The Unspoiled Island
Have you ever found yourself daydreaming of eternal sunshine, crystal clear water, Greek salad, blue and white houses, or Kostas from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Well then Greek island life is exactly what you are looking for! Unfortunately (or fortunately for many Greek people), thousands of tourists flock to the volcanic isles of Greece every year, filling up all of the hotels, restaurants, and attractions that you may want to experience! Most people know the major tourist islands Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, etc., but during the summer a weekend in the cliffside town of Oia, Santorini will cost you on average around €500-€900 for your hotel alone. If you happen to be a twenty-something year old student like me, this would most likely fall way, way outside of a feasible budget. So how can you get the full experience of a beautiful Greek island for a fraction of the cost and at least half the number of tourists clogging up the beach?
Thasos. Thasos is the answer to all of your Greek island fantasies (except the blue and white houses, sorry!).
The northernmost of all Greek islands, Thasos not only possesses a rich and illustrious history from ancient times onwards, but it is also one of the most pristine of the Greek islands (in my opinion). It is mountainous, rugged, and adventurous, with sharp cliffs that plunge dramatically into the sea, but at the same time it is also very relaxed boasting beautiful marble beaches, forests, and water so clear you will think you are looking through a window. I first visited the island in the summer of 2013 and I loved it so much that I went back this winter.
Here is a quick list of island must-do’s described in detail below:
- Walk around the town of Limenas Thasou and enjoy a seaside meal
- Lounge at one of the many beach bars in town with a fruity cocktail or beer
- Learn some history by visiting the archaeological museum, ancient theatre, and the acropolis
- Rent an ATV
- Explore the marble beach and the adjacent quarries
- Visit the southern coast of the island and check out Aliki and Giola
Thasos in the Summer: What to Do
With an average summer temperature of 24°C, Thasos is the perfect place to swim, tan, and sip beautiful tropical drinks at one of the many beach bars around the island. Getting there from Athens, however, can be a bit taxing (it is about a 9 hour drive), and is also the reason why it remains virtually empty of tourists.
However, there are many ways in which you can reach the island if you fly into Northern Greece. Rent a car in Thessaloniki, Greece and drive the 3.5 hours to the small town of Keramotis where you can take the ferry to Limenas Thasou, the main town of the island, for less than €25. You can also take the ferry from Kavala to Skala Prinos (slightly longer and more expensive).
If you are on more of a budget, hop on the express bus from Thessaloniki to Kavala and walk on the ferry.
Alternatively, try flying into Kavala’s Alexander the Great International Airport and either rent a car or hire a taxi to drive you to the ferry.
Visit http://www.go-thassos.gr/about-thassos for more information on getting to the island.
Located on the northeastern tip of the island, Limenas Thasou is the largest town on the island. Along the waterfront you can find a wide array of restaurants, gelato places, cafés, bars, souvenir shops, and hotels. Taking a 5-minute stroll east will bring you to the one of the town’s beaches, fully serviced with beach bars, umbrellas, chairs, €5 cocktails, and the crystal clear water of the Northern Aegean sea.
If you are interested in the island’s history check out the Archaeological Museum of Thasos in Limenas and the ancient agora in the middle of town. The archaeological site and the museum house the ancient treasures of the island from beautiful pottery to ancient sculpture. Taking a walk around the tiny, cobblestone streets will also bring you to more ancient monuments such as the Gate of Herakles and the Gate of Zeus and Hera (all part of the ancient wall surrounding the town).
For those seeking a view or a bit more of an adventure, take the 15 minute hike up to the ancient theatre of Thasos and be rewarded with a magnificent view of the harbor. If that is not enough to satisfy your craving for hiking and views, explore a little deeper and take the path further up the mountain, which, I discovered much to my delight, leads to an abandoned castle—the acropolis of Thasos. Make sure to bring water; hiking in the sun can really wear you out!
Around the Island:
By far the most fun way to get around the island is by ATV. You can rent one in Limenas Thasou for about €25/day, and it is definitely worth it. A 10-minute drive around the eastern coast of the island down a dusty dirt road will bring you to Thasos’ spectacular marble beach. Created as a by-product of the marble quarry adjacent to the beach, it is a great place to spend the day or adventure through on your ATV.
A drive to the southern coast of the island is also recommended. The main circuit road around the island hugs the rugged cliffs of the island making for some fantastic views! The south side of the island is home to two of the most famous swimming spots on the island, a must do for anyone visiting Thasos.
The first beach you will encounter is at the ancient marble quarry at Aliki (Αλυκἠ) nestled in a narrow and calm bay. The beach itself is small and usually crowded in the summer months, offering amenities such as souvenir shops and restuarants, but if you walk across to the other side of the beach onto the dirt path that follows the side of the hill you will come to a less busy spot to spend your day. Ever wanted to swim in an ancient (like very ancient) marble quarry before? Well here is your chance. If the tide is right, you can even cliff jump here. Plus, the perfect gleaming white marble will keep you cool in the Greek summer sun. Aliki also has the clearest ocean water I have ever seen in my life. There is a reason that this is my favourite swimming spot in the world!
Another unique swimming spot on the southern coast is Giola (Γιὀλα). This swimming hole attracts large crowds in the summer months due to its pristine and one of a kind nature (I recommend going in off-season). You can lounge, swim, cliff jump, and hike all around the swimming hole, just watch out for sea urchins!
Thasos in the Winter: A Desolate Paradise
I visited Thasos in late December this year while on a road trip through Greece. I would not recommend it if you are looking for a lively, hopping party destination. Thasos is devoid of people in the winter, minus a few all year round inhabitants. Finding a hotel that was even open was a challenge! However, there is something special about having the island and its beaches all to yourself.
Despite it being December, it was still warm enough to swim in the day time, okay maybe not swim, but it was warm enough for me to lay around in my bathing suit drinking grocery store bought beer and occassionally jumping in the water when I was too warm.
My boyfriend and I had the swimming hole at Giola entirely to ourselves, and same with the beach at Aliki. Unfortunately there was no way to rent an ATV so we were stuck driving our trusty Fiat around, but the island was still just as magical as I remembered it, and a whole lot more serene.
So, whether you are searching for a low-key place to party in Greece for cheap, or a warm and empty winter getaway, keep Thasos in mind. It can be a bit of a pain to get there but then again, every adventure worth going on comes with a challenge.
http://www.thassos-view.com/ All you need to know about hotels, sightseeing, and more on Thasos
http://www.motozagos.gr/ One of the many places you can rent ATV’s, scooters, and more on the island