Samos is part of the North Eastern Aegean Islands and is located in the southern part of the group, near the Turkish coast. It is separated from it by the narrow Mykale Straits and, at its nearest point, is only around 1300m from Turkey. According to mythology Samos was the birthplace of the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus and queen of the gods. Nearby are the islands or Ikaria, Fourni and Chios (famous for mastic)
The island has a total area of about 475km² and a coastline of 159km with a population of around 42,000.
The capital of the island is Samos Town, located on the north-eastern coast. It stretches out round a large bay and is amphitheatrically built with neoclassical buildings, old mansions and traditional houses that emphasise the wealth and nobility of the island.
The beaches of Samos range from gently shelving expanses of golden sand to small coves where small pebbles shine as they are washed by the clear waters of the Aegean. Some of the coastal villages have grown into resorts offering a good range of facilities, but many have remained untouched by any obvious signs of commercialisation, and particularly in the west of the island around Limnionas and Marathokambos you don’t need to go far to find small bays where the only buildings are a solitary taverna and perhaps a handful of summer houses.
The natural splendour of the heart of the island distinguishes Samos from the other islands in the East Aegean. Unlike some of its barren neighbours, Samos is wonderfully verdant, thanks to the abundance of natural springs. The island is traversed by small brooks which spring from the Ambelos mountain chain. Two small artificial lakes formed by springs can be found in the eastern part of the island.
Samos is covered in vast expanses of pine forest, extensive olive groves, clusters of plane trees, lovingly tended fields and orchards and the vineyards that are the source of one of the island’s most well-known exports. The sweet dessert wine is famous well beyond Greece and the dry wines are equally worthy of sampling and rather more versatile in their appeal. The landscapes range from gently rolling hills and lush plains to towering peaks sliced through by steep ravines. Mount Kerkis (or Kerketeas) is the tallest, with the highest peaks at Vigla (1450m), the second highest peak in the Aegean, and Zestane (1195m).
The cultural side of Samos is another reason to visit. Thanks to its strategic position of being so close to the coast of Asia Minor, Samos was once the most affluent island in the Aegean, and during its heyday produced a host of well-known writers and philosophers, including Aesop, Epicurus and the island’s most famous son, the mathematician Pythagoras. The island’s influence was eventually eclipsed by the rise of Athens during classical times, and by the 15th century Samos had fallen upon harder times, abandoned by its Genoese rulers to the mercy of pirates.
Today, Samos feels more like a provincial outpost than the regional powerhouse it was, but a number of historical sites reveal some of the legacy of the island’s former glories. Only a single column remains out of the 134 that once formed the Heraion Sanctuary near the town of Pythagorio, but the mere dimensions of this temple tell of the wealth, power and ambition of the island’s rulers in ancient times. Equally impressive is the Eupalinos Tunnel, an aqueduct more than 1km in length dug through a mountain to provide a siege-proof water supply for the island’s then capital, Chora. The bustling latter-day capital, Samos Town is home to a small archaeological museum that hosts one of the most important collections outside Athens, including a number of imposing marble statues as well as smaller artefacts, coins and day-to-day items, recovered from the Heraion.