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It was around 8 pm when we arrived by ferry to Folegandros from Santorini. The ride to the hotel was very short – approximately 2-3 minutes and once we arrived at the lobby and met the staff we were greeted with a glass of water and wet towels for our face and hands – the energy and vibe totally made me feel like we booked a spa weekend. At first glance, you think this island will be like any other Greek island with whitewashed houses and amazing sunset views but you soon discover that Folegandros is more than that….it’s an island with deep soul and nostalgia. From your surroundings to the people you meet, it’s a place that just moves on a different rhythm than the rest of Greece. It slows you down and with the bad internet connection throughout the island and lack of historical sites or trendy establishments, it makes you enjoy the moment and simple things.
So how did we end up on this remote island of Greece? Folegandros is one of the oldest Cyclades islands and the least popular of it’s two trendier neighbors Santorini and Crete. We have Starwood Hotels and Design Hotels to thank for that since we had never heard of Folegandros let alone the hotel. When planning this entire trip, I knew that I wanted to add one island that was smaller and “unspoiled” by tourists – so Mykonos was out of the question for us. I do want to visit Mykonos one day but I think there is something special about traveling to areas that are remote and still under the radar. Folegandros is 12 miles long, with less than 1, 000 people, no airport, no port for cruise ships and one taxi cab for the entire island. This is as remote as one can get in Greece and we couldn’t wait to see what that felt like.
Our days were simple and lovely. On most days, we took a quick bus ride ( that was always on time and only 2 euros) to town, strolled the medieval hilltop town of Chora where we would have lunch and dinner, people watch ( And is cat watching a thing? Because that would apply here since the island seemed to have more cats than people lol! ), took in the views and repeated it all over again the next day. On one of our days, we ventured away to a hidden beach that we were told was a quick hike and close to the hotel but after an hour of hiking and only hills around us, we realized it was closer to a two-hour hike. Luckily, we bumped into the same couple we had bumped into every day ( yes, that will happen to you too if you visit…it happens on islands this small) and finished the hike with them. After you reach the top of the hill and view the gorgeous beach down below, you then have to figure out how to get down the hill that seems steeper than what the locals at the hotel told us it would be…so watching our steps really closely and keeping our balance in check, we descended this hill and made it to the secluded beach of Katergo. Needless to say, we took the ferry back instead but a month later as I write this, I look back and wouldn’t have changed a thing about that day. 🙂
What will I always remember from our time in Folegandros? I’ll remember how I felt every time we walked the alleyways where I got a glimpse of the locals, I’ll remember the cats that made every corner or chair their home. I’ll remember the day we had dinner at Blue Cuisine and halfway through our dinner an old, very old Spanish song my father listened to when I was a child came on the radio and I started crying because it brought back the best memories of my childhood.
So, I guess the reason I loved Folegandros so much was that it was as nostalgic of a place as me.
Anemi Hotel: This is the biggest property in the entire island and it’s literally steps from the port – it has 44 rooms with private verandas, a beautiful dining area, infinity pool and great service. The hotel blends with the vibe of the island – it’s minimalistic, modern and yet has a nostalgic feel that harmonizes so well with the island. The breakfast is included in the rate and it was great – very filling and made to order! The staff were super accommodating and did anything possible to make sure we had all we needed.
Blue Cuisine – This is where we had dinner to celebrate our wedding anniversary and it was so good. The menu is locally sourced yet the presentation is more modern than most of the restaurants in Chora. I was so in love with the playlist ( this is where I cried like a baby when I heard that old Spanish song) that I made a comment to the owner of the restaurant about it. Ever have those moments when the food, the wine, the scenery and even playlist are so in sync that you wonder if someone planned this on purpose? I had that moment at Blue Cuisine…it was perfect.
Mama’s Pita, Slouvaki House: A gyro spot on a Greek island? Shocker! 🙂 This hole in the wall filled with locals in the town of Chora was good and cheap (not as good as the one we ate in Santorini but close enough!). It’s a tiny spot with only two table outside to eat on but it did the trick.
Ice Cream Shop “The Uncle”: When we stopped and asked a local where to get dessert he said, ” go around the corner to eat Italian gelato because we greeks don’t know how to make ice cream”! When we turned the corner Thomas and I laughed because it was the same gelato shop we had walked by a million and one times but couldn’t remember where it was. We enjoyed a few scoops and then went back to give the old man a thumbs up!
Fata Morgana Studios: We went here for cocktails and sunset views before dinner at Blue Cuisine. It was recommended by the staff at the hotel and they were right on! The sunset views were incredible and we got there early to snatch seats on a cute bungalow which gave us direct views. We took our shoes off, made our selves comfortable with our drinks and watched the sun do its magic…
Beach: The beaches are all “hidden” and have no more than a few people at a time. We only had time to visit Katergo beach and it’s one of the top beaches in Folegandros so definitely make it a priority. If you don’t want to hike an hour to get there then you can take a ferry from the port (we took it back to our hotel). Don’t forget to bring an umbrella, water, and snacks – there is nothing in sight for you to buy ANYTHING!
Visit the Church Of Panagia: This church is definitely one of the highlights of the island. The walk up to the church alone is pretty amazing and gives you one of the best views of the island. Go an hour before sunset – so that you have time to view the church and claim a spot right outside to wait for the sunset – trust me, everyone goes for the same thing and it fills up quickly.
Stroll the main town of Chora: We did this every day because it’s basically where most of the locals hang out and eat. This hilltop town is so cute and quaint! You’ll walk through narrow cobblestone alleyways and squares that come to life at night with locals and visitors. You will find a ton of restaurants and shops here – this where you most likely spend your time. Remember Folegandros is not for those looking to do a ton of different things every day – life there is very simple so your days won’t be complicated.
How to get there: We took the SeaJets ferry from Santorini – it was only 45 min! We couldn’t believe how close this gem of an island is to Santorini and that’s so little people go to it – we hope it stays that way. 🙂
Bus schedule: So unless you rent a car or wait for the 1 cab driver on the island to take you anywhere ( the entire island has only 1 cab – yes I know I said it before but I just can’t believe it lol), you will need to take the bus into town everyday which actually runs better than buses in NYC. It’s always on time and runs until very late at night!
Time of Year to Visit: April to June are mild and pleasant and September which is when we went was lovely too. Note that the island locals pack up and leave from November to March because the winter is harsh and everything is basically closed.