Greater in extent and with a wilder beauty than the nearby Koufonisia and Schoinousa, Irakleia could be characterized from its calm force among them because it has an impressive mountainous volume but also many windless beaches, which are protected from heavy winds thanks to Naxos and Ios.
Life in Irakleia rolls in slower rhythms. It offers calm and relaxation and many alternative proposals for walks,fascinating explorations, swimming in spotless beaches, diving in marvellous sea bottoms, but also entertainment at its traditional island feasts.
Irakleia is the westerner island of the Small Cyclades and is found south of Naxos and north-east of Ios. The island has a surface of18 square kilometre and has two settlements with 120 residents.Locals are occupied with fishing, livestock-farming, agriculture and apiculture.
The capital of Irakleia is Hora (Panagia). An asphalt street of 4 kilometres connects Hora with the second settlement and harbour of the island, Agios Georgios, on the northern coast. Residents of Irakleia are very hospitable and say always good morning to foreigners with a smile. There are only 80 rented rooms on the island, so during summer one needs to have booked in advance.Taverns, cafes and bars of the island are all picturesque, clean and with complete service, while traditional festivals of the island, give the chance for another type of human contact and entertainment.
Irakleia has been inhabited (as the rest of the Small Cyclades) from the prehistoric era and in antiquity it was named Herakleia.
Excavations in the location of Agios Mammas and in the plain of Agios Athanassios, brought to light discoveries from the Cycladic culture, figurines, marble bottles, compasses, tools etc. Most of them are found in museums abroad-London, Munich and New York, as well as in private collections.
In the middle Ages the island was a pirate shelter, while remnants of the Venetian domination are still preserved on the island.
Irakleia constituted a part of the Archdiocese of Sifnos on the 16th century, while for an interval it belonged to the property of Panagia Chozoviotissa of Amorgos. People from Amorgos were installed on the island on the 19th century and created three settlements: Agios Athanassios, which is not inhabited today, Panagia, which is todays Hora and Agios Georgios, the harbour. At the duration of German occupation, Irakleia participated in the Resistance. The bays Tourkopigado and Voreini Spilia were bases of operations for both Greeks and Allies, while in the village Panagia, a secret radio which transmitted information daily to the allied headquarters in Cairo was in operation. Irakleia constitutes a separate community from 1928.
Hora of Irakleia is Panagia, a pictureque settlement built in the centre of the island with white cubic houses. The church of Eisodia of Panagia from 1919 impresses with its big size compared to the standards of the island.
The second settlement and harbour of the island, Agios Georgios, on the north coast, lies 4 km from the Hora. This beautiful settlement is built at the end of a gulf with crystal clear waters, fishing boats and small boats. The church of Agios Georgios, built in the year 1834, is the jewel of the settlement.
Cave of Ai Yannis
Two and a half kilometres to the south-west of Panagia, lies the famous cave of Ai Yannis with its impressive decor from stalactites, stalagmites and columns, that also includes “spilaiogala” (rare stalagmite matter in liquid form). It is the largest cave of the Cyclades and surely one of the most interesting in Greece.
Bulky stalagmites as well as columns with splendid clusters of stalagmites in peculiar forms compose the décor of the first chamber of the cave. The cave is located in a position with view to the sea that is at a distance of only half an hour on foot. It is also a forty minutes walk from the settlement of Panagia.
The Kastro, a fort from the Hellenistic period lies on a hill near the beach Livadi. Today it is deserted and shows the historical past of the island. Ruins of the temples of Zeus and the goddess Tyhi, were found In the same region.
The settlement of Agios Athanassios, with the old houses constitutes also an important sight.
The church of Eisodia of Panagia is found in Hora, while the church of Agios Georgios in the settlement of Agios Georgios.
Don’t miss a visit at the churches of Taxiarchis, Agia Paraskevi and the chapel of Agios Mammas.
The beaches of Agios Georgios, Livadi, Vorini Spilia and Alimia are quiet sandy beaches with spotless blue waters. Tourkopigado, Ammoudi of Merichas and Karbounolakos are coasts with pebbles, while Xylompatis and Trimpounas are rocky beaches.
Local products / recipes
Among the products of Irakleia, the most important are the famous Irakleia thyme honey and the exceptional quality cheese products (mizithra, xinomyzithra, anthotyro and hard cheese). Fava, “aranista” (type of pasta) and “pitaridia” (homemade pasta) are included In the local products.
In the restaurants of the island, do not omit to ask for fava, cultivated from island farmers, and of course fresh fish and tasty local meat. On the period of Easter, the tasty tradition of Irakleia includes lamb or kid in the oven stuffed with rice and liver, while meletinia (sweet cheese pies), xerotigana (fried dough with honey) and the essential nougat with honey are served in feasts.
How to arrive: Ferry boats sail to Irakleia on all seasons, at least 4 times a week from Piraeus, while the local ferry “EXPRES SKOPELITIS” connects the island daily with Naxos and the remaining islands of the cluster.
Port Authority of Piraeus, Tel. 0030 210 4226000-4, 0030 210 4593140
Port Authority of Katapola Tel. 0030 22850 71259
Port Authority of Naxos Tel. 0030 22850 22300
For more information: Pan-Hellenic Union of Camping Owners,
There are no buses or taxi on the island.
Motorcycles and bicycles are rented.
Information: Maria Prasinou, Tel: 22850 71991 / 6972-430163.
PORT AUTHORITY OF NAXOS Tel. 0030 22850 22300
COMMUNITY OF IRAKLEIA Tel. 0030 22850 71545
RURAL SURGERY (PANAGIA) Tel. 0030 22850 71388
RURAL SURGERY (AGIOS GEORGIOS) Tel. 0030 22850 71177
Sources: www.cyclades-tour.gr, www.travelcyclades.com