Just two hours from the port of Rafina, Andros is the greenest of the Cyclades as well as the second largest after Naxos. And it’s full of surprises. Where else could you find Venetian castles and untouched beaches, rushing rivers and abandoned watermills, a world-class modern art museum and the grand mansions of local ship owners, well-marked hiking trails and dramatic cornices? For all its wealth, it is laid-back and discreet, shy of mass tourism, awaiting discovery by the discerning traveller. Andros will make you wish your holiday here could last forever.
What to do on Andros
Andros town, travel to the state of captains Andriots are above all seafarers, captains, ship owners and sailors. The main town, Hora, is full of stately homes and neoclassical buildings they erected with their earnings a century or more ago. The broad main street exudes prosperity in its marble pavements, open squares, large churches, and carved marble fountain. But don’t expect glitz. Instead, its modest shops sell traditional foods, clothes, and sweets.
The central square is the heart of Hora, flanked by the Archaeological Museum and buzzing cafes, with two long beaches spread out below, Paraportiani and Nimborio. If you walk on into the oldest part of town, you’ll come to a square at the end of the promontory, occupied by a single monument to the Unknown Sailor. You could almost be standing on the prow of a liner.
The Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art Each summer hosting an exciting new exhibition, it is reason alone to visit the island. Past treasures have included works by Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Chagall, Rodin, Miro, Kandinsky and many more.
Stenies: a village of mansions Of all the villages in the lush hills near Hora, Stenies may be the loveliest. Camouflaged by tall trees, its grand mansions may be the highlight for sightseers, but you can also explore a 17th century tower, an old stone bridge and a picturesque old factory with a huge waterwheel. Devote a few hours of your holiday on the island to take in these splendid sights.
Beaches to last a month of Sundays Andros beaches are little known wonders: some on the north are accessible only by dirt road or boat, such as Ahla, Zorkos, Ateni, Vitali, Grias and Pidima, or if you preferOld Lady’s Leap with its remarkable stone pillar jutting out of the sea. Those to the south, like Agios Petros, Batsi, Chryssi Ammos, Fellos and Halkolimionas are much easier on the tyres. Many remain just as nature intended, so bring your own umbrella and refreshments. Others have beach bars or tavernas and all mod cons.
Korthi: another island East of Hora, Korthi could belong to another island. Wind-battered at the end of an open bay, this is a place for hikers and adventurers. From here you can climb up to the ruins of a Venetian castle and from there walk down the Dipotamata Gorge where watermills once ground Andros wheat. Or you could make the circuit of the pretty villages in the hills. Not afraid of dodgy roads? Drive right to the end of the island where a narrow strait separates Andros from Tinos and visit some venerable monasteries on the way.
Hidden gems of Andros
The Faneromeni castle Faneromeni Castle, or Upper Castle, stands in contrast to the even more ruined fortress at the tip of Hora. Prepare to be blown away; the view of the Aegean is magnificent.
The Lighthouse The Tourlitis Lighthouse off the coast of Hora is the only one in the Cyclades built on a rock in the middle of the sea.
The villages of Andros Lamyra, Menites, Strapouries, Apikia, Vourkoti, Aladino, Messaria, Palaiopoli, Batsi, Gavrio… Strange names when you first come across them, but they’ll become familiar once you start exploring this large and varied island.
The footpaths of Andros A network of well-marked hiking paths covers the island. Get yourself a map and follow the arrows that will guide your journey, always with the big blue in the background.