Heraklia

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The Naturist Island

The Charm of Authenticity Wanders in the Blossoming Air of Heraklia

“…the island of Heraklia through the haze of legend displays its physiognomy. A vision shining in the sun as it reflects on its marble stones and the frothy sea, the sapphire shells and gulls feathers, the veins of the earth and the light reflections of the crystallized calcite…”

The Consciousness of the Stone Land, Manolis Glezos

What is there to say for this mysterious island of just eighteen square kilometers? Heraklia is a diamond shaped island of the Small Cyclades lying between the islands of Ios and Naxos. In an island of a hundred fifty inhabitants, the permanent peace of Heraklia is swinging in the air. When you arrive at the charming harbor of Agios Georgios, you feel like you have disembarked from a time machine boat travelling to the past. Heraklia is a tranquil island with sceneries of pristine beauty, scenic bays and crystalline waters with shipwrecks. It’s not just the sunset colours or the fresh fish and the crystal clear waters that distinguished Heraklia. It is the therapeutic identity of Heraklia, the magic of the simple rhythms of life. Maybe it’s the time for you to be charmed from the simplicity of virgin nature and the magic of tardiness that liberates the freedom of living. The minimalism in the version of the Cyclades; just the thought of that, is it enough for you to be convinced about the peacefulness and the simplicity of Heraklia?

Discover Heraklia

Best of Heraklia

The Capital of Heraklia

The Settlement of Panagia, else known as Pano Mera, is the capital of Heraklia located on the southern side of the island. The beautiful settlement is a true sample of the traditional architecture of the Cyclades. Whitewashed houses with blue windows and labyrinthine alleys with flowery courtyards are scattered throughout the charming village. The jewel of Panagia is the imposing church of the Presentation of Virgin Mary. It is worth visiting the charming chapel of Prophet Elias located on the highest point of the island.

The Archaeological Site of Kastro

The Archaeological Site of Kastro is the best-preserved archaeological site of the island located above the bay of Livadi. Kastro was a citadel of the Hellenistic period. Here, one can admire the remnants of houses, courtyards and threshing floors along with the ruins of two temples devoted to God Zeus and Goddess Tyhi (Fortune).

The Beach of Alimia

The Beach of Alimia is one of the most beautiful beaches of Heraklia. It is a sandy and pebbled beach with crystal clear waters located on the southeast side of the island. One should bring his diving equipment in order to discover the sunken German airplane of the Second World War.

The Cave of Agios Ioannis

The Cave of Agios Ioannis is the biggest cave of the Cyclades located on the southern side of the island. The cave is decorated with rich stalactite and stalagmite formations. According to the tradition, a shepherd hid under a bush near the cave of Agios Ioannis in order to protect himself from the rain. When he went back to the village of Panagia, everybody saw the shape of Agios Ioannis at his clothes and returned to the bush and found the cave and icon of Agios Ioannis Prodromos. A traditional feast takes place at the cave on the 29th of August in accordance with an old worship tradition. The cave is accessible through a hiking path starting from the village of Panagia. It is highly advisable to bring torches wth you since there is no artificial lighting inside the cave. Close to the cave of Agios Ioannis, one can also visit the cave of Cyclops that constists from two large chambers. According to mythology, Cyclops Polyphemus was residing at the cave.

Archaeological Sites

The Archaeological Site of Kastro is the best preserved archaeological site of the island located above the bay of Livadi. Kastro was a citadel of the Hellenistic period. Here, one can admire the remnants of houses, courtyards and threshing floors along with the ruins of two temples devoted to God Zeus and Goddess Tyhi (Fortune).

Chapels and Churches

The Chapel of Prophet Elias is located on the highest point of the island. Here, one can admire breathtaking views of the surrounding island. The chapel is accessible through a cobblestone path that starts on the outskirts of the village of Panagia.

The Church of Agios Georgios is the patron saint of the island located on the center of the village of Agios Georgios. The church celebrates in honor of the saint on April 23.

The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin is the most important religious monument of Heraklia located in the center of the village of Panagia. It is an imposing whitewashed church with a beautiful blue dome. The church was constructed in 1919. The church celebrates in honor of the saint on August 15 and November 21.

Natural Beauties

The Cave of Agios Ioannis is the biggest cave of the Cyclades located on the southern side of the island. The cave is decorated with rich stalactite and stalagmite formations. According to the tradition, a shepherd hid under a bush near the cave of Agios Ioannis in order to protect himself from the rain. When he went back to the village of Panagia, everybody saw the shape of Agios Ioannis at his clothes and returned to the bush and found the cave and icon of Agios Ioannis Prodromos. A traditional feast takes place at the cave on the 29th of August in accordance with an old worship tradition. The cave is accessible through a hiking path starting from the village of Panagia. It is highly advisable to bring torches wth you since there is no artificial lighting inside the cave. Close to the cave of Agios Ioannis, one can also visit the cave of Cyclops that constists from two large chambers. According to mythology, Cyclops Polyphemus was residing at the cave.

The Hill of Pappas is the highest point of Heraklia at an altitude of 420 meters. The summit is accessible through a hiking footpath from the village of Panagia. Here, one can admire panoramic views over the surrounding islands. On the way up, one can also observe predator birds including the Griffon Vulture.

Promenades & Villages

Agios Georgios is the harbor of Heraklia located on the north side of the island. The village owes its name to the church of Agios Georgios, the patron saint of Heraklia.  The charming village is a true sample of the traditional architecture of the Cyclades. Whitewashed houses with blue windows and labyrinthine alleys with flowery courtyards are scattered throughout the beautiful settlement. It is worth visiting the archaeological site of Kastro with the remnants of the old Venetian castle of the island.

Panagia, else known as Pano Mera, is the capital of Heraklia located on the southern side of the island. The beautiful settlement is a true sample of the traditional architecture of the Cyclades. Whitewashed houses with blue windows and labyrinthine alleys with flowery courtyards are scattered throughout the charming village. The jewel of Panagia is the imposing church of the Presentation of Virgin Mary. It is worth visiting the charming chapel of Prophet Elias located on the highest point of the island.

Sunset Spots

Spot: Archaeological Site of Kastro, Southeast Heraklia

Spot: Beach of Alimia, Southwest Heraklia

Spot: Chapel of Agios Athanasios, West Heraklia

Excursions

Boat Tour: The boat tour of the island of Heraklia is a beautiful experience where you will discover the pristine beaches of the island. Excursion boats operate from harbour of Agios Georgios.

Boat Trip: The Island of Donousa is a beautiful island of the small Cyclades. A handful of whitewashed houses reflect under the blinding light of the Cycladic sun and emerald and azure waters run in the golden beaches without a trace of shadow with the permanent sound of cicadas and the scent of watermelon from sunscreens. This is Donousa, a mysterious island of just thirteen square kilometers that, as the locals say, you can walk around it on foot. The natural terrain of the island boasts steep cliffs plunging into the sea while interesting hiking paths of the inland are passing through old farmhouses and rural churches. The island exhales a serene landscape of an indented coastline on the northeastern part and wonderful sandy beaches with emerald waters on the southern part. Stavros is the charming capital and harbour of Donousa. Whatever Donousa lacks in size, it replenish in colours; besides they say less is more. Some of the most beautiful seashores of the Cycladic coastline spread on this island that will make you want to spend there the rest of your journey. Donousa is home to the spectacular cave of Fokospilia; one of the last refuges of the Mediterranean monk seal Monachus Monachus, and the Cave of Tihos with impressive stalactites in the bay of Xylobatis. So if you are from those travellers who want to escape and experience something different, Donousa is the island for you.

Boat Trip: The Islands of Koufonisia are two mysterious dots sail carefree in the the Aegean Sea. Ano Koufonisi is a charming island embellished with whitewashed houses of Cycladic architecture surrounded from golden beaches and crystal emerald and turquoise waters.  Whatever Koufonisia lacks in size, it replenish in landscapes and colors; besides they say less is more. The peacefulness of Ano Koufonisi emits an astonishingly mystic atmosphere spreading over an area of just four square kilometers while the wilderness of Kato Koufonisi releases a relaxing Cycladic aura surrounded from the sapphire waters of the sea with the shadow of the Cycladic silhouette of the island of Keros hiding in the deep sea. The boundless blue of the Aegean is matching with the white and blue houses of Koufonisia creating a magical atmosphere. Koufonisia are a paradise of natural beauty boasting a unique geomorphology with steep rocky shores and coves surrounded from beaches of tropical beauty with golden sand and emerald waters. An island blessed with strips of golden sand interchanging with wave carved rocks and the wild sight of caves, a beautiful escape to the unknown.

Boat Trip: The Island of Schinousa possesses a special energy that will make you appreciate the simple moments in life. The harmonic sceneries of the island will undoubtedly fulfill your every day. Schinoussa is a place you will find peace of mind while the simplicity and kindness of the local people will make you feel like you become part of their lives. The indented coastline of Schinoussa is blessed with the magic of the deep blue. Staring at the endless horizon of the sea elicits an indescribable feeling of freedom. Although Schinoussa is a small island, you will always find a place to isolate yourself to feel peace and tranquility.   Fresh air, hospitable people, beautiful sceneries and the feeling of serenity; what else you might need?

Activities

Bird Watching: Heraklia has the perfect environment for thousands native and migratory birds. The bay of Merihas and the hill of Pappas are home to migratory bird species. The island has been declared as a Special Protection Area and Important Bird Area from the European Network of Natura 2000.

Blossoming Orchid Spring: Although the first image that comes to your mind when thinking of the Cyclades is the dry and arid landscape, this is not the case of Heraklia! Orchid lovers may be interested to know that orchids on Heraklia begin blossoming as early as January until March and May until late June! On Heraklia, orchids are plenty on the central part of the island!

Diving: The varied coastline of Heraklia offers numerous exciting explorations for diving enthusiasts. The wreck of the sunken German hydroplane of the Second World War is the most interesting diving spot of Heraklia. However, one will not find a diving center on the island. So, make sure you bring the necessary equipment with you. The wreck lies at a depth of seven meters below the surface of the sea.

Hiking: Heraklia hosts numerous paths ideal for lovers of hiking. (1) One of the most beautiful routes is the cobblestone path that begins on the outskirts of the village of Panagia and leads to the hill of Pappas, the highest point of Heraklia. Here, one can admire panoramic views of the surrounding islands. (2) Another interesting trail includes the one that starts from the village of Panagia and leads to the bay of Merihas. Merihas is characterized as one of the most beautiful spots of Heraklia with sceneries of wild beauty. (3) It is also worth exploring the cave of Agios Ioannis. The cave is accessible from a path that starts from the village of Panagia. Discover the hiking routes of the island from the Official Website of Heraklia.

Snorkeling: The crystal clean waters of the beach of Karvounolakos and Vorini Spilia are ideal for snorkeling.

Beaches

Agios Georgios is a sandy beach with turquoise waters located on the northeast side of the island. The beach is located close to the harbor of Heraklia and it is ideal for swimming in turquoise waters. Various amenities can be found in the surrounding area.

Alimia is a sandy and pebbled beach with crystal clear waters located on the southeast side of the island. It is one of the most beautiful beaches of Heraklia. Don’t forget your diving equipment to discover the sunken German airplane of the Second World War.

Karvounolakos is a pebbled beach with turquoise waters located on the south side of the island. The beach is surrounded from impressive rocky formations. Karvounolakos has deep turquoise waters and an interesting seabed.

Livadi is a long white sandy beach with turquoise waters located on the northeast side of the island. It is one of the most beautiful beaches of Heraklia ideal for the lovers of nature. The beach offers panoramic views towards the islands of Schinoussa and Venetiko.

Tourkopigado is a white pebbled beach with emerald waters located on the east side of the island. It is a secluded beach ideal for those looking for tranquility and isolation. The beach is easily accessibly from the road of the village of Panagia.

Vorini Spilia is a sandy beach with crystal clear waters located on the north side of the island. The beach is secluded ideal for those seeking for privacy.

Vourkaria is a pebbled beach with turquoise waters located close to the cave of Agios Ioannis. The beach is isolated and ideal for those seeking for tranquility.

Coffee Corners, Gastronomic Delights and Cocktails Inspirations

Coffee Corners

Aeolos: Coffee, Agios Georgios

En Lefko: Breakfast & Coffee, Agios Georgios

Melissa: Coffee, Agios Georgios

Perasma: Coffee, Agios Georgios

Surfin Bird: Coffee, Livadi

To Steki: Coffee & Pastries, Panagia

 

Gastronomic Delights

Aeolos: Greek Cuisine, Agios Georgios

Akathi: Greek Cuisine, Agios Georgios

Ipovryhio: Greek Cuisine, Agios Georgios

Maistrali: Greek Cuisine, Agios Georgios

Pefkos: Greek Cuisine, Agios Georgios

Pera Panta: Greek Cuisine, Livadi beach

Sirma: Greek Cuisine, Agios Georgios

Cocktails Inspirations

Bar Aki: Cocktails and Drinks , Agios Georgios

Pera Panta: Cocktails and Drinks, Livadi beach

Surfin Bird: Cocktails and Drinks, Livadi

Local Products & Specialties

The local products of the island include thyme honey, cheese, fish and meat.

The local specialties of the island include fava, a dish made from chickpeas.

Events & Festivals

Every 23rd of April, the traditional celebration in honor of Agios Georgios takes place in the village of Agios Georgios.

Every 15th of August, the traditional celebration in honor of Virgin Mary takes place in the village of Panagia. Following the holy service, the parish offers food, sweets and wine to the pilgrims. Further celebrations to the sound of traditional music usually follow in one of the taverns of Heraklia.

Every 29th of August, the traditional celebration in honor of Agios Ioannis takes place at the Cave of Agios Ioannis in accordance with an old worship tradition. On 28th of August, the evening prayer takes place inside the cave of Agios Ioannis in the light of hundreds of candles.

Every 9th of November, the traditional celebration in honor of Agios Nektarios takes place at the church of Agios Nektarios in the village of Panagia. Following the holy service, the parish offers food, sweets and wine to the pilgrims.

History & Mythology

Mythology

According to mythology, Ulysses made a stopover on Heraklia to pay his respects to Zeus on his return voyage to Ithaca after the Trojan War. With the intention of protecting the boat from the strong winds, he anchored for the night at the beach of Alimia. However, none knew that Cyclops Polyphemus, son of God Poseidon, resided in the caves beyond the hill. So, when Ulysses started climbing up the hill, he was captured and imprisoned in the large cave.  Although Ulysses devised an escape plan, Polyphemus discovered it and started throwing hige rocks in order to sink the ship. To this extend, Polyphemus missed the target and the rocks are known today as the Isles of Mikros and Megalos Avelas.

History

Little is known for the history of Heraklia. However, archaeological excavations have brought to light traces of an ancient settlement from the prehistoric times while the inverstigations also brought to surface discoveries from the Cycladic culture. During the middle ages, Heraklia belonged to the administration of Naxos while it also served as a shelter for pirates of the Aegean. In the 19th century, the Greek Navy confronted piracy and the island became inhabited from the people of Amorgos, who build the settlements of Agios Athanasios, Agios Georgios and Panagia. Heraklia participated in the Greek War of Revolution and the bays of Vorini Spilia and Tourkopigado served as Greek bases of operations for secret radio transmitted information in a daily basis to the allied headquarters of Cairo from the village of Panagia. Heraklia became a separate community in 1928.

Travel & Transport

By Boat (99 and 110 Nautical Miles): Heraklia is accessible by boat from the harbors of Rafina and Piraeus. The journey usually lasts five to six hours. Heraklia is also connected with the islands of Donousa, Koufonisia, Naxos and Schinoussa amongst others.Book your tickets with FerriesinGreece.com !

Mysterious Greece Tips

Authenticity at Its Best: Heraklia Island

If you are looking for an authentic island untouched from tourism, Heraklia is the island for you. Inhabited from only 150 people, you can imagine the charm of Heraklia! Beautiful beaches, hospitable people and the atmosphere of tranquility will make you appreciate the simple moments in life in a place where the clock has stop ticking a few decades ago!

Agrotourism in Heraklia: Discover the Beekeping Process, the Apiary Activities and the Grape Harvesting

During the last week of July and the first week of August, the beekeepers tartar beehives where guests can attend this traditional process! Moreover, one can discover the traditional way of apiary activities in May, grape harvest in July and August and olive harvest in October.

Blossoming Orchid Spring in Heraklia

Although the first image that comes to your mind when thinking of the Cyclades is the dry and arid landscape, this is not the case of Heraklia! Orchid lovers may be interested to know that orchids on Heraklia begin blossoming as early as January until March and May until late June! On Heraklia, orchids are plenty on the central part of the island!

Candles and Lights: The Holy Vespers of Agios Ioannis

On August 28, the day of Agios Ioannis the Baptist, vespers are held inside the cave of Agios Ioannis during the night. As there is no artificial lighting in the cave, million of candles are lighted in side the cave! A unique experience!

Discover the Biggest Cave of the Cyclades

The Cave of Agios Ioannis is the biggest cave of the Cyclades located on the southern side of the island. The cave is decorated with rich stalactite and stalagmite formations. According to the tradition, a shepherd hid under a bush near the cave of Agios Ioannis in order to protect himself from the rain. When he went back to the village of Panagia, everybody saw the shape of Agios Ioannis at his clothes and returned to the bush and found the cave and icon of Agios Ioannis Prodromos. A traditional feast takes place at the cave on the 29th of August in accordance with an old worship tradition. The cave is accessible through a hiking path starting from the village of Panagia. It is highly advisable to bring torches wth you since there is no artificial lighting inside the cave. Close to the cave of Agios Ioannis, one can also visit the cave of Cyclops that constists from two large chambers. According to mythology, Cyclops Polyphemus was residing at the cave.

Diving Explorations: Shipwreck German Airplane of the Second World War

The wreck of the sunken German hydroplane of the Second World War is the most interesting diving spot of Heraklia. However, one will not find a diving center on the island. So, make sure you bring the necessary equipment with you. The wreck lies at a depth of seven meters below the surface of the sea.

Explorations in the Hinterland: Agios Athanasios Village

Agios Athanasios is a deserted village located on the western side of the island. The abandoned settlement presents an interesting layout of the traditional architecture of the Cyclades. The village is accessible through a dirt road starting from the main road axis of the island.

Mysterious Isles: Mikros Avdelas, Megalos Avdelas and Venetiko

Hop on the traditional boats of Heraklia to visit the deserted beaches of the isles of Heraklia. One will have the opportunity to enjoy the crystal clean waters of the isles of Mikros Avdelas, Megalos Avdelas and Venetiko!

One of the Best Views in the Cyclades

The Chapel of Prophet Elias is located on the highest point of the island. Here, one can admire breathtaking views of the surrounding islands. The chapel is accessible through a cobblestone path that starts on the outskirts of the village of Panagia.

Spiral Motifs and Rocky Drawings

One will have the opportunity to discover many circle and spiral drawings carved into rocks in various parts of Heraklia. These spirals are dated back to the Early Bronze Age (3.000 BC). According to archaeologists, the spiral motifs were made with tools of emery. However, their role still remains unknown although some historians believe that they symbolized snakes that were thought to bring good luck.

Photo Credits

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Note: All the images are copyrighted from their owners. Please see Terms & Conditions. You can find the original images at the following links:

Agios Georgios Harbour: Shutterstock

Airplane wreck Alimia beach: Antonis Tavoularis by Panoramio

Cave of Agios Ioannis Religious CeremonyLK by Flickr

Church Bells: Dipanago by Panoramio

Heraklia: Visit Greece by Flickr

Kavournolakos beach: Vanes73 by Panoramio

Livadi beach: GreeceMad by Flickr

Rocky Cliffs: Hrakleia by Flickr

Spilia bay: Fan of Greece by Flickr

Tourkopigado beach: Lasce by Panoramio

View of Heraklia: Vagelitsa Roussou by Facebook

Vorini Spilia beach: Kanakis Christos by Panoramio