Samothrace, a magnificent island of somewhat enigmatic and mystical atmosphere, emerges imposingly from the sea. There are hundreds of streams and rivulets gushing from Mt. Saos, which make grooves that run along the sides of its compact, arcuate mountain. These water-courses flow down the mountain in a radial shape, feeding in their way streams and canyons with strange names (Fonias, Gria Vathra, Tsivdogiannis, Kremastos, Gyali...). Meanwhile, they form beautiful waterfalls in a stepwise array (Kleidosi, Kakia Plaka, Karya ...), which flow along an orgy of a green background as well as the famous “vathres” (i.e. successive natural pools formed in the rocks with crystal, deep-green waters).
Samothrace is famous for its beaches but even more for its vathres, which like mythical sirens attract thousands of travelers who arrive on the island to enjoy these impressive geophysical formations. There are more than a hundred of them on the island, but the most popular by far are Fonias (the Killer) and Gria Vathra (the Old Pool).
Starting up at Therma
Leaving Kamariotissa, Samothrace's port, and going towards the north, 13km away, you will find Therma. A lush paradise, known since Byzantine times, with warm mineral springs that flow through tall chestnut trees and myrtles. This is where the climbing to Mount Saos—among the tallest ones in the Aegean—starts. Along your way you will come across many vathres. However, discovering a "hidden treasure" requires a lot of walking or even climbing at times... The degree of difficulty increases significantly as you reach vathres of higher altitudes. So bring along your backpack, hiking shoes and a mood for exploration… and off you go!
Gria Vathra is located 2 km from Therma, in a beautiful landscape full of trees and ferns. There is a sequence of at least ten waterfalls and vathres, most of which are easily accessible. Depending on your mood and on your physical strength you can choose between two paths.
The first path is easier and thus more suitable for families to cross. After a 10-15 minute of walking in a relaxed manner, this path will lead you to an artificial vathra. It is rewarding to go to the rear side of the cliff where one could see the first natural vathra, which is quite small, yet it’s got enough space for someone to rest. At this point the path seems to be immersing in the water! Dip in the water halfway down your thigh to walk across the second vathra, then to the third one, to the fourth and so on for as long as you feel like it, since the higher you climb the more fascinated you become with the enchanting sight of the mountain.
The alternative route, a more demanding than the first one, entails a 20 minute walk on a shadeless path which leads to a large sandy vathra. Here you can camp and enjoy a refreshing diving in the cool waters.
One of the largest and most famous water resources of the region is Fonias, a water stream which generously offers a series of spectacular waterfalls, water slides and vathres on a white granite rocky background. You can start hiking on a magnificent area—5 km from Therma— that seems to come alive out of images of children's fairy tales of enchanted forests, nymphs and elves. You will then reach the first vathra after about an easy 30 minute walk on a marked path through rich plane trees. There, one sees one of the most attractive and popular granite vathres of a great size where a small waterfall ends. Yet here comes the difficult part, since to reach the next numerous vathres one should start hiking. The path leads high up to Gerania Vathra, where there is another waterfall, and then after a demanding two-hour climbing up one arrives at Kleidosi, the tallest waterfall of Fonias (35meters height). The more one climbs to get to the next vathra, the harder it gets since the rocks are slippery while the slope is great.
If you follow the path to the opposite direction, towards the mouth of Fonia you will find the important wetland of Vdelolimni, a shallow lake next to the sea, which for the most part is covered by an alder forest, unique to Greece. Here stands the medieval Tower of Fonias, a work by the Gattilusi.