Andros: rugged, cool and cultured
Andros, the northernmost and second largest of the Cyclades, is nowadays perhaps best known for its museums, largely the products of prosperity derived from its strong shipping tradition. The marks of this wealth are abundantly evident in the island’s capital, Hora, with its neoclassical mansions, distinct interwar architectural character and narrow alleys. The prosperity brought by shipping probably helped limit the excesses of tourist development, but also contributed to the island’s somewhat insular reputation.
In the 1950s, when its shipping industry saw rapid growth, Andros was known as one of the top summer resorts of Athenian high society, but also as one of the most inhospitable places for ordinary folks. Happily, this is no longer the case and the island’s proximity to Athens makes it a pleasant weekend getaway destination for most of the year, while its important cultural venues periodically host events of international interest. To be sure, Andros has a lot to offer besides culture. It stands out among the rest of the Cyclades for its plentiful fresh waters, cool valleys and lush hills filled with fig, olive and cypress trees.
The 177-kilometer-long coastline is generally rocky, but has an abundance of excellent and uncrowded beaches: Mikrogiali, Achla, Fellos, Kastro, Melissa, Korthi, Halkiolimionas and Plaka among others. Quite a few of them are remote and require either a considerable walk or a car to reach them. The highlight is To Pidima tis Grias, north of Korthi Bay on the east coast. According to legend, the name is derived from the old woman who jumped from the Venetian castle above out of remorse for her betrayal when she opened the gate to the besieging Turks. The beaches near Hora are generally crowded. Gavrio, the port, and Batsi on the western coast, both fishing villages until about 20 years ago, have slowly developed and today they are practically joined together. The 7-kilometer area in between is lined with sandy beaches and small coves. The restaurants, tavernas, bars, cafes and car, boat and motorbike hire and water sports facilities in this area all combine to make up lively tourist resorts. Most of the hotel rooms, studios and apartments can be found in this part of the island. The unofficial nudist beach is just on the edge of Batsi by Blue Bay. Undoubtedly Batsi is the lively center of entertainment with Gavrio a bit quieter but lacking in no respects.
What to See
In Hora: the Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art, the Archaeological Museum, which includes a copy of the oversized 1st-century BC Hermes of Andros, and the neoclassical mansions. The Maritime Museum has a rich collection of ship models; the statue of the Unknown Seaman and the picturesque chapel of Panagia Thalassini, standing alone on a rock below Hora. The Dipotamata gorge, near Korthi, for a rough walk.
Andros on the Map
Facts & figures
The closest islands are Tinos, Syros and Mykonos. Andros has an area of 374 square kilometers, maximum length 39.8 km, maximum width 16.7 km, coastline length 177 km and a population of about 10,000. It is the second-largest Cyclades island after Naxos and its port is Gavrio. Jeeps are the best way to tour the island and can be rented locally.
Andros is also superb for hiking, crisscrossed by traditional stone-paved paths, most of them well-preserved and offering long treks through lush villages and valleys, often dotted with remnants of water-powered mills and other installations of the pre-industrial era. The four-hour trek from Hora to Korthi is one such recommended route. You will not miss the artful, stone-built enclosures and walls, with huge slabs of flat perpendicular rock, probably unique in all of Greece.
Palaiopoli, 9 kilometers from Batsi, the ancient capital of the island, is now a small picturesque village on a lush slope, high above a beach reached via more than 1,000 steps. Apoikia, another lush village, along the route from Menites to Hora, boasts the Sariza spring, famous for its mineral water.
The culturally oriented should not miss the Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art in Hora, which hosts permanent collections by Yiannis Tsarouchis, Spyros Vasiliou, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas and Giorgos Bouzianis, as well as prominent painters, sculptors, and other artists. The other important cultural venues in Hora are the Archaeological Museum, the Kydoniefs Foundation, the Maritime Museum, the Kairios Library and the Folk Museum.
Where to Eat
Paraporti, just outside Hora, in traditional style; Asimolefka, in Ipsilou, preferred by the locals; Thalassa, in Batsi, for fresh fish; Pertesis, in Strapouries, for very tasty roast pork and which used to be patronized by Maria Callas and Christina Onassis; Kossis, in Ano Fellos, for roast lamb and goat; Platanos in Hora for ouzo. Buy traditional sweets, such as almond cakes (amigdalota), kaltsounia and the lemon preserve from Laskaris in Hora.