Ios or Nios, as the locals call it, is one of the most beautiful islands of the Cyclades, situated halfway between Naxos and Santorini. According to the ancient tradition, Ios was the homeland of Homer’s mother and the final resting place of the great epic poet.
Upon reaching the island, the view before you is magical: Chora is built in an amphitheatre-like manner on the slope of a hill, on the top of which there are ruins of a mediaeval castle.
Among all the Cyclades islands, Ios has been for many years the most loved by young people of all ages. And rightly so, since it combines all the ingredients of a Greek island that one would dream of: beaches with crystal clear blue waters, unique sites of archaeological interest, and lively multi-colored nights.
Ios Island Sightseeing
Probably the best known place of historical interest is Homer’s Tomb. Located on the north side of the island in the wild, untouched area known as Plakotos.
Skarkos, is an early Cycladic period settlement, (2,800 BC) of that has been awarded a prize. A rich collection of finds from the settlement as well as antiquities going back to the island’s historical course are on display in Chora’s excellent Archaeological Museum.
Palaiokastro stands on the northeast side of the island and used to be a fort during the Byzantine period, useful for controlling the seaways from Constantinople down to Crete. It communicated via visual signals and fires with castles in Naxos, Amorgos and Santorini.
Odysseas Elytis theatre
A real hidden treasure is the Odysseas Elytis theatre, named after one of Greece’s most famous modern poets and faithfully constructed in the ancient style. This is to be found in the area known as Tsoukalaria.
The main residential area is Chora,the site of the village is on the hill-top, first so as to make it possible to see the pirates approaching and take evasive action, and second to secure even the smallest piece of land where a crop might be planted. Exploring Chora means, first of all, walking. Choose a cool morning, wear your most comfortable shoes and get ready to set off.
Ios is the only island in the Cyclades that has so many windmills gathered in one place. This is one of the most beautiful sites on the island and forms a unique sample of traditional architecture. Above Chora on the slope the twelve windmills remind you of former days, when the islanders used the power of the wind to make their windmills work!
Ios Museums & Churches
The Archeological museum of Ios was founded in 1998 and reflects modern museum philosophy. The museum , is housed in the Amiradakio Hall (a neoclassic building which is in a central spot of Chora). The museum comprises of antiquities from surveys, from deliveries and donations.
In the four rooms of the museum is displayed an equal number of themes:
In the 1st room, are given information about the natural environment and the history of archaeological research in Ios with the help of photographic material.
In room 2 are projected developments during the Middle and Late Bronze Age.
In the rooms 3 and 4 you can see the course of Ios during the historical times.
Local tradition says that the number of churches is 365,as the days of one year, a number that in the late 1960s greatly reduced, since that “most of them are voulismenes (destroyed) dilapidated or their traces are lost “.
The majority of family churches, built of stone and clay and destined, through the namesake saint, to protect the animals and the land of each family from the “evil eye”, were scattered throughout the island.
The churches of Ios designated preserved as historical monuments are:
- Panagia Gremiotissa, Chora
- Agios Ioannis o Prodromos, Chora
- Agia Ekaterini, Chora
- Agios Nikolaos- Lazarou, Chora
- Panagia Chrisopigi, Chora
- Evangelismos, Chora
- Agios Nikolaos, Chora
- Agios Georgios, Chora
- Timios Stavros or Stavrou, Chora
- Panagia Faneromeni, Chora
- Agios Vasilios, Chora
- Agios Andreas and Agia Kiriaki, Chora
- Agios Ioannis o Theologos and Agios Panteleimonas
- Taxiarches or Theoskepasti, Chora
- Esodia Theotokou (Metochi) or Panagia Amorgiani, Chora
- Panagia Katholiki, Chora
- Agia Irini, Port
Ios Traditional Products
Sour cheese and delicious honey are two local products worth tasting and bringing home from the island of Ios. One of the known cheeses is white Kefalotiri that is salty and spicy. Another very soft and acid cheese is skotiri,a mixture of mizithra and other aromatics and of course sweet mizithra.
Ios produces mostly thymarisio honey that you must taste. Also has a wide variety of traditional sweets. Among them distinguish pasteli made from the local thimarisio honey and sesame a sweet offered in weddings and christening ceremonies, xerotigana, kalasounia.
Ios cuisine is based on olive oil, legumes, vegetables, fish and meat.
In the island’s taverns and restaurants you will taste traditional recipes. Try revithokeftedes, tomatokeftedes and tsimetia .
Ios Folklore Festivals and Cultural Events
Besides the beautiful beaches, sports, excursions and the famous night life, Ios has to offer much more…The cultural activities and local festivals.
Once a year, each one of the hundreds (365) of small churches of the island,hosts a festival on the name day of its saint. Such celebrations are not the conventional religious ones.
In the evening before the feast, lots of free wine and meat, cooked over the fire, are offered to everybody. All visitors are invited to join the islanders in the dancing and the general merrymaking, which doesn’t stop until the morning.
The most significant folklore festivals celebrated during summer are:
On the 24th of June the feast of St. John Prodromos at the monastery of Pyrgos, on the highest spot of the island.
On the 29th of August, St. John’s is celebrated in two parts of the island, in Kalamos and Psathi.
Ios has 32 magnificent beaches all with wonderful golden sand and turquoise coastlines.
The most popular are :
Close to the picturesque port of Ios, you will find Gialos (Yialos), a small settlement with important tourist development. Gialos is only a few meters away from the port, therefore you have a very good view of the ships when they arrive. The beach itself is nice, sandy and organized with all the necessary tourist facilities, like umbrellas and sunbeds. Moreover, you will find taverns and bars.
Valmas is a small beach. The swimming is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. The coast is actually not appropriate for swimming as it has many rocks, but it is fine for snorkeling. There are no tourist facilities around Valmas, the closest facilities are found in Ormos and Chora. The beach is a short 15-minute walk from Chora.
South west of Chora, Mylopotas beach, the most popular of Ios, can get really crowded during summer. Long and sandy, this beach offers many tourism facilities and has a lot of beach bars along the coast.Ooffers sun beds, umbrellas, beach bars, cafes, restaurants and a great variety of sea sports, including scuba diving. Mylopotas can be reached by the buses departing from Chora every 15 minutes or by a donkey path.
Manganari is a charming bay on the southern side of the island with clean water and a relaxing ambience. This beach is far more quiet than the beaches close to Chora.
It is a complex of five beaches gathered together with golden sand and beautiful sea.
The beaches are suitable for families witch children because of their sequential entrance to the water. Here you can try different kinds of water sports and scuba diving. Taxi-boats and local buses leave regularly from the Port, Chora and Mylopotas for Manganari.
The beach took its name from the small chapel of Agia Theodoti that stands on a hill above the coast. This is a large and sandy spot, ideal for some relaxing moments in Ios.
The bay of Agia Theodoti has a beautiful beach with golden sand and crystalline waters. Local taverns serving delicious Greek food and rooms for rent make the day in Agia Theodoti unforgetable. Also on the beach you will find umbrellas and sunbeds for rent.
An idyllic hiden cove next to Kalamos, Papa beach distinguishes for its turquoise water, the golden sand and the isolate atmosphere. It is unreachable by car, but in the summer there small cruises that would take you there.
On the most fertile spot of the island lies the beautiful green valley of Psathi, which offers two wild beaches, still unharmed by mass tourism. The two beaches at Psathi have fine golden sand, flat rocks and amazing deep blue waters. Psathi is the ideal place to find peace and tranquility. Nice taverns and rooms for rent make the stay there easier. This beach is particularly popular among windsurfers during windy days . Psathi is ideal for family vacations.
Besides the organized beaches, Ios has several capes and secluded coves. Cape Karatzas is a very small cove with dark blue waters and pebbles on the seabed. There are no trees and tourist facilities in a large distance from Karatzas.
The cape is surrounded by a rocky landscape and rarely receives any visitors, usually people who come by boat. The beach is not much appropriate for swimming and it is mostly recommended for snorkeling. Frequently the cape is affected by strong winds.