Marie Lecocq - 2010-07-19
At the Far East of the Cyclades group of islands, Amorgos offers its ancient cobbled tracks to beginners and hardened hikers alike. With some luck you can still come across the famous mules after which they are named.
A good pair of shoes, a bottle of water and clothes to protect you from the effects of Helios, the Greek sun god - then you are all set to stroll out onto the mule tracks of beautiful Amorgos, an island in the Cyclades which stretches out lazily for 33km yet is only 3 to 10km wide. It is as though the Aegean Sea is holding out its arms to you at every moment as the path winds along, taking its opportunity whenever it can to invite you down into its wild coves for a well deserved plunge.
An Iconic and Magical Place
These very old tracks, some dating back to ancient times, have today become a paradise for adepts of the pilgrim’s walking stick. This is not just a poetic image, because like any self respecting Greek island, Amorgos has its icon of the Holy Virgin renowned for healing all kinds of illnesses. The peculiarity of this sacred image is that it is kept in a breathtaking location - in a replica of the Palestinian monastery of Khoziva that literally hangs on to a cliff 300 metres above the sea. It opens its doors to the courageous hikers who have to climb a few hundred steps before reaching the famous icon of the Panaghia Chozoviotissa. It is worth the effort, not just for the magical view over the deep blue sea, but also for the comforting little glass of raki offered to visitors by the house.
You can easily find a map of the island and its paths in the shops of the two main ports, Katapola and Aigiali, as well as in the medieval town of Chora which is perched high up, near to the monastery. You also have another option which is to simply follow the wooden signposts which are dotted along your route, but for this you need to know how to read Greek! Once you have made the mandatory visit to the monastery, you can then discover another side of Amorgos: Katapola, one of the Cyclades most famous Pirate hideouts. In the Middle Ages the people of Amorgos were constantly threatened by invaders and thus were constrained to taking refuge on the high grounds of Chora. So this ravishing bay, which according to legend served as a summer residence for King Minos of Crete, was abandoned to the pirates and privateers of the Mediterranean.
Let’s now leave the centre of the island where Luc Besson’s “Big Blue” was filmed and head towards the north. It takes around 3 hours 30 minutes to get to the small port of Aigiali from Chora. This gives you plenty of time to admire the Amorgan flora which comprises numerous indigenous species of plants and flowers. If you are more inspired by the south then the dazzling site of ancient Arkessini, towering above the calm waters of the Mediterranean, is waiting for you. Finally somewhere along the route you come across the cherry on the cake – the much awaited mules! You were so enchanted by the wild beauty of the island and the surrounding horizon that you had almost forgotten them!
As well as taking your hiking gear, don’t forget to reserve your tickets during the summer period for the boat which takes you to the stunning isle of Amorgos.
If you have the chance, make a stopover on your journey, otherwise you end up spending around eight hours on the boat!