A monkey-nut-shaped crag of an island with a population of about 700 and only one road running its spine, Folegandros is small in scale but sublime in character.
Maybe it´s the dazzling and romantic capital with its bohemian atmosphere and the medieval Castro, where a rugged pirate will soon emerge from its narrow, winding lanes. Maybe it´s the sleepy village of Ano Meria, where elderly men ride donkeys side-saddle, and handpainted signs on littoral paths lead to remote beaches. Or maybe it´s simply the sun painting the sky and cliffs with soft hues of pink and orange, creating a breathtaking masterpiece of serenity and beauty.
You´re sold, right? Now let’s delve deeper into everything you need to see, taste, and experience on this sun-drunk Cycladic secret.
Planning a trip to Folegandros and don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered with this Google Map of Folegandros!
When to Visit Folegandros
The high season is from mid-June to the end of August. During this time, everything is scarce and fully booked, and you will pay a premium for everything. On the other hand, out-of-season tourist infrastructure goes into hibernation, with islanders heading to alternative homes on the mainland.
Our advice would be to opt for September, but before booking those flights, get to know some special events taking place on the island.
panigiria & Festivals
Easter on Folegandros is unique, as the icon of the Church of Panagia embarks on a 3day journey to every single house and fishing boat on the island. Following an old custom, the icon is taken in procession from house to house: to Chora on Easter Sunday, to Ano Meria on Easter Monday, and to Petousis, Livadi, and Karavostasis on Easter Tuesday. Locals open their homes to the icon and treat everyone to sweets, wine, and raki.
Other significant celebrations (panigiria) dedicated to a particular saint are the feasts of Agios Panteleimon on July 27th, Agios Artemios on October 20th, and the feast of the Dormition of Mary on August 15th, probably the biggest celebration in all of Greece. The panigiri usually takes place the night before the saint’s name day at the courtyard of the church dedicated to them, where traditional Greek music plays and local delicacies are served.
Last but definitely not least, there are two food festivals that you can not miss: Kaikokakavia Festival on August 21st and Agrosourotoxynotyri Festival on August 27th, celebrating the kakavia fish soup and the locally produced cheeses, respectively.
How to Get to Folegandros
Folegandros doesn’t have an airport, so you need to connect in Athens (ATH), Santorini (JTR), or Milos (MLO) and then make your way to the island by ferry.
Your fastest connection to Folegandros from the port in Piraeus is the catamarans of SeaJets (Superjet and Seajet 2). They depart daily, early in the morning, the journey takes less than 4 hours, and prices start from € 84,00. Zante Ferries, operating the route with Dionisios Solomos, is slower (10 hours) but cheaper (€ 48,00).
| Getting to the port in Piraeus: From Athens International Airport, take public bus #Χ96 to Piraeus (60min, 6€). Alternatively, take metro line #3 and then change at Monastiraki station to green line #1 (40min + 17min, 10€).
There are three different companies operating between the two islands: Zante ferries, Zas ferries, and SeaJets. Depending on the one you choose, the ride takes from 50min to 2h 50min, and the prices range from 7,00€ to 70,00€.
| Getting to the port of Santorini (Athinios): There is no direct bus from the airport to the port, so you have to switch buses at Fira. The bus timetable from the airport to Fira can be found here, but there is no fixed timetable for the port. The buses only depart before the departure and after the arrival of a ferry, so ask at the bus station for the next one (+30 22860 25404).
Flying to Santorini is really convenient either if you plan on spending a couple of days there or if you are not on a budget.
Because if you are, you have to achieve all of the following: find a flight that allows you to catch the ferry on the same day, have enough time to switch buses (airport-Fira-port), and book one of the cheap ferries. Miss one, and you have already lost 100€.
So, there is a third option, but it requires excellent planning skills!
There are frequent flights to Milos (MLO) from Athens (ATH) with Olympic Air, Aegean Airlines, and Sky Express (40min). Ferries depart daily from Adamantas, the port of Milos, to Folegandros (1h to 2h 40min, 7,50€ to 65,70€).
| Getting to the port of Milos (Adamantas): During summer, there is a direct bus from the airport to the port (15min, 1.80€).
Already hopping the other Cyclades? Check out all the available routes on this interactive map!
When planning your trip, if you book with SeaJets make sure it is Caldera Vista and not Seajet 2 or Superjet. These two catamarans are the fast ones but they are ridiculously expensive.
Instead, opt for other ferry companies, such as Zante ferries, Maistros Santorini, and Blue Star Ferries/Hellenic Seaways.
We took the 50min ferry with SuperJet from Folegandros to Santorini, and it didn’t even come close to deserving the 70,00€ (other companies charge 7,00€!!!). However, if you don’t plan your trip wisely, it may end up being your only option.
How to Get Around Folegandros
Folegandros´ buses are punctual, cheap, and quite frequent during summer.
Public buses from Chora run hourly to Ano Meria and Karavostasi (port), a few continuing to Livadi in summer. These buses also stop at the junction to Agali, from where the beach is a 15min descent. Fares are 2,00€ for a single trip (1,50€ for students) and can be purchased directly from the bus driver.
There is also a private bus that starts from Chora and goes all the way down to Agali. Unlike public buses, tickets ought to be purchased in advance from the Sottovento Tourism Office at Point Square. A return ticket normally costs 3,50€ although it had increased to 5,00€ during our visit in late August.
For updated information on bus timetables, check here.
By Car or Scooter
Folegandros may have a single road that runs the length of the island, but having your own set of wheels gives you the freedom to move around easily. You won’t be dependent on buses, and you can follow the dirt roads that lead directly to the beaches.
Various local companies offer car and scooter rentals at the port and Chora, but during summer a reservation is required.
- Car rental: Diaplous My Car, Evo Rent A Car, Faros Rent A Car, Folegandros Rentals, Folegandros Rent A Car, Kountouris, Venetia Rentals
- Scooter Rental: Donkey Scooters, Folegandros Moto Rent, Folegandros Rentals, Road Runner
- eBike rental: Kountouris
Renting a car or hopping on the bus isn’t the only way to get around Folegandros. It is an island, after all!
This boat tour (6h, 45,00€) could be a great introduction to Folegandros’ more secluded beaches and bays. You can choose your favourite ones and visit them again on foot or by car/bus during the rest of your stay.
Weather permitting, there are also taxi boats that depart daily from Karavostasi to Katergo beach (+30 694 5558820) and from Agali to Agios Nikolaos and Livadaki beaches.
Technically, you can walk from one edge of the island to the other in 3 hours. It is one hour from the port to Chora and another hour to Ano Meria. Well, totally unnecessary.
What is highly recommended, however, is to reach the beaches on foot. So go check out our detailed guide about the best beaches on Folegandros and the hikes that take you there!
The island´s real character and appeal are to be found in the spectacular Chora, a genuine example of traditional Cycladic architecture. Perched on a clifftop plateau and undisturbed by traffic, which is banned from the village center, it is a pleasure to wander through.
Its meandering streets, flanked by whitewashed houses with wooden balconies blazing with bougainvillea, wind happily from leafy square to leafy square. Towards the cliff-edge, and entered through two arcades, is the medieval Castro, a fortified settlement built to grant protection from pirate attacks.
At the entrance of the village, Pounta Square, also called “Balcony to the Aegean”, offers jaw-dropping sunset views. From there, a steep path snakes up to the island´s jewel, the imposing church of Panagia.
Once upon not long ago, the picturesque Bay of Vathi could only be reached by donkeys descending from the main road. Nowadays, the bay, also called Agali, is the island’s newest settlement coming into life solely during the summer months. A handful of taverns can be found here, as well as the better of the few basic rooms available on the island.
In high season, a private bus trundles out here from Chora up to ten times a day. Taxi boats set sail regularly to nearby beaches, also accessible via short footpaths.
Ferries and boats dock at the harbour settlement of Karavostasi, whose name simply means “ferry stop”. It is serviced by a sprinkling of taverns as well as by several rooms and hotels. Within a kilometer north and south of Karavostasi lies a series of beaches, all of them pleasant and easily reached by short walks (5-15min).
In summer, there are many buses a day to Chora, four continuing to Ano Meria. Weather permitting, excursions are available to beaches further afield, as well as to the island’s caves.
Northwest of Chora, a narrow, paved road runs down the spine of the island towards the rural village of Ano Meria.
The settlement, stretching for several kilometres, is a string of farming hamlets and dwellings on either side of the road, surrounded by terraced fields. But these houses, called themonies, are not simply homes. They are small autonomous agricultural and animal-breeding units suitable for the everyday needs of islanders living in a windswept and arid landscape.
Steep paths from Ano Meria weave down to remote beaches and up to chapels with wonderful sunset views. Elderly men ride past on a donkey, and quaint taverns – that double as grocery stores – serve only what the grandma has cooked up that day.
This is traditional island life where tourism makes no intrusive mark!
The rural settlement of Livadi is nothing more than a sparsely populated agricultural region with scattered farmhouses and haycock. Located in the southernmost part of the island, it features the homonymous beach and camping. None of them, however, is particularly worth a visit or a stay.
The main reason to come here is to hike to Katergo beach: the beach is arguably the best on the island, and the hike is one you will long remember!
Where to Stay
When it comes to choosing where to stay in Folegandros, it all depends on what fits you best.
Couples and everyone who wants to enjoy the island when the sun comes down can’t go wrong with staying in the captivating Chora. Those with a car and after unbeatable views and authentic island life will love every second of their stay in Ano Meria. And families with young children will find that Karavostasis and Agali offer both beaches and taverns at their doorstep.
We were initially planning on staying in Ano Meria, but we could not find a car to rent. So we ended up staying in Chora, and it turned out to be a great choice! Everything, including the bus stop, was within easy reach, and we were spoilt for choice when it came to dining and nightlife. And yet it was really quiet at night.
If you are in search of the best place to stay in Folegandros, be sure to check out this guide, where we have rounded up our favourite hotels on the island.
The Beaches & Hikes
It may be a small island, but Folegandros has no less than 16 beaches, all of them pristine and unorganised. Some are easy to access and offer every commodity for a perfect day at the beach. These include Chochlidia, Agali, and Agios Nikolaos. Others require a short walk (up to 15min) but are unorganised and without shade. Those are Vardia, Latinaki, Vitsentzou, and Pountaki at Karavostasi, as well as Fira and Galifos at Agali.
And then there are the rugged and remote, that once you reach them, you will get a glimpse into the untouched beauty of the island.
Without a doubt, Katergo and Livadaki make it to the top of this not-to-be-missed list. Vorina and Serfiotiko are also worth visiting and are off-the-beaten-path as hiking there is the only way to reach them.
For centuries, piracy was a consistent threat to the inhabitants of Folegandros. So when the Venetians arrived in the 1200s, Marco Sanudo, the first Duke of Naxos, started building Castro (meaning “castle” in Greek) to counter the constant attacks.
Castro was a fortified settlement that would protect the islanders from unwanted visitors, and every aspect of it attests to this purpose.
First and foremost, the houses on the northern side back onto the sea forming a stronghold along the ridge of the cliff with a sheer drop below. Second, its maze of crazy-paved alleys is made up of two-storey cube houses that resemble monastic cells. Juniper trees used to support the roofs of these stone houses, whose walls remained unplastered to be indiscernible from the sea.
Enter Castro through one of its two arcades – Lotzia or Paraporti – and discover the medieval charm of a village uninterruptedly inhabited since its establishment. From the repetitive, almost identical stairways to Pantanassa Church with panoramic views, a stroll around Castro is a journey back in time.
Church of Panagia
Perched on a dramatic clifftop above Chora and nocturnally illuminated to grand effect stands the wedding-cake church of Panagia.
The church is thought to have once been the site of a classical temple of Artemis, building materials from which were used for its construction. It was allegedly built after the silver icon that can be seen inside was miraculously saved by an islander from medieval pirates who drowned in a storm.
To get there, follow the zigzag path that starts from Pounta Square (15min). The church is open from 18.00 to 21.00, and the sunset views from the courtyard are magnificent.
Golden Cave (Chrisospilia)
Beyond and below the Church of Panagia is hidden the Golden Cave. Named after the golden shade of its stalactites and stalagmites, the 300-meter-long grotto has a significant speleological and archaeological interest.
Apart from its two main chambers with impressive stalactites, the cave has around 400 names inscribed on its walls and ceiling. Experts have identified the cave as a major place of worship, and the names are thought to be of young men who participated in coming-of-age ceremonies in the 4th century BC.
Steps and railings known as “Hellenic Steps” used to lead to the cave, but they have crumbled away into the sea. Therefore, the cave is only accessible to professional climbers or, weather permitting, by excursion boat from Karavostasi.
There has always been something romantic about coastal beacons, and the Lighthouse of Aspropounta is no exception. Erected in a magnificent yet lonely setting, it is one of the iconic images of Folegandros and a popular visitor attraction.
Standing 58m above sea level, and visible to passing vessels for 17 nautical miles, it was built in 1919 but wasn’t lit until 1921. It was originally lit by a wick lamp, but since 1986 it has been powered by solar energy. Behind the lighthouse is a dwelling that was used as the lightkeeper’s quarters.
You can get there from either Livadaki beach (15min) or Ano Meria (40min) and walk around its base. If you are lucky enough to bump into the light keeper, you may even take a peek at the interior.
Folegandros Ecomuseum is a peculiar 19th-century farmstead with a whole complex of auxiliary buildings and farming implements. Reconstructing the traditional peasant life, it displays a fully furnished home with a wooden oven along with a stable, cistern, threshing, and grape-pressing floor.
Surrounded by a drystone wall, it comprises a household unit, a «themonia» as the locals call it, the name deriving from the ancient Greek word meaning to gather together.
Entrance is free, but a donation box is there for everyone who wants to show their appreciation. It is open daily during summer, from 17.00 to 20.00.
What & Where to Eat
Arguably, Folegandros’ most famous traditional dish is machata, fresh homemade pasta accompanied by rooster or rabbit cooked in tomato sauce and topped with local hard cheese.
Justly famed, souroto is a spicy soft cheese made from sheep’s and goat’s milk and often used on top of the typical Greek salad instead of feta. It is also one of the two main ingredients of sourotenia or kalatsouna pie, the other being onions.
But the island is celebrated for its other unique pies as well: from the savoury hortenia (stuffed with wild greens) and manouropita (made with manouri and mizithra cheeses) to the sweet kolokithenia (pumpkin pie) and karpouzenia (watermelon pie with cinnamon, honey, and sesame seeds), the island’s pies are all worth a try.
And don’t forget to try “Katsika” (meaning goat), the locally brewed craft beer!
| For Breakfast & Coffee
| For Lunch & Dinner
| For Drinks
Most bars are arranged one after the other on one single road, starting from Kontarini Square (Piazza).
Folegandros is a place like no other, and you will become aware of it as soon as you set foot on the island.
Just make sure that you spend some time at the mountainous village of Ano Meria instead of just strolling around Chora. Hike down to the beaches instead of taking the taxi boat. And wait for the sunset at the Lighthouse of Aspropounta.
Then you can rest assured that you’ve seen the real Folegandros.