“THIS,” smiles Nicholas Moustakas, as we sit at a sunny taverna next to the Aegean Sea lunching on grilled octopus, anchovies, cheese, tomatoes and humous, “is our secret paradise.”
Well, it was, Nicholas. But perhaps not for much longer.
Because I’m about to let the cat out of the bag and tell Sun readers all about it.
For years, Andros was indeed the Greek island tourists forgot.
Despite being the second largest of the Cyclades and the nearest to Athens, few people outside Greece knew about it.
Holidaymakers caught a ferry at the mainland port of Rafina and sailed right past it to party island Mykonos.
READ MORE TRAVEL
You can rent an entire island and lighthouse in European hotspot for just £28pppn
Mum splits opinion after asking if she should take sick child on holiday abroad
Which suited the rich locals, many of whom had made a fortune in shipping and were doing just fine without tourism — they could have the unspoilt beaches and stunning mountains all to themselves.
Now, though, Nicholas, the jovial Deputy Mayor of Tourism on Andros, and his neighbours are starting to welcome visitors to their “secret paradise”.
But with a proviso — no high-rise hotels, raucous discos or hordes of booze-swigging youths spoiling their tranquillity.
“No matter how many tourists we get,” says Nicholas, as I order a second Alfa beer and gentle bouzouki music plays, “Andros will always remain authentic.
Most read in The Sun
Woman dies in front of thousands of holidaymakers on packed Cornwall beach
I won the lottery with my girlfriend but she left me and took all the money
Secret funeral for Darius with Gerard Butler joining family to say farewell
Tyson Fury’s Netflix series could scupper December date for Usyk fight
“Other islands have become commercialised party islands. For single, young people in their twenties who want to party all day and night, Andros is not recommended.
“Instead, it is a place for families and couples, a place to relax with lovely beaches, countryside and food.”
Some of the 80 beaches are easily accessible, with bars and sunbeds, while others are so remote and unspoiled you scramble down steep rocky mountain paths to reach them.
One strip of sand at Pidima, on the south-east of the island, features a tower-like rock rising from the water and is called the Old Lady’s Leap.
According to legend, an elderly woman betrayed defenders of the local castle by opening the door to an invading Ottoman army who slaughtered everyone inside.
Overcome with remorse, she then hurled herself off the rock to drown in the sea.
But it’s the mountains, almost 3,000ft high and with fresh springs and spectacular water-falls, that really lend Andros its character.
There are more than 100 miles of hiking trails, taking you through little forests and canyons, over arched bridges and past pretty watermills and windmills.
We spent our first three nights at the rather remote but very comfortable 3H Armonia Resort, high in the mountains.
It is surrounded by trees and flowers, and dotted with pots of geraniums, and from our balcony we had a view down to the sea and the orange-roofed sugar-cube houses in the island’s little capital Chora five miles away.
Beaming owner Anna could not do enough to welcome us and enthusiastically serves delightful breakfasts, with her own scrumptious cheese pie and irresistible cakes.
Later, before we left, she pressed on us jars of her homemade “spoon sweet”, created from Greece’s traditional fruit preserves.
She is happy to arrange hiking and walking tours, horse-riding — or visits to the island’s half-dozen monasteries, most dating to Byzantine times.
Monks firing rifles
Many are said to possess the remains of long-dead saints — such as, St Pantaleon, who was cruelly martyred after performing miracles in the 4th Century.
When we paid a visit to his monastery, peacocks strutted in the grounds but we were surprised to see two big cannons outside the doors, next to paintings of ferocious-looking monks firing rifles.
Our guide, Fotis, explained they were used to fight off pirates in medieval days.
A few miles away we used stepping stones to cross a stream and picnicked by the Pythara waterfall in a ravine known to locals as Fairyland.
Then we strolled past the village of Stenies, nicknamed the Beverly Hills of Andros because so many millionaires live there, before reaching Chora with its whitewash cafes and restaurants.
On a rocky outcrop linked to the mainland by a little stone bridge are the remains of a 13th-century Venetian castle, and nearby the little Endochora restaurant is where we tucked into juicy steak.
The next day we moved to the simple but comfy Karanasos Hotel, just yards from the beach in Batsi on the opposite side of the island.
By Andros’s standards, Batsi is a lively resort, with a handful of little shops, bars and restaurants along the seafront — try the Oti Kalo and Stamatis tavernas for dinner.
But unlike on Mykonos and Greece’s other party islands, well before midnight there’s hardly a soul to be seen.
Finally, before leaving Andros, there are two things not to miss.
One is the Zairis patisserie, which bakes sensational cakes and pastries, and local almond sweets called Amigdalota.
Read More on The Sun
Tattooist shows off freckles she gave to a client… but people are horrified
Strictly ‘in chaos over schedule clash leaving bosses fearing backlash’
The other is the Sea Satin Nino restaurant in the remote coastal village of Korthi where I ate one of the best meals I’ve tasted this year.
The sardines stuffed with caramelised onions were divine.
It will be worth going back to Andros just to eat there again.
GETTING THERE: Andros does not have an airport. So fly to Athens or Mykonos, from where it is a two-hour ferry ride to the island.
STAYING THERE: Rooms at the 3H Armonia Hotel are from £92 a night.
See armonia-resort.gr. Rooms at the Karanasos Hotel from £33 per night. See hotelkaranasos.com.
MORE INFO: See andros.travel
Source: Read Full Article