Getting to Anafi is a journey in itself: the last archipelago of the Cyclades lies secluded a few kilometres from Santorini, revealing its free and alternative spirit only to the determined few. This tiny island is full of history, legend, archaeology, unspoilt nature, enchanting beaches, traditions and local products.
I saw the island of Anafi every morning from my terrace in Santorini for four and a half years. Every day at dawn, Kalamiotissa monastery would rise with the sun behind Akrotiri castle. My desire to visit the island, so close yet so difficult to reach, grew over the years, together with my need to build a new life in a smaller community. The tales of Anafi’s beauty and unique qualities inspired me to visit the island in May 2021 and to move there permanently the following month! It was love at first sight, heightened by the island’s aromas, its tranquillity and the free spirit of these few square kilometres.
Anafi, an island that changes atmosphere from one month to the next, is a coveted destination, a port to reach for travellers who like to stay and discover a place at its own pace.
How to get to Anafi
Of all the arrivals in all the Cyclades islands, arriving in Anafi is perhaps one of the most captivating experiences. The island has no airport, and you can only get there by one of the few ferries leaving at difficult times of day. The ferries that go to Anafi travel at night and reach the island by dawn’s early light. The colours of the sun rising over the sea will be the first much-deserved reward for travellers determined enough to get here. The easiest way to get to Anafi is to fly to Santorini and then take a ferry (with a journey time of one and a half hours). In the summer season there are more night ferries (although not every day) connecting Santorini with Anafi and a smaller boat that makes the journey only in the daytime (only a few days a week). Another way to get to Anafi is to fly to Athens and take the night ferry from the capital.
What to do in Anafi
Anafi has an area of just 36 km2, only one village and a small port, but so much to discover. Anafi is not an island where you look for things to do, it is an island where you sink in its slow pace, marked by the few passing ships and forget all the demands and excesses of city life.
- Chora is the only village on the island, perched on a hill, with the classic Cyclades style of maze-like streets, little white houses and painted blue windows. As you stroll around Choras’ narrow streets, you’ll feel like you have been transported to another era, where you can breathe in the simplicity and serenity, together with the scent of the clean laundry hanging out to dry in the houses’ little courtyards. Chora comes to life in the mornings, for breakfast and the compulsory stop at the village bakery, where they bake traditional Anafiotika delicacies.
- Kalamos: When you arrive on the ferry, you cannot miss the imposing hill (463 m), the second largest monolith in Europe after the Rock of Gibraltar, and little Kalamiotissa church, clinging to its summit. In the summer, many visitors climb it at sunset with a sleeping bag and sleep on the church’s terrace, waking up to watch the sunrise in a truly surreal and mystical setting. To reach the summit, you’ll need some good trainers and to be in fairly good shape (it is a climb of around one and a half hours), but the view that awaits you’ll more than repay your hard work and sweat. Go and visit the Zoodochou Pigii Convent too, where path for Kalamiotissa starts. If it is closed, ring the bell and a nun will welcome you into the beautiful courtyard, where you can buy local products in their shop.
- Trekking on Kalamos: If you enjoy walking, Anafi is the island for you. Apart from trekking on Kalamos, you’ll find many paths to lead you to discover the unspoilt and at times rugged natural surroundings.
- Sea trips: The perimeter of the island has many beaches and coves that you can only get to by sea, I recommend a boat trip with the Koursaro (the pirate!), so you don’t miss out on any of them.
Anafi’s unspoilt beaches
Anafi’s beaches are real gems, totally unspoilt and not a sun lounger or a beach bar in sight: just crystalline waters and absolute tranquillity. The beaches are not easy to access and telephone signals are hard to come by, so they are the ideal place to lie back and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Kleisidi: a stretch of white sand framed by the rock above and a few trees where you can take refuge in the shade. A beach suitable for everyone.
Katsouni: a tiny cove and the ideal spot for anyone hoping to lose all sense of time and put off the ferry home.
Flamourou: a narrow strip of sand you can reach on foot from Katsouni.
Roukounas: one of the island’s most famous beaches, with an alternative atmosphere: the place to go if you travel with your backpack and a tent and sometimes forget your swimsuit. This beach has always been one of the symbols of Anafi.
Agii Anargiri: dominated by a little church (watch out, the story goes that whoever visits this beach with their other half will soon marry) that casts an amazing shadow of the chapel onto the beach itself.
Monastiri: this beach is spacious and easy to access.
Livoskopo: my favourite, in the north of the island. Getting to it is a challenge and you have to follow a path with a steep drop down to the sea.
Where to eat in Anafi and try local products
The local products in Anafi are unique and delicious and you can try them at any tavern on the island. The island is famous for its production of honey, for its aromatic herbs and for saffron. On the island, they also produce an excellent natural wine (Ktima Flamourou) with a grape varietal that only exists in Anafi, known as gaidourià.
You’ll not find countless restaurants or taverns in Anafi, but they do all provide local cuisine and products and each of them has their own distinctive features.
- Margarita (Kleisidi)
- The Mule and the Pig (Kleisidi)
- Pappadià (Roukounas)
- Anemo (Chora)
- Liotrivi (Chora)
- Nektaria (Porto)
- Steki (Chora)
- Armenaki (Chora)
For a Souvlaki
- Petrino (Chora)
- Sokaki (Chora)
Anafi’s lively, and perhaps unexpected, nightlife
On such a small island and one with such a slow pace, you might not expect any nightlife worth mentioning, but you’d be wrong! In high season (July and August), the night is young (or for the young) but starts late.
- Steki: a tavern that comes to life every evening with live music. At a certain time, the tables are cleared away and the dancing begins!
- Armenaki: open from breakfast time until late at night, book a table for dinner and listen to rebetika music as you sip your raki.
- Monolithos: a cocktail bar under the stars with excellent music and records.
- Mylos: a club with an Eighties feel and wave music. With different DJs every evening.
- Mantres: the club with the most beautiful view you have ever seen. Dance until morning as you watch the moon slowly make way for the sun.
When is the best time to visit Anafi?
Each season has its own plus points. The springtime has the calmest and most rejuvenating atmosphere, June and September are probably the best months, when everything is open and there are still very few tourists. July and August are the months when you’ll find most tourists but I’m sure you’ll still manage to enjoy the beauty of the island. If you want to visit the island off season, it is even more difficult to get there but you’ll undoubtedly enjoy an authentic local atmosphere and keep the 150 residents of Anafi company (come and look me up!)
The beauty of Anafi captivated me right from the first time I saw Kalamos out of the window of the ferry. Walking around the island, breathe in the scents of earth and of freedom. Anafi is an island where you arrive thinking you know what to expect only to be blown away by its wild and unspoilt beauty.