Getting to Know Psara: 10 Recommendations
1. Visit the Site of the Psara Holocaust at Mavri Rachi.
This monument was erected in 1956 to commemorate the holocaust that occurred there on June 22, 1824. On this spot, 150 Greek fighters fought their final battle to the bitter end against the Ottoman invaders who razed and then depopulated the island to punish its active participation in the Greek Independence War. More than half of the island's permanent inhabitants and refugees were slaughtered or captured; those who escaped initially went to Monemvasia or Aegina. The destruction of Psara inspired the Greek national poet, Dionysios Solomos, to write these famous lines in 1825: 'On the scorched ridge of Psara / Glory is walking alone / Thinking of the brave young men, / Wearing a crown on her head / Made of the little green that was left / On the face of this desolate land.' At the end of the 19th century, the greatest Greek painter of that time, Nikolaos Gyzis, created the masterful oil painting 'After the Destruction of Psara.'
We can reach the site in less than 10 minutes by walking along the beautifully landscaped uphill stone path that starts at the port and leads to the site of the holocaust at the top of Mavri Rachi. Along the way, it passes an old renovated windmill called T'Arapi o Mylos. The altitude difference between the beginning and end of the trail is about 75 meters.
2. Visit the Archaeological Site at Archontiki.
In 1961 S. Charitonidis identified Mycenaean tombs in the southwestern part of the island, in Archontiki. From 1983 to 1997, 163 tombs were surveyed--a whole necropolis (with a vaulted tomb among the findings). A short distance from the cemetery and along the beach, parts of a Mycenaean settlement were brought to light (the northeasternmost known Mycenaean settlement). The site was restored in 2008 with funding from the Regional Business Program for the North Aegean. The area has signs of habitation from the Neolithic to the Protogeometric period, while the cemetery and the settlement date back to 1500 BC. The settlement was deserted after an earthquake at the end of the millennium. Ruins of the settlement and the cemetery can still be seen today, some in the sea. Very close to the beach, we see the islet of Daskalio. In ancient times, Daskalio and Archontiki were linked, forming a small peninsula with a natural harbor which travelers called ‘Da Scalio.’
Each year, on the night of the full moon in August, the Municipality of Psara cooperates with the Astronomical Association of Chios to organize a guided tour of the archaeological site. There are discussions of astronomy for the general public, and the evening ends with a concert featuring beautiful Greek songs.
Visiting days and hours are Wednesday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. However, if you do not manage to visit then, and you want to visit another day, you can call +30 2274061077 or +30 6934014495 to arrange an appointment with the site manager. Note that photos may not be taken within the archaeological site.
3. Visit the Northwestern Part of the Island and Pounta tou Rousou.
From the small church of Saint Isidore (Agios Isidoros), we can start some interesting hiking trips to get to know the northwestern part of the island, Pounta tou Rousou, and the northern beach of Isaris. If we head west, we can approach the [beach of Agios Isidoros][TID49549]. To get to Pounta tou Rousou, walk northwest of the church of Saint Isidore (without a clear path). Descend among low vegetation, shrubs, and thyme, and about 300 meters from the church, enter the Klava riverbed. This is the safest and quickest way to proceed. 1300 meters from the beginning, the stream bed ends up in a valley where it leads directly to Isaris Beach after 400 meters. On the left we will see the rock of Pounta tou Rousou. Climb the rock with its striking sharp, jet-black shale stones, and move up to its ridge. The view is impressive, with the valley and the beach of Isaris on the right and steep cliffs on the left that end at small beaches accessible only by sea. Arriving at the top, we will see the point at the edge where the Psarians had installed their canons (so that the location is called Kanoni, which means ‘canon’).
4. Visit the Lighthouse and Fanari Beach.
To get there, take the secondary island road that moves from west to east, from Chora (the main town) to the lighthouse (faros) and the beach (total distance 5.5 kilometers). The road splits in two just before it ends, becoming a dirt road. The branch on the left leads to the lighthouse, while the one on the right heads to Fanari beach.
The beautiful Kokkinopoulo Lighthouse of Psara is located at the southeastern edge of the island, at the cape of Agios Georgios. The dirt road leading to it was opened recently. Before that, the only access was via an uphill path that started from the road leading to Fanari Beach. The lighthouse was built in 1909 by the French Company of Ottoman Lighthouses, while the island was still under Turkish occupation. It had a focal plane of 78 meters and a beacon range of up to 25 nautical miles. Its circular tower is 14.5 meters high.
Fanari Beach is at the southeastern tip of the island; as its name implies, it is in the bay beneath the island's lighthouse. It is a beautiful beach with pebbles and deep, cold water. Despite the fact that a smooth dirt road leads to the beach, you will encounter few or no people there. Power company (DEI) signs warn that there are underground cables, so anchors should not be dropped. At the edges of the beach, there are impressive steep black cliffs (from graphite schists) that end up in the sea.
5. Visit Adami Cave and the Bay of Adam.
By the little church of the Holy Trinity (Agia Triada) in Xerokampos, where the road ends, we find the beginning of the passable 1100 meter 'path' to Adami Cave, which is next to the northern Bay of Adam. There is practically no trail, but the low vegetation is easily traversed. We head north and slightly to the right (east) for 20-25 minutes. The impressive cave is located at the left edge of the beach. It is about 10 meters deep, with room for a person to stand upright. The beach is pebbly and sandy; because it faces north, a lot of garbage blows in when it is windy (both inside and outside the sea), and then it is not a good place to swim.
On Adami Beach, if we climb for a while on the rocks across from the cave (that is, at the other end of the beach), we will have a beautiful panoramic view of the Bay of Adam, Adami Beach, and Vatos Beach, which we see in the background on the right, looking deserted, wild, and inaccessible.
Returning from Adami Cave, we can head west about 300 meters to enjoy the view of the northwest coast of the island and the Bay of Kanalos. When they launched their campaign against the Psarians, the Turks began their main landing attempt at Kanalos. Due to the strong resistance they encountered there, they tried and managed to disembark troops a little farther east, at Erinos (in the next bay, east of the Bay of Adam). So they managed to encircle the defenders of Kanalos and advance to the interior of the island (from Xerokampos to Ftelio and then to the city).
6. Visit the Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.
The most important ecclesiastical site on the island, this is a Mount Athos-style monastery founded in the 2nd half of the 18th century on the site of an older monastery. It was destroyed in 1824 and reopened many years later without regaining its initial glory. Its most important heirloom was the icon of the Virgin Mary signed by Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco), the Virgin of the Psarians. Before the destruction, it was moved to Syros, where it is still kept in the church of the Dormition (Kimisis) there. In the 20th century, the monastery in Psara was converted into a convent for women, and so it remained until 1980. It is worth visiting the monastery and exploring its premises (the cells, the dining room, and the workshops), where you will also find a small folk life museum focused on the occupations of its past inhabitants. The monastery has a remarkable library of 473 manuscripts and printed materials. Outside, north of it, we will find the monastery’s oldest building, with a rare architectural style, the little church of the Holy Trinity (Agia Triada).
The Feast of the Dormition is held every year on the holiday honoring the Virgin Mary, the 15th of August. A crowd gathers on the eve of the holiday for Vespers, and also to participate in the 'Aloni' custom (Ethimo tou Aloniou) that takes place next door, at the threshing floor of the monastery.
7. Visit the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior, the Church of Saint Nicholas, and the Old Parliament.
The island's cathedral was built before 1770 and rebuilt with funding from the island's inhabitants in 1885. In the week of the Festival of the Savior, a silver icon of the Virgin Mary is transferred to the Cathedral of Metamorphosis from the Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Kimisis tis Theotokou). The residents start on foot from Chora at midnight on July 31 and end up at the Monastery. They pick up the icon there at dawn and return to Chora, placing it in the church after their pilgrimage. The icon is returned to the Monastery on foot (via paths), mainly carried by local youths, on August 6. Once the icon has been returned, chickpeas are offered to the pilgrims (due to the fasting for the August 15th holiday). The chickpeas are cooked in very large pots and served in the monastery’s dining room.
The magnificent church of Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos), patron saint of sailors, towers above the western end of the settlement of Psara, on a small hill. Its construction began in 1785 and was completed in 1793, with substantial help from many Psarians who had begun to earn considerable income thanks to the development of a local shipping industry. Marble from various islands and parts of Greece was used for its construction. The church is 28 meters long, 14 meters wide, and up to 24 meters high. Its many windows and doors (fifty-one and seven, respectively) are noteworthy. The church was decorated with special gifts and sacred vessels of great value. This was all destroyed and plundered by the Ottomans in June 1824, during the complete destruction of the island. The church was restored several years later, in 1863.
The Parliament of Psara was housed in the building next to the courtyard of the church in pre-revolutionary years, and here, in Dimogerontias Square, Parliament assembled. After the destruction of the island in 1824, and during its occupation by the Ottomans (until 1912), this complex was not used. After the island’s liberation, it was repaired and used as a Gendarmerie station. Starting with the German occupation, the building was again unused until 1978. Then, in collaboration with the Greek National Tourism Organization, it was restored and transformed into a guesthouse. It was used as a guesthouse from 1980 to 2004. Recently, there has been an attempt to reopen it.
8. Swim at Beautiful Limnonaria Beach.
Limnonaria is probably the best isolated sandy beach in the southern part of the island. It features sand and small pebbles, with the ultimate deep blue of the Aegean and ice cold water! To enjoy it, follow the short, well-traveled path that descends to the beautiful beach, which it reaches in 900 meters.
9. Follow the Coastal Path from Spitalia to Lazareta Beach and the Church of Saint Andrew.
Starting from Spitalia, a well-groomed stone path runs along the coastline parallel to the road. It passes the beach of Spitalia, the church of Saint (Agia) Kyriaki, Megali Ammos Beach, the church of Saint (Agios) Athanasios, and Lazareta Beach to reach the little church of Saint Andrew (Agios Andreas). It is a very beautiful route for a walk at any time of day.
Lazareta Beach may be the best uncrowded sandy beach on the island. To the right and left of the main beach, there are two smaller beaches. We will come across the first one as we walk along the stone path. The second beach is hidden in a small bay that we can reach by heading down a small path that starts at the eastern edge of the main beach.
10. Visit the Hilltop of Vigla.
An observation point, as the word ‘Vigla’ indicates, at the highest point near the settlement, north of it. We can reach it via a passable dirt road. At the highest point on the hill, at 123 meters altitude, we will find the typical elevation marking column of the GYS (Army Geographic Service). A few meters below it, the Municipality has built two semicircular rows of stone bleachers from which one can enjoy a panoramic view of the settlement of Psara and the hill of Mavri Rachi (Palaiokastro). A few meters before the stone bleachers, we can see the dilapidated cylindrical stone bases of four windmills.