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Die Kykladeninsel Folegandros, Bild: Milan Gonda / shutterstock

Folegandros – The Cycladic Island

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The Greek Cyclades islands are known to many holidaymakers mainly because of names such as Santorini, Mykonos or Naxos . After all, the scattered islands in the Mediterranean are an important attraction for tourists and, in addition to the opportunity for a simple rest on the picturesque beaches, also offer one or the other glimpse of the Greek culture that was once of great importance on these islands. With the development of tourism on the larger islands, however, the attitude to life has also changed. Where once the ancient Greeks had some of their most important places of worship, today it is mainly about tourism and the real Greece is receding into the background.

However, there are still some islands of the Cyclades where the original life prevails. The island of Folegandros is emblematic of what the Cyclades looked like before people came to the islands for relaxing holidays and for the rediscovery of Greek culture. In addition, the island has always been considered particularly rough and has therefore developed its very own attitude to life, which can still be seen on every corner today. In addition to its original charm, it is above all the many beaches and the special landscapes on the island that make the small island an insider tip of the archipelago.

The long history of the Iron Island

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The church of Panagia in Chora, Image: jcfmorata / shutterstock

Folegandros differs from the “cousins” of the Cyclades mainly in that the island is fertile only in small parts. Just enough to feed its own population and provide for many years of agriculture. The rocky cliffs and the stony ground were already notorious in ancient times and in Roman times and ensured that the island was used in later years mainly as a prison island and as an exile for undesirable persons. But that doesn’t mean that the Greeks didn’t settle here with their own temples and even an acropolis – as part of the Attic League, the ruins of these places of worship have been preserved to this day.

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Over the following years, Folegandros developed in a similar way to Mykonos or Naxos. People began to live less from agriculture and much more from tourists. The big advantage of Folegandros was that the island can only be reached by ship to this day and a real hype has never set in. This means that although you have a good tourist infrastructure on site, you won’t come across a completely overloaded island. Both the inhabitants and the island itself have been able to retain their original charm, welcome and enjoy visitors and otherwise go about their own lives.

What are the main attractions in Folegandros?

Many traces of the former island of Folegandros have been lost over the centuries and many of the former ruins were quarries or foundations for later times. Today, the most important sights are mainly the two towns of the island. The capital Folegandros – or Chora – is the most important place. The village was laid out as a kind of fortress, in which the houses were built on the outside like a city wall. This can still be seen today – even though many houses have now erected themselves outside the city centre. In the town itself, there are many small restaurants and bars where you can stop for a bite to eat and get in touch with the island’s inhabitants. From here you can also get to the Panagia, a monastery that was built on the former ruins of the Acropolis and was meaningful for the island for decades. The Folklore Museum in the immediate vicinity shows what life was like on the island in the past and that many things have hardly changed for the inhabitants of Folegandros in recent centuries.

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Discover the unspoilt nature of Folegandros on your own paths

Beach in Folegandros
There are also fantastic beaches for swimming on Folegandros, Image: Aerial-motion / shutterstock

The real treasure of the island can be found in its nature. Due to the fact that tourism began late and there are hardly any hotels to be found on the island to this day, a large part is still as the island once was. Picturesque beaches, impressive cliffs and the cliffs so typical of the Cyclades are just some of the examples that can be discovered here while exploring. A special highlight is the Chrysospilia, which can only be entered at all in good weather and for which there are currently only sporadic guided tours, as the archaeological development has not yet been completed.

Those who decide to travel to Folegandros do not receive a wellness program and comprehensive tourist offers. Visitors use their trip to the island mainly for long hikes, for a long day on the deserted beaches and to discover the Cyclades in their original form. So if it gets too crowded on Naxos or Mykonos, you should book a trip by boat to the island. Because that’s the only way to get here and that’s exactly how the inhabitants want it – so that they can preserve the charm of their island.