Photo: GNTO/ Y.Skoulas

Ios may be truly one of the most beautiful islands of Greece. Its long golden beaches, clean sea, secluded coves and intense night life have made the island internationally known as the island of youth. However Ios, which has been connected with the name of the poet Homer, has still a lot to offer to visitors apart from sun, sea and entertainment, with rich Cycladic tradition not known by most tourists.

Ios (also Nios) is an island of 108 square kilometres with a population of 2000. Its name may derive from ‘ion’ (flower), as the island was a practical flower garden in ancient times. Traditional Cycladic architecture with narrow streets and small squares will delight visitors, where the ancient city of Ios once stood.

Photo: GNTO/ Y.Skoulas

Walking up the hill on the east of Hora reveals more of Ios’ many attractions and stunning views, including the old white windmills and the modern Open Theatre Odysseas Elytis – a masterpiece of architecture made of stone and marble named after a famous Greek poet.

The Perivolia region features forests, flora and plenty of water, unusual for the Cyclades. In the works is a Botanical Garden in Mylopotas with a wide array of Mediterranean plants.

Behind the scenes also lie many dairy farms with traditional cheese-making, beekeeping and local fishing activity, where most locals are more than happy to involve visitors in their trade and traditions.

 

 

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Location - Ios

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Ios is mostly a barren, rocky island but it does have its charms for hikers who want to explore the island on foot. Some of the hiking trails are mere tracks, and might be difficult for beginners. Nonetheless, there are short routes for beginners such as the most common one from Ormos in the port of Ios to Hora about 2 km away. The 20-minute route passes near the town’s ancient walls and many interesting churches.

Photo: www.iefimerida.gr

A longer route is from Hora to the monastery of Agios Ioannis and back, which takes about 4 hours reveals most of the island. Pass through the windmills, small theatre, the beaches of Mylopotas and Agios Prokopios, continue climbing up Pyrgos (about 710 meters), the highest mountain peak of Ios for excellent views of the whole island a visit to the monastery of Agios Ioannis. The route requires patience, lots of water, a map and protection from the sun, particularly in summer.

 

 

There are mountains on Ios that are worthy of mountain climbing. One of these is Pirgos in the middle of the island at a height of almost 710 meters, and the other is Profitis Ilias at 514 meters to the west of the main town. There is also Vouni, standing high at 409 meters on the north side. In addition to mountain climbing, these peaks have many paths for hikers.

Photo cover: Jan M

Mylopotas is the main and busiest beach on the island which is best left alone if you want quieter spots. Far away from major attractions, Maganari on the North coast is a beach that is less known but still popular, with seven successive beaches. Interestingly, scenes from The Deep Blue were filmed here. This beach offers some water sports and lunch options, but exploring a bit will lead you to more private spots. There are more secluded beaches on the north coast as well.

About 16 km from Yialos is Kalamos, a good choice for those who prefer less crowded beaches. There are still some beach beds and a beach canteen, but this is a much quieter beach overall. Within walking distance on either side lie even more remote beaches worth investigating. Plakes to the north is one such beach, and the hidden cove of Papa to the south is another.

Agia Theodoti is a traditional community and good tavernas 10 km from Hora, with a splendid sandy beach. Psathi is another small traditional community with a beautiful beach, found 20 km west of Hora.

In Hora, parts of the defensive walls, an ancient building, the street to the harbour and the temple of Apollo are still visible today. The temple of Apollo was located where the church of Agia Ekaterini now is. The market of the ancient city lay between Agia Ekaterini and in the church of Agioi Anargyroi. Rich discoveries from the prehistoric until the roman years are found in the Archaeological Museum of Hora as well.

Photo: www.discovergreece.com

The archaeological site of Palaiokastro (or Paleokastro) on the Eastern part of the island features the remains of a Venetian castle from the 10th century, as well as the much more recent church of Panagia Paliokastritissa. While much of the rocks have fallen into the sea, many still stand and reveal a glimpse of this island’s past, when such edifices protected the inhabitants from pirates. The site is a 15-minute walk from Psathi.

Photo: www.discovergreece.com

On the northern tip of the island above the beach of Plakato lies Pano Kambos, the alleged site of Homer’s Tomb, near the village of Vouni. The poet is said to be buried there, although the original site may have slipped due to earthquakes and the tomb’s remain seem to be more Byzantine. Nonetheless, it is worth visiting, particularly since each year on May 15 the island’s inhabitants hold a festival called Homeria, brining a flame from the port to Homer’s last resting place.

As you go up to the main town via the wide stone steps from the port, you will come across part of the wall that surrounded the town in ancient times. On your right in the first square of the town lies the island’s modern Orthodox Cathedral, Evangelismos (Annunciation). Nearby is the church dedicated to Saint Ekaterini where in 1903 an excavation unearthed the remnants of Byzantine foundations and the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo. Christians built the Byzantine Cathedral over these ruins, and the altar actually rests upon two of the temple's columns.

In Mylopotas, Panaghia Gremiotissa (Our Lady of the Cliffs) was built during the Turkish occupation. According to legend, an icon of the Virgin was found on the rocks of Mylopotas' seashore, which the inhabitants of Crete had thrown the icon in the open sea to protect it from Turkish hands. The icon was then taken to the church of the Holy Cross, but only to be found again the following morning on the same steep mountainside. When the islanders tried to build a new church for the icon, but not on the exact spot where it had been found because of its inaccessibility, the foundation stones of the church kept disappearing every day miraculously. Only then the islanders understood that the icon had chosen that exact spot as this was the location had a distinct view of Crete. The view from here is exceptional.

From the square of the windmills in Mylopotas, follow the narrow path up to the church of the prophet Elijah (Profitis Elias). This is a path of 500 meters with great views of Hora and Mylopotas. During periods of water shortage, a procession with icons and banners heads along this path towards the church.

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