Of course Mykonos and Santorini will steal all the headlines in the Cyclades, followed perhaps by Ios and Paros, but absolutely unknown is the small island of Anafi.
Mykonos is certainly glamorous and Santorini is Instagram-perfect, but Anafi is actually known for those with a bohemian and alternative lifestyle that are wanting to escape the hoards of tourists.
The island is almost untouched by mass tourism and some small all-suite hotels started to tentatively make an appearance on the island. Its wild beauty, the loneliness of the land and the sea is magical.
You’ll come to Anafi to spend your days barefoot on the beach, to swim on your own, to lie naked on the sand to receive the almost liberating energy of the earth, and to sleep in the shade of the tamarisk trees.
The island may be small and pristine, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have night life; its youthful side will keep you up till dawn at the little bars of Hora.
The only real settlement in Anafi is Hora, gorgeous, completely traditional, and with a breath-taking view.
One of the island’s highlight’s is the Kalamos monolith, an impressive rock formation considered the second tallest monolith in Europe, after Gibraltar. You can get there either on a trail or by the sea, and either way, as you approach you will feel small in front of nature’s magnificence.
Tip: There is no pharmacy in Anafi so make sure you bring some basic medicine and a first aid kit.
How to get there
By boat from Piraeus.
Where to stay
Ypseli: An all-suite hotel with traditional Anafi architecture, probably the most luxurious stay on the island. All rooms are in soft, earthy colours, with wooden details, and are equipped with a kitchenette. The pool area – that is on the small side – is beautiful and it has a wonderful view of the Aegean. (Roukounas, 2286186634, www.ypselianafi.com)
Casa Di Namphio Villa & Suites: A stone-built complex highlighting local architecture. It offers suites and a villa with elegant décor and a fully equipped kitchen. There is a main pool overlooking the island’s hinterland and the Aegean Sea. (5 kms from Hora, 2286030125, www.namphio.com)
Apollon Village: Built on the slope of Kleisidi hill it has an unobstructed view of the sea. It offers rooms, apartments and studios, simply decorated, some of which also have a kitchen. (Kleisidi, 2286028739, www.apollonvillagehotel.com)
Villa Galini: A typical accommodation complex with spacious rooms, well-kept, with fully equipped kitchens. (Hora, 2286061279, www.villagalinianafi.gr)
Where to eat
To Akrogiali: Its main specialty is fish, but you’ll also find a selection of casserole dishes. (Port, 2286061218)
Liotrivi: A family tavern with fresh fish and seafood mezzes, it also can prepare the traditional kakavia soup – fisherman’s soup – if you make arrangements in advance. (Hora, 2286061209)
Armenaki: one of the famous fish taverns on the island with an amazing view. They serve fresh fish and seafood. (Hora, 2286061234)
Endohora: A family tavern with a great view. They prepare traditional casserole dishes and also some dishes with oriental influences. (Hora, 2286061312)
Local products: thyme honey, oregano, sage, pink savory (throumpi), saffron, capers, cichorium (stamnagathi), rock samphire (kritamo).
Traditional products: ballothia (handmade pasta), zaforisto (a cheese bread with saffron), xerotigana (fine fried dough leaves with honey, sesame or coconut), sisamomelo (honey with sesame and cinnamon) melitera (sweet myzirthra cheese pies) gemista (dough sweets stuffed with walnuts and honey), koufeto (honey mixed with peeled almonds).
What to see
Kasteli: This is where the city-state of Anafi used to. Part of the walls, the cemetery that resembles houses, Roman tombs, and also an elaborate sarcophagus that is located next to the chapel of Panagia in Dokari, still remail. You can reach Kasteli on foot from Agios Mamas or Roukounas (Kasteli Hill).
Old Monastery of Panagia Kalamiotissa: It’s at the top of mount Kalamos and is dedicated to the birthday of Virgin Mary. It was most probably built in 1715, while the wooden altar dates to the 18th century. Inside its very small yard there are four cells and a water tank. To get to it you need to walk quite a bit, but the view of the Aegean Sea is really stunning, you’re alone with God.
Zoodochos Pigi monastery: It’s at the foot of Kalamos and it’s built over the ruins of an ancient temple honouring Apollo Aiglete. Most of the icons inside the monastery are works by Nikolaos Karavias, like the icon of Panagia Kalamiotissa with the silver platted cladding. Its wooden altar is also impressive.
Drakontospilo (dragon cave): this is an impressive cave on the north side of Kalamos. It’s entrance is more than 10 m high and there is water running on the walls inside the cave, creating natural ponds, columns and stalactites in a very early stage. You can get there on foot, but make sure to safely prepare for the trek.
Anafi’s Ancient Collection: Findings like sculptures, inscriptions, tombstones, etc. dating from the Hellenistic and Roman times, are housed in a building next to the island’s municipality. Most of the findings come from the archaeological site of Kasteli, but there are also some from other locations on the island. (Hora, 2286061329)
Ancient Katelimatsa port: its biggest part is underwater due to the Santorini volcano’s eruptions and other geological changes. There are remains of dockyards and a settlement in the area. (Katelimatsa beach)
Vigla: the highest spot on the island, at 586 m. altitude, a natural lookout, it’s where the Fryktoria was located, one of the many ‘telecommunication’ centres in Greece, where through smoke signals they sent messages all over the Mediterranean. There were similar centres in Evia, Sounio, Knossos, Aktio etc.
Where to swim
Kleisidi: A golden sandy beach with bright blue waters and tamarisk trees in the bay of Agios Nikolaos. It’s easily accessible and there are taverns in the surrounding area.
Katsouni: Beautiful clear waters and sand. You can reach it from a path from Kleisidi and walk for 15 minutes. You’ll probably find campers under the tamarisk trees, and there might also be nudists.
Katalimatsa: A small, mostly rocky, beach with some sand and amazing waters. It’s part of Roukounas and it was the island’s ancient port. If you walk on the trail from the beach you’ll get to an ancient cemetery.
Flamourou: Connected to Katsouni, it has great waters and is ideal for relaxation and calm.
Monastery: A large beach with sand and fine pebbles. There are some tamarisk trees providing shade but come prepared with your own supplies and umbrellas. Access to the beach is relatively easy.
Prassa: A small pebbled beach between rocks, it used to be a small port. Access to it is via a dirt road.
Livoskopos: A secluded beach with pebbles and sand. To get there you’ll have to walk on a small trail. It’s not a serviced beach, and with the exception of two tamarisk trees there is no shade. If there is a north wind it’s best to avoid it.
Roukounas: The most famous beach on the island, sandy with great waters and many tamarisks. It’s not serviced and it’s one of the top choices for campers.
What to do
Anafi is a hiker’s paradise. The island’s trails can get you almost everywhere, to beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters, to archaeological sites and old monasteries, and also to high summits overlooking the sea. After all, the island’s road network is not particularly advanced and to reach the best parts of Anafi you’ll have to walk.
A hike really worth your time and effort for its amazing view is that from Kalamos towards the Old Monastery of Panagia Kalamiotissa. The trail is relatively easy and the stunning wild nature of Anafi in combination with the view make it less tiring. It’s best to go either early in the morning or late in the afternoon as there is no shade on the trail. The sunset there is perhaps better than that of Santorini.
Experienced hikers will enjoy climbing Kalamos, Anafi’s monolith. Access there is by boat and the trail has been marked since 1999 and ends at the monastery of Panagia Kalamiotissa. The island also has an interesting seabed, ideal for scuba diving, and you can also go on a boat tour around the island to explore its beautiful coasts.
Must: a boat ride to the Kalamos monolith, hiking to the old monastery of Panagia Kalamiotissa and thyme honey.
Regional Health Centre of Anafi: 2286061215
Municipality of Anafi: 2286061266