I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty sad to be leaving Athens but Greece is massive and we’d like to see a bit more of it. I can’t get over the random bits of history they just have lying about the place. Like, you’ll be walking along and you’ll see an excavation and a board telling you they wanted to built a ventilation shaft for the Metro but they found these really important Roman ruins so here they are to put in you eyeholes and we’ll just move the shaft. It must take years to build any kind of infrastructure around here.
I’ll put instructions on how to get from Athens to Rafina port which is where you catch the ferry from to get to the Cyclades group of islands, or at least the northern ones, under Useful Shit To Know because the Lonely Planet and everything I found online is out of date and resulted in a very irate woman at the KTEL Attica offices marching me outside to show me an A4 sign in the window stating exactly where we needed to be. Spoiler alert: It’s no longer the Mavromataion bus station and hasn’t been for a year.
We decided to start with Andros on account of it being relatively close to Rafina and the less time spent on a boat the better thankyouverymuch. Considering my stomach contents prepare for evacuation at the mere thought of sea travel I do keep choosing trips that involve large bodies of water. Also the whole island is criss-crossed with well waymarked hiking trails and we fancied a bit of that.
There’s a campsite a short distance from the port and that’s where we stayed. It’s a really good campsite complete with a swimming pool. I like swimming pools. No fucking sand. You can have a lovely swim and not accidentally exfoliate your butt crack afterwards. Sure, we were walking distance from what another guest at the campsite called “the best beach he’s ever been to” but, y’know, I really enjoy not being covered in tiny particles of evil. That shit makes my brain itch. It’s a paradox. I love beaches, I just wish they were all made from pebbles.
Anyway! There are loads of numbered routes around the island and we decided to start close to home. Route 15 starts about 1.5 kms from Gavrios and finishes at Agios Petros beach (the aforementioned best beach ever) which is only 1.5 kms from the campsite. It’s only around 5 kms so we decided to stick 15a on there too in order to add a further 4.4 kms onto the action.
We got up early and got going before the air turned to lava. There was a gorgeous wind, not too brutal, not cold, just perfect enough to cool the sweat on your skin without trying to push you off a fucking cliff. And there was plenty of sweat to cool. By the time we got to the start of route 15 even my eyelids were perspiring.
15 starts you off with a nice, gentle incline. You’re heading uphill but it’s not brutal. It’s mostly paved or tarmacked and the eyehole fodder just gets better and better as you ascend. Andros is beautiful and mountainous, buildings dot the brown slopes, some of them are those amazing whitewashed concrete cubes with the blue doors and window frames which couldn’t be any more Greek if they tried. A lot of them are unfinished, just the concrete frames waiting for the rest of the house to be filled in.
It’s not long until you’re on 15a which is more rugged, proper hiking trails where you have to think about where you’re stepping so you don’t twist an ankle on a rock. These kinds of trails are my favourite. 15a takes you even further up, a bit steeper, but with the wind and the early start the heat was manageable.
Definitely save your nature wees for 15a. Not that we saw another human for the entirety of the trail, 15a is more out of sight of homes. Though it doesn’t matter how remote you feel you are, when you’re squatting with your trousers round your ankles cutting the region a brand new river, every noise sounds like footsteps, or human voices getting nearer. You could be stranded on Mars but you know full well the rescue mission will show up just as you’re weeing behind a strategically placed rock.
Halfway through 15a you take a hairpin turn and you’re heading back down hill. Once you’re back on 15 it starts being more paved again. You still feel like Andros is the most remote place on Earth, no one else in their right mind would consider being outdoors under this kind of sunshine. There are a few rough tracks which eventually spit you out onto the main road where the route finishes and you can make your way back to Gavrio.
Now, I’m British. I hike in miles which is a ridiculous fucking measurement, I’ll agree, imperial makes exactly zero sense but it’s what I’m used to. Converting to kilometres is a bit disappointing. The combination of 15 and 15a totalled 9.4 kms according to the Andros Routes website and my imperial brain interpreted this as quite the achievement. I was pretty knackered, the heat had sapped my energy, you could see my stupid red face from the fucking moon.
I brought up Komoot, the app I use to track my hikes and which I still had set to miles and… oh for fuck’s sake! 5.18 miles? Really? I feel like I’ve run a marathon! Also that’s only 8 point something kilometres. I felt a bit cheated but it was a lovely walk and we were back before 1pm, sprawled by the pool, absolutely feeling like we’d earned it.
The following morning we caught the first bus from the port to Lamira with the intention of doing route 9. The downside of relying on buses is the fact they’re not at all frequent and the first bus wasn’t until 9.30am. The villages served are listed on the KTEL Andros website but they don’t mention that you’re deposited on the main road a 1.5 km walk from the village. Bollocks. This doubled the length of the walk to the trail head.
It turned out that the walk from the main road to the trail head was entirely uphill and as we’d gotten a later start than we usually liked, it felt like we were wrapped in an electric blanket set to full. Then someone set the blanket on fire. I’ve never sweated so much. Then again I say that every time I sweat a little bit. I’ve probably sweated a lot more. Sure, it was hot, but it wasn’t awfully humid and my eyebrows were doing a wonderful job of keeping all of my moisture and the SPF 50 I’d applied to my face out of my eyes.
By the time we got to the start of route 9 I was already knackered. By the end if yesterday’s walk I’d started feeling light headed and I was feeling the same now. I’d put on a lot of weight since we finished The Bottom Half, largely on account of the sitting down drinking my body weight in rum, plus the heat was difficult. My legs weren’t happy with anything I was asking them to do and Tarrant’s injured feet, one of the big reasons we finished our UK hike when we did, were causing her pain.
Fuck it. We’re not here for this. We decided to abandon route 9 in Pitrofos where we could get back to the main road and flag the next bus. I was so so tired too, I could barely keep my eyes open. Dehydration probably had a lot to do with it but we’d both been drinking enough water to upset to the bladder of a small elephant so fuck knows what else we were supposed to do to keep our aging bodies happy. Perhaps stopping hiking in 30°C heat would be a good start.
This did mean we made it back in time to cool off in the pool and apply motor impairment beverages to our faceholes. I’d like to see more of Andros but it’s definitely an island you need transport for. I think it’s only just trying to establish itself as a hiking island and whilst the trails are there, and they’re excellent trails with the most fantastic waymarking I’ve ever seen, the infrastructure to get to and from the trail heads isn’t brilliant. Taxis are probably the best way right now and that’s going to get expensive. But if you can get your hiking done before 1pm then Andros is the perfect place to make you feel like you’re the only person on Earth.
Andros, South Aegean, Greece / Άνδρος, Νότιο Αιγαίο, Ελλάδα
Stayed at: Camping Andros, Gavrio
Useful shit to know…
How To Get From Athens City To Rafina
- The ΚΤΕΛ bus station is outside Nomismatokopio Metro station which is on Line 3, the Blue Line.
- We walked to Monastiraki Square where there’s a large Metro station which is also on Line 3.
- There are ticket machines with a choice of languages. Select your language and choose Buy Travel Product -> Athens Area -> 90 Minutes. That’s assuming you only want to go one way.
- At the time of writing this ticket was €1.20 each. You can pay cash or card including contactless.
- Follow the signs for the line heading towards the airport. It’s a way away, it took us a few minutes to get there.
- It’s only nine stops (around 15 minutes) to Nomismatokopio. Exit to Mesogion Avenue and when you get to the top, look to your right and you’ll see a small bus station.
- You’re looking for the white and orange coaches, not the blue bendy buses. There are signs written in Greek with the destinations. RAFINA looks like ΡΑΦΗΝΑ in Greek.
- Other destinations served from here include Marathon, Lavrio and N. Makri.
- The schedule can be found HERE. Our bus left bang on time.
- You just get on the bus and at some point an inspector will get on to sell you a ticket. At the time of writing it was €2.40 each paid in cash only.
- The journey took about 45 minutes but it was the middle of a weekday and the traffic was good. I’ve read it can take up to 90 minutes if the traffic is bad. It drops you right at the port.
- If you’ve left yourself way too much time and have time to kill there are kiosks, cafés and public toilets by the port.
- We took the 16.45 Seajets ferry which was a massive RORO ferry. Large luggage was left on racks in the garage but we were able to take our backpacks with us.
- Seating wasn’t allocated on this particular ferry.
- There’s a small bar/café selling sandwiches, tea, coffee, booze etc.
- It was meant to take 1hr 50mins but I think it took a little longer. Not much though.
- I used Ferry Hopper to book our tickets but Ferries.gr and Greek Ferries will do the same job. I tend to check all three but there are rarely many differences.
- You’ll be sent an email confirmation which will include a link to check in online. You can check in 48 to 2 hours before the sailing.
- After checking in you’ll be emailed your boarding pass which will have a QR code you can present. You don’t need to print anything.
- Buses on Andros are run by KTEL ANDROS / ΚΤΕΛ ΑΝΔΡΟΥ and are quite infrequent, but buses from the port in Gavrio will wait for the ferry to disembark before leaving so you don’t need to worry about missing it.
- You’ll find the timetable in English HERE.
- We only took two buses; Gavrio to Lamira (which continues to Chora/Andros (same place, two names), then the same bus back again from Pitrofos. They cost €5 each, one way.
- It seems you can just flag the bus down anywhere on the main road as it passes by, that’s the impression we got and that’s what we did from Pitrofos.
- The bus stays on the main road, it doesn’t go into the villages so you’ll need to be prepared for a walk. For Lamira, we were dropped about 1.5 kms away from the village.
- My only regret is not visiting the olive museum in Pitrofos. I’ve read that it’s great. Unfortunately if we’d have visited we would have missed the bus leaving Chora at 14.30 and it would have been a three hour wait until the next bus.
- Andros Routes lists all the hiking routes. You can buy a map too which helps support the maintenance of the routes.
- A map is ideal for planning and cross-referencing with bus routes but once you’re hiking they’re so well waymarked you don’t need a map at all.
- The offline maps app, Guru Maps, has all the routes if you use the Hiking Source Map but the free version is limited. Again, it’s handy for planning.
- Do remember when planning your walks that the bus will only drop you on the main road. We weren’t aware of this and it did add a bit to our day that we weren’t expecting.
- I feel like the bus schedules do limit which hikes are possible. Of course you can rent a vehicle but most of the walks aren’t circular so you’d either need to walk there and back or try to incorporate other trails to make it circular. Also, the bus schedule means you can’t get started early which is quite essential when it heats up like fucking lava by 10am.