Located in the Eastern Aegean, where the East meets the West, Samos heartily awaits its visitors to initiate them into its secrets. Mountainous, mysterious yet welcoming, known since antiquity, Samos is the eighth largest Greek island. It boasts an amazing coastline and unique beaches, a verdant natural landscape of forests, vineyards, ancient olive groves and charming little villages scattered on its hillsides.
Glorious history and living traditions, variety of cultural activities, friendly people, exceptional local products and a unique cuisine will fascinate you.
Overview of Samos
Samos is the closest of the Greek islands to the Turkish coast. The distance of 1,300 metres separating Europe from Asia has been known since ancient times as “Eptastadios Porthmos” or “Mycale Strait”. Chios lies to the Northwest of Samos, Ikaria to the west, the island complex of Fournoi Korseon to the southwest and the Dodecanese to the south of the island.
The town of Samos (Vathy) is the administrative centre of the municipality. Karlovasi is the second largest urban centre, hosting the headquarters of the School of Sciences of the University of the Aegean. Pythagorio is the historic municipality of the island, where the foundations of the ancient city of Samos were laid. Its fourth largest town is Marathokampos, at the foot of the imposing mountain Kerkis. A total of 33 large and small villages and many small settlements with a distinct local style expand from the coast of the island to the mainland, which is dominated by two mountain ranges, Karvounis (elevation 1,153 m) and Kerkis (elevation 1,443 m.
Samos is the birthplace of great historical figures of the ancient world: the philosopher Epicurus, the founder of the heliocentric theory Artistarchos, as well as the great philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras. Herodotus and Aesop also lived for long periods on the island and, according to mythology, the goddess Hera was born there
Samos offers a distinctive combination of mountains and sea. Dense vegetation reaches the island's intricate coastline. Fountains with clear water flow through the intense geophysical terrain. It is a unique place that is worth exploring.
- Samos: The town of Samos, built amphitheatrically around the bay of Vathy, is the capital of the island since the Principality era. The town hall is housed in the renovated building of the former Parliament of Samos, with the archaeological Museum and the majestic church of Agios Spyridon on its sides. Neoclassical and traditional buildings adorn the town. The quay with the Pythagoras square and the characteristic lion sculpture, a symbol of the Samian bravery, is the main centre of urban life.
- Karlovasi: A town with glorious past, built on the edge of lush hillsides where stepped crops alternate with dense pine forests. It consists of the settlements of Palaio, Neo and Mesaio Karlovasi, the Port and Ormos (the bay). The headquarters of the Faculty of Sciences of the Aegean University are in Karlovasi. Wealthy old manors and imposing churches create the image of a town where tradition goes hand in hand with entrepreneurship, the new with the old.
- Ano Vathy: One of the oldest settlements on the island that preserves largely its traditional character with beautiful houses, cobbled streets, picturesque squares and numerous churches. A typical attraction is the two-aisled church of "Ai Giannakis" of 1799 and the namesake open theatre where cultural events are held.
- Pythagorio: Built on the ruins of the ancient town of Samos, once a poor fishing village, today it is the most popular, cosmopolitan resort of the island. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of the important archaeological findings. Beaches, restaurants, cafés, nightlife, day trips by boat, are elements that attract visitors. The port and the neighbouring marina can accommodate small and large boats. Sea routes for the Dodecanese also depart from here.
- Marathokampos:At the foot of Kerkis with beautiful stone houses and narrow streets, it preserves historical references from the early 17th century. Ormos and Kampos are two developed tourist coastal areas of Marathokampos.
Recreation, Entertainment, Cultural events
- Hiking, Climbing & Caving :
Samos, with its amazing natural topography, is ideal for walking, hiking, climbing, cycling, horse-riding and caving. While passing through the island, the images alternate constantly and visitors come across old trails, wild forests, ancient olive groves, vineyards in terraces, beautiful villages, picturesque chapels, fountains and ravines, canyons, caves. In the background, the view always meets the infinite blue shades of the Aegean sea
- Historical Interest, Monuments :
Heraion was a place of worship since ancient times. Archaeological research has revealed remnants of at least 4 churches: Hekatompedon I (8th century BC), Hekatompedon II (7th century BC), the temple of Rhoikos and Theodoros (6th century BC), the temple built by the tyrant Polycrates (538-522 BC) and other smaller temples of Hellenistic and Roman periods. Herodotus mentions that the Heraion of Samos was the biggest and most imposing temple of its time. It is a dipteral Ionic temple, with 155 gigantic columns, of which only one survives upright. Many offerings to the goddess Hera are masterpieces and demonstrate the religious influence of the sanctuary throughout Greece, Asia Minor, the Middle East and Egypt. Part of the temple complex is also Iera odos (the Sacred Way), paved with stone, that led to the ancient town of Samos (Pythagorio).
The Tunnel of Eupalinos, the “double-edged tunnel” as Herodotus called it, was built during the regime of the tyrant Polycrates by the architect Eupalinos in order to supply water to the ancient town of Samos. With a total length of 1,036m, it is considered one of the greatest technical achievements of its time, also known as the “8th Wonder of the Ancient World”. Construction began simultaneously from two opposite sides of the hill of the ancient acropolis and was completed midway with a deviation of a few meters.
The Polykratian walls with a length of about 6.5 km and a width of up to 3 metres, fortified the ancient town of Samos. The few remaining parts of the walls are impressive structures built with huge stones and the large are they once enclosed can be viewed from the top of the ancient acropolis.
Sports facilities of the ancient town have been discovered in the archaeological site of Thermes, west of Pythagorio, including a gymnasium, an arena and a stadium of about 200 metres in length, one of the largest of its time. The same reveals the ruins of the Roman baths, built around the mid 2nd century AD.
The Tower of Lykourgos Logothetis, southwest of the port of Pythagorio, includes parts of the Byzantine castle that was abandoned in the mid 15th century. The leader of the Samian revolution, Lykourgos Logothetis, fortified it again and converted one of the towers into a command post. Today, it is a restored museum. The historic Temple of Metamorfosi Sotiros was built near the tower, to commemorate the victorious Battle of Samos in the straits of Mykali in August 1824.
On a steep hill, in the ravine of Potami, Karlovasi, there are remnants of a Byzantine castle and Churches, dating between the 12th and 14th century.
Samos Town Hall is an exceptional example of neoclassical architecture. It was built in 1901, during the Principality, in order to house the Parliament of Samos. It was renovated in the 1990s and preserves historical relics of the island since 1821, the Constitution of Samos, important documents, notable paintings and historical portraits. The amphitheatre hosts many events and public speeches.
The Centre for Ecclesiastical Studies of the Metropolis houses a very rich archive of Samian religious history and a library with a collection of manuscripts, codes and documents.
The Public Library of Samos is housed in a well-preserved neoclassical building on the city's promenade which dates back to 1850. One can search collections of rare publications and manuscripts, important history and literary books.
A renovated old prison of 1882 houses the Historical Archive of Samos. It preserves thousands of handwritten books, files, documents and collections from the 17th century. Digital archives are available to researchers and visitors. In the beautiful octagonal patio special concerts and interesting lectures are held.
The Samian coasts with their clear waters and amazing, bustling seabed, will fascinate lovers of scuba-diving and water activities. Mild climate with moderate winds and many nearby, interesting destinations in neighbouring coasts and islands, offer the opportunity for unique sailing experiences. The north side of the island, where it is often windy, is popular for windsurfing and kite surfing.
- Cultural Events & Festivals
Culture has multiple facets in Samos. Especially during summer, with visitors from Europe and around the world, a rich cultural programme is offered including various festivals, theatrical and dance performances, music concerts, scientific conferences, workshops and events.
The Ireon Music Festival is the most popular in the eastern Aegean. It takes place early August in Heraion, just a few metres from the ancient temple of Hera. It was established in 2004 and every year it hosts famous artists of the Greek and foreign music industry.
The Irea-Pythagoria festival, with references to the ancient mysteries related to the worship of goddess Hera. They take place under the auspices of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO and the Association of Greek Olympic Champions. During the festival, philosophical and scientific conferences and high-level cultural events are hosted.
The Young Artists Festival is a meeting of prominent artists from all over the world in the ancient theatre of Pythagorio, with an emphasis on the exchange of culture through music.
The Samian Wine Festivals are hosted every summer, with many musical and dance events taking place throughout Samos and starring the famous Samian wines.
Visual art exhibitions (painting, photography, film/video, installations) are presented by artists and artistic groups drawing inspiration from interesting local and global issues.
A Film Festival, is held every summer with outdoor screenings of Greek and foreign films and documentaries.
The Archaeological Museum of Samos is located in the town of Samos and its findings are exhibited in two buildings. The old museum, a great neoclassical building of 1912, contains collections from many periods and interesting exhibits including sculptures, ceramics, copper, ivory, wood, miniatures and jewellery. The new museum, inaugurated in 1987, hosts the collection of archaic sculptures. The most famous exhibit of the museum is the impressive 5.25m-tall "Kouros of Samos", considered the biggest well preserved Kouros statue in Greece.
The Archaeological Museum of Pythagorio hosts a rich collection of chamois and griffins, Ionic and Samian kylices, hydrias, coins, spectacular kouroi and many findings of the necropolis from four different eras (Geometric, Archaic, Hellenistic, Roman). Some of the most notable exhibits are a sculpted earthen tablet of Nike riding a chariot, busts of Roman emperors, a statue of Venus and the headstone of Lucius.
The Natural History Museum of the Aegean, houses the departments of Zoology, Minerals and Rocks, Marine Life, Botany, and Palaeontology. The fossilized animal bones found on the island (many of them from the upper Miocene age), including tiny horses (Hipparion), mastodons (Mastodont Iongirostris), Hyena (Crocura eximia), Samothirio (Samotherium boisieri) and Rhinoceros are notable exhibits. The last feline that came to Samos from Asia Minor, almost 150 years ago, is exhibited embalmed and was a source of inspiration to the world famous book titled "Wildcat behind glass", by writer Alki Zei.
Samos Wine Museum next to the modern winery of the Winemaking Cooperatives Union of Samos, displays the history of the Samian wine. The exhibits include old and traditional tools of wine making and barrel manufacturing, collectible bottles and items. The visitors have the chance to taste all Samian wines.
The Folklore Museum of Samos of the N. Dimitriou Cultural Foundation hosts interesting representations of the island's everyday life, until the middle of the last century. It includes authentic everyday objects like utensils, handicrafts, textiles, costumes and jewellery as well as tools of traditional professions, like barbers, cobblers, fishermen, basket-makers, bee-keepers and farmers.
The collection of the Folklore Museum of Karlovasi includes some important elements of tradition and folklore art of the period 1870 - 1955 with fine exhibits, such as porcelain, carved mirrors, silverware and antique furniture.
The Folklore Museum of Pagonda represents entirely a traditional Samian house with furniture and utensils, in five beautifully formed rooms, the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, the loom room and the basement.
The Folklore Museum of Koumaiika is housed in a historic building from 1880 and features numerous folklore elements from the region.
An old stone-built tannery houses the Tannery Museum in “Tampakika”, Karlovasi. It presents old techniques of leather tanning, that contributed for a long time to the island's economic growth.
The Ecclesiastical Byzantine Museum of Samos exhibits icons, chalices and utensils, ecclesiastical books, rare textbooks and the “holy cloak” of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Gregory V.