The Iraklia Island Hiking Bliss Trip
by xkorov · April 5, 2015
Experience hiking bliss on the small island gem of Iraklia, in our 2 or 3-day hiking tours, with ferry departures from/to Paros (3h), Naxos, Amorgos or Peireaus and accommodation in rooms or tents. From easy walking on traditional stone-paved footpaths to caving and hiking adventures, enjoying untouched Cycladic landscapes, impressive cliffs and wild coastline! (Click on day description below)
Description We arrive by boat in Iraklia’s Aghios Georgios port around midnight and either go to our rooms in the village or walk to Livadi beach (15 min) to pitch tents for the night.
After a good breakfast, we start our trek from Livadi beach, walking on unmarked trail around the cape to explore impressive rock formations and stop for a quick dip by the sea caves. From the hills around Livadi, we continue our walk inland, in the relatively arid Cycladic landscape, shaped by the characteristic, centuries-old ‘pezoules’ (stone-built terraced fields), some still cultivated with cereal crops, and ravines with low-lying bush and juniper trees. The unmarked trail continues for approx. 3 km and takes us to a place of great natural beauty, the rocky terrace over the bay of Merichas and its turquoise waters, surrounded by vertical cliffs over 100m high, where seabirds and wild doves have their nests.
After walking by the cliffs and enjoying magnificent views, we move inland again, going uphill to reach the old chapel of Profitis Ilias (320 m), where we pause to take in the view to Naxos and the Small Cyclades islands, as well as the island’s interior. After a bit of bushwalking, our path gets clear and well-marked, taking us to the highest point on the island, the peak of Mt. Papas (420 m). The breath-talking, panoramic view encompasses all surrounding islands (Ios, Paros, Antiparos, Naxos, Donousa, Ikaria, Koufonissia, Schinoussa, Amorgos, Santorini), as well as the entire, lace-like Iraklia coastline.
After a break there, (or on lower ground if the wind is blowing hard), we start on our descent on rocky but well-kept footpath, passing by a stone-built fountain. We then reach the village of Panagia, perched high on the hills, where we stop for refreshments or a late lunch. On our way back on paved and dirt road, we pay a visit to Aghios Georgios port for a quick tour of the village and a sunset ‘raki’ or coffee at the traditional coffee shop/grocery-store/travel-agency there. If we feel like it, a short walk from the village can also take us to Kefali hill for bay and sunset views. After that, we can either return to our rooms to shower/rest or prepare for a proper dinner (for stay at Aghios Georgios), or go back to Livadi to lounge at the beach or our tents.
In a nutshell [The wild beauty of southeast Iraklia] Countryside/traditional village/sea views, moderate, distance 16km, elevation ±420m, duration 6-7h (walking time).
Description Starting out after an early breakfast, we pass from Livadi and take a short uphill hike to the remains of Kastro, the Hellenistic fort and the settlement around it and enjoy the view inland and above the beach.
Going down, we cross the paved road and start walking on dirt road on mostly flat but elevated ground with views to the bay of Livadi and beyond, to Venetiko and Schinoussa islands. Taking an old, sometimes rough footpath, we descend to the Vorini Spilia (‘Northern cave’) bay to admire the sea cave and the rocky shore, with its turquoise blue waters and beautiful sea bottom (excellent for snorkeling!). After our dip there, we continue on an unmarked uphill trail (with a touch of bush-walking) in wooded hillsides. The narrow footpath crosses a stream and eventually takes us up to the abandoned settlement of Aghios Athanasios, with its traditional Cycladic architecture houses, and great views both inland and to the sea. After Aghios Athanasios, we take a lunch break and rest under the shade of olive trees and junipers.
The route continues under the shadow of Mt. Papas, on a winding stony footpath high above the rocky coastline, until we get to the mouth of the Aghios Ioannis cave. This is the biggest cave on the Cyclades islands and one of the most interesting ones in Greece. Going on all fours, we pass the narrow entrance to find ourselves in the dark interior of the cave that also serves as a chapel. Using headlamps and torches, we explore the enormous cave chambers, spotting impressive stalactites and stalagmites, and the rare ‘speleogala’ (milky stalactite substance) dripping from its walls. The cave is 70 m above the coastline; as we exit, we are faced with beautiful N-NW sea views. We then walk uphill to the ridge of the hills on the westernmost cape. As our route’s direction shifts, we get more sweeping sea views both to the N-NW and S-SW.
At that point, depending on the group’s stamina, we may either attempt a 110 m descent/ascent on rough, step and unmarked footpath to Alimnias beach (1 h go & return), in the island’s most isolated and scenic bay, or continue our hike on a northbound return route. Then, it is downhill on the rocky shores of Vourkaria, followed by an uphill stony footpath with stunning views, just above the steep rocky shoreline, on to the rugged hills of Seladi (‘Mountain Pass’, 320 m). On an ascent during the ‘golden hour’, one can experience an almost magical sunset, with the sun going down far into the Aegean. At Seladi heights, we catch sight of the Aghios Athanasios chapel and the entire north side of the island. Taking the mostly flat, stone-paved footpath (later turning into a dirt-road) all the way to Aghios Georgios, we arrive at the village once more, to get some rest and prepare for a taverna dinner, or stop for dinner and head to Livadi later on to spend the night.
In a nutshell [Unique coastal paths & cave secrets] Countryside/traditional village/sea views/caving, moderate, distance 17/18km, elevation ±270m, duration 6.5-7h (walking time).
Description We begin with an early breakfast at Stavros (or Livadi) and then take the easy footpath to Aghios Athanassios and, once again, the scenic, rocky southbound trail to Aghios Ioannis Cave (6.5 km in all).
After a break near the Cave we have two options (a) either first visit ‘exotic’ Alimnias beach (the island’s remotest, in case we have not already done so, 1h go & return on a rough downhill trail), or directly take an alternate unmarked footpath on the rocky hills above Cape Monopetra all the way downhill to Karvounolakkos beach. As we carefully descend and eventually enter the ravine that leads to the beach, we enter a rugged landscape with steep, craggy hillsides and dilapidated, age-old farmsteads, enjoying superb cape and sea views. Reputedly a pirates’ hangout in the old days, Karvounolakkos is a pebbly beach surrounded by mountains and majestic rocks, with deep and swelling waters.
After a break with a refreshing dip and some food, we embark on an unmarked but not very difficult trail (compared to our descent) on the hillside. Moving east, we keep on climbing close to the edge of the cliffs that make up the central south coast of Iraklia. As we gain elevation, the view to the sea and the cliffs around us gets more and more spectacular, until we reach ‘Ftero tou Mericha’ (Mericha’s Wing’), a plateau on the south part of Mt. Papas overlooking the sea at 400 m. The sea views all the way to Santorini and beyond are really something to remember, and so are the awesome vertical cliffs to the west and east.
Starting on our way back, we go downhill through Panagia village and through the valley of Dema, to Aghios Athanasios and Aghios Georghios or Livadi, depending on where we are staying. After a well-deserved dinner and some repose, we start with preparation for our departure, as very early in the following morning, we shall bid Iraklia farewell, taking with us pictures and memories of our adventures, as well as the island’s unique feeling.
See route map here. Questions or more info? Ask us!
In a nutshell [Iraklia’s finest hiking adventure ] Countryside views/Sea views/hillside climbing/swimming, demanding, distance 17/18km, elevation ±400m, duration 7/8h (walking time).