When you leave the dusty port of Piraeus with its drab buildings on the mainland by ferry and dock into Syros a couple of hours later, you feel like you've reached another world in another era. The main town of Ermpoupolis is a happy and delightful place that is heavy with culture, graced with coloured neo-classical mansions and infused with a Catholic tradition not seen elsewhere on the island.
This island of 86 square kilometres is home to 20,000 people and is the capital of the Cyclades. The town colourfully scrambles onto the hills while respecting – or even enhancing – the somewhat barren nature of the island. Ermoupolis has in fact kept its classical architecture intact, a delightful contrast to the mainland.
With respect to nature, while the hilly island is not known for its vegetation, there are a few interesting valleys and several important ecosystems protected under the Natura 2000 network, particularly between the Syriggas mountain and the coast. Because the steep (non-volcanic) rocky nature of this part of the island make it difficult to access, many rare plants have flourished there.
Northern Syros features rare rocks such as the eklogites, described as dark round rocks that jut out from the ground. The island is also home to regions classified as "regions of exceptional natural beauty", those being Aspro, Didima, Nata, Schinonisi, Strongilo and Varvarousa. In addition to the natural harbour of Ermoupoli, there is another one on the west at Finikas. Other small natural bays include Delfini, Glissas, Grammata, Kini and Vari.