Folegandros or Polykandros was inhabited since prehistoric times and takes its name from the son of Minos, Folegandros. Its role in antiquity was not particularly important and it belonged to the Aegean Duchy during Venetian rule. Its Kastro (Fortress), the centre of modern-day Chora, was built at the time. It was incorporated into the new Hellenic State in 1828. In the 20th century it was used intermittently as a place of exile. Today it is a popular holiday destination, authentic and at the same time cosmopolitan. The ferry reaches Folegandros from Piraeus either following the Eastern Cyclades route, or the Western Cyclades one. This latter itinerary is ideal for anyone wishing to get a complete picture of the island before actually setting foot on it. If the atmosphere is clear, then the silhouette of Folegandros appears in the horizon up to an hour before the ferry reaches its port. The island’s smooth shape, with its gentle curves, creates the impression that a mythical Titan stepped on it with all his strength, in an effort to jump to one of the neighbouring islands. The ferry circles the island’s northern coast for about half an hour, and passengers are given the opportunity to admire a unique custom, the «mirrors». The inhabitants of Apano Meria mainly, use mirrors to try and «steal» a piece of the sun and send a greeting to relatives and friends, as well as the island’s welcome visitors. The captain responds and the ship sounds its horn and maintains its course towards the island, while we admire the small bays and shout out their names as we remember each one: Lygaria, Agios Georgios, Serfiotiko, Vorina. We are approaching Karavostassis, the port of the island.
Afternoon, sunset and the sky has taken on a purple to scarlet hue behind the houses in the picturesque port, with its newly built hotels and the small church of Agios Artemios. We enjoy an ouzo, admire the open sea and rest from our journey, before we take the road to Chora, the capital of Folegandros. We look forward to walking through its successive squares, which are unique in the Cyclades. To listen to the sound of the sea from Pounda, the first square at the foot of the Panagia hill, with a breathtaking view. We want to see theimposing Panagia (Virgin Mary) church at the top of the hill. We can’t wait to stroll down the cobbled streets of the Kastro (Fortress), with their whitewashed houses and blooming bougainvilleas; to reach the church of Panagia Pantanassa, gaze at the Aegean Sea and its islands and Apano Meria.
Chora (the capital) was, and still is, beautiful. Traditional Cycladic architecture, well-preserved houses, combined with the development of tourism. We leave Chora behind us and take the road up to Apano (or Ano) Meria, the bigger village of Folegandros. Its scattered houses rest lazily under the August sun, until the summer meltemi blows again strongly, in this, the village of the wind. At the entrance to the village we encounter the «Folk Art Museum», a renovated «Themonia» (=windrow) with authentic equipment. The church of Agios Georgios (St. George) stands imposing near the centre of Ano Meria. The traditional tavernas serve «matsata», a challenging invitation to our palates.
Have a quick swim in Aggali, with its deep limpid waters, and then we take the footpath leading upwards from the last houses, to Galyfos. If we’re up to it, we stay on the same footpath, which takes us to Agios Nikolaos (St Nicholas), the beautiful beach with its thrift trees. On the way back, we promise ourselves that tomorrow, we will visit the other beaches by caique – Katergo, Livadaki, Ampeli, all of them beautiful. Or then again, we might stay in Aggali. Or maybe we’ll go to Vardia. Or Fira. Our holiday in Folegandros has just started, and the island is here, offering itself to us. Rest, fun, beautiful beaches, sleepy sunrises and romantic sunsets.