The island of Samothrace has remained relatively undiscovered by mass tourism and is the island of choice for domestic tourists from northern Greece. The modern port town of Kamariotissa is on the northwest coast of the island and is the main port of arrival for ferries.  The town provides ferry access to and from Alexandroupoli and Kavala in northern Greece. It is the main transport hub for the island and is the largest town, with a population of just under 1000.

A brief history of Samothrace

Because the island has no natural harbour it didn’t really play a huge role in ancient Greece and most of the island is mountainous and therefore uninhabitable. However, the island was an important site of Hellenic and pre-Hellenic religious ceremonies because it is home to the sanctuary of the gods. Accounts from antiquity tell us that Pelasgians and Carians, and later Thracians first inhabited Samothrace. At the end of the 8th century BC, the Greeks from Samos colonized the island. Which is where the name Samos of Thrace came from, later becoming Samothrace. The Persians occupied Samothrace in 508 BC and it later passed under Athenian control. During the Roman period, thanks to interest from Roman emperors, the sacred importance of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods located on the island surpassed Greek borders and Samothrace became an international religious centre. Pilgrims flocked from all over the Roman world to visit the sanctuary. The Byzantines ruled until 1204 when Venetians took their place, then the Ottomans arrived in 1457 and they called the island Semadirek in Turkish. During the Greek War of Independence from 1821 to 1831 and 1,000 inhabitants were massacred, then in 1913, the island went under Greek rule following the Balkan wars.  It was temporarily occupied by Bulgaria during the Second World War, from 1941 to 1944. 

Things to do on Samothrace

Whilst most tourists normally head for the villages and town around the island Kamariotissa is still a charming port town with many fish tavernas and bars. For more historic surroundings why not travel to the island's capital, or Hora, as it is also known. The town lies between two steep cliffs that act as a fortress and it has a good view of the sea. There is a byzantine castle that was built on one of its peaks in the 10th century.   There are lovely winding streets, terracotta roofs and plenty of remains from Genovese rule. If you are more of an outdoorsy type, then the island has a lot to offer in terms of hiking, but the paths are quite poorly marked, so it's best to have a decent map or even a guide. The agency, Samothraki Travel, provides canyoning tours for those who are a little adventurous because canyoning involves a combination of climbing up and abseiling down canyons as well as plunging into the water from some parts. There is also diving available on the island as the waters of Samothraki are usually quite warm and clear. You can find different types of diving from caves, to colourful reefs and shipwrecks. When on Samothrace do not miss the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. It is located about 6km northeast of Kamariotissa and is a temple built in about 1000 BC to honour fertility deities. It is an archaeological site shrouded in lot mystery and various forms of ritual worship have taken place over the centuries, at one time the death penalty was given for revealing the secrets of the sanctuary!

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