24 hours in Ai Stratis, Greece
Agios Efstratios, commonly referred as Ai Stratis, is a small island located in the middle of the Aegean
It has approximately 200 inhabitants and it’s only reachable by boat. There is daily connection with the closest island, Lemnos and less frequent connection, on some days of the week, with some bigger ports of the country. The Island does not have pharmacy, bakery and bank but all these are just practical details. The reality is that while in Ai Stratis you don’t need much, or in order to put it simply, you will be pleased with what’s available.
The small village is spread on the foot of the mountain, along a natural gulf. It combines old and contemporary houses made in simple architecture, which are always surrounded by flowers.
In the village there are some guest houses providing decent accommodation aligned with the simplicity of the place. There are very few places offering food and drinks in the island. Near the square it is served traditionally made coffee and homemade little pies. A small table shadowed by a tree with the feel of the sea breeze coming from the port located two steps away, is the right place to start the day. There is no variety in the cuisine or sophisticated elaborations but there is certainly fresh seafood, and local specialties that will sufficiently cover all needs or even take it a step further by pleasing the insatiable feeling of seeking to experience the old-fashioned ways.
The hill of San Yannis, where the old town used to be, offers 180 degrees view, revealing the sublime of the infinite sea, waving serenely in the early evening. It is the right spot for watching the sweet Aegean sunset while listening the lively voices of the young playing beach volley, coming far down from the port.
The village has concrete and paved streets but the longest distance is no more than 10 min walking. The rest of the island has dirt roads taking you to the top of the mountains and to hidden beaches.
The main beach is located near the port, it is dark sanded and is divided in two with a break water. The first part is viewing the village and is the most visited. However, at its peak, the nearest parasol is set at least 5 metres away. The water is clear, fresh and ideal for awakening the body. The second part of the beach is somehow wilder and even calmer. There many more beaches, hidden bays, capes and caves, easily reachable by a small boat. Some locals offer boat taxi services. The beauty of these hidden beaches is unique. In Lidario beach, the dry mountain meets the beach creating a small valley. The landscape is one that you can’t get enough.
History & ambience
In Ai-Stratis there is only one but significant museum. The Museum of Democracy is the first Greek public museum dealing with a period of recent Greek history of crucial political and social importance. The museum is hosted there because for long time the island was a place of internment for political exiles.
Although Ai Stratis offers free wi-fi, life in this remote island is completely distracted from the urbanisation of the modern civilisation. Time there is just a notion. Locals are waving for good morning like one has always been part of this community. Bicycles are everywhere and none is locked while parked. When visiting Ai Stratis you will experience a mood switch, the mind and the soul calm down, embracing the tranquillity dominating the island, coming closer to what is important on living.
Ai Stratis has no make-up on. It’s raw, it’s simple. It is what it looks to be.
Tip: 24 hours in Ai Stratis are not enough
Article and photos by Maria Rosa.