By Thomas Panagiotopoulos

It is between Heraklia and Kato Koufonisi and it is separated from them by narrow channels of a few hundred meters. Having the most indented coastline of the other islands of the group, and many sheltered bays, it offers the biggest number of beaches and is an ideal place for those who prefer a relaxed and solitary holiday.

 

If the absolutely peaceful small villages, the hospitable islanders and the original images appeal to you, then you are in the right place.

We arrived at Mersini early in the morning. It is located directly opposite the port of Heraklia. Mersini is a deep and narrow bay that penetrates the land for more than 600 meters. Its entrance faces south and it is one of the safest anchorages in the Aegean, and of course this is the place where the island’s harbor lies.

ΣχοινούσαAt the edge of the bay there are two smaller coves. In the east there is the port and in the west a large sandy beach with sea plants and crystal clear waters. We will easily find a place to tie, even at the peak of the summer season. Only the first 15 days of August are rather crowded, but in this case we can anchor at the end of the seashore, and spend the night in perfectly serene scenery. This beach of course, can be used as a starting point for our excursions on the island, since it can ensure unforgettable nights in the only two taverns of the port, which are a bit further away. We did precisely that, without second thoughts. For as long we stayed on the island, every night we were going back to Mersini, which was shining under the full moon. Until the early morning hours we used to sit in the tavern that was called after the place, and under the blue pergolas drinking ouzo and having wonderful appetizers, we enjoyed the genuine and authentic setting next to the seaside. There have been several years since Mersini was an isolated harbor. During the last few years it is a favorite destination of many travelers and the sheltered harbor is often full of every kind of boats. Even so, it is one of the most attractive, sea neighborhoods in the Aegean. In Mersini there are no grocery stores or other shops. Apart from the two taverns, there are only few houses around the bay. All supplies come from the town which is 1200 meters away from the harbour. There is no local bus on the island and people travel on foot. Moreover, the distances are so short that you can easily get from one part of the island to the other. If you want to get supplies from Chora, you can anchor in the bay Tsigouri, which is just below Mersini. Chora is only 500 meters away from there.

During our first morning there we went up the steep road made of cement that links the port with Chora. The main village of Shinoussa welcomes us with a disarming simplicity that you can rarely find nowadays even in the most remote islands of the Cyclades. Life moves in slow paces here and all you have to do is to follow that lifestyle in order to enjoy the beauty of the simple and plain landscape that unfolds in the few narrow streets of the village.
ΧώραA wide road made of cement runs across Chora from one end to the other, in many parts of which there are large, painted, white flowers. After walking a few meters on that road we find the old grocery “To Kentro” and the small traditional coffee place sharing the same name. On the whitewashed stone bench and around the small tables several elderly people sit and enjoy their morning coffee.  These are beautiful and original images, very rare to find nowadays, even on the islands that are remote. Images that we find only if we look back on our childhood memories, to the days of our grandparents, and recall the old cafes and grocery stores, that had all goods stacked in their limited space. We passed through the small square called Dolly Monouri. A small marble inscription informs us that it is named after the French benefactor of the island in order to honor him. From that point the road starts going down slightly, moving easterly for several more meters. The few shops, cafes, small taverns and several rooms to let that have been made during the last few years constitute the first steps towards the island’s tourist development.
Most local residents of the island along with the foreigners live in Chora and are over 200.
The second small village on the island is Messaria and it is located 1.6 km north of Chora . In winter there is only one family living here, while the few houses of the village are now summer houses. Despite the depopulation of the village, there is a stone tavern that in summer serves the few visitors and it is a rest point for all those who walk to the northern beaches.

Circumnavigation
τσιγουριShinousa is characterized by the intense disruption of its coasts, and with a perimeter of up to 10 nautical miles it hosts many beaches, some of which are amazing.

We exited Mersini slowly and sailed near the chapel of St. Nicholas, located on the Northern Cape. Our boat’s bow was facing north and we were on a very short distance from the coast. First we find the bay called Sifneiko, which penetrates into the mainland for long and it is a very secure anchorage protected from the winds. It is the only bay on the island that is without a beach, but it has beautiful green waters, particularly in the north inlet.

Just further up are “Monopetres” rocks, around which, many beautiful caves are formed and if there are no breezes we can get closer. Approximately in the middle of the northwestern side of the island, the deep bay Gerolimnionas extends. Its name reveals that it is a very good harbor protecting from the north winds, as its entrance faces west. In the inner part of the harbor a nice little beach is formed, while on the north side of the bay, the rock ledge penetrates for several meters into the sea forming a small picturesque inlet with green waters. While the coastal rocks lower, reaching the sea level, we approached Mesa Cavos which is the northest cape of the island. This is the point where the eastern side of Shoinousa starts and it hosts the biggest number of beaches. When the winds blow heavily, the wind that comes out of Koufonisia turns to the eastern coast of Schinousa but it never exceeds 4 Beaufort. The first cove that we encounter on our way down is Fikio. Here we enter a small and secluded sandy beach, with a great thrift in the middle and nice green waters. Following that the bay of Psili Ammos is extended. At the northern side there is the most beautiful beach of the island, attracting lots of people. The fine sand and the turquoise waters, along with the whole north side of the beach that rises up like a massive dune, decorated with a few sea plants and many scattered lentisks create an exotic landscape that cannot fail but enchant you. In the same bay another small beach is formed which unlike Psili Ammos is deserted. There may be lots of stones in the coast but the sea bottom is covered with fine sand. We anchored here and for several hours we enjoyed the transparent shallow waters, which overlook the south coasts of Kato Koufonisi.

Ψιλή ΆμμοςFurther away there are two beaches separated by a low rock protruding into the sea for a few meters. Initially it is the small sandy beach of Fontana that is extended and then the spread beach of Almyros. A dirt road ends up in the latter and around the cove there are five to six houses. Some rocks that are on the coast, separate the beach of Almyros into two smaller beaches that attract many people. In the northern end of the coast there is a small pier made of cement while on the other side, there are two small roughly made docks that host some fishing boats. Passing the promontory of Nicholas, there is a large open bay facing east. Here is one next to the other the beaches of Bazeos and Liolios. Passing through the channel of Aspronissi, we turned on the south side of the island where the large bay Alygaries prevails. Here several vessels rest, since the entire bay is fully protected from the winds. On the eastern side of the bay, there are several small beaches that can accommodate only a few swimmers. In the inner part of the bay, beneath the massive and imposing villas there are two beautiful beaches which look as if they are "private".

ΤσιγκούριThis time we did not go round the islet of Fidousa to pass on the southwest side of the island. We decided to go through the extremely narrow passage, which is between Fidousa and the peninsula of Ai Vasilis. The water here is very shallow and dangerous even for the rib. If we decide to go through we must be very careful and certainly to make an attempt only when the sea is calm. If we come from the east we should be closer to Fidousa and then go through the centre of the little narrow passage, of course, having our boat engine quite trimmed up. Special attention is needed for the next few meters following the passage, where the waters are still very shallow. Directly next to the passage, there is the leeward bay of Ai-Vasilis with the lovely sandy beach. The magnificent house on the coast, the small private port and the permanent wooden lounges on the beach are an indirect prohibition to approach. Further on there is the cove Livadi and on its west side the construction of the new port has begun. In the inner part of the bay there is the beautiful beach that shares the same name and is adorned with sea plants and with few but picturesque houses. Between Livadi and Mersini there is Tsiggouri. It is one of the most beautiful beaches of the island, just below Chora. There is a bar named Ostria on that beach and a few years ago it was our favorite hangout. It is hidden away among the huge trees that spread their branches and occupy a large part of the beach, creating huge natural umbrellas impenetrable to the sun rays. Nowadays, we can no longer get close to the bar with our rib, since the entire beach is crowded with mostly young people and it is certainly the most popular coast of Shoinousa. We slowly approached the northern end of the beach, which is the only accessible point. Apart from the swimmers, there is a long bench a few meters away from the seashore, which ocΨιλή Άμμοςcupies the whole beach and is parallel to the coastline, prohibiting us to approach anyway. It needs to be very careful, especially when we approach the beach in the afternoon and evening and also we need to watch out for the low island with the surrounding reefs that are a bit further away. To approach Tsiggouri safely, we must sail to the north of the islet that is found approximately in the middle of the bay.

A very good choice if we want to spend the night in a room to let is the beautiful complex of Grispos. It is a few meters above the sea, in the northern part of the beach and it offers a panoramic view while the rib is just before our eyes. Just below the studios, there is the beautiful tavern where we spent the last afternoon before we return to Mersini, which was our shelter for the night.