A Walk to Potamos – Cave Houses and Churches

Last night the Meltemi arrived. The wind that blows across the Aegean from the north made its presence felt by rattling the chairs on the terrace and whipping through the branches of the trees. The heat of the last few days has been stifling so I hope the temperatures will now cool a little.

This morning the plan is to walk to the village of Potamos just a couple of kilometres from Manolas. As I set off down the track into the village, I discover that the combination of high temperatures and the wind is akin to being in a tumble dryer. It’s that hot wind that sucks the saliva from your mouth as soon as you open it. It isn’t pleasant.

I turn onto the path that leads through the centre of the village, circle around the back of Agios Konstantinos (admiring its architecture as I pass – Ahhh Cycladia!) and call into the minimarket for a supply of cold drinks.

The road to Potamos starts very conveniently at the minimarket so I follow it down passing the helipad (always good to know there is one). Just a few minutes into the walk I spot the blue domes of Potamos’s many churches down below. This is the back of the island where the landscape plateaus out towards the sea. This is not dissimilar to Santorini with its high caldera edge on one side and the flatter landscape on the east by Kamari and the Airport. They are almost like mirror images of each other, but Thirassia is a more scaled-down version. If you arrive by boat to Korfos you would never imagine that Thirassia had this magical landscape hidden within it.

I start the descent towards the village passing clusters of purple flowering thyme along the roadside. The intense heat and agitation of the wind sends wafts of scent into the air. I breathe in more deeply to capture this sensation for posterity. A small bush of wildflowers that Plantnet tell me are Convolvulus dorycmium, dance maniacally on the breeze. The pale pink petals look as fine as tissue paper and so delicate to the touch. However, unlike me, they are tough and able to fend off the continual assault from the sun and the wind.

I walk past cliffs that reveal the island’s geological makeup. It all looks very lunar landscape. There are curious little cave dwellings embedded into the rocks taking advantage of the natural volcanic formations.

The photograph below gives an indication of the gradient of the road, though the corner section which is out of view feels like it’s 2:1. It’s just about doable with my creaking back but it could be a challenge for anyone with dodgy knees.

The village itself is almost the inverse of Manolas. The houses in Manolas are built along a ridge and cascade down either side of the main path. Potamos is located in a ravine and the houses are staggered upwards on either side of the road. The houses at the back are built into the rock face like true cave houses.

At the entrance to the village, I was surprised to see an outdoor gym. Google Maps still shows this as a children’s playground though this later development may be a sign of an ageing population. There is also a bus stop which was curious as I hadn’t seen any signs of a bus service in operation since arriving.

I’d read that Potamos is the prettiest village on the island. There is no denying that Cycladic architecture is the stuff that makes you go ‘Oohhhh’ and ‘Aahhhh’ and here in Potamos I find myself doing this at almost every turn. The streets are deserted but I can hear the sound of voices and occasionally laughter from houses close by. Maybe they’re laughing at the English woman walking in the heat of the day (though it is still mid-morning!) The seemingly abandoned houses look so inviting, almost tempting me in to set up camp. I could do that quite easily.

There seems to be a high ratio of churches for such a small village. Thirassia as a whole has a population of around 150 people, the majority of which live in Manolas. The first church on my right takes my interest right away. Panagia Giatrissa (the Healer) can be seen through the struts of a pergola at the front of it. The white walls are almost blinding and the pale blue dome and windows leave you in no doubt that you are in the heart of the Cyclades.

Just a little further down is another attractive church, Agios Dimitrios with its pretty painted bell tower and large blue dome. Tall Italian Cyprus trees at the front offer some much-welcomed shade. In fact, at this point I feel myself beginning to melt – time for some ice-cold refreshment. The house next to the church has a long concrete platform running alongside it. In Egypt my husband calls this a mastaba which is a type of tomb. It also refers to a type of bench that can be found outside many Egyptian households. It falls nicely in the shade and is the perfect place to take a minute to recover from the heat.

Onwards and upwards. As I approach the last stretch of road through the village, I pass another tiny little chapel that has been dressed for a wedding. Judging by the number of spent cartridge shells on the roadside, the wedding has already taken place – a shotgun wedding in just one sense of the word! Based on this chapel alone, Potamos can surely enter the ranks of the prettiest village on the island.

Just after the little church is a minimarket and I notice that Manolis the taxi driver’s van is parked outside it. This is very handy as I will definitely need a lift back to base. Before I head back I have one last place that I want to visit. The abandoned village of Agrilia is just a kilometre or so down the road and on the flat. I must admit that I did deliberate on whether to attempt it. Although I’m not walking very far, as the news that Dr Michael Mosely has gone missing on Symi, I’m only too conscious that this oppressive heat is dangerous. As I approach 65, almost every last drop of naive confidence has been sapped from me and I’m just not prepared to take any unnecessary risks. I’m topped up with fluids, my head is covered and my mobile is charged.

At the T junction, I turn left and pass fields of neatly planted grapevines. Here the wind that I’d felt in Manolas has almost dissipated into no more than a whisper on the breeze.

It doesn’t take long to reach Agrilia but at this point, I don’t feel inclined to walk any further. My head is already filled with alarming thoughts about snakes, heat stroke and heart failure and I’m very conscious that I’m alone. It’s a shame because I love an abandoned village – but not as a solo pursuit in the middle of a heatwave. When did I become such a Woos! Oh well – better an alive Woos than the alternative. I make do with admiring the church from the entrance to the village before making my way back to the supermarket in Potamos.

Manolis is busy stacking shelves but is free to take me back to Manolas (the village). I stock up with enough water to keep me in good supply until I leave for Anafi tomorrow afternoon. I arranged my transfer for the following afternoon whilst I’m at it.


I spend the rest of the afternoon alternating between the shade of my terrace and the cool of the air conditioning in my room. Occasionally I walk over to the cliffside terrace to watch the boats visiting Korfos Cove which I’m alerted to by the thump thump thump of the accompanying music.

As early evening arrives the temperatures cool. I walk down into Manolas to route out some nooks and crannies that I hadn’t yet discovered. It is so refreshing to be on a Cycladic island that hasn’t been boutiquified to within an inch of its life. It has that natural charm that comes without effort and isn’t contrived – a rarity indeed.

I forgot to mention, on the approach to the village, there is the base for Explore Thirassia. They provide e-bike and walking tours of the island. They don’t do quad bikes so if this is your thing, you’d be best to stay on Santorini!


Now to decide where to eat. Based purely on the sunset possibilities, I decided on the roof terrace of Be Kalo. Although the tavernas above the bay of Korfos offer magnificent views over to Santorini, they are now in the shade. The sun sets to the west of the island so Be Kalos has the perfect vantage point.

Be Kalos offers cafe bar-type snacks so I start with an ouzo which is followed by a Greek salad and a chicken gyros – and not just any old chicken gyros. I’d never honestly tasted anything like it. I tried to fathom out the taste of the seasoning on the chicken and determined that it was curry powder. It may sound like a weird combination but OMG it works!

The sun begins to set and slowly drops behind Ios, Sikinos and Folegandros just a short distance away. As darkness falls, my path is illuminated along the way to my little abode on the cliff.

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  1. It’s beautiful and would definitely be worth a couple of days of exploring. We had the Meltemi in Lipsi yesterday !!

    1. Ah yes – I’d been checking the weather to make sure there weren’t any travel disruptions for my clients. All looks smooth for your trip! Safe onward travels! ❤️

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