The imposing lake cave of Melissanis, 2 km outside Sami, is perhaps the most impressive attraction of the island. It is a true miracle of nature, featuring on lists of the most beautiful places in the world. Boating in the small cave lit through an overhead opening is an unbeatable experience. Sunbeams lend a beautiful colour to the clear turquoise waters and the silence is broken only by the splash of the oars.
The grotto was discovered in 1951, and the stalactites adorning the walls are estimated to have formed 20,000 years ago. The lake of the cave is 20 m below the surface and is approximately 160 m wide and 10-40 metres deep. Because of earthquakes, a large part of the roof has collapsed, leaving a huge opening that allows the sunlight in to play on the crystal clear waters, creating a fascinating spectacle.
Towards the middle of the lake, where the covered section begins, lies an island on which findings were discovered confirming the use of the cave as a place of worship of the god Pan and the Nymphs. A narrow water passage between the island and the walls leads to the rest of the covered part of the cave.
As for the name, the myth goes that the nymph Melissani committed suicide in the lake because Pan would not respond to her love. Another version tells of a shepherdess Melissanthi, who stumbled and drowned in the lake while looking for a lost sheep.
The lake is reached by descending through an underground tunnel leading to the main chamber of the cave. From here the boat tour along the length of the lake begins.