Greek Guide

 

Samothraki Tourist Attractions Day Trips Greece Greek Travel Guide

When it comes to day time activities on Samothraki don't expect aqua parks, amusement arcades and frantic beachfront activity. This is a tranquil island with an awe inspiring landscape which draws hikers and nature lovers rather than action seekers. The main attraction is the soul stirring archaeological site of the Great Gods in the north of the island. But Samothraki also offers hot springs, refreshing waterfalls, mountain walks and traditional unspoilt villages.

The Sanctuary of the Great Gods must be top of your "to do" list because even if you're not a history or archaeology buff you won't failed to be moved by one of the most evocative ancient sites in the whole of Greece. Allow several hours exploration of the site, near the hamlet of Paleopoli three kilometres north of the island's capital, Hora. The sanctuary ruins lie in a densely wooded gorge between the sea and 1611 metre Mount Fengari, the highest peak in the Aegean. It's a magical setting which perhaps explains why this was chosen as the main place of worship for the cult of the Great Gods as long ago as 1000 BC. The all powerful forerunners of the better known Olympian gods drew worshippers from all over the ancient world to be initiated into the mysterious cult which practised pagan rites, sacrifices and secret ceremonies the depths of which historians have never been able to fathom. Those who joined the cult broke its strict secrecy code on pain of death.

Sights to see among the extensive ruins include the Anaktoron Sanctuary where the first stage of initiation into the cult took place. But the main attraction is the Hieron, with its five reconstructed columns, where pilgrims went on to the second initiation stage involving confession, absolution and baptism in the blood of a sacrificed bull. You can see finds from the site at the nearby Archaeological Museum which contains various well labeled exhibits including terracotta figurines, vases, jewellery and votive offerings. There's also a plaster cast of the famous Winged Victory of Samothraki statue which was unearthed here by the French in 1863 and is now one of the star exhibits in the Louvre in Paris.

At Loutra (also known as Therma), six kilometres east along the coast from the sanctuary, you can bathe in natural hot springs said to cure all manner of ills thanks to their high mineral content. Or if you're feeling energetic, use this as your starting point for a gruelling trek up to the peak of Mount Fengari. Legend has it that if you make it to the top on the night of a full moon your wish will come true. If you're mad enough to try it in the dark the chances are your only wish will be to make it back down in one piece.

There's a much easier walk along the Fonias River, about five kilometres east of Loutra. The delightful two kilometre trail ends in a sheer cliff face at the base of which lies a large pool fed by a 12 metre waterfall. The perfect place for a cooling dip before making the journey back along the river.