During our 2-week Cyclades tour by gulet, we visit the tiny and beautiful island of Amorgos. Our day on Amorgos has two wonderful highlights. The first is the Chora, the historic capital village. One of the prettiest settlements in all of the Cyclades, a labyrinth of twisting stepped lanes and whitewashed and blue-shuttered houses that exudes a joyful quirkiness and a sense of peaceful modesty from every corner.
It is always a deeply satisfying experience to explore it, and to take in the whole village from the walls of its tiny Venetian castle set on a rocky outcrop overlooking its homes, squares, innumerable chapels and the row of cylindrical windmills set on a ridge above them all.
The second is the island's most famous monument, the monastery of the Panagia (or Virgin) Chozoviotissa. It is one of the strangest structures in the Greek islands: built against a sheer cliff high above the southern shore of Amorgos and overlooking the bluest sea you can imagine, the monastery is an extraordinarily narrow and tall building, dominated by a system of stairways connecting its many levels, housing the chapel, the monks' cells, refectory, library and whatever other spaces were required. This monastery is actually partly cut into the rock and partly built against it. One of the strangest results of this unusual position is that the top floor, housing the monastery's main chapel, is actually the oldest part of it.
The history of the Chozoviotissa is somewhat mysterious. Its official story entails its foundation in 1088 by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, at the site of an earlier establishment, its origins shrouded in the legend of the highly revered icon it houses, said to have been saved from the monastery of Choziba in Palestine (which is built in a very similar cliff-side location and goes back to the 5th century) during the age of iconoclasm, when icons were outlawed. None of the early history of the Chozoviotissa can be proved - or disproved - easily, as the earlier written records are now lost, but it seems clear enough that we are looking at a structure that has been modified and added to on many occasions, and that may well go back the nearly thousand years it claims.
The dignity of the venerable structure, the quiet serenity it imparts on us and our guests, the stupendous views it offers and its impressive white-washed beauty all make the visit a uniquely memorable experience. It is added to by the hospitality of the monks (the Chozoviotissa has three at present), who serve their visitors loukoumi (Turkish delight), water and rakomelo, a speciality of Amorgos (and other places): a grape spirit flavoured with honey, cinnamon and cloves.
To visit the Monastery of the Chozoviotissa on Amorgos and many other wonderful islands and cultural sites in Greece, why not join our epic Cyclades cruise for just 18 guests.