By Debi Lander
If a gorgeous Greek island with few crowds, remarkable attractions, mysterious landscapes, and active adventures interests you, read on. Milos, a lesser-known volcanic island in the Aegean, became one of my greatest travel discoveries. It includes the very spot where a 19th-century farmer unearthed the famous Venus de Milo (s) statue — but somehow the “s” has been lost beyond the shores of its island namesake.
I took a Celestyal Cruise excursion to the harbor named Adamas. There, my group met Andreas, an expert guide and a life-long resident of Milos.
First stop: the Mining Museum. May sound boring, but the introductory video proved brilliant. The documentary featured men and women reminiscing about their former work in the obsidian, perlite, and dangerous sulfur mines. The economy of Milos depended on mining so this background proved helpful for understanding the isle’s geological wonders.
We looked next into the island’s volcanic origins at Papafranga. Peering down a breathtaking ravine revealed kayakers and swimmers emerging seemingly from nowhere. Hiking and kayaking are some of the most popular adventure options on Milos.
The landscape offers rolling hills, terraced gardens, jagged coastlines, and the most unforgettable beach I have ever seen. Pearly white, not black, lava flow created Sarakiniko Beach. Over centuries, Mother Nature’s powerful winds eroded the coastline forming mysterious and marvelous shapes. Its lunar-like white/beige terrain resembles something you might see in a Dr. Seuss book. The wispy mounds make a dreamy contrast to the crystal clear turquoise water. Although the landscape looks like sand, it’s as firm as stone. This unusual beach begs me to return.
Thankfully, we were given time to venture down toward the water, finding sunbathers, swimmers and caves built by Germans as protection from Allied aircraft during WWII.
Milos, inhabited since the Neolithic Age, endured frequent wars; however, during the Hellenistic Age (323 BCE – 31 BCE) Milos entered a peaceful period, one that produced great works of art. One example is the treasured statue of Poseidon — the bronze giant in the National Archeology Museum in Athens. This era also brought the creation of one of the world’s most famous statues. Aphrodite was later given the Roman name Venus — with de Milos added to tell whence she came.
My group ventured to the place where in 1820, a farmer digging for building materials discovered the statue. Legend says he was disappointed to find the useless relic. She was in two pieces, upper and lower body, with both arms missing. Myths still surround her lost limbs. A French naval officer bought the pieces and shipped them to Paris. Eventually, a Marquis presented the statue to French King Louis XVIII. After he became bored with her, the king gave the figure to the Louvre, where she remains one of the museum’s most magnificent treasures.
A short walk from the discovery spot brings an eagles-eye view of another ancient treasure — this one still in place. An ancient theater, now partially reconstructed, rests down a steep hill. The theater abuts yet another stunning panorama of the coast. Underground catacombs lie nearby from some of the earliest Greek Christian burials. They are considered the third most important after those in Rome and the Holy Land.
Our last stop brought us to a little village of restaurants, shops, and local dwellings. Plaka’s narrow streets run at odd angles up and down inclines and provide still another spectacular overlook.
I could have lingered, but we needed to return to the ship. For the moment, Milos remains undiscovered for most Americans, but it is one you will hear more about in the future. If you cruise with Celestyal, don’t miss this exceptional excursion.
Visit www.bylandersea.com to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.
Photo courtesy Debi Lander