Guardian: Tribute to the Andros island

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Guardian: Tribute to the Andros islandGuardian pays tribute to the Greek island of Andros

Guardian pays tribute to the Greek island of Andros in a recent article in which the British newspaper notes the following:

"Leaving a sodden British summer for a Greek island known as Micra Anglia – Little England – seemed like tempting fate, but worrying about the weather wasn’t necessary. Rugged Andros, the northernmost island in the Cyclades, owes its sobriquet to the Greek shipping clans who run their maritime empires from London, dispatch their offspring to British boarding schools, but have established members’ clubs, museums, and even a class system of sorts back home. These magnates have also kept tourism at bay: not wanting their homeland overrun by holidaymakers. So this large, lush island, only two hours from Athens, has stayed under the radar.

Those who do venture to Andros generally stick to the coast, scalloped with over 70 beaches, or the stately town of Chora, a cluster of neoclassical mansions jutting out to sea. Inland, the landscape is more evocative of the Scottish Highlands than the Cyclades: arched stone bridges and burbling brooks, valleys punctuated by medieval watchtowers, waterfalls spilling through chestnut forests.

“There’s amazing diversity hidden in the folds of the four mountain ranges,” says Olga Karayiannis, the driving force behind Andros Routes, a community initiative set up to clear and waymark the island’s 300km network of footpaths – for self-guided walking adventures. For centuries, these often stone-paved trails were the main routes of commerce, communication, and transportation between the island’s 84 villages. So far, Olga and her team of volunteers have opened up 20 (well-signposted) paths, including the Andros Route – a 100km-long trail from north to south, that usually takes walkers 10 days. The European Ramblers’ Association recently certified the Andros Route as one of Europe’s Leading Quality Trails.

“These paths were a forgotten resource,” says Olga. “We’ve revived the infrastructure, now we want to bring the benefits of sustainable tourism to Andros, especially to the remote villages that are being deserted.” These days, shipping is a globalised industry, and this has had knock-on effects on the local economy: the trade in silk and citrus fruits that once made Andros rich has died out. So Olga is encouraging locals to open pitstops along the routes where they can welcome ramblers, cooking them lunch, or selling them their produce.

On our family-friendly break, my partner and I didn’t have to stray far from Ktima Lemonies, an enchanting guesthouse among citrus groves, to find a trail easy enough for our four-year-old, Lucas. A footpath at our doorstep connected the orchards of Kato (Lower) Lamyra with the manor houses of Ano (Upper) Lamyra. The scent of orange blossom and honeysuckle hung thick in the still air. Every so often, Chora appeared like a mirage on the horizon, framed by cypress trees. We drank from a 200-year-old fountain, rolled fallen lemons down the lanes and feasted on foraged mulberries that turned our fingers purple.

Each day, we woke to a heavenly breakfast laid out under the lemon trees. Everything (apart from teas from Mariage Frères in Paris) was sourced from the surrounding estate or local farmers. There was lemon-and-poppyseed cake, yoghurt with plum compote, oregano-flecked cheese, and a dozen homemade jams from kumquat to quince. Nelly Grypari, our chic host, encouraged us to fill a picnic basket as we planned a day at a secret beach she’d directed us to.

First, we had to earn our swim. Driving into the mountains, bright sunshine abruptly gave way to such dense fog that we could barely see where the road ended and the cliffs began. We swerved past Vourkoti, the highest village in the Cyclades, until we reached Arni, the “little Switzerland” of Andros. As the bells of the village church rang out, the clouds parted, revealing blue-grey hills receding into the mist. We strolled through a canopy of trees until we came to a crooked gate with a crude sign: FOUNT. OPEN THE DOOR. CLOSE. We marched straight through to a gushing spring decorated with plastic flowers. Water never tasted sweeter.

Marvelling at the views, we descended to the Vori wetlands, passing goats perched on slabs of rock. “We’re in the jungle!” Lucas squealed, as we tramped through waist-high reeds looking out for rare Eleonora’s falcons. Over a third of Andros is a nature reserve, an important habitat for migrating birds. All we saw, though, were electric-blue dragonflies flitting around to a discordant orchestra of frogs.

At Froussei, we hunted for treasure of a different kind: clambering down a ravine, we discovered 16 stone watermills crumbling into the riverbed. One had become a goat cemetery, strewn with skulls. Our Andros Routes guide, Yiannis Tridimas, a retired professor and fell runner, leaped over the rocks like a mountain goat. As a boy, he would bring wheat here on the family donkey, to be ground into flour. “There were 25 kids in my village,” said Yiannis. “We had to walk an hour over the hills to school, then an hour back again. That’s when I learned to love this landscape.”

The hike to Achla beach was too challenging for Lucas and the bone-rattling dirt road was too much for me, so we took a boat from Chora. After swimming in the gin-clear sea, we wandered up the valley to a cascading rock pool shaded by ancient planes. “I wish we could stay here forever,” Lucas sighed. I couldn’t grant him that wish, but the next best thing was missing the boat back to Chora and having to spend the night at Onar, a handful of smartly renovated stone cottages in the wilderness. We lazed in a hammock on the stone terrace. “I’ve never seen so many stars,” Lucas marvelled. Neither have I."

Source: Guardian

Read more here.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

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