The Efpalinio Tunnel: a 2500 year old miracle on Samos
Updated: Jun 18, 2020
After a 2 year period of renovation, the Efpalinio tunnel opened its doors again on 1 June 2017. We immediately took the opportunity to walk the whole length of the tunnel (1038 meters), something that was never possible before. And now that we have seen it, I can fully understand why it took so long for the renovation to finish. What great work they did inside the tunnel, to make it possible to visit this miracle of architecture again!
The Efpalinio Tunnel was an aquaduct that used to transport water from Agiades to the city of Pythagorio in the 6th century B. C. What makes this work so astonishing, is that the workers started digging at both sides of the mountain simultaneously, using hammers and chisels only. With mathematical accuracy they astoundingly met each other in the middle of the mountain, with only a very small deviation between the 2 sides of the tunnel. It is estimated that it took around 8 to 10 years to finish digging the tunnel.
Because the water that was led through the tunnel contained so much calcium, the pipes got clogged and the workers had to make vertical holes inside to be able to clean them. All in all, it is believed that the tunnel supplied water to the city for over 1100 years. Thanks to the description of the tunnel by Herodotus, a search for the tunnel started. It was found in the 19th century. In the early 70's of the last century, the Germans excavated the tunnel and it was opened to the public.
Only a very small part of the tunnel (around 200 meters) could be visited for the past decades. Since the completion of the renovation, visitors can choose to visit the tunnel in 3 ways: the first section of around 200 meters, like it has always been open to the public. The second option is to go half way inside the tunnel, to the point where the 2 groups of diggers met when the tunnel was created. And the last option is to walk all the way through the tunnel, ending in the area called Agiades. Whichever option you choose, you will always be accompanied by 2 guides, who make sure that whoever goes in, will also come out of the tunnel again. Wearing a helmet is obligatory and very useful, as we kept hitting our heads to the uneven ceiling. Taking pictures inside the tunnel is only allowed without flash, but because of the beautiful lighting inside the tunnel you will still be able to take some nice pictures.
Going all the way through the Efpalinio tunnel is something I would definitely recommend to everybody living on or visiting the beautiful island of Samos. It is a miracle created by our ancestors, that you will not see anywhere else in the world. When you get to the other side of the mountain, you can either choose to go back through the tunnel again, or walk around through the valley of Agiades to Chora and back to Pythagorio. Whatever you decide, it will definitely be one of the highlights of your stay on Samos!