Walking on Thassos
Wild flowers blossom everywhere and fill the air with scents
The island of Thassos in the North Aegean Sea is hilly; its highest peak reaches 1203 meter (3600 feet). Along the coast one finds deep canyons with small, quiet bays. Large parts of the island, which abounds in water, are covered with trees. In Spring it is still quiet and wild flower blossom everywhere. An ideal time to explore the island, hiking from mountain village to archeological site to sandy beach.
Travelogue & photos: Marja van der Jagt
We arrive at Kavala Airport, in Macedonia's mainland, because the North Aegean island Thassos doesn't have its own airport. A bus takes us in 15 minutes to the port of Keramoti, where we take the ferry to Limenas, the capital of Thassos.
Limenaria, the vast beach resort where we will stay, is on the opposite side of the island, so we immediately get acquainted with Thassos' beautiful East coast. Before we entered the travel agency where we booked this trip, we'd never heard of Thassos. But this 25 by 25 km (16.5 by 16.5 miles) island fits us like a backpack.
Early May it is still very quiet, the season has hardly begun. Only 35% of the restaurants, bars and hotels have opened yet. The large amount of closed terraces indicates that in the tourist season it will be much more crowded here.
From Theologos to Potos
Slopes covered with white and lilac citrus roses
We take the bus to the mountain village Theologos and take a short stroll through the village with its steep streets.
The first hours of our hike in the hills around Theologos we walk in the sun; even though it's not warmer than 15 degrees Centigrade, it's pleasant if you're hiking.
Everywhere wild flowers are blossoming and the air is filled with scents. Sometimes it isn't more than a trace, sometimes the scent is heavey. That means that slopes are dotted with white and lilac citrus roses, which grow on low bushes.
Some roads are wide enough for cars (4x4 only), but often we walk on goat tracks. Some seem centuries old and sunken into the soil. The sun is doing its utmost, but in the shade it is still chilly and then we have to wear our fleece cardigans.
We have been hearing water for quite a while, but now we finally get to see it: from here the path follows a stream. The surrounding land is succulent and green. High plumes of reeds and big ferns grow on the banks. The rustling of the water adds to the peaceful atmosphere.
In a sunny spot we eat the sandwiches we brought in our backpacks, sitting on a big rock in the brook. Our destination is Potos, a small beach resort. Walking from the center of the island to the coast, we see a beautiful part of it. After wandering in the hills for a couple of hours, the sea becomes visible on the horizon. Later on, we understand that the sea is never far away on this small island.
The last few kilometers we walk along a huge olive grove. Dark clouds begin to gather behind the hills; they move toward us. Then the rain storm hits with all its force. We try to find shelter by a house, but there is no way to stay dry, so we continue our walk.
Within 15 minutes we're wet to the bone. We don't even try anymore to protect ourselves, because everything is wet, wetter, wettest. Luckily, we get a ride to Limenaria, where a hot shower and dry clothes await us.
The mountain villages Prinos and Mikros Prinos
Descending to Kalives over hills with olive trees
Every package trip to Thassos offers excursions to the mountain villages Prinos and Mikros Prinos, so of course we also want to go there. We take the bus to Kalives, where we plan to take a taxi to Prinos, a distance of 5 km. But there is no taxi to be seen anywhere. We start walking and pass by a sign for a footpath over the hills to Prinos. But climbing 500 meters is not our idea of fun. We prefer to walk the way back, downhill.
We are lucky again and get a ride with a German couple. We get out of the car in the center of Prinos. We have a description of a walking tour, but we let chance decide where to go. We end up on a road looking over the village. It bends with a wide curve around the village.
At 600 meter the view is spectacular: green hills roll at our feet. Colored dots of flowers. Vaguely we hear bells tinkling. Only hours later we see the large flock of goats. Billy goats with mighty horns stand in de shade of a big, old olive tree. Their young frolick around them. Chewing and grazing, the mothers keep an eye on their babies. We leave them and descend toward Kalives.
The hills are overgrown with olive trees. Because of the risk of forest fires, there are firebreaks everywhere on Thassos. They aren't pretty and unfortunately visible from far away. Like scars they disfigure the green hills. But it is necessary. Too often huge parts of forest were lost to the flames.
When we reach the highest point of our walk, we can see the sea at Skala Prinos and Skala Sotira. Along well kept olive groves, we walk back to Kalives.
Potamia on the East coast
A mountain village, beautifully situated in the green hills
We drive by car along the East coast to Potamia. This part of the island is hard to reach by bus from Limenaria. So we rent a car for a couple of days.
Potamia is a mountain village, beautifully situated in the green hills. It is quiet there. The bakery and a small super market are open. Old men sit in front of a kafeneion, talking. They are smoking cigars and in front of each one of them a glass of ouzo sits on a rickety table.
We buy sandwiches and drinks and are on our way. In contrast to most Greek islands, Thassos has a lot of water. Little streams gurgle everywhere around us and the landscape with its small hills is green. There is an enormous variety of flowers.
We pass by a church. A big plane-tree shades the square in front of it, which is covered with little white flowers. A small fountain around the tree provides us with fresh water for our bottles. We eat our sandwiches at a picnic table on the square.
We follow a little stream for a while. All of a sudden something moves on the side of the path. I look up. I see a long brown snake wriggling in the bushes. Frightened, I fall into a ditch backwards. Because of my fall Gerard hasn't seen the animal.
Later during this vacation I can observe a dead one on the road. Then I see that it isn't a snake, but a slowworm.
The stream gets wider and wider. Eventually it becomes a brook. We arrive at an extraordinary place. Along the brook big old plane-trees are standing with their feet in the water, in which also sit big rocks. Some of the plane-trees are hollow. Grass grows high along the low banks.
It is hard to tear ourselves away from this wonderful spot. But the next hours are worthwhile as well, with water everywhere.
Back in Potamia we have a drink on the tree-shaded square. It is extremely quiet. Apart from hikers, recognizable by their backpacks, hiking boots, walking sticks, caps and fleece sweaters, we hardly see anyone. Until a small truck with speakers breaks the silence.
It turns out to be a mobile store with carpets. Women crowd around the truck. When we get closer, we see that it also carries jeans and children's wear. Who knows what else it has to offer?
From Theologos via the waterfalls to Kastro
The grey houses seem to disappear in the landscape
Again we take the bus to Theologos; this time the nearby waterfalls are our destination. We have read lyrical descriptions, so we feel we shouldn't miss this.
The weather is beautiful and we start our hike with much energy and enthousiasm. We walk along a brook for a long while. At first, it is almost dry, but as we walk on, the stream grows. In the brook and along the banks grow beautiful plane-trees.
Their curly branches filter the sunlight. There are big and small rocks in the brook.
Eventualy we reach the first waterfall. Apart from the gurgling water, rustling leaves and grass, croaking frogs, buzzing bees and chirping birds, there is hardly a sound. We have to sit down to take in all of this. It is time for our lunch break anyway.
When we continue our walk, we suddenly hear bells. After a while we can discern a large flock of goats in the low bushes.
We decide to follow the road to Kastro, so we miss the second waterfall. Kastro is still an hour away. After an hour of easy climbing our efforts are rewarded. The view of the rolling hills is gorgeous.
Kastro turns out to be a diminutive mountain hamlet with one café. The incredibly friendly owner welcomes us and shows us pictures of other hikers. And also of the second waterfall. He himself is in the picture, posing in front of the waterfall like a Greek god who enjoys the good life. This is the one you missed, he seems to be saying.
The old Venetian castle which gives Kastro its name, is crumbling away on its high rock. It's a free for all for the weather because of its free-lying position. The view is overwhelming. Grey hills, with green patches of bushes and trees in between. A sand trail winds its way on the slope.
We order a bowl of Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts. While we're spooning away at the yoghurt in the earthenware bowl, we enjoy the peace and quiet around us and read the guestbook. Many people have written the same things: this is Thassos at its best, it wasn't easy to get here, but it was worth the trouble.
It is already late, so we can't stay too long. According to the owner it is still 12 km to Limenaria. Oops, we think, that is quite a distance. So we plan to walk back to Theologos and take the bus there. The owner grins mischievously: to Theologos is also 12 km. Laughing, we decide to walk back to Limenaria anyway.
After we have left Kastro, we look back. The grey houses hardly stand out and seem to be part of the landscape. The grey hills with the roses have exactly the same shades of color as the houses.
Leasurely we walk the long way back to Limenaria. It is downhill almost all the way. It isn't steep, but you can feel you're descending. Now I understand what I read in the guestbook: that it isn't easy to get to Kastro.
It is late already when we arrive in Limenaria. We find a quiet terrace and have dinner. We are proud of ourselves. 25 kilometers hiking is really a lot for us. We can't stop talking about this wonderful hiking trip. Maybe the highlight of this vacation.
From Skala Kallirachis to Skala Sotira
The fishers cottages almost touch the sea
There are only a few bus routes on Thassos, so we pass by the same places often. This is also the case with Skala Kallirachis, where we are now. Every time we passed by it, we were intrigued, because the houses almost touch the sea.
We climb over rocks and walk toward the houses. They turn out to be some kind of fishers cottages. Most seem uninhabited at the moment, but not abandoned.
Small fishing boats are docked on the beach. From the cottages you can almost step into the sea. The wide doors of the cottages are covered with planks. Apparently the sea sometimes gets too close for comfort.
Eventually we end up in the center of Sotira, where we have coffee on a terrace and wait for the next bus, which will take us to our next destination. There's a bus every two hours, so there is enough time to look around in the villages on Thassos and maybe have a drink before the next bus arrives.
Another advantage is that you can walk exactly as far as you want to, as long as you stay near de main road. If you decide you have walked enough for today, you simply walk to the next bus stop and continue your trip by bus.
From Skala Marion to Limenaria
Beautiful bays with nothing but sea and beach
A little before we reach Skala Marion, we get off the bus. We walk on a wide sand road on a high cliff. Beneath us is a gorgeous bay. The white sandy beach is protected from the wind. The sea sea quietly ripples toward the beach. A narrow goat trail leads down to it.
There are a lot of these bays on Thassos. There is nothing but sea and beach. No restaurants, no terraces. If you want to go there, you have to bring everything yourself. But that gets you a quiet beach, the blue sea and often even a few trees for the necessary shadow.
From here, the Southwest point of the island, we wander aimlessly through the hills and olive groves all day. Because we are on high ground here, we have a spectacular view of a great part the South of the island almost all day long.
We find almond trees between the olive trees. We crack the rock-hard shells with a stone. These are left-over almonds of last year, but we don't care. Eating almonds that you have picked yourself is an interesting experience anyway.
In wide loops we walk back to Limenaria via Kalivia. On a day like this you don't walk a lot in terms of distance. But it is a way of exploring that we do at least once every vacation. Because you don't have a specific destination, you are completely relaxed.
See something exciting? Go for it! Discover a colorful flower? Get on your knees and take pictures. An almond tree? Pick almonds. We always enjoy days like this very much. You don't have to do anything and you can let chance decide what you do and where you go.
Along the coast there are remains of ancient marble quarries
We visit Alyki on the Southeast coast by car. At the beginning of the small peninsula we leave the car and continue on foot. There are wonderful ruins, among which two of early Christian basilicas. The ruins are impressive, also because of their dimensions. The basilicas fell to ruin when the surrounding settlements were abandoned in the seventh century.
The peninsula is small and can easily be explored on foot. We're especially interested in the ancient marble quarries along the coast. One can still see that huge blocks of marble were sawed here.
If you climb the high cliffs, you'll have an incredible view of these abandoned marble quarries.
A few hours later we have criss-crossed the island. Nature here is beautiful, despite the heavy beach tourism. Gorgeous flowers raise their heads above pale rocks. High trees rustle in the wind on the cliffs. Alyki beach, with a row of beach tents, looks well taken care of.
The road along the South coast is wonderful. Every now and then there are pretty little empty bays. Sometimes you may have to climb, but you get something in return. As I said: if you're not self-supporting, there's nothing here for you.
From Limenaria to Pefkari
The view of the bay of Limenaria is overwhelming
From our home base Limenaria we tour leisurely along the coast. Just outside town we walk by an old iron ore quarrie. Its office still adorns an overhanging rock. Even though it is seriously delapidated it still looks wonderful in this beautiful place. The view of the bay of Limenaria is overwhelming and must have impressed customers who visited the company.
While walking along the old mine shafts, one already can see the wonderfully sheltered and easily accessible Metalleia Beach. It is empty now, but it looks well taken care of; the beach café looks good, so it undoubtably a busy place in the tourist season.
The trail follows the coastline and winds over the rocks to Pefkari, a small and quiet beach resorts with pretty cafés and restaurants along the beach. Large lounge sofas and chairs make out stay extremely pleasant.
We walk back, but there's a regular bus service as well, so if you have too much wine in your legs that is an option.
Ruins of the ancient city Limenas are everywhere
The area around the capital Limenas is wonderful for walking. We take a whole day to hike through the hills and visit the ruins of the ancient city of Limenas. With a good map and a description of the ruins we are happy for a long time.
There are signs everywhere with descriptions of the ruins, among which the old theatre, the agora and various temples. Keep in mind that it is quite a climb before you get there. And bring food and drinks, because there are no stores or restaurants.
While we're eating our lunch in the Athena Poliouchos temple, we enjoy the spectacular view of the city. It is a clear day and we can also see the Greek mainland.
Along the port of Limenas it is easy to find a place to have a drink or a bite. The city is well-adjusted to tourism, which makes it a nice place to be. In the narrow streets are restaurants for every taste.