Samos and Lipsi
Note: This information below was last updated in 2004; for up-to-date specifics on this area, we recommend Lonely Planet: Greece.
The island of Samos, at the north end of the Dodecanese chain, is green and lush compared to many other Greek islands. Just a two-hour boat ride from Turkey, Samos is often crowded in the high season with day-trippers. Samos has enough historic sights (Temple of Hera, monasteries, and Roman ruins) and hedonistic pleasures (beaches and moped riding) to keep you entertained for two nights and a day.
Getting Around Samos
Like most Greek islands, Samos has reliable bus service and taxis. The transportation hub is Samos Town (a.k.a. Vathi).
By Bus: The Samos Town bus station is behind the Europe Rent-a-Car on Lekati Street (from the dock, follow the waterfront well past Pythagoras Square). The bus schedule is posted outside the office (open 7:00–14:00), buses are parked around the corner on the street behind the office. Look for the bus with the number of your route and get on; you can buy your ticket on board. Buses run from 6:00 to 17:00 and cost anywhere from €0.75 (to Kokkari) to €2.20 (to Karlovassi). Trips to the airport, Pithagorio, or the Temple of Hera cost about €1.15.
By Taxi: A taxi stand is on Pythagoras Square.
By Moped: Mopeds can be rented for $15/day including a helmet and enough gas to get you to the gas station. Try Gianni's, on the waterfront just past the Catholic Church. For mopeds under 50cc all you need is a driver's license, anything more powerful requires a motorcycle license. Go easy — accidents among inexperienced mopeders are common.
Tourist Information: The TI is located one block before Pythagoras Square, tucked into an alley (Mon-Sat 8:30–14:00 in high season).
Travel Agents: Many agents along the waterfront give out local bus schedules, museum hours, and better maps than the TI does. Samos Tours, just across from the boat dock, offers free luggage storage, long hours (6:00–24:00), and boat and plane bookings (tel. 22730/27715). Also on the waterfront is Samina Tours (tel. 22730/28532). It's smart to shop around for tickets in the low season, since some agencies only represent certain boat companies.
Olympic Airways: Their office is located a couple of blocks behind Pythagoras square (Mon–Fri 8:00–16:00, tel. 22730/27237).
Post Office: Located a few blocks in from the waterfront, past the Olympic Airways office, it's open Mon–Fri 7:30–14:00.
Banking: ATMs are widely available on Samos. Many are located along the waterfront, in front of most banks.
Arrival in Samos Town: The dock is in the town with travel agents and hotels within a block. If you arrive by plane, it's a 30-minute bus or €1.15 taxi ride to get from the airport (located near Pithagorio) to Samos Town.
Sights: Samos Town
Archeological Museum: The cost is €2.50 (€1.15 for students), and it's open Tue–Sun 8:00–14:00, closed Mon.
Shopping: The pedestrian street, Lykourgou Logotheti, paralleling the waterfront boulevard one block inland, is lined with all the shops you'll need: groceries, pharmacies, boutiques, and souvenir shops. Hellenic Jewelry at #39, sells beautiful handmade silver jewelry at reasonable prices (Mon–Fri 9:00–15:00, 18:00–22:00, Sat 9:30–16:00, tel. 22730/27758).
Sleeping in Samos Town
Sleep Code: S=Single, D=Double/Twin, T=Triple, Q=Quad, b=bathroom, CC=Credit Card.
Hotel Samos has lumpy beds, thin walls, an elevator, roof-top restaurant and pool (open 10:00-18:00). Think location, location, location (Sb-€26.50, Db-€33, low season: Sb-€23.50, Db-€27, CC, includes uninspiring breakfast, 11 Th. Sofoulis 83100, tel. 22730/28377, fax 22730/23771, email@example.com).
Hotel Bonis offers 26 clean air-con rooms, just up the hill from Hotel Samos. Each room has a private bath, AC, TV, and hairdryer (Sb-€15, Db-€20.50, no breakfast, no CC, tel. 22730/23706, 22730/28790 fax 22730/22501). From the dock, go past Hotel Samos, take a left at the BBQ house, and walk three blocks inland. The hotel is on the corner, up the steep stairs.
Hotel Helen has attractive airy rooms, some with balconies (Sb-€17.60, Db-€23.50, no CC, just downhill from Hotel Bonis, tel. 22730/28215, fax 22730/22866).
Ionia Pension has simple rooms with a bath down the hall (S-€7.35, D-€12, no CC, turn left at the Aeolis Hotel and head two blocks inland, tel. 22730/28782).
Eating in Samos Town
The many restaurants and cafés lining the waterfront are good places for a pre-dinner cocktail or for dessert. But dinners here are not a good value.
Restaurant Christos lures you into its alley setting with its sign, "Greek food to remember." At this popular local restaurant, you can get a great meal for €4.50. Watch out for mopeds zipping through the alley (just off St. Nicholas Square, tel. 22730/24792).
Restaurant Dias, just behind the Catholic church, offers a pleasant outdoor dining area and good meals for €6–12. Owner Gianni's grandfather makes the house red and white wines.
The bakery next to the Olympic Airways office sells the best assortment of baklava on the island.
Sights: Samos Island
Beaches: The nearby village of Kokkari, just 15 minutes by bus from Samos Town, boasts "pebble" beaches. Great rock skipping. The pebbly beach of Pototaki, 2 kilometers outside of Pythagorio, offers changing stalls, WCs, and refreshments. The remote beach of Psili Ammos (east location) can be reached by bus from Samos Town (4/day) or by boat from Pythagorio (departs 9:15, returns 16:30).
Temple of Hera (Herion): All that remains of the 134 columns is one lonely column (€2.50, students-€1.15, Tue–Sun 8:30–14:45, closed Monday). A little café at the end of the road sells ice cream, coffee, and postcards. Near the bus stop on the main road, a boutique offers homemade soaps, olive oil, and retsina wine-ask for a taste!
Pythagorio: Just 20 minutes by bus from Samos Town, Pythagorio is a pleasant town. The main drag (where the bus stops) is lined with fine jewelry shops, to-go food stands, souvenir shops, and ATMs. At the waterfront, get an iced coffee (frappé) and watch the yachts being washed. Pythagorio is a good lunch stop on your way to/from the Temple of Hera or the beach.
From Samos Town to Athens: by overnight boat (2/day in high season, about 12 hours, $30 to $60 depending on class), by plane (4 flights/day, 60 minutes).
To other islands: Samos has three harbors — Samos Town, Pithagorio and Karlovassi — each with ferry service, but Samos Town's harbor is the busiest. Samos is well connected by ferry to most other islands in the Dodecanese, and in the high season, to Mykonos, Paros and other islands in the Cyclades.
Near Samos: Lipsi
Tourists seem stuck on a broken record of high-profile Greek islands. But for your own private beach and a family that welcomes you as a guest rather than as part of the economy, choose an island that has no promotional budget. Hop off the boat at an island with just enough commerce to keep you fed and watered. This remote island, just 3 hours by hydrofoil from Samos, is the best place to get away from it all. There is little to do but lie on the beach.
Catch the daily boat from Patmos or Samos to Lipsi. The few families who rent rooms will greet you at the port with invitations to follow them home. While lunch cooks, practice your Greek with new friends over backgammon on the town square.
Arrival in Lipsi: The hydrofoils and boats drop you off at the farthest end of a wharf that wraps around Lipsi's small harbor. If you continue toward the town, you'll come to a small park. This is where the island's bus service (minivan) departs from.
Near this square is a grocery store where you can buy a picnic lunch. Continue up the stairs near the square, toward the church. You will come upon a town square with two small cafés, the post office, and the small-but-helpful TI office (good for bus schedules and maps). If you time it right, follow your nose around the corner to the bakery. Sausage or cheese rolls should be right out of the oven. This bakery, nearly 40 years old, is run by three generations of women: grandmother, mother and daughter. Take your fresh-baked goods back to the town square, grab a seat at a café, and order a coffee. If you don't like the strong, muddy Greek coffee (same as Turkish coffee, but don't tell either side that), order a Nescafé.
Go back down to the park to catch a bus out to the beach. The sandy beach of Platis Gialos, just 15 minutes away by bus, offers fine swimming and a taverna with WCs.
For a smile and a few euros, ride a Lipsi taxi (a pickup truck with a bench out back) to your own private beach. Set lazy afternoons free as wavelets tickle your toes and skin that's never seen the sun gets a private initiation.
Sleeping on Lipsi
Even on tiny Lipsi, people meet you at the dock offering rooms to rent. If you'd like to stay overnight, consider Apartments Galini, just across from the hydrofoil dock in town. Anna Matsouri rents 5 rooms, all with fridge and coffee maker, for two to four people (Db-from €26.50-35 depending on the season, cash only, tel. 22470/41212, fax 22470/41012, mobile 693-203-7511, firstname.lastname@example.org).
By boat to: Samos (5/weekly, €15.25), Patmos (daily in high season).