1475 to quit the island and retire in Chios. The coastline of the island devastated and the inhabitants either migrated to adjacent islands or pulled off in mountain areas by establishing settlements that were (and still are) not visible from the sea. As a result, travelers, navigators and pirates believed that the island was completely abandoned.

In 1562, the corsair nicknamed Occhiali, a Calabrian renegade to the service of Turkish navy, prompted by his helmsman Nikolaos Sarakinis, asked from the Sultan to take Samos as fief for the services he had offered, with the proviso that only Christians would be allowed to re-inhabit the island. Special privileges were also to be conceded and especially a kind of self-government under the rule of the Sultan. The Sultan accepted, considering perhaps that the island was uninhabited and therefore useless in terms of taxes. Some years later, when the Sultan demanded to take the colonization records to Constantinople, the ship that carried them sank into the sea. Many descendants of migrated Samians returned to the island. The privileges attracted also settlers from other parts of Greece and especially unsubdued remains of Byzantine soldiers who were constantly displaced, with their families, towards any territories were still free.

In 1821 the island participated in the Greek revolution but when the independence of Greek state was recognized in 1830, according to the treaty establishing the Greek State, Samos was not included within the limits of Greece. Instead, it was declared as an autonomous Principality tributary to the Sultan.

Finally in 1912 following a last revolution, the union of Samos with Greece was inflicted. Economy and social life of the island, begun flourishing again, and today, despite the destructions due to forest fires which happen almost every year, it remains green and inviting.

Get in

By boat

Vathi

The principal port of Samos is at Vathi, also called Samos. The other two ports are Karlovassi and Pythagorion. Ferries from Piraeus and the Cyclades usually stop at both Vathi and Karlovassi. There's a daily overnight ferry, the 'Nissos Mykonos' to Karlovassi and Vathy from Piraeus, Syros, Mykonos and Ikaria.

Hydrofoils to the Dodecanese islands depart regularly from Vathi and Pythagorion. Samos is also connected with all the islands of the North Aegean and the Dodecanese islands once a week through the shipping route from Alexandroupoli to Rhodes. Finally, Samos is connected on a daily basis more or less throughout the year with the port of Kusadasi in Turkey with two Greek and two Turkish boats. The trip takes two hours and costs € 35 one-way. Ferries depart at 8:30AM and 5:30PM. In low season, one ferry only departing Kusadasi at 8:30AM and returning from Samos at 4:30PM.

Mooring facilities

Port of Pythagorion

Every port is suitable for yacht berthing, however Vathi and Karlovassi are getting swell when north winds blow while Vathi is exposed to the strong southern winds. Apart of Pythagorion port itself which provides good shelter at any weather, the bay where Pythagorion port locates provides good shelter from the prevailing summer north winds and is suitable for staying on anchor (the muddy bottom provides excellent holding). Also, Samos Marina located eastern of Pythagorion in a walking distance of half a mile (900 meters), provides good all-round shelter.

  Samos Marina, Pythagorion, 831 03, Samos, Greece,  +30 22730 61600, fax: +30 22730 61833, e-mail: . Ability to host a total of 260 vessels, including 10 berths arranged for super-yachts with a length over 25m.

By plane

There are daily flights from Athens airport (55 minutes) by Olympic Air and from Thessaloniki airport (65 minutes) by Astra Airlines. You can also fly into Samos from other Greek islands such as Chios, Rhodes, Heraclion, Mytilini and Limnos by Sky Express.

From May till October charter airlines fly directly to Samos from several European airports.

Flights arrive near the old capital of Pythagorion.

Get around

The island has buses although these will not operate on some public holidays e.g. May 1st. There are numerous rental agencies near the port in the city of Samos which rent out cars, motorbikes, scooters and quadbikes. Many of these are open late and so it is possible to rent a motorbike from early morning until 9 or 10PM for €10 per day. With your own transport, you can explore much of the island in a day or two. There are also taxis.

The main town of Samos can easily be explored on foot although there are some steep roads/steps away from the sea front as the town reaches the foot of the hills.

See

Ancient Engineering

Eupalinian aqueduct

As Herodotus described, three of the greatest engineering feats in the Greek world were achieved in Samos during the 6th century BC.:

Heraion

Other archaeological sites

Samian Kouros (Vathi Museum)
Votive offering in the temple of Hera. Strange vehicle-like object with two passengers.(Vathi Museum)

Old Monasteries

Megali Panagia Monastery

Architecture

The island's highland villages maintained satisfactorily their architectural character. From the coastal villages, Pythagorion and Kokkari maintain in full their architectural tradition as it is protected. Vathi , although a modern city, has some interesting buildings, concerning history and architecture, like the Samian Parliament. At the square near Vathi waterfront there is the "Lion" marble monument, more than 2 meters high, which is an exact replica of the lion of Amphipolis and the other lions built by Philip II of Macedon. Some other villages worth visiting are the old town of Karlovassi, Marathokampos, Platanos and Ampelos, where you can find a path through the mountain with some nice views and great small waterfalls.

Festivities

Procession of young women with torches at the feast of Heraea

There are numerous festivities in the island’s villages held all over the year, especially in the summer. These are either religious fairs or fests related to local food or beverage products, like the Mitilini fried dough (tiganita) fest or Pythagorion fishermen fest. Their religious or local character is accompanied by traditional food, music and dances that last until the early hours. There are also three pan-Samian festivities which are organized in August as follows:

Do

Swimming and Sunbathing

There are beaches, both sandy and shingle, all around the coast so swimming and sunbathing are popular activities. The water is very clear but cold up until May.

Tsamadou
Megalo Seitani

Walking and Hiking

There are innumerable places of exceptional beauty at the beaches and on the mountains of Samos, including cultural heritage places. Many of these are easy to access and there are a lot printed guides at souvenir shops in many languages with the help of which one can reach these places.

Watersports

Kokkari

There are watersport facilities in the beaches of Potokaki, Kokkari, Votsalakia and Mycale.

Yachting

Either from the ancient port of Pythagorion or from the adjacent modern marina, there are many options for a sailing itinerary depending on the time available. One direction is the westbound sailing tour that includes the islands of Ikaria, Fourni and Thimena, as well as several beaches of Samos which are only accessible from sea or from steep trails. The other direction is toward the numerous islands to the south, up to Patmos, up to Kos, or even up to Rhodes.

Daily sea excursions

Swimming in the crystal clear waters of inaccessible Aegean beaches is a captivating and unique experience. Traditional Greek sailboats (kaiki) and other kinds of boats organize daily excursions where there is plenty of time for sunbathing, swimming and photography. In certain excursions food is provided, cooked by the crew. Tickets can be bought from the previous evening or even the same morning if there is availability.

Buy

From left to right: The laughable jug (mascara bardaki) , Fair Cup (dikaia koupa), Water Whistle, (nero-sfyrihtra), traditional pitcher (stamna)

Wine is the main product of the island. The famous muscat wine is exported all over the world. The sweet Samos Vin Doux, a muscat wine, is a very popular dessert wine. Have one after diner and you will probably take some bottles home. Being a sweet wine one must drink carefully. Superior qualities are the Nectar and the Anthemis, the last being aged for five years before bottling.

The island’s pottery long tradition

Eat

Pythagorion by night

Drink

Although the town of Vathy is the capital of the island, there's no doubt that Karlovasi town is the place to be when it comes to drinking and partying. And that's because of the almost 2,000 students that study in the university there - especially during the winter. You can find a big variety of cafes, taverns, bars and clubs there.

Also, for anyone who wishes to find a place to "dance the night away", keep in mind that in Greece, people go to night clubs usually after 2am, so you won't find yourselves drinking your beer in an empty place.

Sleep

Off season (i.e. Oct-May) you can bargain rooms down to as little as €20 for a double.

Go next

Ferries to other Greek islands are numerous including many to Piraeus (for Athens). Usually, there's an overnight ferry leaving at 10:30PM and arriving in Piraeus 9 hours later via Ikaria and Mykonos. Prices for Piraeus start at €42.50 on the comfortable Hellenic Seaways boats. Travel agents clustered around Samos port can sell you tickets.

Take the ferry to Kusadasi in Turkey and admire the ancient monuments of Ephesus, one of the major and best preserved Greco-Roman sites in Turkey,

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, February 17, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.