Agios Efstratios Island is 17nm south of Lemnos Island and is an ideal destination for those who are looking for peace and tranquillity for their holidays. Even in August when most of Aegean islands are crowded with many people, at Ag. Efstratios we can find isolated beaches and enjoy swimming in crystal clear waters.
The harbour of Ag Efstratios is located on the northwest side, where there is the only village of the island. We approached the harbour quite slowly and tied the rib beside a fishing boat. The solitude of this place was obvious from the very first moment. As two -three elderly people were going for their afternoon walk they approached the rib staring at their unexpected guests. Some fishermen were mending their nets on their newly painted boats, which were one beside another in a row while others were pulling their boats out to fix them.
Everything of the island is gathered around the harbour, which is the central neighbourhood.
The few houses next to the waterfront, renovated and fresh painted, emphasize their long history. They are the only old houses left on the island after the earthquake of 1968 that destroyed completely the old settlement which was extending on the slope of a small hill. We went up to the ruins of the old castle situated just above the harbour. During our walk among the weedy paths, there were only piles of grey and black hewn stones and some ruins here and there reminding us of the presence of the old village. Five hundred beautiful houses of unique architecture in the northern Aegean were turned into lumps of stone.
If the old village existed till nowadays with the windmills along the ridge, or if the old stone two-storey houses were rebuilt traditionally, then Agios Efstratios Island would be one of the most picturesque islands of the Aegean.
Instead, the new settlement that was built later by the state, in the valley after the port, does not resemble anything of the old village. There are only small and low houses with flat roofs, lined up in rows and stuck each other.
Nowadays on the island fewer than 300 people live, isolated and forgotten, trying to survive on their own, mostly occupied with farming and fishing.
In front of the port the main concrete road starts, on both sides of which there are built the houses of the new settlement. Rarely do we meet some old houses that differ because of the whitewashed courtyards, filled with colourful flowers.
Everything is gathered around the harbour. A coffee shop and a cafe in front are the only available places for the entertainment of the locals. Small grocery stores, a mini ice factory with ice of high quality, some new taverns and a gas station that was recently made, compose the heart of this small society.
A few years ago, only one guest house operated with limited capacity. Recently though, more and more people are discovering the island, so it fills with people. As a result, many other rooms for rent are built while many roads are made that are leading to every beach of the island.
Agios Efstratios Island may still lack of tourist infrastructure and accommodation, however the beautiful and peaceful beaches are numerous, beaches, the kind of which need to exist, unspoiled and beautiful.
The circumnavigation of the island
We started for the circumnavigation of the island, not exceeding 17 nm, with direction from the port to the south, discovering first the west coast. At this side there are the most beaches of the island, therefore making the west side the most beautiful and interesting.
Agios Antonios, Ag. Dimitrios Lidario, Ftelio, Ag. Nikolas, Gournia, Frangos and Tripiti are all the coves in row, with crystal clear waters hosting beautiful beaches, paved with grey sand or black pebbles, well protected from the north winds. In many beaches ravines with trees end, which are forming small oases between barren and volcanic hills. The beaches alternate with low steep rocks, which are artistically carved by the sea in small works of art and beautiful caves.
As we were passing by the southern cape of Tripiti (Sialmas), we were cruising at the southeast side of the island. The landscape here is more wild and inhospitable without beaches except Karavotsakisma, just before the eastern end of Daskalio. Navigating between the islets of Daskalio and Velia (Roumbos), paying particular attention to the reefs scattered in this area, we reached the northeast side. Here is Alonitsi, the longest beach of the island which we can enjoy only when the north wind doesn’t blow.
As we were approaching Kalami, the northern end of A. Efstratios, and cruising south of the islet of Ag. Apostoli, we turned our bow to the south and headed to the port located 1.6nm.
We tied up the rib on the old waterfront and after a refreshing coffee in the cafe of the harbour, we made our plan for the next days. We decided to use as anchorage and base the north side of the bay Franc, which is the most leeward bay on the west side of the island. Once we refuelled with food, water and ice, in less than half an hour we were setting our ‘camp’ in the beautiful bay.
Early in the afternoon, having all our equipment, we were diving for spear fishing in the southern cape of the island.