meaning “iron hard”, ought to be sung to the tune
of Gaga’s Alejandro – but, be warned: you won’t be able to unhear
it. Folegandros, too, gets under your skin. On this lesser-visited
island in the southern Cyclades, near Milos and Santorini, bougie
accommodation is hard to come by, which is part of its appeal, of
course, against the noise and glare of neighbouring Mykonos. Anemi
Hotel is a rare gem.
Being a little further from Athens than some of the busier Greek
islands, getting here is all part of the adventure: think
heartbreaking island cruise-bys, deep sapphire seas and sun-warmed
decks on the slower, eight-hour ferry crossing from Piraeus
(recommended: you can’t go outside on the speedier vessels).
Novelty headboards aside (did you get an abstract knife or a tea
towel fluttering in the wind?), the design throughout is
streamlined and low-key. The classic blue-white sentiments of
Greek-Cycladic architecture are echoed in the infinity pool and
forever-sapphire sky. Furnishings are pared down and in a muted
palette: white, yellow and the occasional pale marigold. Sister
hotel AthensWas, in the capital, is much more severely and
seductively a design hotel, but the staggered villas and
stripped-back approach is more than appropriate in the volcanic and
moody setting of this island. Deluxe or suite, mountain- or
ocean-facing, it’s your choice, but every room is spacious,
spotless and darlingly-equipped. On our visit, there was a welcome
gift of red pepper cheesecake and bottles of Metaxa, while the
well-curated minibar includes the likes of kale chips.
What’s for breakfast?
Eggs done every which way (go for the Greek omelette), cheese
and fruit plates and other small tapas-sized options you can order
individually, as you fancy. The pancakes are highly recommended.
This waste-conscious, clean and dainty approach is brilliant; it
also means that your morning meal is free of break(fast)-dancing
flies and throwaways.
What about lunch and dinner?
A strangely satisfying club sandwich can be found on the
poolside menu, to either line the tum before a boozy boat tour or
cure a raki hangover.
Is there a bar?
The poolside bar is cute and the waiters will whip up anything
off-menu, including a Tequila Espresso Martini, which my party
found particularly moreish after a long day in the sun. Local beers
and wines are reasonably priced, but don’t expect a natural wine or
craft beer selection. My tipple of the trip was anise-heavy ouzo
(much like pastis) and water with lots of ice, keeping me hydrated
in soaring temperatures but nicely refreshed and supporting local
longstanding ouzeries. Yes, that’s a word. Just be sure not to
forget the aqua component, and don’t drink it flaming like the
sambuca of your youth.
Things I should know…
Though sleepy, Folegandros is strange, heavenly, vast and well
worth exploring – a hire car or quad is a great idea here. Scope
out Ibiza-like bars and restaurants in bustling Chora, which comes
alive at night. Make reservations at the uber-impressive Tuk Tuk
Thai Spirit House, which gets our vote for its softly lit lanterns,
friendly staff, banging soundtrack and excellent food, not to
mention its totally off-the-wall spicy cocktails. Preface twinkly
romantic nights with a zigzagged sunset climb up to the Virgin Mary
Church, which clings to the cliffs and, at dusk, looks like a
floating apparition. Set aside a day to lounge on Agios Nikolaos
beach and feast on catch of the day and taramasalata at Pasithea.
Get off the beaten track in your chosen vehicle and find secret
coves and even a rumoured haunted house…
Within a short walk I will find…
Folegandros Port, and Spiros from Sea-U.com, with his dinky boat
Cliffhanger – if you book him, that is. From there, this smiley,
bespectacled captain will take you on a stunning tour of
Folegandros’ coves and deserted beaches. The sheer drama of the
island’s jutting heights is quite unique, even in the Cyclades, and
by small boat you can reach even its more exclusive and freaky-good
spots. Anticipate marbled beaches with crashing turquoise waves,
limestone cliffs dropping down to reflective emerald waters and a
dusky rose-lavender sunset underneath the famous church, before
nightfall deems small-vessel travel dangerous.