The east Coast

The site of Ancient Ikos is on the point at Kokkinokastro (6km), a long peninsula projecting into the sea in the middle of the lower eastern half of the island, defining two sweeping beaches to either side. At sunset, as the head land takes on a deep orange colour, it merits its name of ‘kokkino kastro’, or ‘red acropolis’. The point of the promontory where the remains of the city are, with its steep seaward cliffs, is attached by a high, razor-thin isthmus of eroding sandstone which effectively denies any access by foot. There are only two means of access—by boat, or by swimming out from the south beach (c. 20 minutes) and climbing ashore at the southeastern point where the headland slopes down to the sea.

The tip of the headland is indented by a deep cove, which served as a protected roadstead. Cutting transversely across the lower slopes is a fine stretch of fortification wall in high Classical 5th century bc masonry, which has recently been cleared and excavated. There is a dense scatter of potsherds and evidence of foundations and walls, still buried, further up the slope to the west. Archaeological exploration has also revealed a far earlier Palaeolithic and Mesolithic human presence on the peninsula, as well as on the offshore island of Kokkinonisi to the south, where evidence of Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements has also been found.

Continuing north on the principal road through the wooded interior of the island, a right turn from a junction 7.5km from Patiti­ri leads down to the east coast at Steni Vala (11km), a tranquil creek with a harbour, fronted by excellent tavernas. The principal Monk Seal Rescue Centre is based here. One kilometre further north on the main island road beyond the Steni Vala junction, a track (right) leads 2.2 km down a valley to the site of Garbitses where the circular base, standing to a height of only three courses, of a Late Classical watchtower lies in low scrub, 200m to the east of the track. The track continues a further 1km, before rejoining the asphalt continuation of the Steni Vala road along the coast. Two and a half kilo metres further north along the coast on this road is the flat reedy promontory of Aghios Dimitrios, where there are the (scarcely visible) remains of a three aisled Early Christian basilica which stood here. The basilica was the centre of a small community, with houses and baths. As often with Christian churches built in the Islands before the Arab invasions of the 7th and 8th centuries, it stood in an unprotected position beside the shore. There are particularly attractive beaches at Aghios Dimitrios. Four kilometres to the north—visitable only by small boat—are a number of shore-level caves and grottos, once common refuges for the monk-seals.
   The northern half of the island is a landscape of steep, wooded gorges alternating with areas of low maquis with Phoenician juniper and tree heather: it is mostly uninhabited apart from scattered farmsteads. The main axial road that runs the length of the island terminates in the deep creek of Gerakas Bay (20km), where one of the Biological Research Stations of the Marine Park (see below) is located. On a cliff at the northwestern extremity of the island is the dilapidated monastery church of the Analipsi, founded in the 17th century. The path to it is ruinous, and the church can now only be reached from the sea when the water is calm.

Alonnisos Island is part of the Sporades Island Group, Greece.

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