Folegandros island is not as well known as the other Greek islands of the Cyclades, but it’s a wonderful destination for couples, and adult groups that want to relax, swim, and do some mild hiking to a secluded beach.
- Things to Do and See
Folegandros is a romantic island, perfect if you want to get away from it all, to do a bit of hiking, a bit of swimming, and a lot of relaxing.
You will not find the nearby wild parties of Ios, or the overwhelming crowds of Santorini.
What you will find in Folegandros is the refreshing feeling that you are on a small island, detached from the noise and flurry of civilization.
The island has the typical Cycladic landscape. An arid, mountainous interior dotted with cubist white homes, an enchanting main town, and a rugged coast ringed with several secluded beaches.
Folegandros has a permanent population of about 700.
The most dramatic feature of its landscapes is undoubtedly the view from the cliff at the edge of Folegandros town.
Everything on Folegandros exists on an understated, human scale. But there is an unmistakable pride and class in the air. It’s a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of other nearby islands.
It has enough bars and restaurants to keep you entertained, and the beautiful landscape to keep you enchanted. But it never gets overwhelming.
You will love hiking the island’s goat paths in search of secluded beaches by day, and you will unwind on the town cobblestone streets by night.
Despite its position at the fringes of the Cyclades, Folegandros is everything we love about Greek islands: charming towns, rugged landscapes, secluded beaches, and welcoming islanders.
Overall, Folegandros is an island of dramatic landscape, sweeping views of the aegean, and a refreshing upscale attitude.
Folgandros chora, the main town, is 3km from the port. No cars are allowed into the town, so it is refreshingly quiet.
It’s more village than “town”, and as such, it’s one of the most attractive settlements of the cyclades.
Folegandros town is divided into two main areas: the older part called Kastro (meaning, castle), and the new town.
Kastro is perched on the edge the trademark cliff. It’s made of well preserved medieval homes, tightly packed around winding cobblestone streets. It’s a residential area, with not shops or restaurants.
The newer part of town features traditional winding cobblestone streets, white cubist homes, stores, restaurants, and bars.
They are organized around cobblestone streets that open up to successive delightful squares.
The two main squares (plateia, πλατεία), Dounavi and Kontarini, are divided by the church of Agios Nikolaos near the entrance to Kastro. Nearby you will also find two more piazzas: Piatsa and Maraki.
Other settlements on the island include Karavostasi, Livadi, Agkali, Ano Meria, and Agios Georgios.
Karavostasi is the main port of Folegandros, so all ferries dock at Karavostasi. It has a host of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shops.
Karavostasi has several easily accessible beaches in its vicinity. Any of them would be a good place to swim as you wait for your ferry.
Livadi is a small collection of old buildings around a few small farm. Camping Livadi is near the beach, and it’s accessible via narrow cement road.
Angali consists of two dozen buildings, including a couple of hotels and restaurants. They surround the small beach called Angkali.
It’s accessible via a narrow, cement road. Angali anchorage is protected from the north winds.
Pano Meria (also known as Ano Meria) is the second largest settlement of the island. It’s a more traditional village on the uplands, barely touched by tourism.
Most of the families make their living through argriculture. It doesn’t have the drama of the Folegandros town, but it’s terraced hills and traditional farmhouse groups (called themonies) make for a charming landscape.
It has a couple of nice traditional fish tavernas and a small folklore museum.
Agios Georgios is a remote settlement of a dozen homes huddled around a decent beach.
Things to Do and See
Hike Folegandros Foot Paths
The hiking trails in Folegandros are fairly easy to negotiate, and most end on a nice beach.
We hiked three footpaths to three different beaches during our visit: to Agios Nikolaos beach, to Livadaki beach, and to Katergo beach. There are a few more hiking paths we saved for another visit.
If you go on any of these hiking paths remember that the rough terrain in combination with the intense summer heat can be punishing.
- Start your hike early in the morning, before the sun rises. Even so, your return hike will probably be when the sun is already high.
- Wear sturdy shoes (no flip-flops).
- Bring your own water and food for the day. With the exception of Agios Nikolaos beach, the other two hikes end on truly secluded coves.
Hike from Angkali to Agios Nikolaos Beach – Easy – 20 min.
One of the short hikes we like is the one that starts at Angali and ends in Agios Nikoaos beach.
You will be hiking on a very easy footpath that hugs the coast, so the views are always nice.
The path starts at the west end of Angali beach (to your right as you face the water).
After 10 minutes you will reach Galifos beach. Galifos beach is a tiny cove that usually hosts a dozen bathers.
Agios Nikolaos beach is one of the best in Folegandros, so don’t forget your bathing suit–although you will blend right in with the crowd without one.
From Agios Nikolaos beach you may return back to Angali via the same footpath, or you may opt for a longer, and more challenging, hike to Livadaki and then back to civilization toward Ano Meria town.
Hike to Katergo beach – Easy – 30 min.
Katergo beach is one of the best on the island, so it’s definitely worth a visit. There is no paved road to it, so the only means of getting to it is either by boat from Karavostasi, or on foot from Livadi (10 min. drive from chora).
The hike is mostly on a rough path. The surrounding landscape is dry, barren, and shadeless.
You will see the sea after 15 minutes, and it will take you another 15 to negotiate the zig-zag path down the steep cliff that frames Katergo beach.
This last part is precarious, and the path is not clearly marked.
Hike to Livadaki beach – Medium – 40 min.
Livadaki beach is a nice little cove with clear waters, a deep shingle berm, and a few trees for shade.
You can catch the footpath to Livadaki on the main road after you pass Pano Meria. You may leave your vehicle by the main road and then hike the footpath downhill to the southwest.
The path is rough and shadeless. For the first half hour you will be on mountainous landscape, but the last 10 minutes are very rewarding. You will be hiking high above the coast with excellent views of the Aegean.
It took us 37 minutes to get to Livadaki over a brisk pace, and 39 minutes to get back uphill.
You may choose to swim at Livadaki and then return via the same path. Alternately, you may choose to continue the hike a few more minutes to the Aspropounta lighthouse.
A couple other footpaths converge in the lighthouse vicinity, so you have the option to continue to Agios Nikolaos beach and then Angali. A couple of other footpaths from the lighthouse lead to Pano Meria.
Go Swimming in Folegandros Beaches
Folegandros coast rises abruptly from the Aegean sea for the most part. The steep sea cliffs are interrupted here and there by a cove that shelters a small beach.
Folegandros beaches are excellent mainly because the water feels so crisp, and most require a small act of pilgrimage to get to.
The seclusion of Folegandros beaches is their biggest charm. Most can be visited by boat from Karavostasi, or after hiking on hilly foot paths.
The best beaches of the island are Katergo at the southeast end, and Agios Nikolaos.
The beaches near Karavostasi, Demeneou, Latinaki, Vintsezou, Pountaki, and Livadi are the easiest to reach from the port. Angali, Livadaki, and Galifos are sheltered coves, sheltered from the northern winds.
Demeneou and Latinaki beaches are a close enough to the port, you may enjoy a dip while waiting for your ferry.
Watch the Sunset from the Church of Panagia in Folegandros Chora
The zig-zag stairs will take you from the town to the church of Panagia. The ascent begins getting crowded about an hour before sunset.
At this time, as if everyone is on a pilgrimage, most visitors ascent and pick a spot on the rocks before the church.
Panagia church (church of Our Lady) with its whitewashed zig-zag staircase is a trademark feature of Folegandros. Its current appearance is due to extensive 19th c. renovations.
The view from Panagia is guaranteed to give your some excellent pictures and selfies with the town over the abrupt cliff and the sea beyond.
It’s an excellent way to end the day before heading out for dinner.
Stroll around Folegandros
Folegandros chora is in the center of the island. It is a charming little town with typical, white, cubist homes build on the edge of very abrupt cliff over the sea.
It is clean, safe, and quiet with plenty of activity around its two main squares.
It’s a small town, so if you stay more than a three days, you will probably walk every single street multiple times.
Since no cars are allowed in the old town, you will be enjoying peace and quiet on the cobblestone streets. Mature trees provide plenty of shade, especially around the squares.
The most picturesque parts of the town are the Kastro district, and the view from Panagia church.
Kastro is the old town where time has stopped in medieval times.
Kastro is a quiet residential area, with no shops or restaurants, and very picturesque streets.
The well preserved medieval homes are built against the castle walls (not visible) and are tightly packed together at the edge of the cliff.
The shops in Folegandros chora have a more upscale feel to them, and it’s refreshing to see fewer “monastiraki-style” knick-knack tourist shops.
Visit the Folklore Museum (Ecomuseum)
The folklore museum near Pano Meria is a preserved group of buildings forming a traditional “themonia”.
Themonies were the building groups of farming families. Folegandros inhabitants, living in extreme isolation for much of history, developed a closed economy. Their livelihood depended exclusively on their farms, and there was no surplus of goods to exchange.
Devastating pirate raids in the 15th and 16th c. forced the islanders to live in tight quarters inside Kastro, and to organize their farms in inaccessible mountain areas, away from the coast.
Farmers spent their week tending to their farms and returned to Kastro in the weekends or when pirates were sighted.
At the museum you will see a cluster of restored buildings that illustrate how the islanders lived and farmed their land up to the 1950’s.
Of note is the drystone, round wall they built around their lemon trees to protect them from the constant winds.
The folklore museum is in Pano Meria, signposted from the main road.
Getting to Folegandros
Folegandros does not have an airport, so the only way to get there is by boat.
Chora does have a heliport, but it does not receive regular helicopter flights. It’s mainly an emergency lifeline.
From Pireas (the port of Athens), several ferries dock in Folegandros daily during the summer.
The ferry itinerary from Pireas includes stops at Paros, Naxos, Ios, and Sikinos, before it reaches Folegandros 10-11 hours later.
For a shorter trip, the faster catamarans make the Pireas-Folegandros trip in 4-6 hours, albeit at a much higher price.
We feel that 4-5 days is the maximum you could spent on Folegandros before you begin repeating your activities. This is actually our advise for most of the Cycladic islands
There are local buses that shuttle between Chora, Karavostasi, Livadi, and Pano Meria.
Busses meet each ferry and take passengers to chora.
You will also find car rental offices in Karavostasi and . Renting a car will allow you can explore the island without having to worry about bus schedules. It’s easy to drive around the main road, but the dirt roads require extra attention.
Chora has a couple of moped rental places as well. If you are experience riding mopeds in island roads, this is one inexpensive option.
But if you’ve never driven a moped, the roads of Folegandros are not a good place to start learning.
Read more about driving in Greece.
Best time to Visit
Summer is the best time to visit Folegandros. Even in high season the island never feels crowded.
Early summer, in May and June, you will be among very small crowds. Ferry schedules from Pireas are reduced during this time, but not as infrequent as in off-season.
Where to Stay
You will find plenty of accommodations in Karavostasi and in Folegandros chora.
But you need to make reservations well ahead of time because the best ones at Chora are booked a year ahead of time.
Folegandros has a reputation for pricey hotels, but in reality, they run the gamut sizes, styles, and prices.
We stayed at hotel Polikantia and thoroughly enjoyed the family run character, and the lush pool-side. The friendliness of the siblings who own the hotel added to the experience.
You will also find more upscale hotels near the Kastro with views of the ocean.
Hotel Castro is right inside the Kastro area, and Anemomilos apartments is located on the edge of the cliff.
Click here to see it on the map and to get directions in a new window.