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‘‘¦ there exists no island so remote in its solitude as Anaphi,’ wrote Theodore Bent after his visit in January of 1883. ‘It is a mere speck in the waves, in the direction of Rhodes or Crete, where no one ever goes, and where the 1,000 inhabit ants of the one village thereon are as isolated as if they dwelt in an archipelago in the Pacific.’
Anaphi is the most arid of the inhabited islands in the Aegean: precipitous, rocky, and virtually harbourless, but with an unforgettable and dramatic profile when seen from the sea or from neighbouring Santorini. At its eastern end the great rock promontory of Kalamos, rises sheer from the sea almost half a kilometre upwards into the air. In spring, its top is often circled with clouds: when they part, the tiny silhouette of the church of the Panaghia Kalamiotissa can be seen against the sky, suspended above the precipice. At the foot of the mountain is the sanctuary of Apollo Aigletes, whose cult is believed to have been first instituted here by Jason and the Argonauts. It is a remarkable ruin, with the walls of the temple in honey-coloured marble, standing between three and four metres high, and the ramparts of the massive terrace of the precinct visible on all sides—an unexpected sight on such a small and remote island. The interest of Anaphi lies in its surprises: in the fields on the open hillside of Kastelli, beside the chapel of the Panaghia sto Dokari, a finely decorated roman sarcophagus has survived almost intact from the cemetery of Ancient Anaphe, whose ruins lie waiting to be excavated. until a few years ago, full-size funerary statues could also be seen lying in the under growth in the area. They have now been moved under cover for their protection.
The accessibility of such a wealth of antiquities is part of Anaphi’s unfussy simplicity, and its remoteness. Santorini, its closest neighbour, is three hours away by an often erratic ferry service; and its pace of life is many worlds away. Anaphi feels like a forgotten frontier, and that constitutes the basis of its appeal. The island has unblemished, south-facing, sandy beaches, and wild valleys in its interior, dotted with ancient and traditional stone farmsteads; but, both inland and at the shore, the island is rigorously treeless. Its beauty is rugged in the best and hardest sense, like the character of its islanders.
Anaphi or Anafi Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.