Coordinates: 40°29′N 25°31′E
(1) Alexandroupoli (2) Didymoteicho (3) Orestiada
(4) Samothraki (5) Soufli
Samothrace (also Samothraki) is a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. It is a self-governing municipality within the Evros peripheral unit of Thrace. The island is 17 km (11 mi) long and is 178 km2 (69 sq mi) in size and has a population of 2,723 (2001). Its main industries are fishing and tourism. Resources on the island includes granite and basalt. Samothrace is one of the most rugged Greek islands, with Mt. Fengari rising to 1,611 m.
Samothrace was not a state of any political significance in ancient Greece, since it has no natural harbour and most of the island is too mountainous for cultivation: Mount Fengari (Mount Moon) rises to 1,611 m (5,285 ft). It was, however, the home of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, site of important Hellenic and pre-Hellenic religious ceremonies. Among those who visited this shrine to be initiated into the island cult were King Lysander of Sparta, Philip II of Macedon and Cornelius Piso, father-in-law of Julius Caesar.
The ancient city, the ruins of which are called Palaeopoli (“old city”), was situated on the north coast. Considerable remains still exist of the ancient walls, which were built in massive Cyclopean style, as well as of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, where mysterious rites took place which were open to both slaves and free people (similar to the Eleysinian Mysteries).
The modern port town of Kamariotissa is on the north-west coast and provides ferry access to and from points in northern Greece such as Alexandroupoli and Kavala. There is no commercial airport on the island. Other sites of interest on the island include the ruins of Genoese forts, the picturesque Chora (old town), and several waterfalls.
The island’s most famous site is the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, (Greek: Hieron ton Megalon Theon); the most famous artifact of which is the 2.5-metre marble statue of Nike, now known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace, dating from about 190 BC. It was discovered in pieces on the island in 1863 by the French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, and is now – headless – in the Louvre in Paris.
Read more about the history of Samothraki at Wikipedia’s website
Activities on Samothraki
Vatos Beach: Vatos, to the east of Pachia Ammos, is accessible only by boat. It is a beach of unique beauty, surrounded by high rocks with caves. There you can find a sandy beach and a ravine with plane trees, coolish waters, “vathres” and waterfalls. Around 200m before reaching the sea the waters disappear, continuing underground. The beach is filled with natural beauty and tranquility, a perfect place for unwinding.
You can choose to stay there for a night or more, in tents or sleeping bags, after an agreement with the boatman. If you stay there for more days, the boat can bring you some necessary things like water and proviant. During the summer, boats come daily, except in case of stormy weather.
Thermal Baths: East of Paleopolis about 13 km from Kamariotissa, is Therma or Loutra (Spa), a small village that is very busy during summer, due to its sulphurous water springs and thermal baths which were already reknowned in Byzantine times for their therapeutic properties. The area vegetation is rich with plane-trees, chestnuts, arbtuses and myrtles. You will also find nightlife, wonderful tavernas on the way to Ghria Vathra and especially a café that keeps the night alive till early in the morning.
Mountaineering: If you love hiking don’t miss out on the ravine of Fonias. It springs from the peak of the mountain, creating many “vathres” and dangerous crossings on its way down, the gorge of Fonias is a challenge for every daring explorer, offering as a reward the dramatic view from the peak. Fonias in Greek means “killer” and it derives its name by its deadly impact on adventurous people exploring its beauties. After heavy rainfalls it flushes water from the mountain unexpectedly and it has killed some people. It is also much steeper and more dangerous than Ghria Vathra.
Climbers need special climbing gear, good shoes and of course experience. Notice that along the ravines of the island cellphones do not have contact with the antennas, due to the morphology of the ground. River water comes from the mountain and is drinkable and of good quality, the only problem is that people swim in the “vathres” during summer months.
A special municipal effort has started to protect Fonias ravine beauty and keep it clean, as tourists tend to multiply year by year. There is a low fee to enter the ravine, just for supporting the municipal effort.