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Last Updated on 20/03/2021
Folegandros is a tiny Greek island in the middle of the Aegean Sea. It’s part of the Cyclades, a group of islands which include Santorini and Mykonos. These two islands, in particular, are well-known holiday titans and for good reason. Who hasn’t swooned over a Santorini sunset on Instagram? We’ve all been there. That’s why I want to persuade you to visit the magnificent and lesser-known island of Folegandros instead.
Why you should visit Folegandros, Greece
Condé Nast Traveller published an article way back in 2004 claiming that Folegandros was Greece’s best-kept secret (until now). Ever since then it has become something of a sought after off-the-beaten-path destination.
Despite its turn in the spotlight, Folegandros has still managed to remain a largely quiet island. It has a few small picturesque settlements dotted here and there but otherwise, it belongs to the wilderness.
I have never been anywhere more dramatic than Folegandros in my life. Towering cliffs border the tiny island. They rise out of the water like they’ve been quite literally yanked from the seabed. Rocky hills plunge into dizzying jagged drops which make you catch your breath if you look down. The sea throws its waves upon the shoreline like it has some sort of personal vendetta against it.
Folegandros has electrifying energy but its beauty doesn’t come free. If you want to laze about on its gorgeous sandy beaches then you’re going to have to work for it. The best beaches on Folegandros Island require a walk along wild cliff edges or a boat ride to reach them.
It’s not easy but it’s worth it for the pristine blue water and sheltered coves. 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.
Folegandros may be small but it still has a buzzing social life. Its capital is Chora (pronounced Hora) and it has a completely pedestrian centre. You can find tavernas on every corner. In fact, if there’s a street then you can guarantee that there will be few tables and chairs laid out and a waiter hovering nearby. You won’t go hungry on Folegandros and you certainly won’t go thirsty.
Chora dates back to Medieval times. Its oldest district, Kastro is a warren of squat white Cycladic style houses with vibrant blue shutters. Here and there, bursts of purple and pink flowers crest 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 have been known to use this architectural strategy to ward off pirates and invaders.
Things to do in Folegandros
Wander around Chora and admire the iconic white Cycladic architecture. Don’t forget to duck into Kastro and follow the narrow passages through the historic fortress. Driving isn’t permitted in Chora or Kastro but there is a free car park on the outskirts of the settlement.
Walk to the Church of Panagia for Sunset
The Church of Panagia sits high on the cliff above Chora, overlooking the island. You can’t miss it. Just before sunset, make your way up the winding white path for spectacular views over the sea. It’s the best place to catch a sunset on Folegandros and trust me, that steep pilgrimage is worth it.
Relax in Wine Bar Merkouri
Wine Bar Merkouri is a classy little Greek wine bar just outside of Chora. Surrounded by vineyards, it has beautiful views of the Church of Panagia and an excellent outdoor terrace to enjoy a glass or two. The wine bar specialises in the local Greek wines so it’s a perfect opportunity to try something new. It also has a topnotch snack selection.
Indulge in a lazy lunch
One of the blissful things about Folegandros is that you don’t ever need to rush. Simply while away the hours on a long and lazy lunch or spend the afternoon camped out at a cafe. Some of the best tavernas are in Chora where you can watch people go by from the comfort of the shaded square. If you’re in the mood for something more peaceful, Pounta serves delicious breakfasts and herbal teas in their own garden.
Go beach hopping
Although rocky and imposing, Folegandros has a wealth of beautiful beaches at its disposal. I’ve listed some of my absolute favourites below.
The best beaches in Folegandros
In my opinion, Kartego Beach is the best beach on Folegandros but it isn’t easy to get to. You can get a boat from Karavostasi which will take you round to the beach or you can walk it. You do have to climb down to it but once you reach it, you’re greeted with beautiful clear water and hardly any people. Bring a hat because there isn’t much shade.
Similar to Kartego, you have a bit of a walk to get to Livadaki Beach but it’s worth it. The walk is about half an hour and there are some scrambly bits but once you get there you can relax surrounded by beautiful scenery. This beach has a few trees at the back to give it some shade.
Agali Beach is a pristine white sandy beach with towering cliffs behind it. It’s easily accessible and safe for families.
Chochlidia Beach is the first beach you’ll see as you arrive at Folegandros. Located in Karavostasi, it’s a small and slightly busier beach. It’s bordered by plenty of cafes and tavernas to relax in when you want to take a break from sunbathing.
Packing tips for Folegandros
- Much like any other Greek island, Folegandros has a mild climate but it can get windy. Most of the island rises high above the sea and is exposed to the elements. Make sure you pack a light jacket for the evenings and particularly blustery days.
- Pack a sun hat because some of the beaches on Folegandros don’t have shade.
- Wear a mineral-based sunscreen, particularly if you’re swimming. Chemical sunscreens often contain oxybenzone which is harmful to marine life and contributes to coral bleaching. Mineral-based sunscreens that have titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are reef-safe. Pai and Green People are both good options. Or, read my complete guide to sustainable sunscreen brands here.
- Bring sturdy footwear. If you’re heading out to the more remote beaches on Folegandros then it’s a good idea to wear trainers or other closed-toe shoes so you don’t hurt yourself if you’re scrambling over rocky pathways.
You can read more about how to be a sustainable traveller here.
How to get to Folegandros
The only way to get to the island of Folegandros is by ferry from Piraeus. There are three ferry companies to choose from; SeaJets, Zante Ferries and Golden Star Ferries. The easiest way to book your tickets is through Direct Ferries or Ferryhopper as you can compare the best rates and schedules.
Ferries can be subject to cancellations or alterations so make sure you plan your trip accordingly. My morning ferry from Folegandros to Piraeus was cancelled which meant that I got an extra afternoon there but I was late getting to Athens. I’m glad I didn’t have a flight booked for that evening!
How to get around
Folegandros is pretty accessible on foot but if you want to make the most of your time and really explore the island then I recommend that you hire a scooter. Donkey Scooters in Chora are reasonably priced. One scooter is enough for two people and the roads aren’t too busy so you feel safe.
There are some seriously dreamy guest accommodations on Folegandros. Check out some of my top examples below:
Camares is a small, budget-friendly villa complex just a short 10-minute walk from the centre of Chora. The villas come equipped with a small kitchenette, bathroom and double bed. The patio outside is the perfect place to enjoy dinner and a glass of wine in the evening.
Anemomilos Boutique Hotel
Anemomilos Boutique Hotel is a family-run hotel with stunning views of the Folegandros cliffs. This hotel is elegant and charming with its chic interior and splashes of colour here and there. It also has its own bar, studios, suites and an absolutely exquisite outside pool.
Green Luxury Villas
Green Luxury Villas combines contemporary luxury with sustainable living. This ecotourist retreat has been built according to green housing standards and the electricity and hot water runs on solar and wind energy. Each villa has its own kitchen, living room and two double bedrooms.
Want to get inspired by more eco-friendly accommodation? Check out these awesome sustainable and budget-friendly stays!
Although small, Folegandros has everything from dramatic scenery to history. I have to confess that when I first arrived on the island I was a little unsure about its stark rocky landscape and quiet port. It was hardly a grand welcome. But before long, my uncertainty was replaced by a passionate adoration and deep respect for the place. Condé Nast was right. Folegandros really is Greece’s best-kept secret. Make sure you get to see it for yourselves.
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