Panagía Straterí to Megálos Sotíras Nerás and Byzantine wine presses
The main interests of this route are the ancient stone wine-presses in the Kourkouniótis area and the remarkable views south to Panormítis and beyond. Allow 50+ minutes,
From the Panagía Straterí church (Walk 13 or 17), with the motorway on your left (east), look south and the remnants can be seen of the road's predecessor, a broad north-south kalderími Head south on this kalderími, past the ancillary buildings. Walk a short way uphill to a view down to Nanoú and then descend to the intersecting motorway in about three minutes from the church. Go right on the road a short way, but look out for the resumption of the kalderími diagonally off the left. Rejoin this. Follow it, and then a continuation woodland path, to arrive at a small, fertile agricultural valley bowl. There are large buildings up on the right and a small white church on the left. Head towards the church.
Go to the right of the gate of this church, on the hillside, and follow a path that heads around the outside of the agricultural enclosure. On the far side of the bowl, join a newish dirt track leading into the enclosure, but turn left and uphill. The track swings right to join the motorway, just below the large monastery of Megálos Sotíras Nerás (Sotíras Megálos Nerás), but before the road look for a path going off to the left at the final corner.
Take this path, marked with green, yellow and occasionally red, dots, for a distance until you reach a sign regarding 10th-17th century Byzantine wine-presses (patatíria). The bowls of the presses, carved or constructed out of the limestone rocks, are on your right. Go a little further, looking out for a yellow arrow directing you uphill to the right, off the good path, and then look for red circular logos for the wine-presses themselves.
Wine production developed during the Byzantine period, and it became a major export until production ceased in the early 19th century. In the last decade, some 130 stone presses have been found on Sými. The eleven presses here at Kourkouniótis were restored by Sarandís Kritikós.
You can return to Megálos Sotíras Nerás and the motorway by the same path.
Alternatively, if you are not worried by being a little pathless, it is possible to continue up above the presses, southwards through the woodland, to the top of the ridge and an open limestone clifftop. Here there are excellent views south towards Panormítis bay and monastery. From the clifftop turn back and right, down a gentle slope to rejoin uhe motorway as it begins its zigzag descent towards Panormítis. Go night on the road, upnill. It soon levels out, and within a few minutes you will be back at Megálos Sotiras Neras.
Continue northwards on the motorway from Megálos Sotíras Nerás, passing the smaller, 15th century, Agía Marína Nerás among the trees on the left, to return to Panagía Straterí. Continue further to reach the Agios Prokópios sign (Walk 17), about 3 minutes after Panagía Straterí.
Panagía Straterí to Agios Nikólaos Kefáli to Panaïdi
A walk of 40+ minutes takes you from the high ridge at Panagía Straterí down to the remote monastery of Ágios Nikólaos Kefáli on the Kefálas peninsula, with a further 50+ minutes around the other side of the peninsula and the long ascent to Panaïdi monastery, below Stavrós Polémou. There are excellent views en route, though sadly the Agios Nikólaos monastery itself is usually locked. My grateful thanks to Hugo Tyler for telling me about the route of the second half of this walk.
From Panagía Straterí, walk a few minutes north along the motorway, to a dirt track signed downhill (westwards) to Ágios Prokópios. (If coming in from the north, on the motorway, obviously you do not need to go as far as Straterí to start the walk.). Follow the track down to a junction signed Ar. NIKOAAOE KE AAH Ignore the track right to Agios Prokópios monastery, and go left.
Look for a faint path leading off right towards trees - however this path is no longer very clear, and you may prefer to stay with the dirt track (next paragraph). If you use the now unclear, original path, follow this past cypresses and just to the right of what was a donkey encampment in October 2005, then along the right-hand side of a rocky outcrop - where the path becomes clearer and starts to descend. Head across a small, flat area - a circular threshing floor - ignoring a small path back to the right (towards Panagia Styloú). The path winds down, to a large field encdosure with collapsed walls, and passes to the right of it. See second paragraph below".
If you stay with the track, follow it to pass a house (left). Just before the house, blue marks indicate the path off left to the Panaïdi and Stavrós Polémou monasteries of Walk 20. Stay with the dirt track and pass a small church and second, small house, also on the left. The track ends vaguely, but take a path heading diagonally off to the left and downhill. This faint path heads downhill towards and then to the right of a large field enclosure with partly collapsed walls.
Continue on the right-hand side of the enclosure and, near the far end, follow a little path going on between the rocks and down. Just over the ridge, the path forks and you descend to die left (the branch to the right dead-ends at a couple of small wooden buildings).
The descent zigzags a little, levels out to the left, zigzags further, then swings across to the right 2 he path leaves the fence behind and drops to the left into the cypress woodland, about 20 minutes from the motorway. It is marked from here on by cairns.
There are spectacular views out to the right, of Ágios Vasílios bay between the Kefálas headland and Lápathos beach, with the Diavatés (the passers-by) islands strung out beyond. The Ágios Nikólaos Kefáli monastery is soon visible ahead of you, in a clearing of old fields on the headland.
The route is now straightforward- just stay with the path. An engineered ledge-path val give you views down to the small Apiána beach on your right, before you head into some shady woodland about 32 minutes from the motorway. Between the trees to the right, the monastery of Ágios Vasílios comes into view on its cliff perch above Lápathos beach.
Ahead, Ágios Nikólaos Kefáli comes into view again. Step through a small entrance in a wll across the path. The path levels out onto the headland and finally reaches the monastery's outer gateway about 36 minutes from the motorway. Look back at the amazing expanse of limestone behind, down which you have come.
For the onward route, go through the gateway to the left of the monastery, into a walled rocky, animal enclosure. Swing up and left to go through an exit at the top. Follow the onward path. to a fork as it enters woodland, where you go left and up on a clear path. This goes in a more or less straight line, sometimes a straightforward path, sometimes over flat rocks. Eventually you reach the top of the ridge, in about 12 minutes from the monastery.
There are amazing views from here, particularly southeast to Panormítis, and a path does continue, past a stone house, finishing out on the headland. However, you should then retrace your steps a short way to get yourself to the top line of the ridge, and then turn right (left in relation to your incoming path from the monastery, and inland, away from the headland).
The route along the top of the ridge is fairly straightforward, though the path is very faint in places. There are views ahead to the high Stavrós Polémou monastery. After about 10 minutes, where you go slightly left of centre to avoid a rock outcrop, there is suddenly an obvious pa forking down to the left into the woodland. At this point, you should take a higher, fainter pau Off to the right, running more or less level, to the left of the fenced-off summit area. Negouate a fallen tree and stay near the fence. The path is of varying clearness, but you will see wiee small trees have been cut down to clear its route. After about 5 minutes, you have leit unefmou and gone through an open area. On rejoining the final woodland before the Stavrós Polémou peak, the path forks rather vaguely - go up left. There is now a steep, mostly straight, ascent below and then near the Stavrós Polémou cliffs. Where the path obviously splits, take the left upper option.
About 50+ minutes from Ágios Nikólaos, swing briefly left then right to reach a small col. To the right is the waymarked woodland path towards the motorway. Ahead is the Panaidi monastery. Around behind Panaīdi, Ágios Prokópios (Walk 17) is accessible via the main path: the route to Stavrós Polémou, if you have the energy, is a little further left.
Panagía Straterí to Stavrós Polémou to Panagía Strateri/Agios Prokópios
The Sayrós Polémou monastery is probably the most spectacularly sighted on Sými, with some The hest views in the eastern Aegean. From the motorway near Panagía Straterí, it is reached by a stony, woodland route in 15-20 minutes; Ágios Prokópios is a further 15-20 minutes.
Head north, on the motorway, from Panagia Straterí, In about 3 minutes you reach a partly cdeared area among large cypress trees, with a dirt track signed left to Ágios Prokópios (Walk 17). A chort way before the track, are various blue crosses and a red arrow on a tree. These lead back on a stony little path – initially parallel with the road you have come along - towards Stavrós Polémou.
Take the path, which heads through pleasant though stony pine woodland, before gently climbing to a concreted section. This takes you over a little limestone ridge and down the other side. The monastery can be glimpsed, on a peak ahead, between the cypress trees. In a couple of minutes the path arrives at the twin churches of Panaïdi monastery (open; good frescoes). Walk 19 comes in from the left. Go to the right, below and around the northernmost church, and then follow the blue arrows going level (not the marked, descending path from the north church steps). An initial rocky scramble leads to a well-marked path up to reach the Stavrós Polémou monastery.
From the courtyard you can look down over 500m to the sea, and southwards to the huge monastery complex of Arhángelos Mihail at Panormítis. Seskliá island is visible to the southeast. Make sure you go out of the courtyard through the rear (west) gate, for further spectacular views and a magnificently-sited pair of toilets. The string of Diavatés islands - Marmarás, Karavalónisi, Megalonísi, YI Pýros and Pídima - can be seen to the west. Further out to the south and west, Rhodes, Alimniá, Hálki, Tílos, Nísyros, Yialí and Kós, are visible on clear days.
You can return from the monastery to the motorway by the same route. Alternatively, it is possible to follow the downward steps on the north side from the Panaidi churches, and then the blue-marked path through woodland to a scrubby open plateau. Here, join a dirt track and go nght; then right and up to rejoin the motorway, or left to Ágios Prokópios (Walk 17).