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The Lighthouse of Andros Island, Greece, a Symbol of its Glorious Shipping Past

Andros lighthouse Greece
The historic Tourlitis lighthouse on the island of Andros, Greece. Credit: anjči,  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

On the Aegean island of Andros, Greece, a lighthouse emerging from the water like a strange sea creature is one of the most famous spots on the island.

The Tourlitis lighthouse, which is located at the northernmost extreme of the Cyclades archipelago, has been illuminating the route of seamanship for more than 120 years.

The picturesque and impressive structure is amongst the few in Europe built on a rock in the sea. It was constructed in 1887 and first operated on January 1, 1897. It has a height of seven meters and a focal height of 36 meters with the luminescence of eleven nautical miles.

It was built on a stone column opposite the Venetian Castle of Andros at a time when the island had already become a major center of Greek shipping.

Following the War of Independence, several refugees from the island of Psara arrived there, and their experience in shipping and trade from Central and Eastern Europe made them wealthy and famous worldwide.

Andros lighthouse
The lighthouse is amongst the few in Europe built on a rock in the sea. Credit: Nicolas Hadjidimitriou/ Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Andros Island, the early shipping center of Greece

Andros emerged as a shipping center following the decline of other traditional shipping centers such as Galaxidi and the island of Hydra.

Andrian merchants were particularly active in the grain trade from central and eastern Europe conducted from the Danube estuary.

Initially locally constructed, Andrian ships were later built on Syros, especially as shipping began the transit to steam.

In the twentieth century, Andros, despite the setbacks of the First and Second World War, was at the top of commercial shipping and economic prosperity. In the early twentieth century, Andriot ship owner Dimitris Moraitis launched the Greece – North America sea route. In 1939, Andros was second in number of ship registrations after Piraeus.

The Second World War caused significant losses on the island both in lives and ships. In the late 1950s, a large emigration wave began both to the major urban centers of Athens and Piraeus, as well as abroad (mostly in the USA), reducing the island’s population dramatically.

Andros lighthouse destroyed and rebuilt

The lighthouse was destroyed during World War II and was never restored in its original form until 1994, when it was rebuilt with funding from the Goulandris family, one of the most prominent families of the island.

It became the first automated lighthouse in Greece, so there was no further need for an onsite keeper to supervise its function.

lighthouse Andros Greece
Tourlitis was the first lighthouse imprinted on a Greek stamp

Since it was renovated, it has been one of the area’s most significant tourist attractions. It also became the first Greek lighthouse to appear on a stamp.

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