The Trails of Donoussa
What makes Donoussa special is the comprehensive network of marked trails that covers a significant portion of the island, and we strongly recommend that you use them to get to know all the island’s beauties up close. In this regard, Donoussa resembles Iraklia. Indeed, there is also a very meticulous publication by the cultural association of Donoussa that has (so far, up to 2014) described five signposted trails on the island in detail. (This publication can be purchased in shops on the island. We bought it in a travel agency at a cost of 5 euros.) With a total length of 9,200 meters, these trails constitute the island's Network of Paths of Cultural Interest. Most of them used to be part of the old mule roads that covered the island and united its four villages, Stavros, Mersini, Messaria, and Kalotaritissa.
Moreover, you can go beyond the basic signposted trails and improvise along the way, always carefully and with the help of the map, to explore other parts of the island.
We will briefly introduce the highlights of these trails as we came to know them on our own hikes.
Path One (1) connects Stavros with Kalotaritissa and has a total length of 3,700 meters. The trail is the most challenging (for hiking) on the island, with a maximum altitude difference of 268 meters, but it is also the most beautiful path, especially the downhill walk by the slopes of Mount Papas, toward Kalotaritissa.
You can make three detours from the trail to explore more of the island. The first begins 900 meters from the beginning of Path One (1). Turn left (to the northwest) at the fork, and for 400 meters you will enjoy the descent to Xylobatis. If you continue west toward the sea on the steep slope, you will come across the small, isolated beach of Ammoudi.
The second detour begins about 1,400 meters from the beginning of the trail and 500 meters from the previous fork. At that point, looking at the hill on our right, we will distinguish the entrances to the tunnels of the Mines in Kapsala. A short and relatively easy climb of 200 meters will lead us right to their entrance. The hole on the left has been filled in with dirt. Generally, it is best not to attempt to go inside! Iron, aluminum, copper, and a white stone Greeks call “atsacha” were excavated from the mines of Donoussa.
The third detour is also the best one. 2,200 meters from the beginning of the trail, at its highest point of 270 meters and before the downhill walk to Kalotaritissa, we will see the peak of Mount Papas rising up on our right. Do not hesitate; it is not as difficult as it seems. Head west toward the peak, and in 15 or 20 minutes, after a 500 meter climb with a 100 meter altitude difference, the view we see from the top will compensate us for the arduous ascent: the entire Aegean before us and the Gulf of Kalotaritissa with Skoulonisi beneath us, and Ikaria in the background.
Path Two (2) connects the village of Messaria (Pano or Ano Messaria, or Upper Messaria, and Kato Messaria, or Lower Messaria) with Kedros Beach. Total length 1,100 meters, with a maximum altitude difference of 150 meters. It is an easy route, especially if you start from Messaria. Along the way, we recommend an exploratory detour to the Mines and the Spring.
There were mines in two places on the island of Donoussa. One spot was on the hillsides of Kapsala and the other approximately 1000 meters northeast of Kedros, northwest of Messaria. We approach the mines of Messaria along Path Two (2) from Messaria to Kedros. As soon as we pass Ano Messaria and begin to descend (with Kedros on the left and behind us), we will see the mines in the distance, on the slopes in front of us. In fact, we will not see any holes, like we did in Kapsala, but piles of soil. Leave Path Two and walk toward the piles of soil, heading for the most vigorous vegetation on the slopes of Lagada. The dense vegetation reveals the presence of water, and indeed there, in the midst of an otherwise arid landscape, we will find the second major spring on the island. From here we return in a southerly direction until we come across the roadway just above Kedros Beach (total detour: 1 kilometer).
Path Three (3) connects Mersini with Livadi and is 900 meters long. It is easy to descend and relatively tiring to climb, with a maximum altitude difference of 162 meters. A short detour to the left near the beginning of the path will lead us to the spring of Mersini, and at the end of the trail we will find the beautiful beaches of Livadi and Fykio.
Path Four (4) connects the beach of Kedros with Kato Mylos, the Lower Windmill. The total distance of the route is 1,800 meters, and the maximum altitude difference is 80 meters. The trail is relatively easy to hike. The Upper and Lower Windmill of Messaria used to grind migadi (a mixture of wheat and barley) to produce flour.
We have a very beautiful view from the Lower Windmill (Kato Mylos), with the main point of interest to our left the deep, well protected Bay of Limenari with Limenari Beach (pebbles with gorgeous light blue green water) inside it. On our right, we can also see the narrow peninsula where, in 1967, archaeologist Fotini Zafeiropoulou excavated the ruins of a settlement from the Geometric Period. Limenari used to be a pirate port.
Carefully descend the steep slope of the Lower Windmill (Kato Mylos) toward Limenari. From there we can very carefully climb the rocks on our left to explore the ruins of the Geometric Period settlement.
Path Five (5) crosses the west side of the island from Stavros to Limni (the Lake) and Aspros Kavos (the White Cape) in the northwestern part of the island. It has a total length of 2,100 meters (with a maximum altitude difference of 50 meters). It is a relatively easy path, but be careful of the sharp rocks on the cape, Aspros Kavos.
At the northern tip of the island (to the northeast) near the Cape of Kalotaritissa, a two-kilometer trail will lead us to a half-ruined lighthouse and an extraordinarily beautiful landscape with vertical cliffs that fall into the sea from a height of 150 meters. In front of us is the endless blue of the Aegean. In our opinion, this is the most beautiful part of the Donoussa trails, and it is worth the effort to hike here. Indeed, the more complete journey is a tour of the peninsula, passing the beach of Trypiti, moving along the shoreline with Skoulonisi on your right, and then ascending slowly to the lighthouse in the north. From there you can return by following the inner route that moves diagonally to the southeast on the peninsula, passes above Trypiti, and meets the path toward Kalotaritissa somewhere in the middle. Total tour, about 3,600 meters, maximum height difference of 150 meters, time 90 minutes.