Samos is a Greek Island in the Eastern Aegean Sea. It’s separated from Turkey by the mile-wide Mycale Strait. Samos can be reached by direct flight from Athens or by ferry (the trip takes 12 hours). If you happen to be in Turkey, a two-hour ferry runs from the lovely port town of Kusadasi to Samos, a journey which I have made many times whilst living in Bodrum, Turkey.
At just 183 square miles, Samos is one of the smaller Greek islands, but oh, what a variety of sights awaits you here. That is the main reason why I like Samos so much and have returned so many times. Honey, sweet Muscat wine, craggy mountains to hike, beaches to sunbathe and swim, friendly locals, and impressive monuments of antiquity will satisfy any interest and, best of all, they’re within easy reach of each other. On Samos, you really don’t need a guided tour. Follow our suggestions and piece together your own itinerary.
You don’t need to rent a car either; local buses are fun to ride, although the timetables are often a bit vague. If you are stuck, no problem: Call a taxi and it will rescue you.
Although Samos has a thriving nightlife in Vathy, the overall ambiance is one of tranquility, inviting to contemplation. Maybe that’s why famous philosophers and scientists of antiquity including Epicurus, the astronomer Aristarchus, and Pythagoras all lived and taught here. Indulge in the epicurean lifestyle, let yourself be carried away by a full life of simplicity in gorgeous surroundings, watch the stars, taste the wine, float in the sea, or hike the mountain trails.
1. Choose Your Beach
Isn’t it nice to have your choice of beaches? On Samos, you find pebble beaches, sandy beaches, and even one nudist beach if that is your taste. None of them are crowded, all are surrounded by green hills and mountains and lead into the aquamarine blue, shallow sea which makes them suitable for kids if you happen to bring the family.
Psili Amos is the sandy beach, also closest to Turkey, with sunbeds and a beach bar.
Lemonakia is a pebble beach, reached by climbing down a 330-foot staircase, so not suitable for those who need an accessible experience.
Livasaki Beach, at a distance of six miles from Samos Town, is also a pebble beach but features a particularly shallow sea and many rows of sunbeds.
Tsamadou Beach, another pebble beach is the one with nudist bathing restricted to the eastern end.
2. Indulge In Samos Wine
Samos is an island that alternates between mountain ranges and valleys. The two major ranges are Kerkis and Ampelos. On the northern slopes of Mount Kerkis where the land gently slopes toward Karlovasi, you’ll find the famous terraced vineyards that produce the muscatel grapes, from which the sweet Samos dessert wine is made. Visit the UMC cooperative and vine museum to learn everything about the history and cultivation of Samos wine and, of course, to taste and buy to your heart’s content. It is however currently closed to individual visits, so you are better off enjoying tastings at the Vakakis winery.
3. Eupalinos, A Tunnel Experience Like No Other
The Eupalinos Tunnel, a masterpiece of engineering constructed in the sixth century B.C., was built to supply the city of Samos with water from the mountains. The excavation and construction were carried out with incredible precision. Nearly two miles long, the water ran through ceramic pipes, which to this day are undamaged and can be seen whilst you walk the tunnel. The full length is not open to the public, but what you can visit is impressive enough. You reach the entrance of the tunnel, located at a distance of nine miles from Samos city, by either walking from the nearest bus stop or by taxi.
Don’t be surprised: It’s just a roped-off square hole in the ground, thankfully marked by signs. You descend shallow but slippery stairs into the depth of the tunnel which is well lit, but low. A word of warning: If you are claustrophobic, this is not good for you. And, if you are overweight, you might get stuck( as a rather big friend of mine did). This tunnel experience is only for fit and slim people.
4. Cave Enthusiasts, This Island Is For You
If you like caves, Samos offers two astonishing treasures for you. The first is the Cave of Pythagoras. The famous philosopher and mathematician had to hide from Samos’s tyrant Polycrates and found refuge in a cave on the eastern side of Mount Kerkis. There are in fact two caves close to each other. It’s believed that Pythagoras lived in one and taught in the other. There is also a spring at the end of the first cave that provided him with water. Access to the caves is steep and rather difficult, so this cave adventure is best suited for those who are confident in their fitness.
A somewhat more accessible cave experience is the cave church of Panagia Spiliani. Located on Mount Kastro, this is a monastery and church carved deep into the mountainside. Some believe that this was the hiding place of Pythagoras rather than the cave mentioned above. It is the location of a revered statue of the Virgin Mary with an intriguing legend attached. You’ll have a splendid view over the sea, but to reach the bottom of the cave, you have to negotiate 95 steps.
5. Great Museums For Lovers Of Antiquity
Let’s start with my favorite, the Archaeology Museum of Vathy. Vathy is a hillside suburb of Samos Town. The museum actually consists of two buildings with exhibits that highlight Samos’s ancient history. You can’t miss the massive statue of a Kuros. He stands 18 feet tall, and although he is missing half of his left leg, you will be in awe just because of the sheer size and wonder how the ancient sculptors were able to make and erect such a massive statue.
The Pythagorion Archaeological Museum is located in the modern part of Heraion, so you may combine a visit to the ancient ruins (a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Hera) with a stroll around this museum, divided chronologically from antiquity to the Romans and Byzantines.
6. You’ll Love The Seaside Villages
Samos town is really pretty with whitewashed houses and a lovely promenade along the harbor where you can see the ferry from Turkey docking as well as some private yachts and other boats. Right on the waterfront is my favorite hotel, aptly named Samos, with a lovely roof terrace and pool. The real beauty queen however is Kokkari. A former fishing village just a few miles from Samos Town, the setting couldn’t be more romantic. Blue and white houses with red roofs tumble down the hillside to a narrow promenade and the harbor where still a few wooden fishing boats are floating on the sea. Two headlands shelter the port, covered with pine trees. And the promenade is lined with taverns and cafes where you can sit on the terraces with the water nearly lapping at your feet and enjoy a glass of Samos wine.
7. Get Wet At A Waterfall
If you want to refresh yourself somewhere other than at one of Samos’ beaches, enjoy nature, and are fit for a hike, make your way to the Potami Waterfalls. Approximately two miles from Karlovasi, you have to drive further until you reach the Potami River. The walk leads along the river until you come to a lake which you have to cross (be prepared for cold water), then you’ll come to a channel which ultimately leads to the waterfalls. Then comes another lake to cross. To reach the top of the waterfalls you have to climb a steep wooden staircase. Not that long ago, there was just a rope to climb up! Even so, it’s only for the very fit, but the reward is just spectacular. Gushing water, crystal clear lakes, and plenty of pine trees await. You can swim in the lakes but getting your feet wet whilst wading through them may be refreshment enough.
8. Gorgeous Walks On Mount Kerkis
If you are into serious hiking, head for the rocky hinterland of Samos around its highest elevation, Mount Kerkis. There are no less than 45 signposted routes, some steeper than others. Along the way, you’ll come across caves, gorges, and chapels and may find mountain goats with bells around their necks as your companions. Beautiful as it is and stunning as the views are, this is only for experienced hikers and it might even be best to go with a guide.
If you are after a lazy beach vacation, skip Samos. There are many other Greek islands that offer just that. Samos calls for people who are fit and into nature adventures and have a keen interest in ancient history, and don’t mind climbing around ruins. For beachier inspiration, consider