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If you’re going to Andros you must spend some time in the capital, Chora. It has a stately, grand feel to it and is quite different to most other villages in the Cyclades. However, if you’ve been to Syros, it might remind you a bit of Hermoupolis.
The island has a rich maritime history and famously produced many a sea farer. Chora has a distinctly Venetian influence and the town is filled with impressive mansions that once belonged to affluent ship owners.
Most of the mansions still belong to the same families. Generations later, many of the families have moved away from Chora but return each year in August. During that time Andros is buzzing and lively as everyone catches up in person.
See the Neo-Classical Mansions
By the time you’ve parked the car, you’ll already have seen some impressive examples of ship-owners’ homes. There are plenty of neo-classical mansions at the entrance of Chora leading into the main pedestrianised area.
A number of these built for the wealthiest of Captains now house cultural and administrative organisations.
Shop for Local Products
Take a stroll down the main pedestrian street. As you walk along it you’ll pass some nice little shops, bakeries and cafes in the newer part of the town. Definitely check out these two local produce shops: Paradosiako Pantopoleio and Rodozaxari Paradosiaka Proionta.
They’re on opposite sides of the streets. Paradosiako Pantopoleio particularly is tiny and absolutely jammed packed with local goods. They have everything from local herbs to Androp, the island’s locally distilled tsipouro, to jars of spoon sweets and walnuts fresh from the tree.
You’ll also pass a lovely greengrocer and health food shop where I picked up some quince fruits.
People Watch at Kairis Square
As you continue walking, you’ll reach Theofilos Kairis square with the tavernas and huge plane tree. I’m told this is the “gossip” square where everyone congregates to people-watch in the summer! There are some good restaurants on the square that are in this post about eating out in Andros.
Before you continue forwards into the castle boundaries look to your left. You’ll see a large drinking water fountain carved from marble. Because it’s so big it’s thought to have been built outside of a mosque that was there at the time.
Behind the fountain is The Archaeological Museum.
Take another couple of steps forward and look right and left. You’ll see Paraporti beach to your right and Neimporio beach to your left. It’s the only place in Chora where you can see the sea on each side.
If you go down the steps to your left, you’ll go from the Archaeological Museum to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Continue past the modern art museum, down a few more steps, and you’ll see the chapel of Agia Thalassini, Mother of the Sea. The tiny church is built on a rock at the little old port.
Wonder at Tourlitis Lighthouse
From the chapel, you can see Andros’ unique Tourlitis lighthouse. I’ve been told this whimsical lighthouse is the only one in the world that’s built on a rock in the sea. It is magical and does look like something straight out of a fairytale.
Stroll through Chora Old Town
From the chapel, head back up the steps to the square. Turn left and you’ll walk through what was originally the entrance to the medieval castle. It blows my mind how long the original stone pillars have been there.
All the houses beyond this point have been built within what would have been the castle. Walking down the narrow street you’ll notice the same neo-classical and Venetian features
The Venician-style balconies were important for communication so neighbours could easily talk to each other. And by neighbours, I mean women. While the vast majority of men were away at sea, the town was run by women.
Many of the doors have these ornate door knockers that are common in Chora.
Lots of the buildings have kept the traditional styles: marble steps, beautiful carved wooden doors and arched doorways.
Walking further towards the end of the peninsula you’ll pass Agíos Georgíou, St Georges Church, on your right.
I also saw the Digital Museum of Andros in this area, just off the main street. Supposedly it has good short videos depicting Andros’ history. However, my experience, like many other people’s was that it was closed and there was no information about opening times. If you’re passing see if it’s open but don’t plan to see it.
Further on you’ll see more of the mansions that were built for the island’s captains and shipping magnates.
When you reach the end you’ll come to the church of Agías Varváras (Saint Barbara), the Maritime Museum and the huge square in front of it. We’ll come back to that but for now, continue to the end of the peninsula.
See The Unknown Sailor statue
The peninsula ends with the Maritime Museum and a large square beside it. You can’t help but notice the huge statue of the Unknown Soldier on the square.
As seafaring was such a large industry for Andros there were obviously times where sailors didn’t come home. The Unknown Soldier statue was created to honour all those who were lost at sea.
The structure’s quite imposing and I thought it looked pretty solid. But when I remarked that I was told that it actually blew over a number of years back and it had to be altered so that it was more stable. Anyway, the sailor stands alone on the plaza in front of the Maritime Museum, looking out to sea.
Clamber up the Kato Kastro
Beyond the square, built on an islet, are the remains of the medieval castle facing out towards Turkey. It was bombed during the war so only the ruins are left, perching on the rock.
This castle is known as Kato Kastro, which means lower castle. (As opposed to Ano Kastro, the upper castle, which refers to Castle Faneromeni up on the hill behind Tis Grias to Pidima beach.)
At your own risk, you can climb over the arched stone bridge that connects the castle to Chora and scramble up to the castle. Look for the steps and footholds on the bridge that have been created by others before you and take care. Once at the castle you can look back and get a beautiful view of Chora.
Discover Cats, Fountains & Mansions
Walk back to the top of Chora via the pedestrian street right in front of you. It runs parallel with the street you came down from the castle. You’ll see more water fountains, cats and mansions.
At the end, as you turn the corner, you’ll reach the mansion that belonged to Basil Goulandris and his wife Elise (who donated money to create many of the town’s cultural assets). It’s an interesting layout with decadent lions outside the front door. I’m told it even has a lift built into the rock below.
Slightly further along the path, you’ll pass the Palatiani Monestry as you walk back up towards the main street.
Visit Churches in Chora, Andros
I’ve already mentioned a number of churches you can see as you wander through Chora. Another notable one is the church of the Holy Mother. It’s a beautiful, big building with a lovely garden just beside the main street where the restaurants start.
If you walk down the steps opposite the Archaeological Museum at Kairis Square, towards Paraporti, you’ll come to the Church of Panagia Theoskepastis. This one is worth a look too.
Beyond all the churches I’ve mentioned you’ll still find more! Let yourself be led to any you wish to see.
Go to the Beaches in Chora Andros
Paraporti beach is a lovely curve of sand right at the side of Andros. As far as I’m aware it’s a wild beach.
On the other side of the castle is Neimporio beach. It’s quite a small beach with some facilities like umbrellas and a toilet.
Annamaria who gave me the Chora tour also said that she had fond memories from many a summer of swimming under the castle. There is access for swimmers from the rocks with handrails to help you.
Going to the Museums in Chora
The Archaeological Museum
Like the Archaeological Museum at Paleopolis, this museum includes exhibits found locally on Andros. For your history fix, you can visit between 8:30am and 3:30pm every day but Tuesday. Tickets are 4 euro and 2 euro for concessions. Contact directly for opening times if you’re making a special trip out of season: [email protected] +30 22820 23664
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art was the first Contemporary Art Museum in Greece. It was created to showcase the work of Andriot sculptor Michalis Tombros, Later it expanded to include works from the highly valued collection of shipowner Basil Goulandris and his wife Elise Karadontis.
The Maritime Museum
If you’re a maritime enthusiast then this is the museum for you. You’ll find all sorts of model ships on display as well as lithographs. Plus they have paperwork like old nautical diaries and shipping contracts.
This library exists to promote “the intellectual and cultural life of Andros”. It has a collection of historical sources about Andros and the Cyclades islands. Obviously, a lot of the items, like the books and manuscripts, are in Greek.
However, they also have pieces of art that you can enjoy regardless of language. If you enjoy history you might decide this is worth a visit.
A major part of this foundation is to encourage cultural education to the people of Andros. It provides music lessons for children and scholarships for education. The aspect that you might be interested in is the summer exhibition of art and sculptures by famous artists.
During the summer the exhibition is normally open Mondays and then Wednesday to Saturday 10am – 1:30pm and 6:30pm – 9:30pm, Sundays 10am – 2pm. Contact: (+30) 22820 24598
Parking in Andros
Anyway, definitely spend at least half a day discovering all there is to do in Chora, Andros. The main street is pedestrianised so if you’re driving the first thing you need to do is find a parking place.
The parking availability isn’t great but there are a couple of car parks near the Alex cinema. If the first one is full drive through it and turn right down to another, larger one for the theatre. From there it’s an easy walk into the centre.
Alternatively, there is some parking next to Neimporio Beach. If you park here you’ll need to walk up the steps (quite a few steep ones) to get onto the main street.
Your Visit to Chora
To get the most out of your stay you might like to do a guided tour of the town. I did one with Annamaria from Discover Andros through Airbnb Experiences. She’s Greek-American and has been coming to Andros every year since childhood. Obviously, she has loads of knowledge about the town and it was interesting to hear about everything first-hand.