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Folegandros Chora, Greece

The capital town of the island, Folegandros or Chora, is situated at a distance less than 3,5 kilometers northwestern to the port, at an altitude of some 200 meters higher than the sea level, at the rim of a steep cliff facing the sea. The town counts some 250 permanent residents, most of them occupied in tourism and in agriculture. Chora is the capital town of the island and the seat of the sole community of the island.

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Most of the visitors of the island consider Chora as one of the most picturesque settlements of Cyclades. In fact, the actual town has been formed by two separate settlements. The older is the medieval one is called “Kastro” (“castle”), as the buildings itself form the exterior fortification of a Venetian castle, which, since the early 13 th century, used to protect the population from the attacks of pirates and any other would-be conquerors. The more recent settlement started to construct out of the castle, after the island was incorporated to the Greek state; this latter was “chorio” (village”) until the 40s’. The buildings of the “chorio” are similar to those of the castle, although there were no risks of an attack anymore. One of the features of the new architectural period are the wooden balconies and the nice whitewashed staircases, as well as the whitewashing of the whole building and the colored doors and windows. During the period of the Venetian and Ottoman domination none of these features existed. The houses were constructed of local stone and they were not painted or whitewashed, so that they were not be different from the rocky natural environment and the pirates or other conquerors could not distinguish them from afar.

The main characteristics of Chora, apart from the castle, are the existence of many successive squares, a feature unique in Cyclades, the narrow paved streets and lanes, the old churches and the beautiful old houses, all whitewashed and full of red bougainvilleas and geraniums.

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If you look for sightseeing in Chora, remember that the whole settlement is part of sightseeing: the medieval castle, the church of Panaghia high on the rocky hillside above the village, the remains of the ancient walls of the town, the numerous old churches, the old houses and the narrow streets, everything will fascinate you for more than one reasons.

The view from Chora is breathtaking and limitless, offering the ideal scenery for photos, either from the end of “Pounta”, or from the church of Pantanassa within the castle, or from the balconies and the terraces of the buildings.

In the small, successive squares of the settlement you will find several cafés and taverns and you will discover the original character of each of them. The square of Pounta will offer you the limitless view of the northern, inaccessible part of the castle, while it is also the place for low scale cultural activities both of the elementary school in front of which it is extended (practically, this square is the courtyard of the school!) and of other associations of the island. The Dunavi or Dunavedes square is ideal for the hot summer days, as its trees offer their rich shade to the people enjoying their coffee or their meal. Contarinis’ square and Piazza, with their lively bars and the nice music, offer, both to the locals and the visitors, interesting evenings which often last until late at night.

Accommodation facilities are plenty, as most of the lodgings available on the island are found in Chora. You will also find other tourist facilities as rent-a- car agency, travel agencies, gas station (only one on the island), post office and stores for the necessary shopping and for souvenirs. Folegandros has not a bank; a cash point machine, accepting most of the bank cards and credit cards, is available at Chora and you may use travelers’ checks at the travel agencies and the Post office.

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Food is very good in Chora and the patrons of the restaurants, most of them local, but also people from other parts of Greece who are fond of the island, are very helpful, kind and hospitable, even during the peak hours. Whatever you choose to eat, you will enjoy nice cooking and good quality products. Of course you should not miss to taste the “matsata”, the local handmade pasta, made on the same day, which is served with local cock, or goat, or rabbit in red (tomato) sauce. In most taverns the meat is very nice and usually of local production. If you like ouzo, you may drink it along with “goupi”, small boce dried in the sun, a delicacy of the island.

Amusement and nightlife covers all moods and all tastes. You will find nice, quiet bars with good music, a variety of nice drinks and of course the local “rakomelo”. The younger can choose the bars with modern – and louder – music, good drinks and more fun. People in Folegandros like music and amusement and an apparently quiet evening may easily end up to a lively party, especially if there are musical instruments around. The locals like very much the traditional folk music which always accompanies feasts and social events. There are some traditional musicians, most of them old men, who play violin, lute, bagpipes and “toumbi” (a kind of drum). Fortunately several children and young people learn to play these instruments in the traditional way. And of course, apart from the bars and feasts, in summer there are many cultural events at Chora, which may fulfill any mood. Don’t think that Folegandros is only for calm and solitary holidays. Of course, you will not find here the “hot” (and sometimes dangerous) atmosphere of Faliraki in Rhodes, or the extreme evenings of the bars of Ios, or the glamour of Mykonos; but also you will never feel as being in a place of holidays of retired elderly people! In Folegandros the young people and everyone feeling young enough, may have fun until late at night, they may dance, sing and drink altogether, in good company, but without exaggerations, in the moderate way imposed by the “soul” of the island.

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For swimming you may choose any of the beaches of the island, via any means of transportation. You may catch the bus, use the taxi or take your car or scooter, or you may get on the excursion boats from Karavostasi(s) or Angali and go to one of the beaches. And, of course, if you are fit enough and don’t have problems with the hot sun, you may go to all the beaches on foot, following one of the numerous footpaths.

Chora is the place of most of the local feasts (“panighyri”) and of the cultural events of summer. Since 2003, the non profit cultural society Media dell’ Arte organizes the “Giortes Folegandrou” (“feasts of Folegandros), a series of cultural activities, taking place in July and August. In the same period, the Cultural Association “Folegandros” organizes exhibitions of plastic arts, pottery and other cultural activities.

The most well known feast in the town of Folegandros and in the entire island is the process of the wonder working icon of Panaghia (Virgin Mary) all over the island. The process takes place on Easter and lasts for three days. The icon is carried from Chora to Ano Meria, to the port and to the smaller settlements of the island.

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A process of the icon also takes place on the 15th of August, on the feast of the Assumption of Virgin Mary. The icon is carried anew from the church to Chora. In the past, when there was not tourism, this feast was a chance for “panighyri”, with music and dance all over the night, but now, as most of the people are occupied in tourism during this period of time, the celebration is only religious.

As the locals respect very much the wonder working icon and the interventions of Virgin Mary in favor of the island, another great religious feast takes place on the 1st of May, in memory of the salvation of the island from a pirate attack. The people bring the icon from the church and a process takes place all over Chora.

In Chora it is also published the local newsletter Folegandros. In the kiosks and supermarkets of the town of Folegandros you will find a detailed map of the island, along with a few books, guides and albums about the island.

A local Medical Center (at Pounta square) and a Pharmacy (the building of the High School) are available at Chora for any health problems. For emergency cases the doctor calls a helicopter for transportation to Syros or to Athens. At Chora you will also find a Police Station.

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Access to Chora from the port of Karavostassi(s) is possible by the public buses, running regularly and connecting the town of Folegandros with Angali and Ano Meria. You will find the timetable at Punta square and at the bus stop at Karavostassi(s). Of course, you may reach Chora by car, motorbike and scooter, rented or private. As no vehicles are allowed in Chora, you will leave your vehicle at the parking available at the entrances of the town and continue on foot. Close to Chora there is also a heliport, with facilities of night landing, if that is imperative. The island has also a taxi which you may call at any reasonable hour of the day. The taxi can bring you only to Angali, Ano Meria, Karavostassi(s) and the beach of Livadi, that is to say in places with good road. Some other places are accessible by rented cars or scooters, but don’t miss to follow the instructions of the rent a car agencies, as some roads are not very easy at Folegandros. Finally, if you are fit enough, or you like walking, you may go almost everywhere on foot, following the extended network of footpaths, spread all over the island.

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