Essay: “Andros: The Janus-Faced Isle,” By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring (Updated in 2009 by Diana Farr Louis)

Andros, the northernmost and second largest member of the Cycladic archipelago, two hours from the mainland port of Rafina by ferry, is a Janus-faced island: sun-bleached and typically Cycladic (barren, rocky and a hundred shades of beige) to the northwest (where it is separated from southern Evia by the Strait of Kafireos, or the Cavo d’Doro Passage), the island is a watershed to the east, where springs keep its valleys and pretty hillside villages full of flowers and verdure year-round.

Within cool, vaulted Panachrantos

In antiquity, the island, whose current name derives from that of one of Cretan King Minos’s generals, was also called “Lasia,” “abundantly green,” and “Ydrousa,” “well-watered.” Some geologists maintain that Andros’s bounty of water has its source in the mountains of Evia, reaching Andros through seabed aquifers. Whatever its origins, the water of Andros, especially that bottled at Sariza, both still and sparkling, is as famous throughout Greece as Perrier and Badoit are in France. Tourists of another era came to Sariza to “take the waters”; today’s visitors are more likely to visit Andros for the salt variety lapping the island’s numerous and uncrowded beaches and coves.

Ioanna Halla & Best Buddy

Once sacred to Dionysos, Andros has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, though the most impressive finds on the island date from the 10th century BC and the Late Geometric Period (900 to 700 BC), when fortified Zagora, on a lofty and windswept southwestern headland, was the island’s architecturally impressive center. Painstakingly excavated first by Greek and then by Greek and Australian archaeologists since 1960, the site at Zagora has yielded up remarkable finds, in terms of domestic and sacred architecture, pottery, and household objects, all now impressively documented in the Archaeological Museum of Andros, one of the capital town’s—Hora’s—gems.

Hermes, messenger of the gods

18th Century Eagle