10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on Sámos
The hilly green island of Sámos (Turkish: Sisam) lies close to Turkey, from which it is separated by a strait only 1.9 kilometers wide. Fertile and densely wooded, it has only recently become a target for mass tourism and still retains the charm of its past professions, which revolved around farming, boatbuilding, and fishing.
Samos is the site of one of the most important sanctuaries of the ancient world, the Heraion (Temple of Hera) on the southeast coast, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Other top tourist attractions include the nearby ancient harbor town of Pythagorion, named after the world-renowned Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras (570 BC-495 BC), and the fishing village of Kokkari, with its colorful houses and laid-back ambience that is perfect for meandering around. Samos is also home to a number of pretty beaches like Lemonakia Beach, on the island's north side just west of Kokkari.
Discover the best things to do on this picturesque island with our list of the top attractions on Sámos.
See also: Where to Stay in Sámos
On the island's south coast, the friendly little town of Pythagórion was known as Tigáni until 1955, when it was renamed to honor Pythagoras, who was born here. Built around a sheltered bay, now filled with fishing boats and smart yachts and overlooked by cafés and seafood tavernas, it was once the ancient port of Sámos, a powerful maritime and mercantile state in the sixth century BC.
The remains of the ancient fortified port, with the ruins of Greek and Roman monuments, can still be seen. A small archaeological museum displays Archaic and Hellenistic funerary stelae (grave stones), marble statues, coins, and ceramics uncovered in the area.
2. Monastery of Panagia Spiliani
On a hillside behind the town of Pythagórion stands the quaint white Monastery of Panagia Spiliani (Monastery of the Cave of the Virgin Mary) founded in 1586. From the entrance, 95 steps lead down into a large, cool, and peaceful cave, with a tiny church at the end, which is decorated with religious icons. From the monastery, you have amazing views down onto the town and across the sea towards the Turkish coast.
3. Héraion (Temple of Hera)
Lying eight kilometers west of Pythagórion is the Heraion, the Temple of Hera, one of the island's top tourist attractions. A succession of temples was built on this site from the eighth century BC onwards, culminating with a colossal structure measuring some 45 meters by 80 meters, supported by at least 100 columns, which was begun around 570 BC.
The structure was destroyed 30 years later in a Persian raid. A replacement was planned on an even larger scale, and would have been the largest Greek temple ever built, but it was never to be completed.
Today, the archaeological site around the Heraion includes altars and smaller temples, as well as the ruins of a fifth-century Christian basilica. Finds from the site are exhibited in the archaeological museum in Samos Town.
4. Aqueduct of Eupalinos
Once considered one of the Wonders of the World, this underground aqueduct lies two kilometers west of Pythagórion. Constructed by Eupalinos in the sixth century BC, it is one kilometer long and approximately 1.75 meters high and wide. Excavation started from both ends and met successfully in the middle, which is impressive considering this was before the advent of surveying and mapping. About 425 meters from the entrance, you can see the point where the two shafts met, making an almost perfect joint. It's a very tight space, and is not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia.
5. Sámos Town
In a sheltered bay on the island's northeast coast, Sámos Town (also known as Vathy or Vathi) was founded in 1832 as the island's purpose-built capital. Elegant Neoclassical houses rim the horse-shoe shaped harbor, many of which now accommodate waterside cafés and restaurants at ground level, while modern concrete apartments sprawl along the coast and up the hillside overlooking the sea. From here, regular ferries run to and from Athens' port of Piraeus.
6. Sámos Archaeological Museum
Housed in the former residence of the Prince of Sámos and a newer building opposite, this museum displays finds from the Heraion (Temple of Hera). The main hall was specially enlarged to accommodate the most sensational find, the colossal sixth-century BC marble figure, 4.8 meters high, of an Archaic kouros (athletic young man).
The figure is possibly a votive statue from the Sacred Way. The torso was found in 1980 and the head (70 centimeters high) in 1984; the knee had been found 70 years earlier, in 1912. Other exhibits include Hellenistic and Roman sculpture, and prehistoric material such as pottery, ivories, and bronzes.
7. Mikro Seitani Beach
On the northwest coast, west of the port of Karlovassi, this small secluded pebble cove is one of the most stunning beaches on the island. The only way to reach it is by boat or on foot, which is part of the fun.
It takes about 30 minutes on foot, passing through olive groves and pine woods, and once you arrive, you'll find a lovely bay with amazing rock formations and crystal-clear sea. Wear comfortable hiking shoes and take plenty of water and something to eat-there are no facilities on the beach.
Beyond Mikro Seitani lies Megalo Seitani. It is a large sand beach, which is also nice but not quite as pretty.
8. Kokkari Village
Kokkari is a former fishing village turned colorful resort town on the north side of the island just 10 kilometers from Samos Town. It has a long pebble beach with clear blue water that is especially popular with windsurfers.
If you want to get in some exercise, don't miss the eight-kilometer loop walking trail between Kokkari and the charming mountain village of Vourliotes. It takes you through groves of olive trees, and the walk is so beautiful, you'll hardly notice you are climbing on the way out. Once you reach Vourliotes grab a bite to eat at one of the tavernas before heading back down the mountain to Kokkari.
9. Mount Kerkis and Southern Samos
Mount Kerkis rises up 1,434 meters in the center of the southern portion of Samos and can be summited via a hiking trail. If you don't want to go all the way up, there are plenty of other hiking trail choices on its flanks. The countryside around Mt. Kerkis also showcases a more tranquil and less developed side of Samos.
Here, you'll find just a few quiet fishing villages and only one proper resort area at Votsalakia (also known as Kampos). If you are interested in hiking up the mountain, head to this beach resort to enquire about the trails. While here, you can relax on its beautiful white-sand beach. Other beautiful beaches around here include the pretty and ultra quiet Psili Ammos Beach, which also hosts a number of restaurants serving fresh fish and other local fare.
10. Lemonakia Beach
Lemonakia Beach is within walking distance of Kokkari and is a popular spot for swimmers and sunbathers in summer. Just 100 meters off the main road, the pebble and sand beach has calmer water than other area beaches, making it ideal for swimming. The water is a clear, turquoise hue. You can gaze into it for hours on an umbrella-shaded sun lounger. Head to the small taverna right on the beach for food.
Lemonakia can get crowded in summer. For less crowds check out Tsamadou Beach, which is within walking distance.
Where to Stay in Sámos for Sightseeing
- Luxury Hotels: The Doryssa Seaside Resort is a luxe boutique hotel with a swanky boho style on Samo's southeast coastline near the Pythagorion historic site. There is a restaurant, spa, and large swimming pool on-site. Another luxury option is the Samaina Inn Hotel, just across the street from the beach. It offers an all-inclusive package and has a kids' club if you're traveling with the family.
- Mid-Range & Budget Hotels: Try Hotel Pegasus for a good-value, two-star option in the port town of Pythagoreio. It has just 21 rooms, and each comes with a balcony or terrace. Breakfast is included in the rate. Another mid-range option is the Armonia Bay Hotel, which is near the beach, has friendly hospitality, marble floors, and a lovely infinity pool. For budget apartments within walking distance of the beach try Anthis Studios. They are family run, have kitchenettes, and there is an outdoor pool on the property.
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