General Information on Samos
Samos is part of the northeastern Aegean Islands and is located in the southern part of the cluster, near the Turkish coast. The island has a surface area of about 778km² and it is inhabited by approximately 44,100 people. Samos is the most visited island in the cluster but it has kept its beauty and attractiveness.
Despite the catastrophic fires which burned an important part of the island a few years ago, Samos has kept enough of its forests and vegetation. Because the island maintains an average tourism rate and offers a multitude of choices, from big beach hotels to rustic hill villages, miles of sand, towering mountains, stunning scenery, attractive coves and lush forests, it is an ideal destination.
History of Samos
According to mythology Samos was the birthplace of goddess Hera, wife of Zeus and queen of the gods.
From archaeological excavations, it is believed that Samos was inhabited during the Neolithic era (3rd millennium B.C.). The first colonists of the island were Pelasgians who worshiped Hera, the Phoenicians, the Leleges and the Carians. In classical antiquity, at the time of migrations, the island received an Ionian population originating from Epidaurus in Argolis. Samos became one of the leading commercial centers of Greece.
In the 6th century B.C. Samos was ruled by famous tyrant Polycrates. After his death, the island suffered a severe blow when the Persian Achaemenid Empire conquered the island. In 479, Samians led the revolt against Persia. During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.), Samos took the side of Athens against Sparta, providing their port to the Athenian fleet. In the Delian League they held a position of special privilege and remained actively loyal to Athens until 440.
When the Peloponnesian War ended, Samos had already established democracy. However, after the downfall of Athens, the island was besieged by Lysander and placed under oligarchy. Samos served as a base for the Egyptian fleet of the Ptolemies from about 275 to 270 B.C. In 189 B.C., it was transferred by the Romans to their vassal, the Attalid dynasty’s Hellenistic Kingdom of Pergamus in Asia Minor.
Later, the island came under the rule of the Venetians and the Genoese Giustiniani in 1346 A.D. In 1453 the island came under the domination of the Ottomans along with the rest of the northeastern Aegean islands. During the early years of the Ottoman rule most Samians abandoned the island. Those who remained went inland in small settlements up in the mountains, hiding from pirates and other invaders. At the 17th century privileges were given to Samos which became a semi-independent state. Samos had belonged to the Ottoman Empire since 1533. During the War of Independence, the inhabitants of the island played an important role. However, the Great Powers gave the island back to Turks in 1830, making it semi-autonomous and being ruled by a Christian prince. The popular sentiment of merging with the Greek state was not satisfied until 1913 when it was included in Greece as a result of the Balkan Wars.
Towns & Villages in Samos
Samos Town: Noted for its beauty when approached from the sea, the capital of the island sits on the shore at the end of a long horseshoe bay. The settlement has been built amphitheatrically around the bay and is one of the remaining traditional cities of the island. Pastel-coloured houses and weathered red tile roofs tier down the dark green hillside to a long and deep waterfront promenade. The old Venetian and neoclassic buildings blend with new ones, forming an attractive scenery. Samos town is a lively place, full of tourist facilities, accommodations, bars, restaurants, cafes and night clubs.
Ano Vathi: The road south of Samos Town heads to the hillside village of Ano Vathi. This settlement was a pirate refuge and the town is sometimes still referred to as Vathi. The two settlements were once separate, but now they are merged together. The bottom of the hill is full of lively and atmospheric taverns with excellent food. The higher part is more picturesque as narrow alleys thread their way among neoclassical mansions and medieval churches.
Vathi: This is the main port of the island located to the southeast end, very close to Samos Town. Nowadays these two settlements have almost united. Vathi has been built on an altitude of 80 meters above sea level. Its houses are built close together, separated by narrow maze alleys, a characteristic that is more intense than in any other Samian village.
Karlovassi: This is the island’s second largest town and lies on the northwest part of the island. The settlement is characterized as a cluster of villages rather than a town. Karlovassi appears as a complex of four villages each with its own character but all spotted with a very large church. The waterfront is the busiest part lined with taverns and bars and a quite small sandy beach. The new district (Neo Karlovassi) with factories and warehouses from the days when the town was a major industrial centre, composes an uninteresting set. The middle district (Meleo Karlovassi) is a small suburb with modern houses, a beautiful main square with a fountain and good restaurants. The old district (Paleo Karlovassi) is further inland and is a picturesque village where traditional old red-tiled houses lie around the end of a lovely valley.
Pythagoreio: This village is built on the seaside, south of the capital at a distance of 13km. The settlement is built on the ruins of the ancient city of Samos, capital of the island and one of the most famous Greek cities of antiquity. It was renamed in 1955 to honour its most famous native, Pythagoras, and today it is the most developed tourist area of the island. Old and new houses blend together, separated by whitewashed narrow alleys and steps, on which the inhabitants have painted flowers. Taverns, cafes and tourist shops are scattered across the picturesque port where small fishing boats dock.
Kokkari: This is a small coastal settlement situated 10km Northwest of Samos Town on the road that circles the island. In spite of its tourist development, during the last couple of years, Kokkari has managed to maintain its old traditional character, without bulky concrete structures. The idyllic scenery and the fine beaches of the village which offer sea sports attract a lot of visitors, especially during summer.
Vourliotes: This is the main village in these parts of Samos. Atmospheric, flower decked walls and brightly painted doors and shutters render this settlement lovely for an afternoon walk. The village also has a very pretty central square and several decent taverns serving local food. The village is surrounded by pines and vineyards. Around 2km south is the monastery of Panagia Vrontiani built in 1566 with fine frescoes and a magnificent iconostasi.
Beaches in Samos
Gagou: This beach is located in Samos municipality within a walking distance from Samos Town, and has been awarded the Blue Flag. The beach is a narrow strip of sand and shingle and a few good restaurants. Its main advantage is the quiet atmosphere in contrast to noisy Samos Town.
Kerveli: This small sandy beach is located in the municipality of Samos. It is quiet with shallow clear waters and full of shady tamarisk trees. The beach is quite secluded and a car is needed. There are some fine paths in the area with a few good taverns and cafes.
Psili Ammos (East): This wonderful beach is located on the southern coast of Samos, 56km southwest of Vathy. The beach is long with thin sand, very shallow waters and remains untouched by tourism. Cliffs protect the beach from winds and creates a refuge for naturists.
Tsopela: This beach is situated south of Ireon along a rough dirt track. The scenic sand and shingle cove at Tsopela which sits at the mouth of a magnificent gorge and has a food truck and sunbeds in summer months.
Ormos Komeikon: The coastline opposite the islet of Samiopoula is wild and relatively inaccessible until you reach the well shaded beach at Vallos, also known as Ormos Komeikon, which has a long bay of pebbles. The beach is relative remote and is a favorite with naturists. There are a few apartments and a couple of small taverns in the area.
Ormos Marathokambos: A few kilometers west of Ormos Komeikon, is the fast emerging tourist resort of Ormos Marathokambos. It’s a small village, lively and beautiful with a good range of taverns. The beach has big pebbles and a relaxing little port. There are some small coves to the west if you prefer a sandy beach.
Potami: This is a major beach resort. The beach has an excellent sweep of sand and pebbles, is well shaded by trees amd provides several good taverns. Due to its proximity to the large town of Karlovassi, it can get really crowded in high season and on weekends. Inland is an area well known for its pools and waterfalls. A sequence of bitterly cold pools tumbles down the hillside. The track following the pools eventually leads to the 11th century church of Metamorfosis, believed to be the oldest in Samos and beyond that a narrow path leads to a small Byzantine fortress.
Tsabou: There are many beaches along the northern shore of Samos. Among them Tsabou is the most known. It is a pleasant bay with a shingle sand beach which is exposed and often swept by strong winds. Another nearby beach is Avlakia which is actually a thin strip of white stone, but there is an excellent string of romantic taverns along the shore.
Mykali: This beach is located near the village Psili Ammos. There are three large package holiday hotels in the area despite the fact that it is a protected nature reserve where storks, herons and flamingos are frequent winter visitors. The beach has white pebbles, emerald colored waters and tourist facilities.
Lemonakia: This beach is located 11km northwest of Samos Town, near the village Kokkari. It is a pleasant beach with fine sand and pebbles, clear waters, as well as sunbed and umbrella rentals. However, it can get very crowded in the summer and can be occasionally swept by strong winds.
Top Things to Do in Samos
1. The sanctuary of Heraion: This sanctuary is one of the most famous sights of Samos and is located 6km from the settlement of Pythagorio. This sanctuary was built in honour of goddess Hera (Zeus’ wife) who was supposedly born in Samos. The place thrived under the rule of the tyrant Polykrates in the latter half of the 6th century B.C. It was built according to the Doric and Ionic order and was magnificently decorated. Today, visitors are allowed around 100 metres inside, where they can see the remains of the temple as well as the remains of thermal baths of the grand altar and the pavilion of a Roman temple.
2. Sarakinis’ Tower: This tower is a three-storied building, rectangular in shape, with bastions and well fortified, located 8km from Pythagorio. It was built by Nikolas Sarakinis who was in Kilits Ali Pasha’s flagship. Kilitz was an admiral of the Turkish fleet and he was a Frenchman, ex-pirate who changed faith and put himself to the services of the Sultan. He persuaded the Sultan to help him resettle Samos by giving special privileges to all people who would agree to return to the island. Sarakinis helped Kilits Pasha in resettling Samos which was devastated by pirate attacks. In return Kilitz Pasha gave to Sarakinis large estates in the Iraion region, where he built this tower in 1577.
3. Natural History Museum of the Aegean: This museum is located in the village of Mitilinioi, 12km from Samos Town. The museum was established in 1965 and it is the only paleontology museum of Greece. The museum contains, among others, the fossilised bones of animals that lived 3.5-7 million years ago. They belong to middle and large size mammals and also smaller vertebrate terrestrial mammals. The most important exhibits are the fossils of Samokeros (ancient type of cattle), Samotherion and others.
How to Reach Samos
Air: There are several flights from Samos to Athens, Thessaloniki and other Greek destinations. During summertimes, many low-fare and charter companies operate here, connecting the island to European cities.
Sea: Samos is the transport hub of the North-Eastern Aegean, with ferries to the Dodecanese and Cyclades as well as to the other North – Eastern Aegean islands. Because the schedules often change, check with any of the ticket offices for the latest changes. Generally, there are regular ferry services to Piraeus (13 hours), Thessaloniki (20 hours) and Kavala (22 hours). There are also several hydrofoil services between Samos and other islands; check the schedule at the tourist office or the port authoritites.
Getting Around in Samos
To/From the airport: There is no direct bus service between the airport and the capital of the island. You can either take a cab or you can take the local bus to Pythagorio and from there a cab will take you to the airport.
Bus: Samos has an adequate bus service. On weekends, there are up to 14 buses daily from Vathy bus station to Pythagorio and Kokkari, seven to Agios Konstantinos and Karlovasi, five to the Ireon and Mytilini and two to Ormos and Votsalakia.
Taxi: The taxi rank is on Plateia Pythagoriou in Vathy.
Weather in Samos
Samos has a warm Mediterranean climate like the other islands of the North- Eastern Aegean. There are few rainfalls during the hot summers and the mild winters. Strong north and northwest winds blow all year long and keep temperatures to a maximum of 29 degrees Celsius during summer.
Top 10 Destinations in Samos
All Destinations in Samos
Map of Samos