Approaching the island in an evening of February 1884, when the world’s skies still possessed the lurid sunset col our given them by the eruption of Krakatoa six months previously, James Theodore Bent felt that of ‘all the is lands of the Aegean Sea, Pholygandros can boast of the most majestic coastline; in fact’, he claimed, ‘I doubt it can be equalled anywhere’. The island is indeed somewhat like a wall or wind-break in the sea with dramatic cliffs on all sides except on the east, opposite Sikinos, where they re lent sufficiently to allow for a small harbour and an apron of fertile land. Few islands furthermore can boast a more dramatically sited, yet attractive, Chora than Folegandros. It possesses a compact mediaeval centre and a chain of beautiful, shaded squares. What surprises is that it feels so gracious and reassuring when one is inside it, unaware of its dramatic position on the edge of a two hundred metre drop to the sea.
Folegandros is a delightful island which has deservedly begun to receive a faithful and discerning tourism. It has several civilised places to stay, pleasant cafes, many attractive beaches and a number of interesting walks along the island’s network of stone-paved mule paths. Contrasting pleasantly with any detectable preciosity in the island’s beautiful Chora, are the widely dispersed settlements of Ano Meria along the island’s western plateau where an unaffected, rural life continues centred around a centuries-old tradition of husbandry and agriculture.
The island’s most interesting archaeological site is un fortunately also its most inaccessible. The cave of Chrysospilia—which takes its name of the ‘Golden Cave’ from the colouring of the iron oxides present in the rocks around its entrance—is at the foot of a sheer wall of rock in the north coast which rises 300m above its entrance. The approach by boat is difficult unless the sea is very calm. Apart from the interest of the chambers of stalactites and stalagmites in its interior, its walls are covered in places with names and phrases, incised or written in pigment in the 4th and 3rd centuries bc, when the grotto with its phallic stalactite-formations appears to have been the focus of a curious ephebic cult.
Folegandros Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.