Ios is truly one of the most beautiful islands of Greece. Its long golden beaches, clean sea, secluded beaches and its 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, since it combines cosmopolitan life with the rich Cycladic tradition.
Ios or Nios has an extent of 108 square kilometres and a permanent population of 2000 residents. The name probably came from the “ion” (flower), since the island was full of flowers in antiquity.
Arrival at the Harbour of Ios, with the beautiful church of Agia Irini on the right and the beach of Yalos on the left, offers a very beautiful picture and the best welcome for the visitor.
The majestic Hora is the capital of the island, and is amphitheatrically built on the hill above the harbour. Here,classic Cycladic architecture dominates in all its splendour: narrow streets, whitewashed houses with thick stone walls for protection from the cold and the blinding sun of the Aegean, small paved squares with sprigs with drinkable water and many churches. The ancient city of Ios was located at the place where Hora is built today, on a steep hill above the harbour. Parts of the defensive walls, a building, the street to the harbour and the temple of Apollo are still visible today. The temple of Apollo was located at the place where the church of Agia Ekaterini is found. Between Agia Ekaterini and in the church of Agioi Anargyroi is where the market of the Ancient city was. Rich discoveries from the prehistoric until the roman years are found in the Archaeological Museum of Hora. Walking up the hill on the east of Hora , we meet another one from the numerous beautiful sights of Ios: the old white windmills, and the Open Theatre “Odysseas Elytis”, a masterpiece of architecture made of stone and marble, built to one of the poets beloved places, with an amazing view. The most characteristic picture of Hora is the church of Panagia Gkremiotissa, with the palm tree and the amazing view towards the bay, the island of Sikinos and the immense blue Aegean Sea. Its there that the visitor has the chance to see the best sunset of the island.
Mylopotas, the settlement with the famous long sandy beach, is found 3 km South-east of Hora. Agia Teodoti is a traditional settlement 10 km from Hora and with a splendid sandy beach. Psathi is another small traditional settlement with a beautiful beach, found 20 km west of Hora.
The archaeological site of Palaiokastro, where you will see a Byzantine fortress, (height of 2,5 m.) and the church of Panagia Paliokastritissa built on the fortress, is a place of great interest.
Magganari found on the south part of the island, is one of the most beautiful regions of Ios. Seven continuous beaches with golden sand await for you here. It is not accidental that scenes from the film “The Deep Blue” were filmed here. One of the most beautiful sights of Ios is the Windmills. They are found on the east of Hora, on the Theatre hill and are very picturesque.
The settlement of Hora of Ios has been characterized by Governmental decision( Π.Δ 19-8-81 (ΦΕΚ 587/Δ/16-10-1981) ) as traditional and constitutes a typical Cycladic village and a picturesque settlement. The visitor will be impressed by its particular architecture. The houses are whitewashed with light blue doors and windows, while the paved narrow streets, with the white painted lines between the plates (dames in the local dialect), the linked houses and the covered streets (stigadia), are some of its distinguished characteristics. Hora has picturesque corners of unique beauty, as well as points with exceptional views. The Venetian castle and the church of Panagia Gkremiotissa, found on the top of the hill of Hora are offering exceptional views, and are considered as points of exceptional interest.
Churches and Monasteries
According to tradition, 365 churches and chapels are found in Ios. There are 26 small and big churches only in the Hora. Many of them are of Byzantine rhythm and one can visit them after agreement with their delegates. The main churches of Ios are: Evaggelismos of Panagia (Metropolis of the Island), Panagia Gkremiotissa, Panagia Kountoutiani, Zoodochos Pigi, and Panagia – Metochi of the Monasteri of Chozobiotissa of Amorgos. Also do not omit to visit the monasteries of Agios Ioannis of Kalamos and Agios Ioannis of Pirgos.
Other appreciable churches are: the church of Agia Ekaterini, built on the location of an ancient temple of Apollo and the churches of Agios Nikolaos, Christos and Agios Georgios, built on an abrupt mountain side.
The church of Agios Theodosios is found at the settlement of Agia Theodoti. Embedded architectural parts of ancient buildings are found on this church. There is also a tower from the Hellenistic period, as well as ruins of an ancient aqueduct.
Other noteworthy places are the church of Agia Irini, from the 17th century, found in the bay, as well as the church of Agia Irini in Hora, which is placed at the entry of the harbour.
Theatre “Odysseas Elytis”
The theatre “Odysseas Elytis” is an open theatre built from local stone and marble and found in the windmills region, Tsoukalaria, near Hora. This theatre is the only place in Greece which officially brings the name of the “Poet of the Aegean”, nobel winner Odysseas Elytis. It has a capacity of 1.100 seats and was inaugurated in 1997. It is easily accessible by car or on foot. The Municipality of Ios organises there each summer concerts and theatrical representations, during the Cultural Festival “OMIREIA”. The visitor will be compensated by the astonishing views of Hora, the Harbour, Mylopotas and the surrounding islands. The sunset from here is splendid.
Grave of Homer
Ios hosts in her ground the grave of the greatest of poets, “Homer”. This is proven by the texts of ancient writers (Herodotus, Pausanias, Alkaios, Skylax, Strabo, Eystathios, Plinios). The mother of Homer came from Ios. His grave is found in the region of Plakotos, on the top of a hill at the northern part of Ios. Access by car is easy. Apart from the monument, the visitor can admire the astonishing views to the Aegean and the surrounding islands. The creation of an Academy of Homeric Studies, in the same space, is in the current plans agenta of the Municipality of Ios.
The archaeological Museum of Ios is found in Hora, at the ground floor of the City Hall. It hosts a large collection of antiquities, from the 3rd Millennium B.C. up to the Roman period. The exhibits are separated in thematic units and in corresponding rooms. The findings from the early Cycladic Settlement of Skarkos, dominate. The museum can be visited each day, except Monday, from 08:30 until 15:00. (Tel. 22860 91246)
• Modern Art Museum of Zan Mari Dro: Private museum of modern Art. There is no visiting schedule and visits take place only after authorisation from the owner. It is accessible only on foot. The undertaking of its management from the Municipality of Ios and its operation on a regular basis is in the plans of the Municipality of Ios.
• Museum of Yannis Gaitis – Gabriella Simosi. The museum has opened its gates since the summer of 2008. It assembles the works of art of the great artist and friend of Ios, Yannis Gaitis and his spouse Gabriella Simosi, while several other Greek and foreign artists also exhibit their art in it. The museum is built near the theatre “Odysseas Elytis” and along with it and the renovated windmills all constitute a unique cultural area.
Around 1100 B.C., Dorians and Iones reached the island. The island received its name from the Iones. Afterwards, Ios became a member of the Athenian Alliance and in the beginning of the 13th century A.D. it was conquered by the Venetians, after it had passed from the hands of the Macedonians, the Ptolemy’s and the Romans. An important period for the island was around 1397 A.D. when the Governor of the island Markos Krispos, fortified Hora with high walls, ruins of which are still seen today, in order to protect residents from the wild pirate raids. In 1537 finally, Ios falls in the hands of the Turks and a period of heavy taxation begins for the island. The island, continued suffering from pirate attacks. The Turkish conquerors called the island “Small Malta” because of the absolute safety that its natural harbour offered.
Despite Turkish occupation, the Cycladic islands enjoyed a relative autonomy, particularly around 1774 special privileges, with regard to shipping and trade, were granted to the island with the treaty of Kioutsouk Kainartzi. Everything ended when the Greek Revolution began in 1821. In this last period, Spiridon Valetas (1718-1843), a son of Ios, was distinguished in the war and became the first Minister of Education of the new Nation, and a great benefactor of the island.
A separate distinction must be made to the greatest epic poet of all time, “Homer”, who composed the Iliad and the Odyssey on the 8th century B.C. His grave lies in the region of Plakotos, where the poet left his last breath. In honour of Homer, each year the cultural festival “the OMIREIA” is organised, with artistic and cultural events.
On the road to Agia Teodoti and on the right hand after the church of Ai Dimitris, there is an exit towards the gulf of Psathi-with the two very beautiful beaches which are characterised by their clear blue waters their quietness and their waves.When there is wind, Psathi turns into a popular place for surfing and relaxation. Her wild beauty promises renewal. On the east side of the island, we meet the beach of Kalamos. Usually very quiet and with spotless waters, it is an ideal place for snorkelling. The isolated beaches of Papas and Plakes are found westwards of Kalamos. Many other beaches such as Kampaki, Plakotos, Petalidi, Neraki, Diamoudia, Sapounohoma, Valmas, Kolitsanoi, Klima, Pikrinero and Tzamaria, offer a lot of possibilities for excursions and unique experiences.
Ios produces a number of local products, famous for their quality. The island has a well developed livestock-farming (mainly ovine and cattle) which contributes to a very big production of dairy products and cheeses. Cheeses of Ios are famous and are exported in large quantities, so much to the surrounding islands as well as to Athens. It is recommended that you try them before leaving the island. The following cheeses are produced in Ios: the white kefalotyri salty and spicy or with a softer flavour, the “xino”, a very soft white cheese, the “skotyri ”, a mix of cheeses, mizithra and herbs (it resembles the kopanisti of Mykonos) and the sweet mizithra cheese. The island has a developed apiculture and produces amazing honey, from thyme that abounds on the island. Buy it directly from the bee keepers of the island.
You can also find wine that is produced by small producers of the island, with ecological methods and high quality standards. You can also find the traditional Ios raki, a drink that is produced by distillation and is even stronger than the Cretan raki. Finally, capers and oregano are plants that are found in abundance on Ios and can be bought directly from the local producers.
The dishes of Ios are traditional Cycladic, based on olive oil, legumes, fish, cereals and vegetables. The “revythokeftedes”, the “tsimetia” (type of dolma where instead of vine leaf, the zucchini flower is used) and the sun dried small fish, cooked on charcoal, are representative dishes of the island.
Ios has a large variety of traditional deserts. These are: the traditional nougat with honey (from local thyme honey and sesame), the avgokalamara or xerotigana, the kalasounia (pancake bites with filo, stuffed with a mix of sweet mizithra cheese, eggs and sugar), the myzithropites or melitinia (pies with a filling from sweet mizithra, eggs, sugar and mastic flavor), the marzipan cakes (from crushed almonds, eggs and sugar, scented with flower water) and the pastota figs (dry figs dipped in sesame)
Meat with chick peas (goat or veal)
(Materials: 1 Kilo of meat (goat or veal), ½ Kilo chick peas, 1 Big chopped onion, 5 – 6 Fresh crushed tomatoes or 3 Spoonfuls of tomato paste, Salt – Pepper, 1 Cinnamon stick)
We put chick peas in water from the previous evening, in order to get soft. We wash and cut meat in portions. We then sizzle it with onions and then add as much water needed to cover the meat. We add tomatoes or tomato paste, salt, pepper and a cinnamon stick. When the meat has half boiled, we add the chick peas. As soon as the chick peas boil, we turn off the stove and leave the pan covered for 5 minutes and then serve. In this dish, the chick peas can also be replaced with pasta or potatoes.
Ios is connected by ferries and speedboats with Piraeus, Rafina, the rest of the Cycladic islands, Crete and Dodekanisa. The air connection of Ios with Lavrion and other islands of the Cyclades with hydroplanes, is expected to come soon.
For more information:
Port Authority of Ios, Tel. 22860 91268, 91264
Port Authority of Piraeus, Tel. 210 4226000-4, 210 4593140, 210 4593150
Port Authority of Rafina, Tel. 22940 22300 28888
Information GREEK TELECOME: 144
Transport in Ios, takes place with buses, taxi, rented cars and motorcycles, and with fishing boats that execute regular itineraries towards the most distant beaches.
There are also buses which ride from the Hora to Magganari, in the period between June and September, at least four times a day.
Information: Red Arrow: 22860 91437 and 6944293588
For more information:
KTEL: 22860 92015
– Mastrantonaki Maria: 6978 734491
– Mpouzalakos Panagiotis: 6977 031708
– Moraitis Konstantinos: 22860 91745 & 6932 680896
– Nikiforos Georgios: 22860 91606
– Stratis Kyriakos: 6977 760570
For those who like living close to nature, in the duration of their vacation, Ios has three organised camping’s. These have all installations and services required for a comfortable stay and are considered the best in the Cyclades. They all have the advantage of being placed at a close distance from the largest beaches of Ios (one at the beach of the harbour and two at the beach of Mylopotas).
Their telephone numbers are the following:
• IOS , Agia Eirini, www.campingios.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. 22860 92035/ 22860 92306, Fax: 22860 92101
• FAR OUT CAMPING, Mylopotas, www.faroutclub.com, email: email@example.com, Tel. 22860 91468, 92302, Fax: 22860 92303
• STARS & THE PURPLE PIG CAMPING, Mylopotas, www.purplepigstars.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. 22860 91302, 91611, Fax: 22860 91612
For more information: Pan-Hellenic Union of Camping Owners, www.panhellenic-camping-union.gr
POLICE: 22860 91222/ 92222
PORT AUTHORITY: 22860 91268
MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY: 22860 91505/ 91028
CENTRES OF HEALTH: 22860 91227
CARE OF ELDERLY: 22860 91504
CARE OF CHILDREN: 22860 91359
LOCAL TRANSPORT: 22860 92015
TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICE: 22860 91936
Webpage of Ios: www.ios.gr
Webcams in Ios: http://www.ios-hellas.com/ios/greece/cyclades/ios-greece-webcam-port
Text and Photos by www.cyclades-tour.gr