Photo: aigaio-studios.gr

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.

Photo: e-kyklades.gr

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.

 

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Location - Syros

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Syros offers a hearty cuisine with a powerful variety of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes, as well as many types of local sweets. On the savoury side you can try original dishes like cuttlefish with spinach pies, cabbage stuffed with rice and raisins, chickpea salad and more. Taverna Savvas, for example, claims to use organic produce from its very own garden and may be worth checking out.

Photo: www.discovergreece.com

The island is best known for its sweets, however, such as Loukoumia (known by the not-so-politically-correct name of Turkish Delight in the west), flavoured with pistachio, rosewater and other goodies. Try also the Halvadopita, a round tablet made with nougat and almonds in slices of wafer. The local Halva, a hard fudge-like loaf that can be cut into slices, is made with sesame paste (tahini) and almonds. Many of these sweet traditions came with the Greek diaspora that fled from Asia Minor.

Photo: www.greekgastronomyguide.gr

Dairy products are excellent, including the local hot, soft cheese called kopanisti, as well as Saint Michali. They work well with ouzo or with homemade wines, produced from small local vineyards. There is also a liqueur made locally and known as Grandmother's drink. It is a concoction of brandy and cherry fermented under sunlight, then infused with spices and fruits to yield a delicious brew.

There are some 16 hiking routes identified in Syros, and documented in different hiking maps. More detailed information can be found at www.hikingteam.gr. The Greek-based website does have some English links (Waymarked Walks) that will lead to many diverse routes. You can print the routes, get ready and start walking!

Syros is more of a destination for Greek tourists rather than global tourists. They flock to the island because of the charms of the main city and the less touristic feel. Syros may not be known for its fantastic beaches due to lack of advertising to foreign tourists, but there are many good beaches, particularly on the south side. The towns of Finikas, Galissas, Kini and Posidonia on the west coast of the island have good beaches, so do the towns of Azolynos, Gialos, Mega and Vari on the southeast side.

Photo: www.discovergreece.com

Ferekydi Cave

Cyclades / Syros
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Syros is both a Greek Orthodox and a Greek Catholic island, boasting many fine churches from both traditions. The more Venetian town of Ano Syros offers many churches to visit, so do the small villages around the island.

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