One of the things Jason Dundas loves most about the Greek Islands is that they are all so different. Amorgos, the easternmost of the Cyclades Group, is untouched and authentic. It's about relaxing and enjoying some history.
It was once visited only by backpackers, but after the release of the Luc Besson film The Big Blue, which was filmed there, it became quite trendy, particularly with the French. If you haven't seen the film, there's a bar in Katapola that shows it almost every night!
The island has no airport and is an eight-hour ferry trip from Athens or 90 minutes by hydrofoil from Santorini. The coastline is mountainous, rocky and rough and valleys are full of trees and flowers. Locals keep busy fishing, growing cereals, wine, olives figs, beans and tobacco. They also produce fine dairy products.
Amorgos is just 33km long and 6km at its widest and doesn't have as many tourists as some of its neighbours. At the most popular beach you won't be hard pushed to find somewhere to sit nor will you be asked to pay around $29 for a sunbed.
For around $43 Jason got himself a ride on a traditional fishing boat known as a caique and visited a charming beach known mostly to locals. They have been fishing the local waters for hundreds of years and use big, old pine tillers.
Before the 1990s there were no roads to speak of, and donkeys did all the transportation. They are still there and are a great way to explore the island, crisscrossing the same old tracks.
The island's trademark is the 11th-century Hozoviotissa monastery, wedged into a precipice, 300m above the sea. It's a very important part of the island's history and has quite a story attached.
Around a thousand years ago a ship washed ashore and local monks found an icon or symbol of the Virgin Mary amongst the wreckage. They took that as a sign to build their monastery.
When their tools mysteriously moved 50m further up the cliff, that was the new place to build. The holiest room is Virgin Mary's shrine at the very top, and the Aegean views from there are fantastic. Tours are conducted free of charge, but donations are very welcome. With a little luck, the monks may offer you some local liqueur. As with all holy places, you will need to dress modestly.
Aegialis Hotel & Spa
There is a good selection of accommodation on Amorgos rooms, apartments, studios and hotels of various categories. We chose Aegialis Hotel & Spa, six blue and white buildings set into a hillside and with dramatic views across the bay at Ormos in the north. The rooms, its Olympic-size saltwater pool and even massage tables have fantastic outlooks. There's a wet bar, nightclub, gym and spa so what else could you need! There are views from everywhere.
Ambrosia is the restaurant, and three times a week they hold a Greek night. Fantastic meals using homegrown vegetables and herbs and, of course, lots of dancing.
Chora, the capital, is a quiet village with about 500 residents. It's high in the mountains and reached by a long and winding road. It's as though time has stood still and it's all very traditional. Locals are proud that they have Greece's smallest church, Agios Fanourios, which has room for just three at a time. There's a museum and 13th-century Venetian citadel. There's also a good selection of tavernas and cafes.
The ancient capital of the island, Minoa, is situated on a high cliff above Katapola. There are still ruins there from classical and Roman times.
If you visit during July or August, there are several traditional cultural festivals and everyone's welcome.
The Greek island Amorgos.
Greece & Mediterranean Travel Centre has four-day "Getaway to Amorgos" packages. It includes three nights at Aegialis Hotel, return ferry from Athens and island transfers, as well as a rejuvenating massage an exfoliation spa treatment with mineral salts and a cooking class with dinner. They start at $539 per person twin-share.
Emirates has flights to Athens from:
- Perth $1738
- Melbourne and Adelaide $1741
- Sydney $1760
- Brisbane $1763
These fares are available only online to the first 100 people to book. Sales and travel dates and conditions apply.
Prices correct at August 12, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Ph: (02) 9313 4633
Fax: (02) 931 34475
Aegialis Hotel & Spa
Ph: +30 22850 73393
Fax: +30 22850 73395
Visas: Australian passport holders do not require a visa to enter Greece.
Electricity: 220V at 50Hz. Two- and three-point plugs are used.
Time zone: GMT +3.
Currency: The euro.
International dialling code: +30.
Travellers should be "in date" for the standard Australian immunisation schedules. Depending on the time of year of travel and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions may be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au