Of the many islands belonging to Greece, one of the largest yet lowest on the tourist radar is Samos. Often overlooked for the postcard sunsets and white-washed villages of Mykonos and Santorini, Samos offers the same stunning visuals and genuine Greek charm as these more visited islands but with less excursionists. In fact, the experience is arguably more authentic because there is not as much non-Hellenistic influence in an attempt to pander to tourists.
Land of Retsina
About as far east in the island chain as possible, Samos looms out of the Aegean like a proud citadel with majestic mountains covered with lush greenery and flowers. Historically famous for its production of retsina, a potent wine distilled from native tree resin, Samos delivers a wealth of quaint villages and mountainous landscapes for exploration and adventure. Natives typically welcome wayfarers with open hearts and warm smiles, eager to help with directions or suggestions when language allows.
From the city of Karlovassi, hikers can venture up the narrow gorge of the Potami, a mountain-fed river that runs down to the sea, replete with small, cascading waterfalls. There are also some small churches along the way and an abundance of wild herbs that grow freely on the mountainside as can be found all over the island. Bring a bathing suit, plus a high tolerance for cold water even in the hottest months, and the walk can be made in the river itself, though there are areas that require some climbing and upper body strength.
The town of Pythagorio, birthplace and home of Pythagoras, father of modern mathematics and pioneer of musical understanding, is nestled on the sea and plays host to the most popular tourist destination the island has to offer. Meandering along the coastal stone avenue, visitors can eat fresh seafood and Greek delicacies at a variety of restaurants nearly every couple of steps along the way. Located nearby are the ruins of the Temple of Hera, queen of the Greek gods, and here sightseers can walk peacefully in the footsteps of ancient history and mythology. Furthermore, on clear days one can see Turkey across the shimmering, crystal-blue waters of the ocean.
Samos town, namesake of the island but not the capital, is as close to a thriving metropolis as one can get on a Greek island and rivals the bustling of Crete’s major city, Iraklion. Shoppers will delight at the plethora of handmade artisan crafts and jewelry, as well as standard goods and fashion, and a myriad of outdoor plazas to cool off in the shade while sipping iced coffees and other beverages.
Samos town is also the main ferry hub on the island and from there tourists can catch boats to any of the other islands. In addition, travelers can take a short ferry ride to Kusadasi, Turkey, to shop for quality hand-made leather goods and visit the captivating ruins of Ephesus. At only 90 minutes in either direction, the voyage to Turkey makes an excellent day trip and gives tourists the opportunity to experience more culture and a different atmosphere at little additional expense.
Whether shopping, sightseeing, hiking or just relaxing on the aesthetically pristine beaches that proliferate the island, visitors to Samos will treasure the experiences, heightened by the fact that there are simply less tourists to compete with.