Sifnos is a medium sized island in the western Cyclades. It is located between Serifos and Kimolos.
It is about 130 kilometers or 80 nautical miles from Piraeus. Administered in the province of Milos. The main town, near the center, known as Apollonia , is home of the island’s folklore museum and library. The town’s name is thought to come from an ancient temple of Apollo on the site of the church of Panagia Yeraniofora. The second-largest town is Artemonas, thought to be named after an ancient temple of Apollo’s sister-goddess Artemis, located at the site of the church of Panagia Kokhi. The port settlement, on the west coast of the island is known as Kamares.
Sifnos is famous for the architecture of its settlements. The settlement of the Castle stands out with its medieval architecture and defensive nature. Traditional settlements, walks in the particular Cycladic nature, hospitable accommodation, good food, evening entertainment; all this and more include holidays in the beautiful Sifnos.
Sifnos Island Sightseeing
The Kastro (Castle)
The most unique village of Sifnos is Kastro. The capital of the island during the ancient, medieval and modern times until 1836. In its present form the settlement is a sample of a Venetian castle. It is a characteristic medieval fortified settlement of the Aegean, where the walls of the houses are part of the fortified perimeter.
The visitor enters the castle today from the old arcades, the “lozies”, which were once secured and protected by war towers. The first row of two-storey or three-storey houses is the outer medieval wall. The populist class lived here, while the upper class, located in the upper part of the castle, resided in the aristocratic order to be more secure than pirate raids and looting. Roads and a square inside the Castle are built on the roofs of one-storey houses, which are now used as warehouses.
The castle now has rooms to rent, restaurants and pastry shops.
The Archaeological Site of Agios Andreas
The archaeological site of Agios Andreas found at the top of a hill on the way to Vathy from Apollonia. The spot was first discovered by Christos Tsountas in 1899. The earliest excavations began in 1970 continuing till 1980 and were carried out by Varvana Philippaki.
The ancient town unearthed here was Mycenaean. The most important finding was the Acropolis or citadel that lies on the top of the hill and is called Saint Andrew Castle. Besides this, at least five ruins of buildings have been found of which one is certainly from the Mycenaean Era. The remaining were most likely from around the 8th century B.C.
The site is one of the best examples of Mycenaean fortifications in the Cyclades. Though the climb to the top of the hill is steep and tiring and could take a while, the rewards are completely worth the effort.
Sifnos Museums & Churches
A small ecclesiastical museum is housed in the Monastery of Panagia Vrysiani, in close distance to Exabela. The museum exhibits clothes of priests, rare books and manuscripts, a gospel of the 18th century and Byzantine icons.
The Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum of Sifnos is housed in one of the most remarkable medieval buildings of Kastro. The museum houses findings from the excavated sites around the island witnessing the life of Sifnos during the Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman era. Among the most important exhibits is the marble head of Kouros that dates back to 6th century B.C, a headstone, architectural parts, Hellenistic sculptures, sanctuaries and a fine collection of ceramics from the Geometric to Hellenistic period.
The Folklore and Pop Art Museum
The Folklore Museum is located at the central square of the town (known as Heroon Square) in Apollonia. The museum hosts many exhibits from the old-fashioned life of Serifos including farming tools, household articles, and local costumes and many other objects related to the daily life of the locals.
In Sifnos there are 365 churches and monasteries. Many of its have been characterized historical monuments and they present a huge architectural interest! Also most of them celebrate the name day of their particular saint with a Panigiri, a feast with music, dancing and singing.
Some of the churches and monasteries of Sifnos are :
The Monastery of Panagia Vryssiani
The Monastery of Panagia Vryssiani (or Vryssis) is located 1 km south of Exabela. It is dedicated to the Birth of the Virgin Mary. Constructed in the traditional Cycladic architecture and painted in blue and white, the Monastery of Vryssiani hosts a small ecclesiastical museum. This museum exhibits manuscripts with Holy Masses, gospels, reliquaries, holy vessels, vestments of priests and the embroidered coat of Kassiani.
The Monastery of Panagia Chrissopigi
The Monastery of Panagia Chrissopigi is located on top of a rock, literally upon the sea. This is one of the most famous spots of Sifnos and protector saint of the island. Established in the 16th century, this monastery was built on top of an older church. It hosts the icon of Panagia that was found by fishermen floating in the sea. This icon is thought to be miracle-working and the locals believe that it has saved the island from many dangers.
Although the church would normally celebrate on first Friday after Easter, instead it celebrates on the day of the Assumption of Christ, 40 days after Easter, like that day in 1676 the icon saved the island from an epidemic plague that had already killed 100 people.
The Church of Seven Martyrs
The small chapel of the Seven Martyrs is probably the most photographed spot of Sifnos island. It is found in the beautiful Kastro village and sits on the top of a rocky islet that emerges from the sea. When the wind blows strong, the church is hit by the strong waves and creates a wild, picturesque scene. The church of the Seven Martyrs is built according to the traditional Cycladic architecture, as it is painted white and has a round, blue dome. It is usually closed and open for the pilgrims only on special occasions and religious celebrations.
Sifnos Traditional Products
The residents of the island are by nature hospitable, cheerful and kind and keep their traditions and their traditional cuisine. They are good ‘eaters’ and thus good cooks. The well known chef Nikolaos Tselementes came from Sifnos. The special thing about traditional food of Sifnos is that it is cooked in utensils, which are made of potter’s clay, and are manufactured by the local potters. Traditional food and pastries are ‘revithokeftedes’ (chick pie balls), ‘revithia’ (chick pie soup), the nougat with honey, honey pie, ‘amigdalota’ (made of almond) and the famous ‘Mastelo’ (lamp cooked with dill) in the Easter. Revithada is also served in almost all festivals in Sifnos, as a first plate.
Local cheeses such as gylomeni manoura, xynomyzithra, chloromanoura are an integral part of the Sifnian cuisine.
Finally, if you are a lover of pastries you will definitely not be disappointed. Amazing scones, anise cookies, biscuits and fragrant cakes can be purchased from local bakeries. You will find honeyed, fragrant and soft nougat (without added sugar), almond macaroons (both baked and in the casserole), patties stuffed with nuts, Turkish delight, fragrant vanilla sweet, in all traditional pastry workshops.
Sifnos Folklore Festivals and Cultural Events
Religious Feasts & Festivals
The inhabitants of the island, respecting the customs and traditions, organize feasts in chapels and monasteries throughout the year. Some chapels are easily accessed whilst for some others, access can only be made by trail. Also, there are chapels that can be accessed by the sea with private or fishing boats if however the weather allows it.
Every time a certain family called “panigirades” keep the icon of Saint in their house and at the festival they finance the expenses of the feast. The litany of the icon takes place in the central streets of island and afterwards dinner is served for all the people that participated.
Some of the feasts that are celebrated during the tourist period are:
May or June (movable feast)
The feast of the Assumption, when the protector of Sifnos is celebrated. Chrissopigi
19 of June
The feast of Profitis Helias (many synonymous monasteries in Sifnos celebrate). It is worth going to the feast of Prophitis Helias Apsilos.
26 of July
The feast of Agios Panteleimonas in Heronissos
14 of August
The feast of Panagia (Virgin Mary) (many synonymous monasteries of Sifnos celebrate). It is worth going to the feast of Panagia “to Toso Nero” (which means: So Much Water)
28 of August
The feast of Agios Ioannis Nisteftis in Faros
31 of August
The feast of Agios Simeon in Kamares
5 of September
The feast of Taxiarhis in Vathi
6 of September
The feast of Agios Sozon
8 of September
The birthday of the Virgin Mary at the Iera Moni of Vryssi in Exabela
13 of September
The feast of Stavros in Faros and in Choni
14 of September
The feast of Agios Nikitas in Seladi
The unique Cycladic Gastronomy Festival
Every year, at the beginning of September, Artemonas hosts the “Nikolaos Tselementes” Cycladic Gastronomy Festival. It is a three-day festival, which has become an institution and is internationally recognized. Representatives from the Cyclades islands along with representatives from one honored guest Aegean island meet in Sifnos to present their unique gastronomic and cultural traditions.
Every island has its own booth at the central square of Artemonas, where amateur and professional cooks and chefs prepare and present recipes from their islands of origin. Visitors can taste those recipes, visiting the islands’ booths.
At a specially formed corner of the square, the “Little Tselementedes” (6 to 12 year old kids), wearing aprons and colorful cook hats, participate in cooking games and contests that are specially created for their age.
The festival opens its doors for the public every day at 19.00, while at the end of each day, at 22.00, there are music and dance events with traditional tunes of Sifnos and the other islands. The entrance to the festival is free and the food that is offered is for free too.
Beaches in Sifnos are famous for their unspoiled beauty and relaxing family atmosphere. Surrounded by beautiful landscape, Sifnos beaches have crystal water and offer a nice view of the sea. Some of them are :
The beach of Kamares is the first you meet once you come out of the boat. Golden fine sand that only covers a small part of its extent; shade from tamarisk trees and sufficient number of deck chairs and umbrellas. Here, you will find well-cared changing rooms, showers and toilets. It is one of the cleanest and longest beaches you will find here with shallow waters and lovely surrounding.
A medium sized beach on the northwest side of the island, with really gorgeous emerald waters. Large pebbles and sufficient number of deck chairs and umbrellas. At the edges of the beach there are cafés and restaurants with tables by the sea.The shop owners have created a comfortable sandy walkway leading to the sandy seabed! The depth increases gradually and the water is really wonderful.
Heronissos beach is a small fishing village at the northern tip of Sifnos, one of the most beautiful spots of the island famous or its unspoilt and wild beauty.
The golden beach stretches for about 200 metres and is covered in trees to provide you enough shade. Fine sand, shade from tamarisk trees and few sun loungers and umbrellas. Here, you will find well-cared changing rooms, showers and toilets. In the middle of the beach but also at the end of the mole there are fish taverns with tables on the seafront.
Right on the sandy beach are some nice taverns offering excellent Greek specialties, a mini market and a small pottery shop displaying beautiful handmade ceramics.
Platis Gialos Beach
Platis Gialos is the most popular beach of Sifnos. The golden beach that streches for thousand meters is covered with numerous sunbeds and umbrellas, bars and other facilities. It is surrounded by a long tuft of trees that provide enough shade and its crystalline waters are a real pleasure. In the entire length of the beach, there are cafés and restaurants with tables on the seafront.
Platis Gialos is often ideal for families with plenty of activities and various watersports for both children and adults. You shall find bars and restaurants around the beach for a cold drink and nice local food.
At the top of the hill stands the church of “Panagia tou Vounou” offering breathtaking panoramic views to the blue sea while on the southern side is the Aspros Pyrgos (White Tower), one of the best-preserved ancient towers of Sifnos.