Samos - The north of the island, Mt. Ambelos and Karlovasi - The Area of Kambos, Aghios Konstantinos and Vourliotes

The area of Kambos, Aghios
Konstantinos and Vourliotes

At Avlakia (13km), the road, which has been hemmed between the mountain and the shore, turns west into the small alluvial plain of Kambos (13.5km) at the mouth of a ravine, and the two 14th century churches of Aghia Pelaghia and Aghia Matrona come into view above the road to the south side, standing out white against the expanse of hills covered in cypress, olive and poplar (access by taking the cement track uphill to the south, just beyond the signed turn for Vourliotes). Both churches have a central, tri-conch plan, surmounted by an octagonal dome. For its more compact form, and pleasing contrast of tex tures between the whitewashed walls and large-tiled roof, the lower church of Aghia Pelaghia has a more typical 14th or 15th century aspect, but no decorations in the interior. Aghia Matrona, which is 100m further up the track, is extensively decorated with fine 18th century wall-paintings in reasonable state of conservation, at least in the upper area and north side of the cupola. Over the aisle, to both sides, are charming depictions of scenes from the Book of Genesis: Adam naming the animals (left) and the Expulsion from Eden (right): their emphasis, as often in later Byzantine painting, is on narrative line more than on devotional image. The building is larg er and more sophisticated in design than Aghia Pelaghia, and has unusual decorative details such as the running dentilation in brick below the eaves.
   The shore at Kambos is dominated by the large rectangular structure of an abandoned ‘taverna’—not in its meaning of an eatery, but of a depot for aging and storing wine: this is perhaps the best example of this kind of Samian building, of which there are other examples on the coast at Malagari, 2km west of Vathi.
   From the east of Kambos, a subsidiary road, signed for Vourliotes, climbs south from the shore into the hills; af ter 1km, a right branch leads to Pnaka (a corruption of pi­nakas, a ‘picture’)—a beautiful, nymphaic spot, where an ice-cold spring of slightly tart, metallic water rises. Returning again to the principal road south, the village of Vourliotes is reached after 5km, immersed in a beautifully treed landscape, high on the north slopes of Mt. Ambelos. As its name implies, the village was created by settlers in the 17th century from Vourla (Ancient Clazomenae) in the Gulf of Smyrna on the mainland opposite, who chose the site for its springs, its safe and panoramic position, and its suitability for the cultivation of vines and olives. The village has preserved a strong architectural identity of Asia Minor in its attractive variety of houses, with tiled roofs, long windows, coloured shutters and balconies. Al though some of the surrounding area has been damaged by fire, it is an ideal centre for walking and climbing the ridges of Mt. Ambelos/Karvounis, and to explore the val leys and villages along the north coast (see Walking the Greek islands: Samos etc. by Dieter Graf, Munich 2005). Only 2 km to the north of the village, the devastation of fires has left the 16th century monastery of Vronta dam aged and isolated. Although founded in 1476, and there fore the oldest of the active monasteries on the island, the present buildings—fortified and somewhat inelegant externally, but with graceful arcades surrounding the cen tral catholicon inside—date from almost a century later (1566); they were restored in 1960 and will now need more attention after the recent fires, before the monastic community can return again.
   The mountainous area to the south of the monastery was hidden territory into which the dwindling popula tion of the island was pushed in search of safety from the repeated seaborne Saracen attacks of the 8th century. Fortified communities were formed, the late mediaeval remains of which can still be seen today: 2.5 km beyond the monastery of Vronta, on the northeast facing ridge, at a height of 620m above Kokkari, is the 13th century structure of the castle of Loulouda (left-hand branch at junction 800m south of Vronta; castle is visible on sum mit to left after 1km), built on a strategic eminence where there had been an earlier presence in Antiquity; further southwest, on a 1,050m peak, half way in distance be tween Loulouda and the final summit of Mt. Ambelos, are the earlier remains of Lazarou Castle (5km along the right-hand branch at junction 800m south of Vronta), from which the views across the island to the north, east and south are yet more dramatic.
   Although Vourliotes is perhaps the best known of them, there are many other villages on these slopes— Ambelos, Stavrini­des, Manolates—which have similarly interesting architecture, verdurous settings and spacious views, reminiscent in many ways of the villages of Mt. Pelion on the Greek mainland. All have springs, streams and thriving vineyards nearby, and are linked by shaded roads and paths which converge on the coastal village of Aghios Konstantinos—where some of the finest plane trees of the area have found a perfect habitat.

Samos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.


Samos Island, Greece.

By air: Domestic flights are frequent from Athens – four to five times daily with Olympic Air and twice a day in summer with Aegean Airlines.
There also direct flights by charter from destinations outside Greece.
By boat: Sea access to Samos is also plentiful, but a little confusing because it is split between three separate ports: Karlóvasi and Vathy, on the north coast, for the larger ferries plying the northern and western routes to Piraeus, Chios, Lesbos, Ikaria, Thessaloniki etc;
and Pythagóreio, on the south coast, for the Dodecanese and southern routes,
i.e. the F/B Nisos Kalymnos (4 days per week)
and hydrofoils (daily in summer) to Patmos, Lipsi, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, and on to Rhodes , with the Nisos Kalymnos stopping at Agathonisi and Arki in addition, before calling at Patmos.
The summer hydrofoil service to Fourni and Ikaria (4 times weekly) also leaves from Pythagóreio. Crossings to Turkey (Kus¸adasi) run daily from Vathy, during the summer season only (Easter to mid October); thereafter more infrequently.

Samos Travel Guide


Samos Island, Greece.

In Vathy, Christos (two blocks in from the water-front, and north of the main square) serves Asia Minor specialties, interesting salads, and good, fragrant wine.
The village of Vourliotes has several tavernas offering good mountain food in its picturesque plateia: less contrived, and more popular with islanders, is Pera Vrysi, at the entrance to the village. On the shore below, at Avlákia, the Mezedopoleío "Doña Rosa" has a pleasing touch of eccentricity, but nonetheless prepares excellent Greek dishes with localredients and good presentation.
Further west at Palaio Karlóvasi, the Oinomageireío "Dryousa", in the plateia where the paved road ends, is family run, providing fresh, home cooking.
The last true tavernas in Pythagóreio closed some time ago; the best remaining eatery there, with a pleasant view from its position at the beginning of the harbour mole, is Varka. For sunset views, however, few can match Balkoni tou Aigaiou at the south end of Spatherei;
while the taverna at Koutsi, up and west from Pyrgos, though not remarkable for food, is an unforgettable and cool refuge on a hot day, beside a spring below plane trees in the hills of central Samos .
Pure comb honey of high quality can be found at Melissa – a small supply-shop, a few metres up the main street of Pythagóreio from the harbour.

Samos Travel Guide

further reading

Samos Island, Greece.

Graham Shipley, A History of Samos 800-188 BC (Oxford University Press, 1987); Hermann Kienast, The Aqueduct of Eupalinos (Greek Ministry of Culture, Athens, 2005).

Samos Travel Guide

practical info

Samos Island, Greece.

831 00 Samos & 832 00 (Karlóvasi): area 477 sq. km; perimeter 163 km; resident population 33,999; maximum altitude 1,434 m. Port Authority: T. 22730 27890, 27318 (Vathy); T. 22730 61225 (Pythagóreio); T. 22730 32343, 30888 (Karlóvasi). Travel and in formation: ; By Ship Travel, T. 22730 25065 (Vathy), 61061 (Pythagoreio), 92341 (Kok- kari), 37100 (Marathókambos) & 35252 (Karlóvasi).
Samos Travel Guide

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