Greece is an incredibly diverse country geographically. I don't believe anyone can get a real feel for all Greece has to offer in a single trip or even a single region. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of islands and choices a traveller has when planning a Greek trip. My best piece of advice is to accept that it is going to take multiple trips. Today we're visiting the island of Andros, the most northern of the Cycladic islands. Each Greek Island group is a region in itself. The Cyclades are southeast of mainland Greece. This group includes many of the better-known islands and is where the photos of classic blue and white buildings sparkling over the Aegean Sea are taken. Andros is a quieter island with many lovely beaches, much more lushly vegetated than the other islands in the group.
Unlike most islands, the ferry does not land in the capital but on the opposite side of the island at Gavrio. From the ferry terminal we caught a bus around the island to the village of Batsi. Batsi used to be a fishing village but has become a tourist area, with many amenities for every type of traveller from backpacker to luxury. In the heat of the mid-afternoon sun, the main street was empty, there were few people on the beaches, and even the fishers were napping in the shade.
Our hostel, The Lemon Tree, was tucked into a cool wooded area with a lovely outdoor patio area with lemons literally dropping from the trees around us. The upper deck included gorgeous views of Batsi Bay. After a climb up 100 stairs from the main beach area with our bags, our host greeted us with very tasty homemade lemonade. Our private room was basic, comfortable, and cool and included a private bathroom with a shower. We spent our first day exploring the area around the hostel and the little village. Our host made restaurant suggestions, ordering hints, and pointed out several hikes and "clothing optional" beaches during a tour in his private vehicle around the Batsi area.
As evening fell, the atmosphere in Batsi changed. People began to emerge from wherever they had been during the afternoon to find a place to watch the sun set and possibly stay for the evening. The restaurants and bars began to fill up.
The following day, we hired a cab and met a lovely driver, Alex, who gave us a great price to visit the "big" town or Chora on the opposite side of the island. Alex proceeded to take the long, slow route with narration and a special detour to a cute little village called Menites, known for its natural forest setting and many water sources.
According to legend, in ancient times wine flowed from the statue of lions' heads. According to tradition, wine festivals, called Dionysus Parties were held here. These days cool delicious water flows. The fact it came out of these lions was an extra treat. The springs area was cool and fresh with plenty .of shade. We enjoyed the opportunity to cool down and fill our water bottles.
I love the colours of the Cyclades. The brilliant sun reflects off of the pristine whitewashed walls and the bright blues and greens are incredible.
We eventually arrived in Chora... The first thing we saw was a church. This is not surprising considering there are churches everywhere of many different sizes. Some churches are built for large congregations and others are just for the family. We arrived in the heat of the day. The sensible Greek people are indoors.
Chora is the place where the wealthier inhabitants and foreign visitors live in luxurious mansions crowded along the narrow alleys. A large part of the ancient city is on a peninsula and is only accessible on foot.
In the harbour, we found a little church. Greece is crowded with churches of all different sizes from huge cathedrals to small family chapels. This mariner's chapel had room for about 20 people in a gorgeous setting. We enjoyed exploring the many little alleys and hills as well as the shops and cafes.
After a full afternoon, we returned to Batsi for a couple of hours of beach time. The waters are warm and lovely for swimming. We chose not to rent a shelter since it was fairly late in the day.
As the sun began to set we returned to our room to shower before heading out to find dinner. Our landlord recommended Mi se Meli. The menu hadn't been fully decided by the chef when we arrived, as the fisher had not yet arrived with the daily catch to inspire the main course. This was a truly wonderful dining experience, complete with Maria's homemade liqueur. We made such good friends that we were gifted with a wee bottle to take along our journeys.
As we walked down the alley stairs back to the main beachfront promenade, night had fallen and crowds of people filled the walkways, restaurants and nightclubs. The dance music started thumping through the night air as the social noise and excitement started up. We meandered for a bit enjoying the vibe until we were ready to return to the comfy patio of our hostel to drink wine and edit photos of the day.
We thoroughly enjoyed Andros. The people were welcoming and the towns were fairly quiet. For those wanting a bit more nightlife, there is some action available. The beaches are clean and easily accessible; the forests cool and fresh. It was a brief visit but a very enjoyable way to be introduced to the Cyclades group of islands and to the start of a Greek island-hopping adventure.
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