Ammothines of Lemnos: Greece's hidden mini Sahara desert

Ammothines (Sand Dunes) of Lemnos

Although Lemnos is often associated with beautiful harbours, wonderful beaches and great cuisine, few know that the island has its own "mini" Sahara desert!

Justifiably so, as anyone who comes here knows that they will enjoy stunning beaches, can do water sports, admire archaeological sites and beautiful traditional architecture, try excellent dishes and cheeses and drink wines that are now internationally acclaimed.

But in the end, what made the biggest impression on us when we visited Lemnos had nothing to do with the beaches, nor with gastronomy, nor is it a man-made creation.

We must admit that when we embarked on this little excursion to the sand dunes of Lemnos – since the locals in Myrina, where we were staying, insisted that we “must” visit the “Thick Sands”, as they call them – we were a little sceptical about whether it was worth it.

On the map though, one can find it as the Ammothines (Sand Dunes) of Lemnos.

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We thought the dunes are one of those places that are impressive in photos, but in person they are nothing special. Well, we were wrong. Lemnos is generally a barren island, but even the most indifferent visitor is struck by such a landscape.

As we watched others climbing up the large dunes, we thought of mythical caravans in the Sahara.

The fact that around the huge areas of land on which the dunes are spread, one can see a quite rich vegetation with wild olive trees, wild pear trees, oleanders and other plants contributes even more to the uniqueness of this extraordinary landscape, quite unusual for the Greek terrain.

Of course you’ll take pictures, lots of pictures, that’s what we do. But the highlight of our visit – which we highly recommend – was taking off our shoes and rolling in the sand.

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Among the dunes there is little vegetation, only a few shrubs. But since we came here in August, the characteristic sea lilies had been blooming. One of the iconic plants of the Greek islands’ flora with its wonderful fragrance.

How they were created

Dunes are more common on the coast. In Lemnos, however, this ecosystem is located about 2 km away from the coast, which makes it even more impressive.

The prevailing theory of their creation is that they were created by the parallel activity of the sea and the winds and that in prehistoric times the sea flowed into this area.

How and when to get there

To reach the sand dunes, take the road starting from the village of Katalakko. It is a dirt road that requires low speeds, but there are informative signs that will indicate the way.

Leave your car at the first kiosk you’ll find and start wandering as much and towards whatever direction you like. In any case, remember to bring water with you and wear lightweight shoes.

If after “crossing the desert” you are looking for an “oasis”, that is Gomati beach, about 2 km away. Near the beach there is an abandoned tank that’s been standing there for years.

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The best moment to visit depends on what you want to do and of course the weather.

Early in the morning you can combine the trip with a swim, at midday during summer you will get the “Sahara feel”, late in the afternoon you can spend more time barefoot on the sand and there is also better natural light to take better photos.

George Pouloiopoulos is a columnist for Travel.

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