Folegandros is a tiny little Greek island in the middle of the Aegean. It makes up part of the Cyclades, a group which shares its name with Santorini and Mykonos, well-known holiday destination titans and for good reason. Who hasn’t swooned over a Santorini sunset pic on Instagram? We’ve all been there. But that’s why I want to persuade you to visit Folegandros instead.
It’s not without reason that Condé Nast Traveller published an article way back in 2004 claiming that Folegandros was Greece’s best-kept secret (until now) and ever since then it has become something of a sought after destination for those looking for undiscovered beauty. However, despite its sudden turn in the spotlight, Folegandros has managed to remain a largely less touristy place. In fact, it belongs in the wilderness. It has a few small picturesque settlements dotted here and there but it’s the landscape that really makes it.
I can honestly say that I have never been anywhere more dramatic in my life. The tiny island is bordered by cliffs which rise out of the water like they’ve been quite literally yanked from the seabed. The hills, mostly rocky with tight gorse bushes, plunge into dizzying jagged drops that make you catch your breath if you look down. The Aegean sea throws its waves upon the shoreline like it has some sort of personal vendetta against it.
Folegandros has electrifying energy about its wild nature which is perhaps manifested by the fact that if you want to laze about all day on a gorgeous sandy beach then you’re going to have to work for it. The best beaches on the island require a walk along wild cliff edges or a boat ride to reach them. It’s not easy but it’s worth the price because they’re much quieter and simply stunning to look at. It’s also a good way to work off your lunch and a few too many Greek house white wines from the night before, so you see it all works out.
Although Folegandros may be small, it’s not to say that that it doesn’t have a buzzing social life. Its capital village (I guess you could call it) is Chora (pronounced Hora) and its centre is completely pedestrian. You can find tavernas on every corner and every square. In fact, if there’s a street then there’s bound to be a few tables and chairs on it with a waiter hovering nearby eager to take your order. You won’t go hungry on Folegandros and you certainly won’t go thirsty. Nestled in a small vineyard is a wine bar with delicious wine to match the view at a very reasonable price.
Chora dates back to Medieval times. Its oldest district, Kastro is a warren of squat white Cycladic style houses with vibrant blue shutters and bursts of purple and pink flowers that crest the equally colourful doorways. As you wander down the narrow passages it feels like you’re in a maze, not a fortress but when you observe the outside from a distance you can see that the tight walls form a defence around the village. This ancient Kastro fortress is not unique to Folegandros. Many Greek islands had been known to use this architectural strategy to ward off pirates and invaders.
Folegandros was everything from wild to steeped in history. I have to admit that when I first arrived on the island I was a little unsure about it because of its stark rocky landscape and quiet port but before long my uncertainty had been replaced by a passionate adoration. Condé Nast was right, Folegandros was Greece’s best kept secret which is why you should make it your next holiday destination now.
Thanks for reading,