It is quite possible that with a well fed donkey you could get from one end of Folegandros to the other in a couple of kicks and a lunch break. Folegandros is in the South Aegean, four hours by fast ferry from Athens, or for the jet set it’s a mere 45 minutes from Santorini by SeaJet.
Folgandros is a place to escape from everything, except for crystal clear waters, food and wine that Dionysus would throughly approve of and unspoilt beaches to explore. Unless you plan on a helicopter, the island can only be accessed by boat, which provides an excellent buffer between you and Tommy Cook crowds.
The island is made up of one long ridge with the main port (we say “main” but it’s all relative) as it is limited to a few small day fishing boats, the local tour guides boat and a few sleepy bars. The water is perfect for a splash pre ferry trip. From here, the twisting road leads to Chora (pronounced Hora), the main town and beating heart of the island, from which you can head for the further end of the island and Ano Meria.
WHERE TO STAY
We like to think that in our guides we provide options. And Folegandros does have options – apartments, small villas and other hotels. But for this guide we are getting dictatorial: Anemomilos. This isn’t the Four Seasons (thank the lord), it’s a family run hotel and that is its magic. Along with the best view on Folegandros island from any hotel.
The Patelis have opened up their own private street to guests, each house comprising of one or two studio’s with spectacular views. The pool sits near the cliff edge, a hop skip and a jump from a covered balcony. Having heavily researched all the Greek Salads the island has to offer, we can promise that theirs is the best. Alex the barman (ex professional footballer) will kick any problems into touch and can magic up a milkshake, Mythos or indeed a glass wine quicker than you can say Ronaldo.
Book a Blue Studio (which guarantees you a sea view). They come well equipped with a terrace for sundowners (or sunuppers), air-conditioning, beach towels, pools towels, dressing gowns and your own wifi (so you can check its raining at home and feel gloriously smug). House elves are additional.
Nestled above the Anemomilos on the hill is the Church of Panagia which is open every day between 6pm and 9pm. If you plan on doing something outrageously romantic, you can walk up behind the church and over the crest at sunrise to watch it light of the islands around you, perched on the cliff top. Only marginally less romantic but more conducive to a full nights sleep is to watch the sunset before rolling down the hill into a suitable taverna.
WHERE TO EAT
The island has four centres for Tavernas: Chora, the Port, Ano Meria and Angali. Chora has the stars of the show, although if you’re a pre or post beach hop from the Port then there are some good spots here for a well deserved lunch – and all the restaurants are al fresco.
If you walk through the two squares of Chora (each with its own church) you can pop out the other side and find Eva’s Garden nestled beneath the Bougainvillea. Try out their Taleggio Cheese starter, Orzo Pasta or Sea Bass Risotto. If you don’t want to keep your options open, you might need to book.
If you’re staying at Anemomilos, this is your nearest – which is lucky as it’s also one of the islands favourites. We don’t always agree with Trip Advisor but the ratings here are spot on. Nestled within its own walled garden and run by a father and his two children (we guess Mrs Pounda was in the kitchen doing what she does best), the Moussaka is splendid, the olive oil is the best and they do a pretty maaaarvellous goat stew. No really.. we aren’t kidding.
Situated at the far end of Chora this is a new alfresco upstart with hip concrete tables and yellow standing lamps and an adventurous menu. Pick a windless night or you might have more spaghetti in your hair than your mouth – and their Bucatini pasta was delicious, as is their Seafood Burger, so it would be a travesty to waste any.
Just around the corner from Blue Cuisine is an Arabic-Greek restaurant founded by an Syrian architect. You’ll get the full show here – Olive Oil and Arabic spices rolled into delicious combinations. The Gazpachio was a particular favourite but do pay attention, it doesn’t favour white tops.
The central squares in Chora are packed full of Taverna’s and its fair to say you won’t do badly with any. But pay close attention to Melissa’s (green furniture at the last tasting). They do a wonderful mixture of traditional Greek pieces from the charcoal oven. Not a fish restaurant but their specials will have you more excited than a Justin Bieber fan.
WHAT TO DO
Absolutely nothing. We mean it. This is time to relax, read a book and ensure your only dilemma is whether to have a beach or pool day.. As such we are rather delighted that the only recommendations we can make are which beaches to choose. Most beaches can be reached by scooter or bus with a short walk. Longer walks criss-cross the island where you can take in a beach and indeed a remote Church too.
Agios Nikolaos beach is accessible by path or local ferry (from Angali). There are two resturants, one on the beach and the other perched up above the church. After a hard mornings sunbathing, Papalagi is worth the short climb for a cold glass of wine and fresh fish off the grill.
Vardia Beach – The Port
A little hidden cove behind the port which is perfect for a morning beach trip. There is no cafe here so make sure you come equipped with your brolly and water (or Mythos for that matter). You can wander back into the port for lunch.
Katergo Beach – The Port
There are regular boats that run from the Port over the day and they even swing by a blue cave or two on the way. Ensure you have supplies as there is no restaurant here either – but it’s well worth the trip. Be aware that you may find yourselves next to a couple who have either forgotten their swimming togs or don’t feel the need for them.
The Uncle Gelateria – Chora
Born and raised in Turin, Stephano runs the best Ice Cream parlour in Folegandros. The name is a tribute to his uncle who taught him the Italian secrets behind ice cream making and his Uncle must have been quite the boy as these are the real deal. The flavours change daily, and everything is made using Italian producuce combined with fresh Folegandros milk: Walnuts from Sorrento, Pistachios from Sicily and Hazelnuts from Piemonte. D E L I C I O U S. We particularly recommend the Stracciatella and Mango. At the same time obviously.
Take Cash: It’s Greece. But you can have a good slap up dinner for under 50 euros.
Jelly Shoes: If you’re going for the Ursula Andress look coming out of the sea, its pebbly.
Try the local bus: It’s surprisingly easy to hop around the island in air conditioned splendour for a couple of euros and an ice cream while you wait. You can hire Cars, ATV’s or Scooters by the day (and indeed Donkeys).
Book in June or September: It’s not the holidays and August is hot hot hot.
Cats: There are a lot of them. If you’re strictly dog person then you are going to have to become more tolerant before going.
Take something warm: when the wind gets up, the evenings can be cool depending on where they are blowing from. It’s all relative of course – this isn’t the artic darlings.
Book for longer: you will never want to come home.
Contributors: Mr and Mrs Auree
Image credits: www.yourgreekisland.com, www.cypriotandproud.com, www.essentaste.com, www.bluecuisine.gr