Anafi, the secret island
Anafi is a so wonderful a secret that, once you have experienced it, you’ll find impossible not to share with others. A tiny speck of land just east of Santorini, this island in the south eastern part of the Cyclades offers its visitors a unique journey through time and space.
As you might imagine, there is not an abundance of ferry routes that pass through this lovely unspoilt place, so far removed from the hustle and bustle of modern civilization. You arrive and depart the port of Saint Nicholas beneath the town in the darkness of very early morning. The island, which the god Apollo conjured out of thin air as a safe haven for the Argonauts during a wild storm, still delights in keeping its mysteries under wraps, preparing its visitors for new surprises at the dawn of every new day.
We arrived at night without a map, but ready to pitch our tents wherever the fancy took us. With us were two other couples on motorbikes, also on the island for the first time. Heading for Roukounas beach by the light of a full moon and caressed by a gentle breeze, every turn took us higher and higher up the mountain, every zig zag in the road was another light from the port disappearing into the night. After a while, we took the only turning which, despite the lack of a signpost, we hoped would lead to a beach where we could set up camp. We reached the sand by following the sound of the sea. We got to the clearing on the coast and on our right we saw a number of tents pitched one next to the other. We were transported in time.
Where else in the world can people still sleep without a care under a canopy of summer stars, watched over only by a huge, reassuringly incandescent moon? Where else are you greeted at three in the morning with such a warm smile to light up the darkness and nothing is asked or expected of you, except to enjoy yourself?
When dawn arrives, it is immersed in crystal clear blue waters, the purity of which you cannot begin to imagine. There’s no music blasting from speakers in bars and canteens to break the tranquility, only the sound of wind and sea. On this beach people of all ages savour the pleasure of the moment, basking in the sun with their friends, taking a refreshing swim, doing exactly what they want to do when they feel like doing it. This is an island that does not oblige you to do or be anything, to think this or that; it simply lifts the cares from your shoulders the moment you step across its threshold.
There is absolutely no affectation here at all, it doesn’t strain to be understood or go out of its way to try to impress you. It is a paragon of simplicity, so pure and bright that you feel that your eyes are opened wider to see the world from an entirely new perspective. Next to Roukounas beach, the Rock stands proudly and looks down at you from a height of 400m, and you wonder what the world looks like from that cross on the edge of the cliff. The second highest monolith in the Mediterranean after Gibraltar stands before your eyes and you are left staring in awe whenever you raise your head after each dive.
In Hora the houses are perched on the rock face. It is here that you understand why the construction of the little houses of Anafiotika, under the Acropolis must have been child’s play for Anafi craftsmen. White houses, elaborately made, miraculously scaling the rocks above the Aegean, gazing out at the blue of the sky and the sea from up high. There are no bystanders, boats, ships, cruise ships, sailboats. This silence, the absence of movement or rush, the tranquility that reigns over everything calms your soul and motivates you to meditate.
Anafi is unsullied, defiant, simple and true
There are not many places in the world that can only be discovered on foot. There are not many places in the world where the best spots are not accessible by car. There are not many places in the world so pure, unpretentious, peaceful and welcoming. On Anafi you learn to appreciate the value of distance. It is a blessing to go on a longer journey away from the crowd and the tourist clamor and discover peace all around you in such an open and beautiful landscape.
Anafi is a small Cycladic Patagonia. It’s worth going to the effort only if you’re a lover of truth and beauty.