Samos has one of the most extend network of trails comparing to the other Greek islands. At the moment 45 of those trails are in good condition. Each one of them passes through impressive landscapes and leads to worth visiting destinations. The difficulty varies as well as the scenery, depending on the season. Pine forests offer deep canopy and small secluded beaches are around for a refreshing break from walking. From the mountains you can have a panoramic view of all the nearby islands.
Guided tours take place regularly by local guides, such as SamosOutdoors
Our first visit to Turkey was in a day trip from Samos to Kusadasi.
It's a short and cheap trip, and in Turkey they are very well organised to fill the day - Ephesus and Selçuk are interesting visits.
One day is enough, and a return ticket costs 35€ for a 75 minutes trip, 40 € returning the same day, and 55 € with open return.
The most beautiful village of Samos lives for tourism. A cosy harbour is embraced by a ring of bars, restaurants and taverns, turning the pier into the village's living room, where everything flows with pace and tranquility.
Pnaka is a small settlement on an altitude of 200metres, halfway between the Aegean Sea and the village of Vourliotes. Pnaka has a spring with ice cold water, close to the local taverna with some lovely terraces; all in the shade of some hundreds of years old plane trees. There are really amazing views of the Kambos plains, the Aegean Sea and Turkey. This tavern is ideally situated for a lunch during a walk in the mountains or just for a relaxing drink.
Climb the steps at the tavern at you will reach a small 15th century church; another is located on the little square of Pnaka.
Pnaka is surrounded by great scenery: olive trees, vineyards, pine forest with cypresses and numerous wild flowers and dark red poppies.
On the north of Samos, between Karlovassi and Kokkari you can find the Valley of the Nightingales. And at the top, the beautiful mountain-village of Manolates.
You will see the sign "Manolates 4km" by the main road. There is a big parkinglot there. Park here or drive about 1,5km up the road and park there. Start walking on this road, and after a while you will see the sign to the path. (Big blue sign with "Manolates" and a walking person on it). In the beginning of the path there are an aqueduct with flowing water. From the nightingale-valley there are many beautiful views.
Be aware: After walking on the path a while you come to a little road. The road keeps splitting, and it's a bit hard to find the correct direction. We had to turn back after walking too far, and met two others that also got lost. They had a GPS, and we could see we walked away from the village. When we turned back we found the correct path. It's a steep path up trough a vineyard. The path goes trough the wine-terraces and you will see a house on the top. When you reach the top, you see the village of Manulates :) We walked the main road back...
Avlakia is a must-see and even a must-stay. It is a small settlement built between the sea and a steep yet pine-clad slope. The pleasure of walking out of your room and right into the beach is unique. In the summer Avlakia offers the view to arguably the prettiest sunrise (sun coming out of the Anatolian coast). The full extent of the Vathy gulf is visible, as well as much of the greater Kusadasi gulf that "engulfs" Samos island. Moreover, some great beaches are within walking distance of Avlakia, most notably Tsabou/Velentza.
Platanos (first settled in 1641) is another of these typical mountain villages of Samos. This one is located more or less between the two mountain ranges of the island: Mount Kerkis and Mount Ambelos. The slopes are situated on the sunny south side and covered with lots of vineyards. The village lies on an altitude of more than 500 metres and is accessible via a road with some serious hairpins.
Platanos is named after the huge plane trees (platanos in Greek) on the triangular main square of the village. On each side of the ‘platia’ are local tavernas, each with different coloured chairs.
On the square is an old spring, dating back from 1837; on the way to the square is signpost to the ‘old wash building’, which is not used any longer.
Platanos has really great of the surrounding mountains and the south coast of Samos.
Tsourlei is one of these inland hamlets of Samos; not easy accessible in the middle of nowhere. But the scenery around is breathtaking with lots of forests and lush flowering broom-bushes everywhere. The road, especially close to Potami was bad and we had to drive very carefully, further on it was a narrow concrete road winding through the forests. In Tsourlei we were waiting for another car, which drove through the narrow gap between two houses, before we dared to do it too.
Tsourlei itself is a very tiny settlement with just a couple of (farm)houses, the Agios Panteleimon church, the old spring and wash house and a local tavern/café with a huge plane tree. But we enjoyed the tranquility and serenity of the place.
This is remarkable church, because it was the only Orthodox Church on the island which was built in a more or less modern architecture, with a special kind of tower. Perhaps modern at the outside, the interior is quite equal with other churches: a nice iconostasis and icons; in this church of course of Agios Nikolaos. The church had a strong smell of incense and there was even a special chimney constructed.
The location of the church is stunning, standing on a cliff overlooking the bay and beaches of Potami.
Also an old village in the mountains, named after ‘Manolas’, the surname of first family which settled here. The village lies on an altitude of about 380 metres. The views of the sea and the mainland of Turkey are stunning.
Due to cloudy and rainy (yes, even on Samos) we went by car through the Valley of the Nightingales with impressive trees, vineyards and a little stream. After a couple of serious hairpins we reached the car park, just outside the village.
We walked uphill along the ‘main’ road, which has some potteries, galleries and souvenir shops. It is obvious that Manolates attracts more (foreign) visitors than Vourliotes. It has the same old whitewashed houses often decorated with colourful flowers. Flowers are also painted on the streets.
There are some little squares with restaurants and cafés. We were rather early in the morning and just one of them was open for a cappuccino; made with warmth, but with a bad taste.
We heard and read about the ‘Lucas Taverna’, signposted and located above the village. It should have spectacular views, but we didn’t visit because of the increasing clouds; for sure something for our next visit.
Vourliotes is on of the oldest villages, built at the end of 16th or beginning of the 17th century. It’s named after its first inhabitants, who came from Vourla in Asia Minor.
It lies on an altitude of 340 metres above the Aegean Sea and is surrounded by lush pine forests, vineyards, olive trees and numerous wild flowers. I suppose the village has been built on this place because there is an abundance of water. At the entrance of the village along the main road you can see the old spring.
There are spectacular views of the mountainous scenery and to the sea.
The village looks like a labyrinth with its narrow and winding roads lined with whitewashed houses which have different coloured window and door frames. The church however is decorated in traditional white and blue.
Shops are very small and seemed to be very authentic; we found just one with the common touristy knick knacks.
All roads do lead to the picturesque square with a couple of cafés; a perfect spot for a rest while hiking around in the mountains of Samos. If you are not a hiker, at least make some shorts walks out of the village (towards the cemetery or into the direction of Pnaka) and enjoy the rich coloured wild flowers.
This is a very nice located church in the old part of Vathy - Ano Vathy - not easily accessible, but it is worth to try to find the Ayai Aï-Yannakki. This church with its four domes has a post-Byzantine architecture and was built in the year of 1585.
The key of the church hangs on a nail, next to the entrance door. Once we entered the interior we were completely surprised by the beauty and serenity of this two chapel church. Frescoes and icons are suffering of the ravages of time, which make them even more authentic. Both chapels do have impressive iconostasis, but is obvious that this little church does need a thorough restoration.
Climb the stairs outside the church and your reward is a breathtaking view of Vathy and its harbour.
After a short ride from Vathy through the valley of Vlamari - with a real traffic jam of goats - we reached the settlement of Ayia Zoni with the fortified monastery. This is a rather impressive solid building, which was built in the year of 1695 by the Monk Meletios; according to a sign on the bell tower it was rebuilt in 1750.
Ayia Zoni is the oldest monastery on Samos and we were lucky we could take a look inside. In the middle of the courtyard with lots of lush green trees, decorated with ‘strange’ artificial flowers, are the bell tower and the church.
After entering we had to wait a couple of minutes before we could see something is this almost completely dark room. But once accustomed to the light we saw some wonderful original icons, frescoes and many ecclesiastic utensils
The monastery is still inhabited and just three monks live in this peaceful setting.
Karlovasi is the second largest town on Samos; once a commercial centre with lots of tanneries, factories and warehouses. Nowadays these buildings are decayed and their ruins along the coastal road are not very attractive. No wonder we saw very few tourists in this part of the island.
Ferries to Samos often make s stop in Karlovasi and around the harbour are some hotels and other facilities for tourists.
But New Karlovasi is a much nicer part of the town and has also the headquarters of the Mathematical school of the Aegean University (with about 2000 students). Here are some interesting mansions and around the town square are some nice (local) shops and we found an excellent sidewalk café for a morning cappuccino and to watch the Samian way of life.
Next to the small folklore museum this part of the town has one other tourist sight. In the church ‘Agia Matrona’ – an impressive building – is a rare wood carved icon-screen and we saw also the throne of the last Prince of Samos (Samos was a self-ruled state from 1834-1912).
Although well signposted along the main road, I think Balos Beach is still a hidden gem in the western part of the south coast of Samos. After a couple of narrow and steep hairpins on the old road (they were constructing a new part) we reached the little settlement of Balos.
Just some tavernas, accommodations, a little harbour, a couple of shops and houses and a long rather sandy beach. We walked along the beach till the other end with a taverna, called Esperos. This one, ‘at the end of the Samos world’, has some rocks and caves nearby. There is also a little blue white church.
During our visit (late May) we saw just a couple of people on the beach, which has stunning views along the coast towards Kerkis Mountains and some neighbouring islands in the Aegean Sea. Because it is not as easy accessible (you really need a car or scooter if not staying in Balos) than other beaches, I suppose even in high season it must be rather quiet on Balos Beach.