Journey through Ancient Greece
The island of Thasos is an excellent place to spend a few days as it has a wealth of history, beautiful beaches, good walking and magnificent scenery. Ancient remains are dotted all over the main town Límenas (or Thasos), and at Alikí, a tiny harbour down the west coast.
Thasos was famous in ancient times for its pure white marblewhich is still mined today - you are bound to see and hear the lorries carrying huge blocks of marble from the quarries, one of which is visible from the town. There was also a rich source of gold in the 5th century BC. It was Thukidides' interest in the gold here that delayed his departure for Amphípolis and caused his exile. Gold was mined here until the 19th century.
Thasos was first colonised by Paros in the 7th Century BC.
Philip II seized the island in about 340 BC and it remained under Macedonian control until the Romans arrived in 196 BC
It was occupied by the Turks from 1455 to 1912 and in the Second World War by the Bulgarians.
The painter Polygnotos was born here and Hippocrates lived here for three years.
Despite the fact that the new town was built on the site of the ancient one and much remains buried a remarkable amount is still visible, and ruins sometimes appear in unexpected places often in the gardens of modern houses, and you will see small children playing ball amongst the 'old stones' in the main square of the town.
The agora is next to the museum and behind Simi taverna. Free entrance, open 0800 to 2000. The site which is a few feet below the modern road, was excavated by the French Archaeological School in 1970-73; there is a plan of the site and some information in English. There are also stone signs in Greek and French but if the grass has not been cut it can be difficult to see them. Tread carefully if it has been raining as the ground can be boggy in places. The top of the steps at the entrance give you a good view of the whole site.
To the left of the steps are some remains of a medieval fortresswall and tower.
At the bottom of the steps on your left is the Roman courtyard. In the Roman courtyard is semicircular platform a 1st century AD exedra, it would have contained statues of the great and good. In front of this was a bench, and on either side were more statues the bases of which remain.
Building of the agora began at the beginning of the 4th century BC, the earliest buildings are on the north east side. The agora is the traditional rectangle surrounded on three sides by stoas; some of the columns of which are standing. The north west stoa is on your left beyond the Roman courtyard and just before the broad steps of the propylaea (monumental gateway). The north west stoa had 35 Doric columns along the side facing the square, two of these have been restored and you can see remains of most of the others.
The propylaea leads into the south west stoa, the last to be built in the 1st century AD. This had a colonnade of 33 Doric columns and on the outer side two rooms, in the smaller one are the bases of two columns. In the far right hand corner is an apsidal hall. In the corner of the square opposite the smaller room is the great altar
The centre of the agora was full of monuments, altars and small sanctuaries. At the far end of the south east stoa on your right is the rectangular base of the monument of Glaukos, one of the first colonists from Paros. As you enter the north east stoa you see a monument in the shape of a boat's prow with carved waves around the base. It is similar to the base of the famous Nike of Samothrace.
Coming back to the north west stoa you pass the Paraskenia on your right and come to the circular base of the peribolos with scant remains of the sanctuary of Zeus to the left.
In the centre (being careful of the boggy patches) you find the large rectangular base of the altar of Gaius and Leucius Caesar and beyond that the sanctuary of Theogenes, a famous wrestler and boxer, winner of the Olympic games.
Akropolis and Theatre
NOTE: You can do this as a circular route but the marble stairs beyond Pan's shrine are only suitable for the fit and brave, if you don't fancy them you can turn round at any point and return the way you came. There is a more direct, less arduous, less picturesque route to the theatre sign posted (most of the way!) from the town, past the temple of Dionysos.
To get to the akropolis go to the quayside in front of the museum and then go round the quay past Patrikos restaurant and the restored Turkish warehouse.
Going through an orchard and past houses you come first, on your left, to the Gate of the Goddess on a Chariot; the gate posts are visible, and a 5th century BC relief of the goddess Artemis and her chariot; the horses are held by Hermes. A little further, on the right is the Sanctuary of Poseidon, go through the gate to see the walls of the sanctuary, look out for the carving of a woman on a dolphin from the 5th century.
About 150 metres further on you come to the North Quarter. On the left is the gate of Hermes and Graces (or Semele) with posts; on the right one is the mutilated relief of Hermes and the Graces, you can just make out, a man wearing only a cloak who turns his head towards three female figures behind him. Above is what looks like a cross. Note the square holes for wooden posts.
You now reach the small promontory
of Evraiokastro, look down to the left and you will see
remains in the water of the ancient harbour. Below
the little church and ancient pharos (lighthouse)
is a wonderful cafe, on the water's edge with
superb views, if you don't want to climb up to the
akropolis you can walk along the beach back to the town -
after a coffee and a swim! Do look up towards the church
from the cafe to see the terrace of an ancient
temple. There is a traditional boat being built on
the beach here, unless they've finished it at last.
The little church of the Apostles is built on the site of a 5th century three aisled basilica, the outline of the foundations are quite clear and two columns have been restored.
Continue up quite a lot further, the
path becomes steeper, and you come to a tiny chapel,
a good place to stop for a rest under the pine trees, and
to enjoy the view. Up above you can see the wall
of the akropolis on the summit; its not much further!
At the akropolis are Byzantine towers built from old temple stones. Go down steps through an arch and a huge lime stone doorway (note the recycled trygliph.) The path now goes down before climbing up again. Do look back to see the way the medieval builders used marble blocks from the Classical sanctuary buildings for the wall of the fortress. Here and at the sanctuary and Pan's shrine there are excellent information boards in English.
At the top of the path you come to a large platform of courses of very large stone, the base of the Sanctuary of Athena Poliouchos who was the 7th century BC city's protecting deity; the foundations visible today are from a 5th century temple.
Then go to left down some steps and through a rusty gate and a little further up, in an artificial cave, is the shrine to Pan; if the light is right you can clearly see the bas relief of the god piping to his goats.
From here climb up to left, to an inconspicuous path, to a fence and 6th century BC marble steps hewn out of the rocks. The hand rail looks insecure but is firm! It is quite a long climb down with the wall on your right.
At the bottom you will find more wall with very large 'jig saw' stones, look out for the apotropaion, two huge eyes which were placed here to protect the city from the evil eye. Also don't miss the inscription on one of the huge stones: PARMENONME 'Parmenon made me'. Round the corner from that is Parmenon's gateway complete with its huge stone lintel.
Once through the gate you cross a meadow and pass houses, go down some steps and into the town. When you get to the town turn left for Silinos' gate; here there is a colossal bas relief of Silinos. Go down the steps to see it on the left hand side of the gate. You will note that he is missing an essential part of his anatomy: over many years infertile women took pieces of the marble, ground them and drank them in the hopes of becoming pregnant! The gate leads to several small houses from the 4th or 3rd century BC.
Turn back now towards the town passing the Herakleion, shrine to Herakles, the earliest shrine in the ancient city. It was here in 404 BC that the Spartan leader Lysander murdered all the Thasian democrats having promised them an amnesty.
The museum reopened partially 2 years ago after many years closure.
The few items on show are beautifully displayed and there is an interesting video (in English) on the history of the island and the excavations.
The piece de résistance of the museum is the magnificent colossal kouros, possibly Apollo, which was found on the akropolis. It had been partially carved, around 600 BC, and then carried up the hill where it was damaged and so was never used. The kouros, 3.5 metres high, carries a ram; his hair is wonderful. The face was never carved.
One room is devoted to Theogenes and athletics, the second has a splendid display of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age burial customs, tools and pottery including a prehistoric upright loom.
out in Limenas
Liménas has its share of touristy eating places but you can find plenty of good tavernas frequented by locals. As always on an island prices are slightly higher than the mainland. We have tried the following, the prices are for two people with hearty appetites:
Simi on the harbour's edge. We had 'granny's mushrooms', lovely crab salad, Simi chicken, slouvaki, half kilo red, 23.60
Takis, in an alley (I'm not sure which!), a friendly no-nonsense place with traditional Greek food at a reasonable price. I Piyi (pigi) in the main squarenear the spring, good traditional home cooking.
Syrtaki the last of the tavernas on the town beach.yigantes, cheese balls, mousakas, sardines, ouzo and half kilo white, 25. Wonderful view of the setting sun and fishing boats.
Mouses At the far end of the town, a good walk past the ferries. Very nice, friendly service, busy. Yigantes, flogeres, mousakas and lamb, two ouzo, half kilo very nice red wine, (pitta with garlic dip and creme brulee on the house). 25.
Alkyon (Halcyon: Kingfisher) On the western end of the town near the landing stage and large car park is this pretty tea garden run by Persephone who makes good tea and bakes her own cakes ((lemon meringue pie is a favourite). She also does snack lunches.
Karnagio www.karnagio.gr. Taverna on the beach near the chapel of the Apostles. You can reach it along the beach or by going up towards the akropolis. The setting is superb, the view wonderful. We haven't eaten there. There are sun beds for hire.
In Limenas they go from over the road from the bus station, which is opposite the Dolphin terminal. There is a large time table inside the bus station, and you can check the times by asking inside. They sometimes have timetables on request.
There are loud speaker announcements for departures. Gyros is the 'round the island trip' about 3 times a day, a good bet for a rainy day. But also the one to take for further flung destinations such as Paradise Beach and Aliki.
When you get off the bus check with the driver for return times and bus stop. On the Gyros you can get on and off all day on that ticket.
This pretty little harbour is a 45 minute drive or 1 hour bus ride away. The bus stops at the top of a path leading down to the harbour. On the way to Alikí you pass a marble quarry where you can clearly see how the blocks of marble are cut from the rock face.
Alikí is absolutely idyllic; two small bays with beaches separated by an isthmus where there are ruins of an ancient sanctuary, remains of two Byzantine basilicas and an ancient marble quarry.
To get to the sanctuary go through the wooden bus shelter opposite Beautiful Alice. Go up to the right from the sanctuary, through the trees to find the basilicas, and the continue up to the fence and you can see below the remains of the ancient marble quarry.
It is a wonderful place for a picnic but there are also a few tavernas on the beach.
We have been to Beautiful Alice on the edge of the water; their spinach croquettes are lovely, and the paidakia (small lamb chops) and keftedes are also both good. They have jugs of retsina.
Golden Beach can be reached by boat, practically opposite the Alkyon tearooms. An hour's scenic trip, usually goes at 1000 and 1100, and back at 1700. Don't take the bus as it is a hot and steep 4 kilometre walk down from the main road, although you can take a foot path. The sea is often quite lively for swimming, but hire a sun bed and umbrella to enjoy the views. Try the restaurant on your right facing the sea for a leisurely lunch.
The following information was kindly provided by Pat Fitton who introduced us to Thasos.
Panagia and Potomania Two mountain villages, easily reached by bus and interesting to walk round, Panagia has a beautiful church and the best honey. You can walk back to Limenas from Panagia. Follow the road out of town back towards Limenas until you come to a white church on the left hand side of the road. A few yards further on the left is a wide track. Follow this down the hill until it joins an old stone road. Go right at spring and fountain down hill and walk on until you come to the main road into Limenas. It takes about an hour and a half, and the butterflies should be marvellous. We saw a snake on the side of the road which had just eaten, and had huge bulges in the middle. Most snakes you might see are harmless, the only poisonous one looks like our adder. Do not put your hands into stone walls and check before sitting down on loose rocks and walls. In Potamia is a museum with the works of a modern sculptor.
The bus also goes to beaches on the east coast: Skala, Potamia, Paradise Beach and Astris, and on the west coast Skala Prinos and Skala Marion etc.
Theologos is the old capital and an interesting stone village.
The Archangel Monastery is worth a visit, you can get the bus there. Wear suitable clothes.
Lance Chilton's guide to walks on the island is available at Leatherland next to the Alkyon www.marengowalks.com
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