A "different" Cycladic Island
Andros is the second largest and northernmost island of the Cyclades, southeast of Evia and only a few miles away from Cape Kafireas (widely known as the “wave-beaten” Cavo Doro). It lies northwest of Tinos, separated from it by a three-quarter mile wide strait called Steno.
Andros is one of the most mountainous islands, with densely vegetated gorges and valleys, where citrus fruits, olives, vines, figs and cereals grow. Its rich surface and underground water sources constitute its most special natural feature. Four consecutive mountains running almost parallel to one another form the island’s sharp relief. When crossing each other, they create steep gorges, narrow ravines and vast fertile valleys, producing a lush landscape with oaks, plane trees, walnut trees, cypresses, holmoaks, olive trees etc.
Andros is famous for its countless water sources, as a result of its altitude, the high amount of rainfall and the hydrogeological behavior of the dominant stone on Andros: the watertight schist.
Andros’ ecosystems form several zones. The river mouths generate valuable habitats for amphibians and special birds. Andros wetlands, rocky beaches and surrounding small islands offer shelter to a great number of rare bird species. The birdlife, with more than 200 bird species, is very important. More about Andros’ protected species can be found at www.androslife.gr
Due to its sharp relief, there are also several local microclimates, playing an important role in the vegetation, the agricultural development and the fauna of the island. Generally, Andros’ climate is mild Mediterranean, the same as in the rest of the Cyclades.
Andros’ harbor, Gavrio, is connected with mainland Greece through the port of Rafina. The island has three main urban centers: Batsi, Andros Town and Korthi. A brief tour of Andros is available at http://andros.gr/gr/periigisi/periigisi-sto-nisi.html
Andros is an island with a significant, century-long history, with monuments, antiquities and ruins scattered all over the island, bearing witness to its long cultural heritage. More about Andros’ history can be found at http://andros.gr/gr/istoria.html
Another striking feature of Andros is its special and varied architecture. Typical small Aegean houses coexist with wealthy neoclassical buildings, Venetian tower-houses and forts, stone residences, watermills, dovecotes and springs, yielding historic significance and prestige to every corner of the island. Beyond its verdant landscape, Andros is also famous for its rich cultural heritage and maritime tradition. A few words about Andros’ culture can be found at http://andros.gr/gr/politismos.html
The special rural architecture completes the unique character of Andros. “Xerolithies” (dry stone-walls) are an integral element of Andros’ cultural heritage. “Xerolithia” is a masonry wall construction technique, where each stone is placed next to or on top of the other, using wedges as connecting material. They are admirable not only for their wild beauty but also for the man’s ability to battle the forces of nature and transform the wild mountain slopes into arable lands through a natural use of the surrounding environment. Keeping nature’s harmony in mind and using the local stone as tool, Andros’ builders created “emasies” or “pezoules” (lit. terraced plots). Using the same kind of stone they also constructed threshing floors, wells, lodgings for people and animals, cobbled streets, fencing walls, water mills, horizontal mills, bridges etc., everything in the same color, matching the environment. It is impressive how much hand work was demanded to complete these pieces of art.
For centuries, Andros has been crossed by cobbled streets and footpaths. They used to serve as the main communication channels between feudal estates, castles and villages, as well as to connect with the shores, pastures, farms and churches. This network of streets and trails is the backbone of Andros’ rural areas. Nowadays, a number of accessible trails are still preserved.
Following the old trails, a unique landscape reveals small forests, fertile valleys, numerous beaches, ravines with continuous water flow, streaming waterfalls and springs. In addition, there are windmills, watermills, dovecotes, monasteries, rural chapels, stone bridges, beautiful villages and mansions of unique architecture, with balconies decorated with flowers and green gardens.
KorthiKorthi is situated in the southern part of Andros, characterized by its rural landscape. It is crossed by two mountain massifs, Gerakones in the north and Rachi in the south. Between them lie both the fertile Korthi valley with its traditional settlements and its numerous streams and the impressive Dipotamata gorge, with its many water-mills. The area’s main touristic site is the Upper Castle (Epano Kastro), an old medieval fortress, with a spectacular view of the Aegean Sea. Behind this mountain is situated the Panachrandou monastery, a castle-like structure, hanging on the slopes of Mount Gerakonas, with a breathtaking view of Andros Town.