You probably won't recognise the name, or you might know its namesake in the Bahamas - but the Greek island of Andros is one of our favourite islands in the Cyclades group. Considering it's just 2 hours by ferry from the port of Rafina (near Athens), or less by hydrofoil, it's a wonder that more people have not discovered its mesmeric coves, its handsome white towns, its quasi-Scottish hills scored with lush terraces and dry stone walls. So far, it seems to be privy to just a few Athenians - many of them the families of the wealthy shipowners who made the island great - and a handful of hotels in the would-be resort of Batsi.
So if you want to explore an island which has escaped the crowds and sprawling resorts, and if you don't mind that the roads are a bit bumpy, the villages don't have many clubs, and the locals are almost introverted by Greek standards, then jump on a ferry to Gavrion, rent a jeep and see where it takes you. You'll find tumbling waterfalls, a sunken city, crumbling castles, pristine beaches, the freshest of fish, whitewashed monasteries sheltering beneath windswept summits, even an eye-opening modern art gallery. Our editor-in-chief first visited when he was 2 years old and still returns regularly to stay with friends there. Thankfully you don't need to adopt an Android, as we've unearthed a gorgeous hotel hidden on its own, ultra-secluded beach.
Hidden away on Andros' northeast coast, accessible only by bumpy dirt track, lies the tiny cove of Vitali - one of our favourite beaches in Greece. The water here is as clear as gin, there are sea caves and rock ledges to explore, and white granulated sand to sun yourself on. Just 2 buildings: a tiny taverna serving simple but delicious lunches in summer, and a whitewashed chapel perched on a rock. To get here: from Gavrion start towards Agios Petros, then keep left, over the island's spine, and down; before Vitali village, fork right.
From the excellent Balconi tou Aigeou taverna in Ano Aprovato, dirt tracks lead southeast and uphill across the steep, granite-slabbed flanks of Mt. Petali, whose 1000m summit is often wreathed in a halo of cloud. You pass beneath a seasonal waterfall, now following an ancient stone-flagged path flanked by dry stone walls - once the only route to the south of the island. Views plunge down over the terraced fields of Paleopolis to the sea. Bearing east over the spine, you reach Pitrofos and either return for a slap-up meal, or continue to Strapouries and taxi back. Route map.
The monastery of Panachrantou is visible from afar as a white splodge on the cliffs high above Messaria valley. A mulepath from Messaria crosses a stone bridge and climbs steeply past the near-deserted hamlet of Fallika; or you can drive if your car and nerves are robust. The lone monk – a hyperactive, black-robed, English-speaking elder – may be in, and offer you a piece of loukoumi or magic up a bowl of spag bol. All that is expected is open-minded conversation and a small donation in the church box, as you light your candle. Even without, it's a contemplative spot, with Eleonora's falcons and bleating goats for company.
The island's handsome capital town, Andros (or Chora), straddles a headland between two sandy beaches, with stately houses and oft-deserted cobbled streets (most islanders are seafarers, or over-winter in Athens). But poke around and you'll find two surprises: an excellent gallery of Contemporary Art sponsored by the Goulandris family (Greek semi-royalty, who hail from here), and an adjacent archaeological museum with a C4 BC statue of Hermes (a Praxiteles lookalike). Continue past the mystifying statue of a sailor-who-looks-like-a-postman to find a rock-perched chapel sprayed by the pounding waves, and a perilous stone bridge to an islet with a crumbling Venetian keep.
In the south of the island are tiny stone hamlets tucked into terraced folds of mountain, and a whitewashed fishing town called Korthi. From here, tracks thread north to the dramatic rockstack of To Pidima tis Grias, from which a grieving lady is fabled to have jumped to her death (how she climbed up there is a mystery). It's a great spot for a swim, sheltered even when the meltemi wind is in full swing. For more rocky adventures, drive up past Kohilou, turn right and, where the road runs out, continue on foot up the wind-lashed fortress of Paliokastro, with its ruined Venetian walls, Orthodox chapel, and staggering sea views.