Ancient Minoa used to be on the Mountoulia hill above Katapola. You walk up there through the path (45’) but as the sun was already up and hot we decided to check the site by car (7-10’ from the port).
We drove up the dirt road, first we saw the Old Country House of Kovaios Livanos that was restored in 2002. We parked our car and saw Katapola on the distance (pic 2) before we entered the site (pic 1)
People came at the gulf of Katapola since the early Bronze Age (!) but it was the Minoan period when a bigger town was built. Obviously it was a Minoan colony when the Minoans ruled all over the Mediterranean sea.
There are some simple wooden arrows that will guide you on the site but they are not very clear and the path isn’t a good one too, don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes (flip tops are a no no). As we started to walk towards the peak of the mountain we first saw the remains of the ancient Gymnasium (4th century BC), the biggest structure on the site (I was disappointed later when I realized that I had to imagine most of the structures), hopefully I already knew about them from books so the relics like sections of walls could be easily fantasized on my mind :)
From the peak you’ll have the endless sea in front of you (but also the general area of Katapola).
The first time I visited Chora I was surprised by the locals at the local cafes, we had several talks and they seemed really simple and down to earth people despite the fact that tourists have discovered Amorgos the last years. It’s really great to walk along the small alleys, actually getting lost in this maze, we did it several times and we enjoyed it. We stopped many times to check small details, red vukamvilies on white walls (pics 1-2), small arches (pics 4-5) etc
Cats here and there will keep you company along the way especially during noon time when the locals go to sleep (many shops were closed). After some coffees and locals sweets we walked along these alleys and check the characteristic local architecture, so simple but yet authentic and definitely traditionally cycladitic. The square (platia in greek) upon the parking is a good starting point, there are some statues and all the tiny cafes around there are usually occupied by locals while the tourists getting lost in the maze of the tiny alleys. We did the same, only stopping for taking pictures of local lazy cats. The main alley will lead you sooner or later to Loza square but till then you’ll go up and down many steps, you’ll find many dead ends or small squares like Pezoules with a nice café and few meters away Plateiaki(tiny square) where a painter was trying to capture the beauty of the place in her canvas
After our visit to Minoa we decided to drive for a while at the back side of Katapola, towards Lefkes.
The dirt road isn’t the best and a 4x4 will help for sure, we discovered some nice corners here and there, abandoned hamlets, small chapels and churches. There are many small gulfs, we decided to go down (the road starts before Ai Giannis church that you can see on pic 1), hopefully no car was coming but there was no sign of human around anyway. 10’ later we met with a couple that was hiking the trail, they seemed very tired but didn’t want any help although we felt kind of guilty in our comfortable with A/C 4x4 car.
On the distance we could see a beach (pic 2), it is Finikies beach(palm trees beach). Although I didn’t noticed any palm trees around, we stopped for a while for a quick swim before we returned back on the top. Further down the road till Agia Thekla is the Lefkes area…
Right after Ksilokeratidi there are many small beaches, usually they take the name of the chapel that is located on them. From the distance you can see many small churches right next to the sea, usually there is a beach next to them. Pic 5 shows Agios Panteleimon church.
The first one we saw was next to Trion Ierarxon church (pics 1-2). We went down the steps (the church is built 10m above the sea) and discovered this small but so beautiful beach (pics 3-4) where we spend several hours swimming in the crystal waters.
There are many other pebby beaches along the shore, but the sandy beach Martezi is probably the most popular in the area
Rahidi is located right next to Katapola (pic 1 taken from Rahidi), we didn’t spend much time there but we liked the church. It’s Ai Giorgis church (St.George) but we didnt see the interior.
Ksilokeratidi is the near by small town (pics 2-4), actually a fishing village but now it’s developed with many rooms to let and you’ll go there sooner or later as it houses some picturesque small beaches. In the village we noticed many local restaurants and cafes but what we liked most was again the local houses. It was difficult to drive on the main street(actually a small alley) after the coastial road, as only one car can pass (just pray no one will come from the other side). Pic 3 shows this road.
Even if you don’t stay long in Katapola it’s worth to walk inside its small alleys for a while. The main square (pic 1) is full of chairs and tables from the restaurants and cafes and gathers many people in the afternoons, the square is full of eucalyptus trees. Along the pier is a long row of cafes and several small pansions. Ferrys come and go, the truth is that tourism was the main factor for the boom of the local economy.
We went into a small alley, we passed several touristic stores (full of souvenirs) and then we realized how beautiful the local houses are, usually two-storey white buildings with the typical blue doors and windows (pic 2). Apano Gitonia (Upper district) is full of nice local houses but what I liked most was the contrast of the colorful flowers they use to have in the front yard.
Not far from the port is also the main church of Katapola (pic 3). It is Panagia Katapoliani (virgin Mary of Katapola), a church that was built upon an early Christian Basilica.
Finally, when we returned back to the port we passed by a war memorial (pic 5)
Katapola is the main port of Amorgos and many people decide not only to arrive/depart here but also to use it as a base because of its position, near Chora (5km), monastery(7km) etc
It’s a natural port, protected by winds (at the same time the winds may be strong at other parts of the island) and it houses 3 different small villages/towns (Katapola, Ksilokeratidi, Rahidi, one near the other).
Pic 1 shows the area from distance, you can see Katapola on the left, Ksilokeratidi in the middle and Rahidi on the right. The tall hill on the left above Katapola is where ancient town Minoa was. So, Minoa must been the Upper Town while Katapola(Kato-Polis) is the Lower Town.
Because of its natural port the area was always an important transit point between mainland Greece and the East. The area was active through out the ages until the arrival of the pirates (Ottoman Period). That’s why Chora was built up in the mountain (can’t be seen from the port) and after the greek liberation in the 19th century they started to return back to the port.
Katatola is small town, with typical cycladitic architecture. Daily life starts at the port (pic 2) where you can see the local cafes/restaurants waiting for their customers while the local fishermen preparing their nets (pic 3). I’d like to see the port with no cars because in our days everyone seems to drive (at least) one and spoils the picture there.
The circular bay of Kalotaritissa (pic 1) is picturesque for sure!
What's more it’s one of the few places in Amorgos that winds cant reach so it is ideal for small boats to be parked safely. The sandy beach is nice and the small kiosk there will provide you with soft drinks. It was closed on May though so we didn’t stay and as we were all day on the road we decided to return back to our base for a cold psimeni raki.
On our way back we stopped to take a picture of the weird Liveros inlet (pic 2), It is a boat that has been shipwrecked, I don’t know when or how but it makes a nice picture.
We passed from Kolofana village but nothing seemed to stop us from finding a beach to swim after a long drive around the area. We really needed a nice beach to rest.
First we tried to find Kato Kampos, but this was not a good idea because we had to drive another 2km of dirt road, then we got lost on the intersection, we drove back until we finally found the place. The serenity of the area (pic 1) was nice but we didn’t stay.
We drove back and went to Paradeisa beach(pics 2-3), an amazing small pebbled beach on a bay that seemed to wait just for us. We were alone there, in our own paradise (Paradeisa means Paradise beach in greek). The cold crystal waters were so refreshing that we didn’t want to do anything else that day…
There are many local festivals during the summer months but the most popular is the one that takes place on july 26 on Agia Paraskevi church(pic 1). The church is off the beaten path but people from Amorgos (but also from other near by islands) come here and the area in front of the church (pic 2) gets packed.
There are several buildings around, all of them are used for the food preparations during the festival. If you visit the place that day you will taste the famous Patatato (based on goat) which is offered for free during the festival.
Most of the villages in Kato Meria area are off the beaten path. The south part of Amorgos is more fertile with a few houses here and there in hamlets that the locals see to count on their farmhouses and not in tourists (till they arrive). We stopped at Arkesini village(pic 1) for coffee break. The village is very small with no more than 100 inhabitants most of them work on agriculture but I saw some rooms to let too. It seems some people may like the calmness of the area. There some churches too, Agios Konstantinos church is located before the village.
No surprise that this area has also historical sites like the Early Cycladic acropolis on Kastella hill. We didn’t go there but we visited the Agia Triada(Holy Trinity) church, only 500meters from Arkesini village on a side road. It dates from the 4th century BC (pic 3) but the modern Agia Triada church (pic 2) next to it seem to attract more visitors that the remains of the ancient one. An old lady asked me “why do you take pictures of the stones?” :)
On our way to Kastri, we made the mistake to forget our water in the car. DON’T do the same please, we almost faded because of the heat. The only company we had along the trail were some lizards. First, we saw in the distance (pic 1) a white structure which is the Ai Giannis church (pic 2), the church celebrates on august 24.
I though the ancient castle was there but ha! You have to walk for another 40-50’ going down the path to reach the hill :) The problem is that then you have to climb to its peak where the acropolis of Ancient Arkesini was (pics 3-4). It is known today as Kastri (castle) and it dates from 4th century BC when a temple dedicated to Athena was built and it housed also some nice sanctuaries. The following periods also used until the venetian era (then the pirates came so the people abandoned the place)
There is also a church next to it, its Panagia Kastriani(Virgin Mary of The Castle) that celebrates on september 8 (I guess people from Vroutsi come). The view is breathtaking from up there but as I said, go there early in the morning and bring hat and water with you.
The peaceful village of Vroutsi was the place where we parked our car on our way to Ancient Arkesini. According to my guide book it took its name from a byzantine official that had been exiled to the island and probably founded the village. I wanted to learn more about the history of the place but the local were more interested to go home and have their lunch :)
We walked a bit until we found someone to ask about Kastri(Ancient Arkesini) and how to go there. The village didn’t have to attract our attention, just a few houses, the church (pic 2), an old windmill (pic 1)… After some minutes we saw the wooden signs that we were looking for (pic 4)
Just before the Kamari village check on your right and you’ll notice an old church with four aisles! It’s The Byzantine church of Agios Nikolaos(pic 1). It was locked but I’ve read about some nice wall painting at the interior. The church seemed abandoned though. We stopped for a while at the village of Kamari but I didn’t see any local café so we turn left on the road that leads to Mouros beach (pic 2). This used to be a dirt road but the new asphalt road make it easier to reach the beach (although this may bring more cars so more noise)
We parked our car next to the restaurant that lies on the edge over the beach (pic 3) and we checked the boats on the sea (pic 4). There is a footpath that will take you down to the beach. The owner of the restaurant told us that it may look beautiful now but in summer the beach gets packed. We started to walk down the path where we found only a 3-4 persons (pic 5), it was really great to swim there.
While the area seemed isolated we noticed a complex of churches. It’s the spot of Stavros(cross) (pic 1), an area where earlycycladic graves have been found. The church was closed, the sun was hot so we kept going south...
2km after Stavros we saw a sign that was pointing to some relics on a hill 265m from sea level. It’s Markiani Prehistoric settlement (pic 2) that was founded in 1985. It seems that the area had human activity from early cycladitic period(3200-3000BC) but also later in Hellenistic and roman period. The entrenchment wall (about 70m of it have been revealed) and the remains of an early Cycladic village are some of the things that seem important for the archeologists but you may skip :)