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Visiting Kassos

If the Greek islands you have visited seemed overrun with frantic tourists, you have not visited Kassos (between Rhodes and Crete). Travel books have all but ignored the island—all 25 square miles of it—and as a result visitors practically have the place all to themselves.

Kassos has an airport, but most people reach Kassos by sea via skipper George Manoúsos in the boat he built himself.

In the main harbor town of Phry (Fry), Manoúsos’s sister-in-law runs the island’s sole tourist office, offering booklets and the all-important island map you’ll need to get your bearings. The Maritime and Tourist Travel Agency is located next to the Hotel Anagénissis and the (often closed) Olympic Airways office. Manoúsos will be happy to answer any of your questions in excellent English. She’ll exchange foreign currencies as well, since the island has no bank. (A Bank of Greece representative sets up a makeshift counter at a grocery store each morning and will negotiate traveler’s checks. Money can also be exchanged at the island’s tiny post office.)

Once you’re on Pfry, you’re basically on your own. There’s no bus system on the island and no car rentals. In a pinch, you can rent a moped, but only in late spring and summer. Other times, the scooters are being taken apart and repaired.

This brings us to the topic of hiking. Don’t start without your map and provisions (water at the very least, better include some snacks). As asphalt road turns into a gravel trail, you’ll be greeted by a variety of the island’s animal folk, from the usual goats and donkeys to the more unusual turkeys.The most striking flora will likely be the pots of flowers in front of the white cubed houses.

Kassos’s splendid cave, the Ellinikokamára, was used as a temple in ancient times. From Phry you’ll need about an hour to get there by foot. The path winds like a snake past hillside chapels, and you’ll be grateful for that map.

Ask for suggestions for other worthwhile island treks from local shopkeepers.

Before you depart Pfry stop by the local museum, which is open Tuesday through Saturday mornings. You can get a feeling for the shipbuilding days of old.

The only time not to hit the island is August, the high point for visitors. Greeks living abroad head back to Kassos to meet with family and friends. The usual 1,100 population triples.

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