Thursday, April 3, 2008

Thassos Island

Thassos, the most verdant of the northern Aegean islands, was colonized at a very early date – owing to its privileged position and rich deposits of gold and marble – by the Phoenicians (1600 – 1500 BC) and later by sailors from Paros (7th century BC). From the 6th to the 4th century BC Thassos enjoyed great prosperity, of which we see irrefutable evidence in the remains of ancient Thassos which are to be found to the east of the capital of the island, Limenas. The ancient city of Thassos had two harbors – one for fighting vessels and one for commerce. In front of the naval harbor lay the ancient agora, surrounded by three great porticoes to the north-west and south-east, while to the north-east lie the ruins of the courthouse, the Tholos, storehouses, a small, oblique portico and an early Christian basilica. To the east of the agora, walking towards the acropolis, we can make out the remains of the Sanctuary of Dionysus (5th century BC) and a little farther on the sanctuary of Poseidon (4th century BC). The specially laid ascending path leads to the ancient theatre (5th century BC), with a unique view of the sea, which was converted into an arena in Roman times. From the theatre the path leads to the remains of the acropolis and the temple of Athena, protector of the city (6th – 5th century BC). Finally, the visitor must call in at the recently renovated Thassos Archaeological Museum, containing the remarkable finds excavated at the ancient city: the statues of a young man bearing a ram, Aphrodite with a dolphin, the head of Dionysus, etc.
Thassos is now a beautiful tourist destination, with easy access from Kavala or Keramoti by hydrofoil or ferry boat, with excellent roads and superb amenities for all visitors.
Thassos has everything needed to offer a unique holiday experience: unrivalled beauty, roads winding along a magical coastline, opportunities for excursions to beach or mountain, a natural setting in which the visitor can unwind and surrender utterly to peace and tranquility.
The island people are hard-working. They fish and till the soil, but also produce ceramic ware, weave and engage in all sorts of other crafts.
The main town of the island, Limenas, is a small, picturesque location which is steadily developing into a tourist destination known throughout Greece and beyond. There are hotels and rented rooms in the town centre and on the outskirts. At specially selected points around the town, where there is a fine view of the sea, the visitor will find little taverns serving delicious appetizers, as well as tourist shops with every imaginable kind f souvenir. There are a fair number of organized beaches for swimming, such as those at Glyfada and Glyfoneri, as well as Makryammos just outside Limenas.
The coast road and the little streets of the town are perfect for an afternoon stroll. One of the most picturesque parts of the town is the old harbor with its fishing vessels, dominated by the “Kaloyeriko”, built by monks from the Vatopedi Monastery of Mt Athos in the late 19th century.
The road around the island offers an ideal drive for the tourist. Setting off eastwards from Limenas we pass the magnificent Makryammos beach, with its turquoise sea and immaculate sand. This is one of the oldest tourist’s spots on the island, with restaurants, bars, tennis courts, pools, etc. You can also get here by boat from Limenas and enjoy a beautiful sail along the coast.
Next we come to Panayia, one of the best-known traditional communities on the island. The village owes its name to the church of the Panayia on the central square, with its huge shady plane trees, running water and picturesque little cafés serving the traditional preserved walnuts for which Thassos is famous. A number of traditional houses have been preserved, with their characteristic slate roofs, lending the whole village a distinctive feel.
Just a short distance from Panayia is the most popular organized beach on the island, Chrysi Ammoudia. Bathers can enjoy the wonderful emerald water, reminiscent of a tropical island, or can take part in the many sports available on the beach. There are modern hotels and rented rooms, restaurants and taverns – everything the visitor needs for a comfortable stay.
To the south we come to the village of Potamia, built on the pine-clad slopes of Mt Ypsari. Inside the village, housed in a two-story stone building, is the Museum dedicated to the famous sculptor Polygnostos Vagis, a native of Thassos. The collection includes both sculptures and paintings by the artist. From Potamia one can climb up to the top of Ypsari, following an incredibly beautiful path, through the forest. Just a short distance from the village is Skala Potamias, an organized beach with tourist shops, taverns, etc.
One of the island’s finest beaches is to the south, on the little peninsula of Alyki. Here the enchanted visitor will find a stunning bay, a miniature paradise, with little taverns. On the high ground of the peninsula are the remains of two early Christian basilicas (5th century AD) and an ancient marble quarry. On the other side of the bay is a deserted beach for undisturbed bathing, and close to the shore are the remains of the Sanctuary of the Dioscuri (7th century BC).
Close to Astrida, in the south-eastern part of the island, stands the convent of the Archangel Michael, one of the best-known places of pilgrimage on the island. With its glorious climate and healthy water the area of Astrida is the perfect location for relaxing holidays, enjoying all the amenities of the modern hotels which have been built here.
Continuing our tour around the island we come to the village of Potos which, with its organized beach, is one of the island’s most important tourist resorts. From here there is a road turning inland to the traditional community of Theologos, which owes its name to an earlier settlement here of monks from Mt Athos. It is one of Thassos’ largest villages, old water-mills and dense vegetation.
The organized beach at Pefkari, in the south-western part of the island, is a stunningly beautiful location, with the characteristic landscape of pines stretching right down to the shore.
Limenaria, our next stop, is a large village which began to expand in the 19th century and is now a very pleasant tourist resort. It has a folklore Museum, housed in what were once the commune administrative offices in the centre of the village.
North of Limenaria we come to Skala Marion, from the road leads inland to the village of Maries, and then on to the unique Lake Yenna wetland.
The coast road takes us on to Skala Kallirachis and Skala Sotiros, where one can visit the Monastery of Agios Panteleimon.
To the north we pass through Prinos, one of the most important areas of the island, since oil was discovered just off-shore. From the harbor (Skala Prinou) next to the village, the boats leave for Kavala. The visitor will find luxury hotels and rented rooms, beautiful beaches and verdant landscapes with pine trees which make Prinos one of the most popular destinations for visitors to the island.
Taking the road out of Prinos we come to the village of Kazaviti, the most important of all the island’s traditional communities, with beautiful stone houses; the visitor will be delighted by the characteristic balconies and the painted ceilings. The village offers shade, excellent food and coffee, or one can take a stroll through the beautiful forest just outside the village.
Finally our drive brings us to the village of Rahoni, which, together with its harbor (Skala Rahoniou) and the tiny village og Agios Georgios, make up the commune of Rahoni. It is one of the quietest and most remote villages on the island. Formerly the inhabitants of Agios Georgios were more numerous than those of Rahoni, and lived at a distance from the coast because of frequent pirate raids; but later, when the danger had passed, they settled lower down. The founder of the Egyptian dynasty, Mehmet Ali, was raised in the village of Agios Georgios, later moving to Kavala. Skala Rahoniou, like the other skalas or fishing villages of the island, had been developed for tourism and offers visitors all the usual amenities.

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