We have a fantastic nights sleep on a very comfortable mattress at the Aiolos Hotel. Michael’s mother tends a large vegetable plot located below our balcony. The soil looks rock hard and in this heat, must need lots of water which she carts back and forth from an outdoor tap in buckets. She is growing tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and fennel amongst other things. She was in the garden last night and is working away this morning.
We are only staying on Iraklia for 3 nights so this morning we go out to explore a little of the island on foot. Firstly we walk to Livadi beach on the way passing Surfin Bird. I must say that the outward looking views over to Schinoussa and the small uninhabited islets of Venetiko, Offidousa and Argilos are absolutely breathtaking. Schinoussa itself feels like it’s in touching distance. In a few days we will be there.
On Livadi Beach we have breakfast at Taverna Pera Panta which has lots of shade under a camouflage net. The lady tells us about the cave and recommends it as a place to visit as it is very interesting. Her son knows the person who owns the boat which takes you to Alimia Beach and from there you walk to the cave. However, it needs a minimum of 6 people. We had seen a poster in the supermarket for this trip and as much as I’d like to see one of the key highlights of the island, I’ve seen many caves in Greece and only a few have left a positive lasting impression on me (mainly due to my increasingly acute vertigo)! Peter however, seems quite interested.
Out on the horizon I can see the small ship heading towards Iraklia – a ship I had been on many many years ago. It is the legendary Express Skopelitis that not only transports tourists too and from the islands but is the life’s blood of the little islands like Iraklia, transporting goods such as food, machinery and whatever it takes to keep an island and its people alive.
If you haven’t yet seen the documentary about this little gem and the family that sail her you can see it here:
After breakfast we leave Livadi taking in the view of the ruined castle on the hill above. We are heading off to the village of Panagia also known as Pano Chorio – the second village of the island with Agios Georgios being the first. The walk is all up hill along a winding road which is tiring but doable for someone of my age and fitness level (old and unfit!). We pass the sign for the cave which we know is the long walking route. I know Peter is tempted but I think he can see the reluctance on my face especially in this heat.
Iraklia like Naxos has lots of good agricultural land which gives it sense of self reliance and abundance. We pass ruined windmills and little churches dotted around the landscape. As we approach the village there is a small church and then narrow street – a narrow one way street – one way in and one way out. The first thing we see is the beekeeper delivering boxes of what can only be bees but he is the only person about. The village is so quiet and feels almost deserted.
In the middle of this little village is Taverna To Steki where we stop for ice cream and a cup of tea. We are invited to climb the green painted wooden steps which opens out into a large room with panoramic views across the island. This must be an amazing place to eat in the evening but I’d suggest that transport would need to be arranged for the return journey if you’ve had a few retina’s!
We have another stroll around the village before heading back to Livadi Beach. The houses in the village are typically Cycladic in style with interesting chimney pots. The main church is Εισόδια Παναγίας which translates directly as Entrances to the Virgin Mary – of the Church of the Virgin Mary. On August 15th every year a Panagia takes place to celebrate the Virgin Mary.
To give you a sense of scale in the 2-3 kilometres that we have walked from Livadi Beach we are practically in the centre of the island.
Once on Livadi beach we find some shade under a small tamarisk tree. The shade is just enough to cover us if we scrunch up our knees! The beach is completely empty and looks a little forlorn though it isn’t yet peak season.
When we return to the hotel, Michael’s mother is gardening again and insists on giving us a handful of large tomatoes which we accept gratefully. We much our way through a couple of them and the taste is exceptional.
In the evening decide to eat down at the port. Firstly we go to the supermarket to check to see if the boat trip to Alimia Beach will be running tomorrow. We find out that at Alimia beach there is also a wreckage of a German reconnaissance aircraft that was shot down during the second world war – a paradise for divers. Unfortunately there are only 2 people booked on the trip so it is unlikely to be running. The supermarket has a roof terrace that is open for drinks and waffles but we are in the need of something a bit more substantial.
Before we go for our meal we book our tickets to Schinoussa departing on the 1st July. We decide to eat at Taverna Sryma that overlooks the port. The owner is very helpful and explains the menu and how the food is cooked. Peter has stingray and I have gemista – one of my favourites.
I will say that one of the downsides of having such a substantial meal down at the port is that you have to heave your stuffed body up that hill again hampered even further by the retsina! Worth it though!