By Thomas Panagiotopoulos

Whenever I travel
Tracing the sea, I feel I’m hovering.
In the air, not necessarily in the few inches of the hull
That touches the water,
But between reality and dream.
>Besides that very moment, is in any case magical...


I was focused on the indication of the compass, while sometimes I was switching off the navigation lights and the instruments on the console, trying to be more observant in the moonless night. Our speed was constantly “stuck” at 20 knots. The wind had subsided considerably and the waves came huge but weak on our left band. It looked as if we were playing with the sea waves in a wonderful pace, perfectly in tune to their movement. An invisible “race” involving our senses took place. They seemed to compete which one would reach higher levels. Was it the scent of the sea that filled our nostrils, that “sweet” taste of saltiness in our lips when some drops deviated from their course and landed on our damp faces, the dance movement of the side lamps and the white sea behind them or that magic sound of the bow swaying sweetly up and down, opening the way by displacing large masses of water to the right and left?

KlisidiI do not know what urged us so much that evening and our feelings set aside every sense of logic, luring us into a night course with no special reason. Probably, however, it was us that we desired to savour some of the charm of a night cruise, which in any case is a magical and dangerous experience. So, justifying actually ourselves for this wrong and impulsive decision, we untied the boat and rushed to the open sea.

It was not even dawn and our bows were piercing the darkness, until a sweet glimpse in the deep end filled us with joy and smiles. “We are approaching Anafi”, I murmured and I automatically stopped paying attention to my compass, leaving my senses free to be overwhelmed without any restrictions. We slowly approached the small pier in the port. Our first sight of the harbor before dawn was a really magical experience. The loneliness of the harbor, the lights showering the few houses near the sea and the voices of some fishermen, made us feel strongly that we were in a very distant place, a dot of land, somewhere in the wilderness of the sea...

If we observe the nautical chart, we will find Anafi on the lower part of the Aegean Sea, 12 nautical miles east of Santorini. It is the southeastern part of the Cycladic group of islands. The Cretan Sea stretches below Anafi, the latter being 60 nm away from the northern coast of Crete.
The land is rocky and the highest peak is Vigla at 580 m, while the length of its coastline is only 20 nm. The local residents are about 250, but a particular feature is that most of them are less than 45 years old. Even though nowadays more and more people visit Anafi, it is not among the popular tourist destinations, making it the ideal place for a quiet holiday. Now, it is one of the few islands which retains strongly its genuine “color”, that is a mentality according to which the local residents preserve their habits and their frugal lifestyle to the full. It takes only a few hours to feel nice and experience their warm hospitality. Without being squeezed in order to pass through the narrow alleys, you will even meet the elderly there sitting in groups on the benches, looking at you in the eyes to greet you. The absolute tranquility and an unexpressed charm touch your soul as you take your afternoon walk in the alleys of Chora or when you muse in the isolated beaches of the southern side with the crystal clear waters.

In Agios Nikolaos and Chora ( Main Village)
ΑνάφηThe small village of Agios Nikolaos is the so-called port of the island. With the few white houses, looking like they are hidden at the bottom of the rock, we may not perceive immediately its distinct charm. However, if we stay for only a few hours it is enough to feel a different kind of atmosphere. Some rooms to let, two small grocery stores and three taverns is all you can find there in front of the seashore road made of concrete, which is only some tens of meters long. The beautiful beach next to the houses stretching literally where the harbor is located has so clear waters that even the most remote beaches cannot compete.

At 260 meters altitude, perched on the hill Chora is amphitheatrically built around the old castle. Three kilometers of paved road separate it from the port of Agios Nikolaos, where the public bus sets off six times a day. Along with this road there is a concrete alley that leads to Chora in about half an hour. In order to go up we preferred taking the bus that arrived at the parking of Chora in a few minutes. This is located at the beginning of the village. From that point on we continued on foot. We took the main road and went up for a few meters, until we reached the small square with the phone booth and a bench overlooking the sea. Here the view is breathtaking. We stopped for a while next to the bakery, where we tried the delicious bread of Anafi. We continued our walk, observing the white houses with their typical domes and their small yards, which were full of colorful flowers. In a few minutes we found ourselves in the big square at the edge of the cliff with the old windmills and the impressive church of Ag. Nicholaos. The cleanliness, the absolute peace and quiet and the simple lifestyle of the islanders who greeted everyone they encountered, created a very sweet and warm atmosphere. We stayed in Chora till late at night, tasting the amazing delicacies of Anafi in one of the small taverns surrounded by the authentic scenery of the island.

Circumnavigation
From the bay of Agios Nikolaos and east to the cape Kalamos, within a distance of three nautical miles, there are the best beaches on the island. This entire part is very green, due to the streams that come to the sea, while along the coast there is the paved road that starts from the port and ends up at the Monastery of Panagia Kalamiotissa at the island’s eastern side.

First of all we reach Kleisidi, which is a very small village with a few summerhouses, a few rooms to let and two taverns. Right below, there is the golden beach sharing the same name with shallow crystal clear waters and large sea trees, an oasis offering coolness and relaxation. It is hard to find a free space in this wonderful coast, but it does not mean, of course, that it is crowded. Because there is a path connecting the port with Kleisidi, the beach usually attracts a lot of people. The same goes for the coast Katsouni, which is just next to Kleisidi.

ΡούκουναςIf you prefer more isolated beaches, you can opt for Mikros and Megalos Roukounas (a very beautiful sandy beach of about 1 km), Megalos Potamos, Agioi Anargiroi or the beach of the Monastiri.

We chose to tie up on the eastern coast of the south side, on the beach of the Monastiri. Among the sea trees, whose trunks are literally buried in the sand giving the impression of large shrubs, there is a stream coming down reaching the seashore. Alongside the stream there is a path that leads us in less than twenty minutes to the Kato Monastery of Panagia Kalamiotissa, which is located on the slope of the mountain Kalamos. It was named like that because the icon was found on a reed, “kalamos”. Perhaps this is the most important archaeological site of the island, since the monastery is built on the ruins of the temple of Apollo Anafaios or Aiglitis. The impressive marble yard of the ancient temple is also the yard of the Monastery. This was the starting point of the Holy Street “Iera Odos” that reached the ancient city of Anafi, the stone remnants of which are still distinguishable today. The feast of Panagia Kalamiotissa or Panagia of Anafi, on September 8, is a special day for the island. Preparations for the feast start days ago, while on the eve the locals “move” to the Monastery. It is a big celebration in which many pilgrims from Santorini are involved. The atmosphere is unique and it is worth experiencing it. The residents, with local costumes dance traditional dances, while there are some who spend the night there. However, now that the road leading to the monastery has been constructed, many people return to their homes. Certainly it is not like the old times, when the islanders reached the Monastery with every means they had - by boat, on horseback or on foot- and stayed overnight, not having the energy after the celebration to cover the distance back.

ΚαλαμιώτισσαUndoubtedly, however, the most impressive place of the island is the rock of Kalamos, which reaches up to 460 m. It is worth climbing the path that starts from Kato Monastiri and in just over an hour takes you to the mountain top, where there is Pano Moni of Panagia Kalamiotissa. It was built in 1715 on the oldest chapel of Ag. Nicholaos which was there since 1571, it is a particularly tiring destination, but the sight is breathtaking and will definitely be unforgettable. Besides, this is what made many foreign travelers describe Kalamos as one of the fiercest and most fascinating cliffs of the Mediterranean.

Passing by Kalamos, we turn on the northeast side of Anafi, extending for about six miles to the north cape of the island, cape Drepano. It is distinct because of its steep and rocky shores, having of course some good beaches such as Livoskopos, Vrisi and Halara. We have to be really lucky to enjoy them, because they are directly affected by the winds. The same is true for the northwest side, which stretches for three nautical miles from Drepano to the cape Litra. Here we find the beaches of Prasa and Vaya which are covered with large shingles, but the weather conditions will rarely allow us to tie there.

For travelers
The entire southern side of the island from the port to the rock of Kalamos in the east is very well protected from the winds. Moreover, in this part, there are successively the most beautiful beaches on the island.
The gas station is on the way to  Chora and can transport fuel to the port with large plastic containers.
The public bus follows the route Agios Nikolaos - Chora, six times a day.
With the port’s expansion, which is soon to be completed, Anafi can welcome tourist boats and be a terrific station to refuel and rest on the way to Crete or the Dodecanese.