Ios and the Cyclades

Ios and the Cyclades

Ios, located at the crossroads of Cycladic maritime routes, is one of the Cyclades easily accessible by high-speed ferry on the Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line.  Smaller and more intimate (and incidentally less crowded and overrun) than the other Cycladic islands, Ios is famed for its pristine and private beaches.  (TripSavvy voted Mylopotas beach as one of the best in Greece.)  In the 60s and 70s, Ios was a hippie hangout and love nest for the flower children, and had developed a reputation as a wild/forever place where those who wanted to escape the conventions of their rigid societies congregated.  While it still keeps its moniker as the “island of youth” and does share in the party island reputation as its cousin, Mykonos, to the north, it is not nearly as loud, brash, and over-commercialized.  Since the 90s it has experienced a renaissance with boutique hotels and spas opening as well as some 5 star restaurants.

Ios, for a place with less than 2000 people, has a lot to offer culturally. Here’s a short list:

  • SKARKOS:   the oldest Bronze-age settlement rivaling in historic and anthropological importance the sites in Knossos and Akrotiri. Terraced around a natural geologic theater, Skarkos is one of best preserved sites of the Keros-Syros culture. It features two-storey buildings, four-metre-high walls, and an overlying late middle/early late Bronze Age cemetery.  It is here
  • Odysseus Elytis Amphitheater: This open-air theater was built in 1997 to represent the style of the ancient Greek theatre. It can hold 1100 people. If you visit during the summer, there is a chance you will catch a concert, not an international act but a local Greek artist.
  •  Homer’s Tomb.  Yes, the bard of ancient Greece, the recorder and official “rapper” and “rhapsodie” of the two great epics the entire Western world hinges on again and again, The Iliad and The Odyssey, died on Ios.  The official record says he was born in Chios, but died in Ios because his mother was from the island.  While you have to climb high to reach it, and it does not do honor to such a great poet, Homer’s Tomb is a place you do not want to miss if just to get the amazing views of the Aegean.  Inspiration can strike you and you can get to work on your own epic.  That’s our spot for creating poetry and our writing/journaling sessions.
  • PALEOKASTRO: a Byzantine fortress on the west of the island, Paleokastro makes for a beautiful backdrop to enjoy a seaside symphony of winds.  Amidst untouched hills blooming with wild thyme and nettles, Paleokastro will be a mainstay of our photo walks.
  • CHORA: the highest hill overlooking the port of Ios is jam packed with slithering white stucco streets, stone houses one next to another, labyrinthine alleys with marble staircases, mini balconies adorned with flower beds, locals chatting about this and that in beach chairs.  It’s not by chance that the main town is on the high hill and its streets so confusing one could get lost with a GPS.  That’s due to pirates and their constant raids.  But more on that history when we go on our history walks. The iconic logo of Ios is made by the three palm trees that ascend to the three Byzantine Churches.  The main cathedral is known as the Gremiotissa, or the Virgin of the Cliffs and dates from the 18th century. Its origin has to do with the miraculous icon that kept appearing in the same spot.  It is especially beautiful during sunset

 

The Beaches:

The beach of Agia Theodoti waves “hello” every morning on our nature walk. Clear and transparent–an organic, all natural beach if there ever was one.

The beaches in Ios are pristine, eclectic and so blue you become addicted.  Stay long enough and you will start becoming a beach snob.  These featured in the video are the most known.  Ours of course is Agia Theodoti, serene, crystalline, secluded it used to be a nude colony back in the 80s.  It will leave you rejuvenated and full of vitamin sea.  This will go our daily dipping sea.  But we will explore more secluded beaches for hydro and heliotherapy; some we will reach via fishing boat.  Get your bikinis off for those days as we will worship the Goddess in the nude!

 

irene Archos