The hilly green island of Sámos (Turkish: Sisam) is close to Turkey, from which it is separated by a strait only 1.9 kilometers wide. Fertile and densely forested, it has only recently become a target for mass tourism – in the past it subsisted on agriculture, boat building and fishing. It is also the site of one of the most important sanctuaries of the ancient world, the Heraion (Temple of Hera) on the southeast coast, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby ancient port city of Pythagorion, named after the world-famous Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras (570 BC-495 BC).
On the south coast of the island, the friendly town of Pythagórion was known as Tigáni until 1955, when it was renamed in honor of Pythagoras, who was born here. Built around a sheltered bay, now filled with fishing boats and smart yachts and overlooked by seafood cafes and tavernas, it was once the ancient port of Samos, a powerful maritime and trading state in the sixth century BC. The remains of the old fortified port, with the ruins of Greek and Roman monuments, can still be seen. A small archaeological museum displays Archaic and Hellenistic funerary stelae (tombstones), marble statues, coins and ceramics excavated in the area.
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2 Monastery of Panagia Spiliani
On a hill behind the city Pythagorion stands the picturesque white monastery of Panagia Spiliani (Monastery of the Virgin Mary’s Cave) founded in 1586. From the entrance, 95 steps lead down to a large, cool and peaceful cave with a small church at the end, decorated with religious icons . From the monastery you have a fantastic view over the city and over the sea to the Turkish coast.
3 Heraion (Temple of Hera)
Lying eight kilometers west of Pythagorion is the Heraion, the temple of Hera, one of the main tourist attractions of the island. A succession of temples was built on this site from the eighth century BC, culminating in a colossal structure measuring about 45 meters by 80 meters, supported by at least 100 columns, begun around 570 BC. This was destroyed in a Persian attack 30 years later – a replacement was planned on an even grander scale, which would have been the largest Greek temple ever built, but it was never to be completed. 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 Samos Town.
4 Aqueduct of Eupalinos
Once considered one of the wonders of the world, this underground aqueduct is located two kilometers west of Pythagorion. Built by Eupalinos in the sixth century BC, it is one kilometer long and about 1.75 meters high and wide. The excavation started from both sides and met successfully in the middle – and 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, creating an almost perfect connection. It is a very cramped space and not recommended for people who suffer from claustrophobia.
5 Samos Town
In a sheltered bay on the northeast coast of the island, Sámos Town (also known as Vathy or Vathi) was founded in 1832 as the island’s purpose-built capital. Elegant neoclassical houses surround the horseshoe-shaped harbour, many of which now house waterfront terraces and ground-floor restaurants, while modern concrete apartments stretch along the coast and up the hill overlooking the sea. From here, regular ferries run to and from the port of Athens Piraeus.
6 Samos Archaeological Museum
The museum is housed in the former residence of the Prince of Samos and a newer building opposite. The 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 marble figure, 15 feet high, of an archaic kouros (athletic young man), possibly a votive image of 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 Beach of Mikro Seitani
On the northwest coast, west of the port of Karlovassi, this small secluded pebble cove is one of the most beautiful 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 to walk, through olive groves and pine forests, and once you arrive you will find a beautiful bay with amazing rock formations and the crystal clear sea. Wear comfortable walking shoes and take plenty of water and something to eat – there are no facilities on the beach. Beyond Mikro Seitani is Megalo Seitani, a large sandy beach, which is also nice but not as beautiful.
Where to Stay in Samos for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels and resorts in Samos near the beach:
- Proteas Blu Resort: Oceanfront luxury resort, private beach, beautiful pool, ocean view decor, luxury spa.
- Fito Aqua Bleu Resort: Mid-range beach resort, serene decor, opposite a pebble beach, inviting outdoor pool.
- Armonia Bay Hotel: affordable prices, near the beach, friendly hospitality, marble floors, swimming pool.
- Anthis Studios: cheap apartments, walk to beach, family-run, kitchenettes, outdoor pool.