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A spine of mountains runs the length of Amorgos like the battlement of a vast natural fortification defending the easternmost limits of the Cyclades. Wind-sculpted ridges drop in hidden folds and creases to deep-cut inlets that harboured bloodthirsty bands of pirates at many a time in the island’s turbulent history.
Vertiginous limestone cliffs, towering above a distant, glittering blue Aegean Sea, were immortalised in Luc Besson’s cult free-diving film ‘Le Grand Bleu’.
Rock-paved mule-tracks delineate the dramatic contours of time-eroded slate and limestone, leading to hidden oases, a medieval monastery embedded in a vertical cliff, or a tower built with massive blocks of stone over 2,000 years ago as a defence against pirates.
Follow mountain tracks that thread between aromatic shrubs and pockets of miniature wildflowers to secret valleys scattered with the remnants of an ancient temple or guarded by a tiny, early Christian chapel.
Amorgos provides a direct and intimate experience of Greece as it used to be. Its population of 1,800 or so is a tenth of that of Naxos, and the island is still remote enough to have held on to its traditional character.
The island was an important hub of the Early Bronze Age Cycladic culture; the small-scale farming systems established then are not a lot different 5,000 years on: you can still see simple stone-built animal shelters and farm buildings, or father, son and donkey working on old stone threshing circles. The tumble of dice-like, whitewashed buildings, arches and alleys in the mountain villages are the living descendants of ancient Cycladic architecture.
Coastal paths with breathtaking views of island and sea lead to a rocky citadel which, in the time when myths were made, was a thriving metropolis. And as you relax at a seaside taverna in the evening, the leviathan shapes of mountains deepen to purple against the pastel-shaded bowl of sky.
9 days, 8 nights with the possibility of 2 days extension
A circular walk, along with and above the coast, past a Bronze Age acropolis, then along mountain paths winding around the valley head, to villages with tumbled cubes of Cycladic houses. Return in the lee of craggy cliffs with views of gleaming sea, rugged headlands… and the rest of the Cyclades. Accommodation: Hotel by the beach, Eghiali.
From the coast, through the Kambos (plain) then along traditional paths into the mountains of the north-east. The monastery of John the Theologian is a haven of peace in a wild landscape. There’s an option to head further into a precipitous region of dizzying cliffs and bauxite-bearing rock, high above the ocean. Accommodation: Hotel by the beach, Eghiali
Walk half the island’s length, with the land falling away to a dazzling sea on either side, along a centuries-old route to Chozioviotissa, a startling vertical splash of white monastery embedded in a cliff. On the way are a deserted village, and the ruins of the medieval ‘hotel’. Arrive in the capital, where Cycladic buildings and alleyways cluster around an eruption of rock. Accommodation: Comfortable village rooms, Chora.
Follow high valley contours to a monastery with an oasis garden and spiritual waters. Then dip in and out of rugged limestone gulleys to the ancient coast road and acropolis, which some say was the summer palace of King Minos of Crete. Descend along a stone-paved footpath to the geometric cut of Katapola Bay. Accommodation: Comfortable village rooms, Katapola.
A circular walk via a fishing village that captures the essence of Greece, then over hills high above a carved coastline and gleaming sea. Pass through wildflower hotspots, before a steep zig-zag rollercoaster to Chora for lunch. The return footpath to the coast is easy-going, along a traditional route through a deep valley. Accommodation: Comfortable village rooms, Katapola.
Departure or 2-day extension of your walking holidays.
An old route trodden by farmers and pilgrims, between the one-time settlements of Minoa, the city-state of Ancient Arkesini, and the lowlands of Kato Meria (a low place), which are still farmed pretty much as they were 4000 years ago. Pass cliff-top hamlets, tiny chapels, and scattered remains of pre-Christian temples, then over the brow of the island to look along its precipitous northerly cliffs. Accommodation: Village rooms, modern Arkesini.
A mixed bag of perfectly paved old paths, dirt roads and cross-country tracks with consistently staggering views of coast and mountain, takes you to a lumpy cone of rock rising directly from the sea, topped by the ancient city-state of Arkesini. The return route passes the remains of a tower built from gigantic blocks of rock, which fortified a farm, its land, and peasants against the threat of pirates. Accommodation: Village rooms, Katapola.
Departure to Piraeus.