Vourkotí - monastery of Agios Nikólaos - Apíkia - Chóra

Evaluation: This hike brings you first to the wonderful, wild valley of the Varídi, from Vourkotí to the monastery of Agios Nikólaos. Although the return route to Apíkia mainly runs along regular roads, the marvellous trail between Apíkia and Chóra - with one of the longest kalderímia of the island - , is absolutely worthwhile. This hike deserves an evaluation of ***.

Estimated time: To hike from Vourkotí to the monastery takes about 1h30 in actual walking  time. From Agios Nikólaos to Apíkia you will walk for about 1h10, mostly on gravel roads and some 15 minutes (or about 1,2 km) on asphalt. The beautiful descent from Apíkia to Chóra will cost you another hour. This means a total of 3h40 actual walking time, which becomes 6-7 hours when taking into account some breaks – we hiked from 9am to 4pm.

Route description: In autumn 2006 the bus to Vourkotí only ran on Wednesdays; this means that you usually have to catch a taxi from Chóra (which cost us 13 € in September 2006). We could get off above the village of Vourkotí, at the restaurant O Vráchos. As happens quite often over there, there was a lot of mist that day.

From O Vráchos you have to take one of the two staircases going down; 1-2 minutes further they come together again and then you have to descend for many more steps. After a couple of minutes you thus get down, next to a water shoot. Just before the deserted café, in the centre of Vourkotí, and definitely BEFORE the small bridges, you should take a left, at a small house with a green barred window – on the wall you can see a trail marker with a small red triangle.

About one minute further you keep to the right and after a couple of metres you note another of these trail markers and a blue dot. You go down a couple of concrete steps, you then walk on a concrete path and after 4 minutes you keep to the right again (further on there are some more dots). At this point you can already see the bay of Achla far away in front of you, at the far end of the very long valley. Some minutes later, your trail becomes a typical earthen donkey track. It is fairly narrow and it runs between walls; you find some rubbish once in a while and there are also thorn-bushes (some long trousers come in very handy!). Four more minutes later you cross a dry stream and after some climbing up and going down you arrive at a gravel road – which you follow to the right.

A little later you go down on the right and you follow this gravel road going down for about 14 minutes. Watch out: in a sharp turn to the right you DO NOT proceed straight ahead on something that looks like a trail. Instead, you go further down on the gravel road, which, after another 4 minutes, curves to the left sharply. You should then watch out once more: you describe a slight curve to the right and then a slight curve to the left. At this point you notice blue dots and stripes on some rocks – these trail markers indicate a trail on the right of the road between bushes.

One minute later you get to another trail, which you follow to the left. This is an old and narrow rocky trail and after 2 minutes it resolutely descends into the valley on the right – you can even hear some streaming water. Some 3 minutes later you DO NOT descend further on the right, but you go straight ahead on a horizontal trail. Slightly further you walk between deserted stables and terraces for a couple of minutes. About 3 minutes thereafter you get to a shaded spot between tall walls: on this three-forked junction you notice a weathered away red arrow and a blue dot guiding you to the right.

You continue horizontally under some trees, you then descend by describing a few curves and you finally continue flatly again under large oak trees. You then have to watch out again: after 2 minutes you have to take a right at a breach in the right-hand wall - there is a blue stripe on a stone and further down you can also see a blue dot on a tree trunk. If you walk too far over here, the flat trail will be blocked further down. You thus descend on the right into the valley - you now really have to search for some blue arrows and dots in order to be able to follow the trail meandering through the terraces. In this way you arrive at a flat path again, which you follow to the left – so you do not have to go further down! After another 2 minutes you reach another shaded and rocky spot, where you take a right sharply (note the blue dot).

[Some advice: if you do not find any blue dots anymore, you have probably taken the wrong path on this rather confusing trajectory. You should then walk back until you find the last visible trail marker and try all over again...]

Further down the trail has collapsed a little and it is overgrown with thorn-bushes – again, some long trousers and long sleeves are really advisable. The blue dots are reassuring: this is still the right track. After 6 more minutes you take a right once more on a shady spot, but immediately you go left again at a kind of junction (there is a little blue arrow). A little later you get to a blue arrow pointing to the right, crossing a black hose. You zigzag down, keeping rather to the right, and you are guided by dots. All of a sudden you thus arrive at a marvellous, old arched bridge.    

The bridge over the Varídi, on the path to Agios Nikólaos.

You can get to the streaming water by descending on the right before the bridge, or by climbing down on the other side of the bridge – this is really a fairy-like spot!

The water of the Varídi, next to the bridge.

After crossing the bridge you go down the staircase and for a short while you can follow a nice path. This path zigzags up, but then it becomes a sort of sand- and gravel road – still going up. You go up for some 16 minutes, and in this way you get high above the valley again – half way up you do have to go through a large gate and you have to open and close it by means of a rope. At a junction in a curve you take a left and further down you keep to the right, in the direction of a small chapel (some 16 minutes after the beginning of the gravel road). You follow this road for another 10-11 minutes, first towards the white battlemented chapel, but then curving to the left in the direction of the large building of Agios Nikólaos. At first you do not even notice this building, because of the colour of the natural stone it is built of.  

You can enter the terrain of the monastery through two large gates. If these gates are not open, you have to take a right on the small concrete road at the junction before the first gate. You thus get to the main road. You take a left for some 30 metres and you can then enter the buildings by means of a wooden staircase.

View from above on the monastery of Agios Nikólaos.

This is the second surprise of the day: you arrive at a large forecourt with a well, a big plane-tree, and four palm trees. The view over the valley is magnificent. 

The well on the forecourt of Agios Nikólaos.

After entering you discover a couple of beautiful inner courts, with a nice and totally renovated church from the 11th century. The horizontal motifs in the walls remind you of some Italian churches. Inside you find frescos dating from the 15th century. 

The church of Agios Nikólaos.

The front yard is a great picnic spot.

In order to continue in the direction of Apíkia you leave the monastery and you follow the large gravel road going up. After 4 minutes you pass a trail that leads to the cave of the Holy Anthony. You can spot this cave, crowned with a cross, higher up against the hill. After two more minutes you pass the battlemented chapel. All together you climb for about 23 minutes on this gravel road, while describing a sharp curve to the left. You thus arrive at the asphalt road and also at a very windy pass – sometimes, strings of fog slide over you and into the valley.

Straight across, on the left-hand side of some debris, you can see a vague trail running through a breach in a wall. On the other side of the wall this trail crosses the hill crest and in this way you cut off a large bend of the road. After a couple of minutes you thus get to the asphalt road again, via a track of pebbles; you obviously follow this road to the right.

The road now runs through the clouds, which are blown over the hill from the faraway bay of Chóra. After 9 minutes you pass the remarkable chapel of Agia Iríni, striking because of its tiled roof and because it is built inside a ruin.

The chapel of Agia Iríni.

Through the fog you sometimes have a nice view on Chóra.  

Panoramic view, through the fog, to the bay of Chóra.

After 5-6 more minutes, just past another little chapel, you get to a turn off the right. It is better to take a right here, in order to avoid the monotonous asphalt road. After some 50 metres, this concrete road curves to the left and it becomes gravel. About 8 minutes later you arrive at a curve to the right, where you proceed straight ahead. Very soon you thus reach the highest point of this road: from here you have a nice view on Apíkia, situated midst green trees and bushes, on the faraway monastery of Agia Marína and to the left still on the village of Chóra.

After 5 minutes the road slightly goes up again, but 4 minutes thereafter you have to watch out. After 17 minutes on this gravel road and just past a shed with a blue door and a heavy electricity pole, you get to a slight curve to the right: there is a trail straight ahead, closed by means of an iron gate. You take this path straight ahead and you descend for about 3-4 minutes next to a water pipe. After 4 minutes you reach some concrete steps; another 1-2 minutes further on you DO NOT take a right onto the flat trail, but you keep going down on the steps – still next to the water pipe. You pass a nice little chapel and you thus reach the asphalt road again. You take a right, walking past the restaurant Romantica and the small factory where the famous water of the Sáriza-well is bottled. After about 3-4 minutes on the asphalt road you get to a spot with a few benches and lanterns. Immediately thereafter you see the tavern O Tássos and the hotel Pigí Sáriza; the white staircase on the right leads to the famous well of Sáriza.

The Sáriza-well in Apíkia.

You walk back the same way you came; you take a right on the asphalt road and after 10 metres (opposite the pantopolío Ta Apíkia) you go down the concrete staircase on the left – you are now following hike no. [2] leading from Chóra to Vourkotí via Apíkia.

The staircase in Apíkia, the beginning of our return to Chóra.

After about 3 minutes you get to a T-junction: on the left, hike no. [8] goes to the beach of Giália, but you have to descend on the right, towards the asphalt road. You cross this road towards the right and you go further down on the concrete slope – quite soon you follow a beautiful old path. After 2 more minutes you cross a nice bridge, over the green valley with water coming from the Pithára and also from Evrousés further down. This small stream is called "Potamós toon Gialioón" and it thus leads to the beach of Giália.

The bridge near Apíkia.

On the other side of the bridge you find an old staircase going up and after 2 minutes you cross the asphalt road, again towards the right. Some 3 minutes later you get to a junction where you take a left and where you keep going up. After 3 more minutes you arrive at a gravel road, which you follow straight ahead for 8 more minutes. You now have a really nice view on the marvellous wall with the large plates of schist so typical for the island of Andros -, and on the valleys of Apíkia and Steniés!



The nice walls, with the valley of Apíkia.

Panoramic view on Steniés.

You then reach the asphalt road, where the ancient trail continues straight ahead. From here you also have a great panoramic view on Chóra.

The beautiful monopáti from Apíkia to Chóra.

During the next half an hour you follow a wonderful kalderími: for the first 8 minutes the trail consists of steps made of stones piled up vertically.

The nicely paved path.

The side of the monopáti.

After these 8 minutes you cross the asphalt road again and some 5-6 minutes later you cross another asphalt road. A few minutes later the old path turns to the right (at a small asphalt road) – the paving is interrupted twice, but besides that the old kalderími continues for half an hour, which is quite exceptional! 

Panoramic view over Chóra.

In Chóra you get to some concrete, you take a right and then you go left until you reach the waterside of Nimborió, at the bridge.  

If you have to return to the centre, you should take a left on the other side of the bridge. Via the restaurants and a staircase of 53 steps you thus arrive at the main street again. 

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