Samothraki (population: 2,859 in 2011) is a small island that is basically the conical tip of a mountain rising out of the sea.
The island was a sanctuary from the Bronze Age to Roman times. There are two main towns; Kamariotissa and Chora. Between them, they provide most of the facilities one small town would normally have. Among young domestic visitors, the island is an especially famous camping spot, with a youthful vibe with people staying and partying together on the pebble beaches. The island is surprisingly lush and green for an Aegean Island, due to the rainfall caused by the central mount 'fengari'. The goat population (estimated at approx 100,000) outnumbers the inhabitants by 33 goats to every person.
Because the land rises steeply out of the sea, there are not many large beaches with the possible exception of the beach known as 'Fat Sand' which is located at the far end of the island from the main centers.
Samothraki is an ideal place for a rural retreat, it is very unsophisticated and lacks almost all tourist infrastructure. There is no nightlife, except during the annual music festival. The inhabitants are extremely warm, friendly people who will go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
Samothrace has no air service. Zante Ferries sail once or twice a day from Alexandroupolis, taking just under two hours. An adult foot passenger is €9 each way and cars are carried. There is no ferry from Kavala or other nearby islands.
Ferries land at 1 Kamariotissa ferry terminal in town centre. Sailing boats can also dock in the harbour here.
There are buses connecting the different locations but it is advisable to rent a car or motorbike in Kamariotissa because its very time consuming to reach most places by public transport. In the summer buses runs every second hour connecting important locations such as the port with Chora, Therma, and the camping grounds.
The island is usually refered to as a hitchhiker friendly place. For solo travellers especially it is relatively easy to hitchhike. Especially between the camping ground and Therma. However, it is not advisable to count on hitching a ride longer than that.
- 1 Sanctuary of the Great Gods (Ιερό των Μεγάλων Θεών, Ieró ton Megalón Theón). 08:30-15:00. Major archeological site of the centre of a mystery cult that rivaled Delphi, dating back to the pre-Greek period (Bronze Age). Numerous famous ancient people were initiates, including the historian Herodotus – one of very few authors to have left behind a few clues to the nature of the mysteries - the Spartan leader Lysander, and numerous Athenians. The original Sanctuary had suffered from earthquakes and pirate attacks. It was rebuilt several times and only abandoned after the Romans introduced Christianity as the official religion. In modern times, one can see remains from all eras, including the Hellenistic and Roman. There is also a small, excellent museum, with a plaster cast of the famous 'Winged Victory of Samothrace' statue, a consolation that the original was looted from the site on 1863 and is now at the Louvre in Paris. Much of the "Sanctuary of the Great Gods", at Paleopoli is forfeited, but the location in a wooded gorge is spectacular. There are also remains of a Byzantine fortress, which was built with the old stones of the sanctuary. The round building that once stood here, the Arsinoeion, was built 285 on behalf of Queen Arsinoe of Thrace. It was the biggest round building that was ever built in ancient Greece and was a place held at the victims. The so-called Hieron is the most striking ruin on the site, because of the columns that were built back in 1956.
- 2 Kamariotissa. Kamariotissa, where the ferries arrive, is located on the west side of the island and is surrounded by hills with grass and some trees and with the high barren mountain Fengari (1660 m) as background. Kamariotissa is pretty green and there are several restaurants, coffee shops, banks, post office, supermarket, bakery, greengrocer, pharmacy, a ticket booth for the ferries. Directly at the promenade there are 2 rental companies for motor scooters and cars. The only gas station of the island is on the road from Kamariotissa to Chora. In the small waterfront park is the bus station. Its also the center of “nightlife” in low season.
- 3 Chora (Samotraki). The capital of the island is Chora (Samothrace), about 5 km east of Kamariotissa. Worth seeing are the small and tightly packed houses. Chora is located at the foot of a hill, almost invisible from the sea. It was built hidden to be protected from pirate attacks from the sea in the Middle Ages. The village with its narrow, winding streets and its Genoese fortress (the original was Byzantine) is the most beautiful village of the island. From the large, central square, where you will find a few taverns, there is a beautiful view over the sea. Somewhat further down the village is Palaiopoli with its characteristic three towers from the 15th century.
- 4 Therma. Therma is also one of the attractions of Samothrace. Especially in high season it is flooded by young people who camp in one of the camping sites there. The village is in the north of the island 13 km from Kamariotissa in a forest of trees (a bus twice a day). There are healing hot springs with different temperatures for bathing, commercial with massages etc. but also 2 Outdoor-Pools "for free" (most romantic at night with stars). Therma is a small village with few inhabitants, but there are some shops, restaurants and accommodation. East of the village there are also two campsites. The village is situated on a pebble beach with clear water and a small port, from where in high season one can make highly recommended boat trips. Therma is the best place from where you can take walks to the mountain Fengari, composed mainly of granite. The path to the summit and back takes about six hours. Near the summit of Fengari, the hike turns into more of a rock scramble as it gets extremely rocky with no visible dirt path, and the way is marked by red dots spray painted on boulders. A longer but easier route to the summit leads up from the village of Profitis Ilias in the south of the island.
- 5 Hot Pools of Therma. The pool is somewhat hidden, so ask locals. Coming from the beach, turn right directly in front of the bathing house and follow the dirt road about 200 m to reach the larger basins with warm water and sea views. After about 100m on the way to the larger pool, a small path branches down to the smaller, more romantic pool.
- 6 Natural Pools of Vathres. Few km from Thermia are the natural basins of the creek Platia (Kria Vathra) and Tsumar (Mikres Vathres). Although the walk to the pools is not difficult its better to wear sport shoes than sandles. Both basins are not deep enough for swimming but enough for refershing. Its the beautiful landscape that makes it worth to go there. If you follow the path from Kria Vathra further up, you reach five more pools. The first one comes in about 10 minutes easy footpath. The next 4 pools are also easily accessible, the last difficult. From the parking lot to the sixth pool you need about 1 hour.
- 7 Fonias Pools. East of Therma, are the cold pools and waterfalls of the river Fonias. You can walk from the car park near to the bridge on the main road in about 45 minutes (5 km) along the Fonias Gorge to the first and most beautiful pool with a 12-m waterfall (signposted). Caution and good shoes are recommended. There are 2 more nice pools and waterfalls uphill, surrounded by impressive scenery. The 2nd pool is about 1 hour, the 3rd pool about 2 hours from the parking lot. The passages, especially to the third pool have a high degree of difficulty and are only partially marked by red dots on stones or trees. Especially on the way to the third pool, it always comes back to accidents. Since there is no mobile reception in case of an accident you will rely on another person to get help. Therefore you should never go the way alone! For a reason the stream carries the name “Killer”. As a reward for the climbing, you will be in an almost untouched natural landscape and you can refresh yourself from the strenuous hike with a bath in natural water basins at waterfalls. Most visitors are bathing naked! Bathing here is an ice cold and somewhat eerie pleasure. Near the mouth of Fonia flux there is the Fonias tower which stands on the seafront and is well worth a visit.
- 8 Ano Merida. Settlement in a remarkable landscape with plane trees and oak trees. A tavern, 1 km above Ano Merida, has good panoramic views of the countryside.
- 9 Profit Ilias. Lakoma and Profit Ilias are simple, beautifully situated mountain villages with good tavernas, where you can enjoy particularly good goat dishes with a view of the south coast.
- 10 Chapel of Panagia Krimniotissa. Above the beach of Pachia Ammos is the chapel "Panagia Krimniotisa" that should be visited for its magnificent views. The turnoff to the dirt road to the church is signposted and is located on the hill before it goes downhill to the beach. A simple restaurant at the foot of the church offers local food specialities and is highly recommended for lunch time. On the shaded terrace of the restaurant you have a wonderful view over the south coast and the beach. Usually a cooling breeze blows and makes the stay particularly pleasant in the hot summer. It is a "must see" location on Samothrace!
- 1 Pachia Amos Beach. The best beach on the island of Samothrace is the "Pachia Ammos Beach". This beach is located in the south of the island, about 15 km from Kamariotissa and is accessible by bus too. Pachia Ammos is located between two rocks, and is about 800 m long. It's a sandy beach, or rather fine gravel beach. During high season there is a tavern and a beach bar and there are rental chairs and umbrellas. Eastwards of Pachia Ammos there are three more beautiful secluded bays, used primarily as nudist beaches, but are difficult to reach. At the Pachia Ammo beach you meet most times fishermen with their boats. On request you can hire them to take you to one of the secluded bays. It is important to take the mobile numbers of the fishermen so that they can pick you up again. Camping supplies, food, water, garbage bags, etc. you have to take with you since these are lonely bays. For naked campers, Vatos Beach, with its dry river valley, is specially popular. You can also reach the beach by foot along a marked path in 1-2 hours from above the Pachia Amos beach.
- 2 Vatos Beach. Beautiful beach with sand and pebbles at the mouth of the Vatos gorge. There is no road connection. You can reach the beach either by boat or on foot after a difficult path through rocks. It's an excellent nudist beach, as are the bays to the east of Vatos Beach which are difficult to reach too.
- 3 Therma Beach. One of the most popular beaches on the north side with a beautiful beach bar, sun beds and umbrellas next to the small fishing port of Therma
- 4 Kipos Beach. Another "popular" beach on the east side of Samothrace, about 18 km from Therma. This pebble beach is about a kilometer long and a destination for naturists (unofficial nudist beach). Kipos Beach is also accessible by bus. Along the South coast there are a number of other smaller beaches (as Vatos beach), but which are difficult to reach. All other beaches along the coast are often coarse gravel beaches. Many of them are quite lonely outside high season and suitable for nudism.
There are many more beautiful beaches to explore. Since most of them are coarse gravel beaches, you should take umbrellas and beach loungers, or camping chairs. Lying down on a pebble beach with only a towel is uncomfortable.
- Swim in the waterfalls and pools of the river Fonias, affectionately called 'the murderer' "Phonias" (Greek: Φονιάς) (avoid it when it might rain for obvious reasons). There are more pools upstream if someone is willing to do some climbing.
- Visit the hot spring/baths at Loutra.
- Swim at the sea. There are 2 excellent beaches, in the west and east end of the island. The road running across the island is ending on both of them.
- Visit the Sanctuary of the Great Gods and the Ancient City
- Some goat bells.
Almost anywhere, the food is delicious with a hint of the hot peppers used in northeastern Greece. Goat meat is especially good in Samothraki and is offered in many restaurants. A variety of small restaurants are available in all locations. The choice is greatest in Kamariotissa, Chora and Therma.
- 1 Tavern 1900. Good traditional food in Chora, friendly staff, good prices, nice view.
- 2 The Alley. Good food and prices in Chora with a special traditional ambience.
- 3 Phournélo. Good pizzeria in Kamariotissa directly on the sea.
- 4 Samothraki Microbrewery. Microbrewery in Kamariotissa, Fonias Beer.
- 5 O Psaras Fish Tavern. Tavern towards Paleopolis on the main road in the shade under large trees.
- 6 Cafe Therma. Simple kafeneio, very nice location, simple dishes (pies).
- 7 The Garden of Sky. Traditional Greek tavern in Therma with good food.
- 8 Taverna Karydies. The island's best known restaurant with excellent goat and lamb dishes at Apo Merida. Nice environment in the mountains. Very busy in high season.
- 9 O Wrachos. Very well-known tavern in Profitis Ilias with good food, especially goat. Shady places under plane trees. Very busy in high season.
- 10 Akrogiali Taverna. Good fish restaurant with sea view on the beach of Lakoma.
- 11 Pachia Ammos Restaurant. Very nice restaurant overlooking the Pachia Ammos beach.
- 12 Krimniotissa Restaurant. Simple but beautifully located restaurant high on the mountain next to the chapel of the same name overlooking the Pachia Ammos bay.
- Nightlife. Samothrace is a quiet island and there is no real nightlife. Only in Kamariotissa and Chora there is a touch of nightlife in the restaurants and kafeneios. In high season, when a lot of young people visit the island, Therma becomes the center of nightlife, especially the beach bar Saoki next to the small harbor. As well as the square in Therma where many people will gather to hang out and play music.
- Retsina. Seriously it is one of those drinks that tastes fantastic in its native environment but doesn't travel at all.
Most of the accommodations are listed in the well-known Internet booking portals with prices and ratings. Because of the departure times of the ferries, it may be advantageous to stay in Kamariotissa. In addition, there are the most restaurants to go out in the evening. Also popular is the place Therma, because of its beautiful location. The area around Therma is also a popular meeting place of young people camping in the woods or campgrounds and indulging in a kind of later hippie culture. You can get rooms in one of the many small pensions but only few larger hotel complexes are on the island. The biggest ones are:
- 1 Niki Beach Hotel. In Kamariotissa.
- 2 Samothraki Village. In Palaiopoli.
Outside of hotels, you have three options.
- 1 Camp. There are 2 campings, both run by the municipality. Close to Therma is the biggest campsite where it is free of charge and has public bathrooms and showers as well as small cafe. Rough camping outside of designated areas such as near the river is common but have in mind that it is illegal. The local police does raids every now and then.
- 2 Rent an apartment or house (best done beforehand but possible by asking in a bar or cafe.
- 3 Stay in a domatia, best done by asking someone when you get there. For those unfamiliar with Greek accommodation, domatia are rented rooms, sometimes adjoining locals' houses, sometimes in separate buildings. A word of warning, the accommodation in the delightful old town or Chora is fairly limited and one woman called Chrisoula seems to have appointed herself unofficial co-ordinator of accommodation. She has two rooms that are small but cosy and are worth the cost, if you want more than two, beware offers of a third or fourth they will be on her sofas in her small living room. You will know her if she comes to greet you as you enter the town.
It can be difficult to find an ATM on the island, so make sure you have enough for your stay. As of August 2020, many places accept credit cards, but most still don't.
- Unless you have your own boat, the ferry back to Alexandroupolis on the mainland is your only option.