Fonias is the most famous and the most important river in Samothrace. It starts its journey from the steep heights of Mount Saos and flows into the Thracian Sea somewhere east of Therma. It rushes over the rocky terrain, giving birth to several waterfalls and vathres (the natural stone carved pools which are a trademark of the island). In the summer its valley is quite popular with hikers who go up the mountain trails or simply enjoy a refreshing dip in the water or search for the cool shade of the forest.
In Greek, Fonias means "murderer". Maybe in ancient times someone met his end in its waters. Or maybe the negative connotation of the name has to do with the fact that during heavy rains, the raging river overflows and causes great damage.
Fonias also lends its name to the medieval tower on the beach, near its mouth and to the craft beer produced on the island.
The beginning of the trail
The starting point of the trail through the Fonias Valley is on the north coast of the island, about 5 kilometers away from Therma as you head to Kipos Beach. Right after crossing a bridge you'll see a parking lot on your right, under the trees. Usually there is plenty of space here in the spring and autumn. Quite the opposite, in July and August the place gets crowded and people end up leaving their cars on the side of the road.
Also in the summer there are people selling jewelry, honey or local spices in the parking lot and on the first part of the trail.
The first waterfall: Fonias
The trail to the first waterfall is easy and perfect for beginners, children included. It is a path that will take you, with very little elevation gain, along the valley, through a forest that looks straight out of a fairy tale – the enchanted forest, full of secular plane trees, with hollow trunks and twisted branches. Some say that the place is loaded with energy, which is why the trees would grow so weird.
Electric blue translucent dragonflies flap their wings around you and sometimes they let themselves be photographed resting on your hand. Colorful butterflies flutter their wings among the flowers and tiny frogs jump in and out of the water.
Later on the hike the vegetation is dense and the path is bordered by tall ferns, sometimes waist high. The landscape here is reminiscent of a jungle. Every so often the river forms pools, perfect for taking a refreshing dip.
The trail is marked with a red dot, but the color is so faded that you can barely distinguish the signs. Just remember to follow the path and the river. At a certain point, about 30 minutes into the trail, the path takes you over some large boulders. Immediately after there's a big fallen tree you have to walk around.
Before the end of the trail you will reach a big vathra, which is hidden behind a large flat rocky area, where tourists often sunbathe. On the left side, some signs hang from the trees warning you that from here on you are on your own.
To see the 15 meter waterfall, you must cross the river and climb a steep slope. From here you can gaze at it in all its splendor.
The hike takes about 30 minutes of fast walking or 45-60 minutes of slow walking, with plenty of time to take photos or to admire the scenery.
To reach the second waterfall you'll have to continue climbing the slope. The red markings are now visible, but the trail is more demanding and it is no longer recommended for children.
For several minutes the path climbs sharply upwards and then it gets easier, turning left, towards the river. A wonderful view of the island's lush northern coast opens up as you get higher up the mountain. It really gets you thinking of how green and full of life Samothrace is.
At a crossroad you'll notice some red arrows painted on a rock. They indicate the direction to Kleidosi waterfall. However, to reach Gerania you should keep walking straight ahead and then down to the river.
As you descend, a heavenly scenery will unfold before your eyes. The waterfall (also called "the naturists waterfall") is not so high and impressive as the first one, but the place itself looks like something out of a dream. The water flows into a large crystal clear vathra, colored in different shades of blue and green. It is indeed one of the most beautiful places on the island.
Hiking time from the first waterfall to Gerania: 20-30 minutes.
The trail to Kleidosi requires more attention and a longer hike.
To sum it up: you started from the parking lot, you reached the first waterfall, you crossed the river, climbed the slope and kept following the trail for about 10 minutes up to the red painted arrow on the rock, pointing to Kleidosi.
The path begins to climb sharply, passing through strange slick white-trunk trees whose reddish bark fell off. Every now and then you stumble upon a clearing, allowing for a wonderful view of the sea and of the Fonias canyon.
Overall this part of the hike is more tiring, culminating with a portion where you have to cross an abrupt slope and hang precariously onto the rocks. Take great care!
Afterwards the path begins to go down to the river valley (which is just wonderful here), crosses the river and then climbs up again, reaching the stone carved vathres. You can take a glimpse of the waterfall from here, but to see it entirely you'll have to continue climbing a steep hill (there are no signs anymore).
With its 35 meters, Kleidosi is the highest waterfall on the island (except from Kremastos, which flows directly into the sea in the south of Samothrace). It is so high that you can barely see it in its entirety. Its name is derived from the Greek verb "kleidono" (to lock) and it means "joint". That is because the mountain faces come so close together that only water can pass through the rocks.
Trekking time is 2 hours, starting from the car park and without the detour to the Gerania waterfall.
Even if you may encounter barefoot or flip-flop wearing hikers, it is highly recommended that you take your trekking shoes. They will protect your feet from the sharp stones and will prevent you from slipping on gravel or leaves. Plenty of accidents have happened before.
A cap or a hat will protect you from the burning summer sun when the trail comes out of the forest.
If you don't like bathing naked, don't forget your bathing suit. After all, taking a refreshing dip into the cool water of the vathres is one of the must-try experiences in Samothrace.
A final tip
After arriving back at the car park don't leave right away. Cross the street and take a well-deserved break at the tavern on the other side of the road. It is called "I Gefira tou Fonia", which means "the bridge of Fonias". A vast garden, large plane trees, colored hydrangea flowers, hanging decorations and hammocks create a relaxing boho vibe space. Have a snack, order a beer or a homemade tsipouro and enjoy the feeling!
Be aware that I Gefira tou Fonia is only open during summer months.