Thásos is a roughly circular island about 30 kms in diameter and with an area of c. 300 sq.kms. The island is dominated by the mountain ranges of Ypsario (1204 metres) and Profitis Ilias (1100 metres) and the majority of the centre is covered by commercially managed pine forest. Towns and villages are mainly confined to the narrow, low-lying, coastal fringe, where olive groves are a prominent feature of the landscape. The island’s main road connects these settlements and its 93 kms provide an excellent tour of the scenery and features of interest.
Access inland is via the few minor roads that service the handful of villages in the mountains. Beyond these, the island is criss-crossed by forest tracks that allow access to the mountain tops. These tracks are bulldozed into the mountainsides and of variable quality. Sections are occasionally washed away during winter floods so it can be difficult to predict the best route but most are passable with care and a suitable vehicle. The effort is well worth it as some of the best scenery and habitat is found on the highest ground, where limestone pavement and ancient pine forest meet.
Characteristically, Thásos has a fascinating history and striking ruins of past civilisations are dotted throughout the lowlands. Even the mountain villages are a reflection of a turbulent past when people retreated from coastal settlements to the relative safety of the interior. Thásos has ‘changed hands’ several times and only returned to government by Greece in 1913 after liberation from Turkey by the Greek Navy. During the Second World War the island was occupied between April 1941 and October 1944 by Bulgaria (resulting in several important biological surveys by Bulgarian ecologists). Today, the 18,000 residents are employed mainly by the industries of agriculture, forestry, fishing, marble and tourism. The island has traditionally been popular with Greek tourists but over the past twenty years or so there has been an increasing international tourist industry. This has seen expansion of tourist facilities in some of the larger towns but, with the exception of Limenaria Bay on the south coast and Golden Beach on the east coast, the landscape is still largely unspoilt. Thásos is famed for its marble, honey and walnut jam and, because of its verdant forests, is known as ‘the emerald isle’.