Over the last few years Andros, the second largest Cycladic island after Naxos and only two hours away from Rafina port by ferry, found its place on the world map when it became known as a top European hiking destination. Called Hydroussa in antiquity because of its abundance of water, it is the lushest of the usually somewhat barren islands in its group, and trekking groups such as Andros Routes have worked hard to make it idyllically walkable. However, as more visitors arrive to explore its scenic landscapes and picturesque historical landmarks such as towers, archaeological sites, and springs, the island is beginning to cater more to holistically-minded wellness seekers and outdoorsy adventurers. Within the last decade and especially the last few years the island’s inhabitants have been developing more natural, organic, traditional products and creating healthy hubs.
Fresh tonics to make your day
Since the summer of 2018 Andros’ picturesque main town of Chora has the island’s first official juice and health-food bar called Fresco. Here you’ll find a gratifying variety of freshly squeezed or blended fruit and vegetable juices made with local and seasonal as well as imported ingredients, and yummy or health-conscious fruit and vegetable salad bowls and sandwiches. In an agora that used to be only about coffee, ice cream, pastries and cheese pies (not that there’s anything wrong with the delicious variety found here, especially the locally made almond biscuits, amygdalota), Fresco was a welcome arrival for both Andriots who like a healthy kick and tourists who are well accustomed to such options.
Developing spa-cial abilities
This year Andros’ Chora is also home to the island’s first spa, which is run by the five star Micra Anglia boutique hotel but is set up separately from the hotel. Located in a cave-like environment decked out in understated luxury with natural materials and soothing neutral tones, the brand new spa offers jacuzzi and hammam as well as a variety of beauty and wellness treatments and therapies.
A walk on the wild side
Andros Routes was set up in 2010 by the Andros Research Centre and is run by a dynamic team headed by Olga Karayianni. Over the years the team has welcomed volunteers from around the world who have helped them clear old stone-paved or earth kalderimia foot and donkey trails that locals used before cars existed on the island and map out a multitude of routes. One can buy a walking map from most tourist stores and go solo or book a hike with the organisation, which caters to people of all ages and walking experience and offers a historical and cultural tour of the landscapes. In October (5-20) Andros Routes is hosting the Second Andros on Foot Festival, which involves a full program of guided hikes through villages, scenic natural landscapes, rivers, waterfalls, beaches, and restaurants.
Honouring nature and the holistic dream
Onar, which means dream, is an accommodation ‘settlement’ intended to blend in harmoniously with nature. It’s located near one of the island’s most beautiful beaches, Achla, once only reachable by those who had their own boat but today there are daily tourist boats heading there as well as a road. Onar is built on a protected wetland where a river that starts at Vourkoti beach and ends at Achla traverses. It is a complex of villas and cottages where holistic retreats such as yoga workshops are taught in a Mongolian yurt by international teachers and hosted from Spring to the end of summer. Onar also prepares organic, healthy meals for its guests.
Organic & traditional groceries
Upon arriving at Gavrio port, organic and healthy food lovers will be pleased to discover Andriakon grocery store, which sells both locally made, organic products like cheeses, jams, chutneys (for excellent choices of the latter two, ask for products made by Ornella), as well as other Greek organic (like Troo Food Liberation’s kale chips and crackers) and top quality products, like Zeos unpasteurised beer and other Greek craft lagers, fruit crisps, pickles, cheeses, milks, cold cuts and more. In Chora, along the agora, stop at the tiny but packed Paradosiako Pandopoleio for every kind of spice, organic hima wine from Limnos and many other wines, essential oils, rusks, cheeses and herbs, as well as Rodozachari for the traditional Andros sausage used in the island’s famous Fourtalia omelette, local cheeses (try the soft volaki goat cheese), herbs, honey and juicy capers.