One of the most characteristic islands of the Cycladic islands, Sifnos is found in the centre of a conceivable triangle marked by the islands Serifos, Kimolos and Antiparos.
Sifnos is the island of harmony: Its whitewashed settlements fit with its natural landscape, its coasts create picturesque bays, creeks and windless sandy beaches, old churches and monasteries are combined harmoniously with the Venetian Kastro and its ancient towers. Wise cultivation of the ground gives pure local products of exceptional quality. The art of clay, the hospitality and the feasts of residents compose a harmonious total that fascinates and charms each traveller. Sifnos is not simply an island with beautiful nature. Its history is of many centuries, its culture appreciable, while inalterable old traditions and customs which have roots in the ancient years are still maintained today. Moreover, the island has an important intellectual tradition, since it was the homeland of eminent poets, such as A. Proveleggios, Ant. Prokos, St. Sprantsa, I. Gruparis etc.
Sifnos belongs in western Cyclades, has an extent of 74 square kilometres and 70 kilometres length of coasts. Its capital is Apollonia, built amphitheatrically on three hills in the central part of the island, a beautiful settlement with paved streets, white cubic houses and picturesque churches with elaborate belfries and white or light blue domes, which shine under the “apollonian” light of the Aegean. Apollonia constitutes an almost single cluster with another six traditional settlements – a built -up phenomenon that we do not meet in any other island of the Cyclades.The pedestrian street of Artemonas reaches to Katavati, after it passes from Ano Petali and Apollonia (route 1), while the settlements of Agios Loukas, Exampela and Kato Petali are also connected with a paved road (route 3).
Walking, is an exceptional way for the visitor to get to know the villages of Sifnos, but also its landscape, with characteristic “themonies” – small farm houses scattered in all the island and escalations with olive groves and forests from cedars and oaks. The part of the island from Profitis Ilias and up to the western coasts is a region with many sources that stays green even during summer.
Simultaneously the walk will reveal to the visitor, a cultural wealth of many centuries: from the prehistoric citadels and the ancient towers (at least 55 towers have been recorded in Sifnos -“fryktories” from the 6th up to 3rd century B.C.) up to the admirable art of clay (ceramics) of the modern period.
Sifnos, the island of flavours, is the birthplace of famous poets, like Ioannis Gryparis, Kleanthis Triantafyllou (or Rampagas) and Aristomenis Provelegios, as well as award winning chefs, like Tselementés*. Unique traditional villages, organized or secluded beaches, and 227 churches spread around the island are waiting to be discovered.
In this particular natural environment you will find a gracious cultural heritage and a rich naval tradition, which begins many centuries ago and still continues by many local ship owners and seamen, painters, sculptors and scholars. It has masterfully been characterized as a “floating museum of culture”. The visitor has a chance to combine his vacations with events of high quality and variety.
Nikolaos Tselementes (1878-1958). The first Greek Master Chef!
In Greece it’s a common conception that the word “tselementes” is synonymous with cookbooks. However, only few of us really know that Nikolaos Tselementes was actually an inspired cook who influenced significantly the Greek urban cuisine. The legendary chef from the island of Sífnos studied the art of cooking in Vienna. When he returned to Greece he started working for many foreign embassies. Systematic, talented and a man of vision Tselementes initiated the Greeks into the secrets of international cuisine.
Tselementes became widely known through the launch of the monthly magazine “Cooking Guide” (first published in 1910) that included, apart from recipes, nutritional advice, cooking news and ideas on how to serve and present food. His restless spirit led him to America, where his talent established him as a chef at the finest restaurants. At the same time he continued his studies on cooking, confectionary and dietetics. Upon returning to Greece in 1932, he published his famous cooking book entitled “Odigos Mageirikis” (Cooking Guide), the first complete cooking guide in Greek that had over fifteen official reprints during the following decades. In 1956 he published his only book in English “Greek Cookery”.
It is no exaggeration to say that Tselementes taught the Greeks how to cook. His cooking books were every housewife’s cooking bible and a valuable wedding gift for the newlyweds! Tselementes combined harmonically the Greek and the French cuisine, and showed the Greek housewives how to prepare the favourite béchamel sauce, tasty pirozhkies, bouillabaisse (seafood soup), jelly recipes, whipped cream, canapés as well as the art of decoration and the magic of buffets!
Without doubt, Tselementes bequeathed us a lasting legacy. After all, he was the founder of the contemporary Greek gastronomic culture.
All the settlements of Sifnos (Apollonia, Artemonas, Katavati, Ano and Kato Petali, Kastro etc) constitute architectural sights of preserved traditional Cycladic architecture.
Kamares is the biggest coastal village and the harbour of Sifnos from dues of the previous century. The name Kamares came from the many caves that existed in the old days in the rocky southern coast of the bay. The location of these caves has been occupied today by houses, shops and “sirmata”-underground deposits, where boats are kept in winter, in order to be protected from bad weather.
The central settlement unfolds in the right side of the bay of Kamares. Here we find the dock of the harbour, agencies, shops, groceries, restaurants, workshops of pastry making, pottery workshops, rented rooms, car and motorcycle rental offices, newspaper stands, kiosk, private space of camp (camping) and Sifnian mansions in the western fringes of the settlement.
In the mountain foot of Agios Simeon the district of Agia Marina or Pera Mpanta is developed.There you will find taverns and rented rooms.In addition there is a golden sandy beach in the bay. Some of the older buildings of Kamares in the central settlement are the church of Agios Georgios and Agia Varvara (construction 1785, renovation 1906), Fanari (1896), relic from ovens and the loading scale of minerals (1883) and the old pier (1909).
Other churches in Pera Panta are Agioi Anargyroi, Agia Anna, Agia Ekaterini and finally Agia Marina from where the visitor can enjoy the sunset.
The beach of Kamares was rewarded for the first time in 2002 because it fits the criteria of the program: Organisation of Coasts, Cleanness, and Safety of Bathers, with the blue flag of the European Union.
Vathi is a picturesque and calm coastal settlement. The famous Sifnian jars were exported in older times from Vathi to the markets of the neighbouring Cyclades, Crete, Cyprus and even Alexandria of Egypt. The old path and the new road of Vathi, which is an old settlement of pot-makers in the SW beach of the island, passes through Katavati. On the road to Vathi the traveller meets the monastery of Fyrogeion and the church of Agios Andreas, built (1701) in the prehistoric citadel.
Archaeological discoveries testify the continuous habitation from the Mycenaean until the Hellenistic years.
The monastery of Taxiarchis of Mersinis (1738) is found in the middle of the way. Towards the right utmost of the big horseshoe shaped beach with its calm sea, we find the double church of Taxiarhes and “Evaggelistria” built on the17th century. Rented rooms, groceries, restaurants, as well as a ceramics workshop and exhibition are also located here.
Faros is found in the SE side of Sifnos and is considered the safest harbour of the island, which was the official harbour until 1883. It is a quiet fishing village, with picturesque sandy beaches: Fasolou, Faros and Glyfo. The name Faros is owed obviously in the installation of a lighthouse in the entry of the harbour for navigation. This lighthouse is found today right at the entry of the harbour and adjacent to the monastery of Stavros, from where the view is magical.
In the western side of the gulf we find preserved ruins from the installations of mineral loading in boats for transport and treatment to Lavrion. In the bay and in the western side of the sandy beach of Faros we find the foundations of the ancient fryktoria. In the entry of the harbour lies the “petrogoleta” of Hrysopigi, a rocky island broken away from the land, on which the monastery of Panagia of Hrysopigi (1650), the protector of Sifnos is found.
The historical village of Kastro,which constitutes one of the most picturesque regions of Sifnos,is built on the east side of the island, above an abrupt rock with exceptional panoramic view to the sea. Walking in the narrow streets of Kastro offers moments of unique enjoyment. One would say that this is where time has actually stopped, while the atmosphere captures the visitor transmitting something from the glamour of another period. Narrow, cobbled streets with low terraces,dark galleries,old houses with wooden balconies, blazons on the entries, columns that were used later as architectural parts, marble Roman feretories are seen everywhere scattered with embossed jewels, small courtyards of the houses, the picturesque chapel “Eftamartyros” hanging on a rock that emerges from the sea, all together and each one separately compose a unique picture.
A downhill street of 3,5 kilometres, that begins from Apollonia, leads to Kastro.
The settlement’s installation in the place testifies usage of the place since the prehistoric years according to the discoveries of the excavations. It even maintains the characteristics of the Venetian fortress that was built from the dynasty of Da Koronia round 1635.
It constitutes one of the most important settlements of medieval urban structure. Main trait of the settlement are its small courtyards, its narrow streets and the unique square that is opened in front of the church of Agios Ioannis Theologos.
The visitor enters in Kastro from the old entries – galleries, “lozies”, which previously secured and protected the settlement as fort towers. The provision of levels of streets is such, that the passage ensured with small bridges. The houses of Kastro are distinguished in two categories, the single houses and the mansions.
Kastro was the capital of Sifnos in ancient,medieval and newer period until 1836, as well as seat of the Archdiocese Sifnos (1646-1797) and Bishopric Sifnomilos (1797-1852). In the entry of the village, where the cemetery of Kastro and the churches of Agios Stefanou and Agios Ioannis (1629) are found today, functioned the eminent School of Agios Tafos (1687-1835).
In the southern root of the hill of Kastro we find Seralia, the ancient harbour of Sifnos. An Archaeological Museum functions in Kastro.It includes marvellous collections of Archaic and Hellenistic sculptures.
Artemonas is the jewel of Sifnos, with neoclassical mansions, traditional restaurants and pastry shops, gardens and courtyards full of flowers. High on the top of the hill, the old windmills struggle with the winds of the Aegean. From here the view is panoramic, embracing the settlements of the hinterland, Kastro and the surrounding islands, even Kamares in the western coasts. The churches of Panagia of Kogchis and Panagia of Ammos, with the eminent icon of Panagia the Nun are included in the sights of Artemonas.
A certain specialty of Artemonas is the Cheronisos region. When crossing the path for the region we trace the rural settlement of Troulaki whith its special traditional resaturant and ceramic workshop. This old unapproachable region become just recently accessable either by sea excursion ships or by the newly opened and asphalted roadway.Cheronisos is a traditional sea village with a small beach that once used to be the settlement of pottery and ceramic craftmanship.Now is a place with sea food restaurants, groceries, few rooms to let and with a traditional pottery workshop.
Platis Gialos( Large Beach)took its name as a result of its lengh and its big coastal area. It is indeed the most crowded beach of Sifnos – always awarded by the European award of the Blue Flag, and is one of the biggest in the Cyclades islands. The surrounding area consists of a variety in hotels, rooms to let, regional organized camping space, groceries, restaurants and ceramic and pottery workshops where one can learn the traditional way of Sifnian ceramic technical know how.
At its north, we trace the monastery of Panagia of Vouno (1813) from where the view is fantastic. At north east direction we can see the Aspros Pyrgos (white tower) which is the most famous out of the 707 ancient towers of Sifnos. South at the small cape of Platis Gialos the greek archaeologist Christos Tsountas has discover a prehistoric cemetery and finally at south east, situated on the entrance of the bay, there is the private and unhabited Kitriani island with its only structure being the church of Panagia Kipriani (1732 signed on its temple) that consists the most ancient ecclesiastical monument of Sifnos (11th century)
It hosts discoveries that are dated from the prehistoric period until the Byzantine years. Out of the exhibits of the museum, the most important are: the lower part of an terracotta woman’s figurine, an early Corinthian acetabulum from the 7th century B.C., the head of a lion, the marble head of a Sphinx from the 6th century B.C., as well as the marble sarcophagus from the Roman period from Asia Minor.
Folklore museum of Apollonia
It is found in the central square. It includes objects of traditional art and samples of cultural heritage of the island. The naval tools, the foot-wheel as lpng as other tools of pottery and the collection of earthen utilitarian objects of the museum.All present great interest. Also in a showcase one can see local newspapers as well as books of writers from Sifnos. Telephone: 22840-33730
Museum of Ecclesiastical art and Tradition of the Vrisi Monastery
In the exhibits of the museum we can find the handmade chasuble, church utensils, Gospels, parchments, silver reliquaries, vestments as well as handwritten codes with information on the history of the monastery of Vrisi. Telephone: 2284031937
There are in total 227 churches on the island. Many of the churches and the monasteries of Sifnos have been characterized as historical monuments and have enormous historical and architectural interest.
Characteristic ones are the following:
Panagia Aggeloktisti in Katavati, Monasteri of Profitis Ilias, Monastery of Chrysostomos in Kato Petali, Panagia Gournia in Pano Petali, Agios Antypas in Pano Petali, Agios Konstantinos in Artemonas, Panagia of Ammos and Panagia Kogchi in Artemonas, Panagia Eleousa in Kastro, Monastery of Panagia Poulati, Panagia of Vouno and Monastery of Panagia of Hrysopigi
In total 76 ancient towers in various points of the island and the four acropoles of Profitis Ilias, Agios Nikitas, Kastro and Agios Andreas are included in the sights of Sifnos. From there, when weather permitted, the people of Sifnos used to sent signals to thger associates for enemies and other threats. The towers were circular build and they consisted of two floors. Chronologically they are estimated from 6th to 3rd century and while some are easily accesible, some others require walking and mood to expore in order to be traced and admired.Today after almost half a thousand years, every Monday after 50 days from the Greek Orthodox Ressurection, there is a revival of the custom of burning fires and sending signals from the towers across to the Aegean.
The sightseer, starting from Katavati, and after visiting the church of Panagia Aggeloktisti, will admire the paved street that connects the central settlements of the island. In Apollonia he will taste local dishes, visit the Folklore Museum and see churches with admirable paintings and elaborate iconostasis: Panagia Ouranofora or Geraniofora, Agios Spyridonas (metropolis), church of the Monastery of Agios Artemios (1629), Agios Athanassios, Metamorphosis Sotira and Timos Stavros.
2. Artemonas-Panagia poulati-Kastro.
This is a 30 min route that goes through Panagia Poulati with its splendid view and leads to perhaps the most beautiful locality of the island: Kastro, which is built on an abrupt rock on the eastern coasts. The settlement is really an open museum: it is continuously inhabited from the prehistoric years up to today and (with the Kastro of Antiparos and Folegandros) is one of the most important settlements built with a medieval system that has all the standard characteristics of a Venetian fortress.
In Exampela we find the Monastery of Vrisi or Kyra-Vrysiani, with wood carved iconostasis and icons of the Cretan School, where the Museum of Ecclesiastical Art and Tradition is also accommodated, with exceptionally interesting exhibits.
4. Agios Minas-Agios Sostis-Metalleia.
A paved path leads from the settlement of Agios Minas in northern Sifnos, to Agios Sostis and to the ancient gold mines. The region is also offered for swimming, if you like rocks and deep waters.
5. Hersonisos-Agios Georgios.
In Hersonisos-a beautiful fishing village with a splendid sandy beach,on the northern utmost of the island, we find some of the oldest ceramic workshops of the island, where visitors can admire the ancient art of the wheel and will see soil turning into a masterpiece.
The route leads to the most northern point of the island, to the chapel of Agios Georgios next to the precipice.
From Faros- a quiet fishing village in the south-eastern coasts that is considered the safest harbour of the island-a coastal path passes from many sandy beaches and leads to one of the most characteristic points of Sifnos, to the impressive monastery of Panagia of Hrysopigi (1650), protector of the island, that is built on a rock in the sea. The marvellous wood carved iconostasis of the church and the brilliant icons will enchant the visitor.
7. Platys Gialos-Monastery Panagias “to Vouno”.
From Platys Gialos, the busiest beach of the island and one of the longest beaches of the Cyclades, we head to the Monastery of Panagia “to Vouno”, with the icon of Panagia of Machairousa from 1813.
8. Katavati-Akropolis of Agios Andreas.
This is an exceptional route of archaeological and cultural interest to the hill of Agios Andreas, where ruins of one of the four prehistoric citadels of the island are stretched out. The citadel has impressive fortifications, exterior walls, internal cyclopean walls and towers that are dated back in the Mycenaean period.
9. Katavati-Monastery of Profitis Ilias.
This is a route of exceptional views and unmatched natural beauty to the highest point of the island (680 m.), where the monastery of Profitis Ilias of the 8th century is found. The church has marble iconostasis as well as baptistery and constitutes the most important Byzantine monument of Sifnos.
10. Katavati-Monastery of Agios Ioannis (Mougos)-Agios Eleftherios-Kamares-Toso Nero.
In the Monastery of Agios Ioannis you will see the Venetian blazon on the transom, a gold plated wood carved iconostasis and the icon of Agios Ioannis of the 15th century.
From there on, one may follow the path to Saint Eleftherios and continue his walk by admiring on the right the view of the Kamares beach – and of the abandoned Tsigouras mine, and on the left the proud standing monastery of Prophet Elias.The path finally ends by the seaside at the Monastery of Panagia “Toso Nero” on the south where there is endless view to the neighbour islands of Milos, Kimolos and Erimomilos.
11. Katavati-Mavro Horio-Vathi.
This is a route of 3 hours which leads to Vathi, a picturesque village to the south-western coasts of the island, to a closed bay with a beautiful sandy beach and crystal clear waters. Here the visitor will find some of oldest ceramic workshops of Sifnos.
The main products of Sifnos are olives and olive oil, chicpeas, capers,wine, honey, various herbs, local cheeses and spices and of course the local lamb and kid.
The Sifnian buns, round breads, almond biscuits of Sifnos and other sweets like spoon sweets are also in demand.
Sifnos is the birthplace of many famous Greek cooks such as Tselementes and Markou. The island has a rich and tasty cooking tradition, with dishes as “rebithokeftedes”, “ampelofasoula with skordalia”, “kaparosalata” and “xinomyzithra”. The Sunday chickpea soup in “skepastaria” is an old habit for the local family. Each Holy Saturday – when Sifnos is at its best natural and environmental beauty” the official resurrection food is prepared: the “mastelo”, lamb cooked in the oven with local red wine and dill. The amazing “melopita” (from honey and mizithra) and marvellous Sifnian “mpourekia” with almonds honey and sesame, must not be absent from the festive table.
MASTELO OF SIFNOS
(Materials: 3 kilos lamb cut in big pieces, Red wine, Dill, plenty, salt and pepper)
Mastelo is an Easter dish of the local table. It is prepared in the afternoon of the Holy Saturday and is maintained in mastelo until it is all eaten. In the internal lower part of “mastelo” (earthen utensil in the form of a flowerpot), we place 4-5 vine branches, cleaned and crisscross so as to create a grill. We first wash each piece of meat with water and after with the red wine, add salt and pepper and we place on vine branches. On each layer of meat that we place, we add some chopped dill.
Finally we add a glass of red wine, we close the utensil with baking paper or tinfoil and make few small holes (so that the meat takes the odour of the oven).
In most churches and monasteries, at least once a year, there is a celebration on the feast of their patron saint, which includes many elements reminiscent of pagan feasts, such as o common meal that always includes chickpeas cooked in the oven, spaghetti with meat sauce, or potatoes, or cod with potato salad, and, of course the ubiquitous wine (locally produced), and singing accompanied by traditional instruments (violin and lute).
Dates of some of the most commonly held feasts that overlap with the tourist period are and which take place on the eve of the saint’s day are:
• May or June (a moveable feast): Chrysopigi
• July 19: Prophet Elias
• July 16: Saint Panteleimonas in Herronessos
• August 31: Saint Simeon
• September 5: Church of Gabriel and Michael in Vathi
• September 13: feast of the Holy Cross in Pharos and in Honi
• September 14: Saint Niketas, in Selathi on the road to Troullaki.
Visitors can check the location and the date with the local people or at any of the information agencies.
The first samples of pottery art date back to the early Cycladic period (small statues, decorative items and utensils) and this art continues since then until today.
The island’s wealth in raw materials (argil deposits, abundant waters, strong sun) as well as the skilful hands of technicians have helped this art develop. They used to make house utensils, vessels for cooking (mastelas, skepastarias, pot etc) pots for carrying liquids (urns, jugs, half jugs, jars etc) as well as other utensils (braziers, ‘armeos’, ‘dipseli’ etc). Manufacturing such pots was so known that the adjective Sifnian became a synonym of ‘potter’.
Initially, the pottery shops were located in the inland, near Artemonas and Ano Petali, in order to be protected from the invasions of pirates dominating in the Aegean Sea. Later, they were transferred to the island’s bays and particularly to those protected by the strong north winds.
The Sifnian people spread their art all over Greece (Maroussi, Calamata, Volos, Mani, Kythnos, Paros, Naxos) while many pottery shops were established by Sifnians or by people having served as their apprentices.
Today there are still more than twelve pottery-making shops throughout Sifnos, contributing in continuing the tradition of our ancestors. So, the island’s visitor may find wonderful decorative pots made by the skilful hands of Sifnian potters, who since many centuries have been working the Sifnian soil with craftsmanship and devotion, shaping objects of unique beauty and art.
• Rich history & ancient monuments
• Hundreds of amazing festivals and traditions.
• Magnificent beaches & exceptional fauna
• Unique villages & old churches
• Dozens of tasty dishes & innumerable recipes
• The secret art of pottery
• Kind- hearted people
• Unforgettable hospitality
Your relationship with Sifnos is much like that of the potter with his clay. You shape it to your liking, so long as the result satisfies you… «Sifnos. A place that if you visit once… you’ll visit again» the island’s online friends often declare. In this case, Man seems to follow the tried and tested recipe of Nature. This destination is included in the “Natura 2000” programme. It is the home of many protected species and also on the route of migratory birds, such as the heron, the bee-eater, the turtle-dove and many water fowl. The beaches on the island each have their own beauty and charm. You approach each in a different way, some by road, others along pathways and yet others from the sea, to enjoy something different on each one. Rocky coastlines, golden sands and pebbly beaches satisfy all preferences. They will all though offer you moments of relaxation with their crystal waters and the Cycladic scenery all around. European Blue Flags have also been awarded to Platis Gialos and Kamares beach.
Find out more on www.sifnos.gr
However, there are more like Fikiada, Gialoudia, Vluxada and Tsocha which can only be accessed by various paths or by boat. Generally speaking, the coasts of Sifnos are very beautiful and deserve a visit, as well as it worth to visit the islet of Kitriani that is found outside of the gulf of Platys Gialos.
2 Blue Flag Beaches: Kamares, Platys Gialos.
Ferry boats and speedboats connect daily (in the summer period) Sifnos with Piraeus and other islands of the Cyclades, and certain times with Crete.
The nearest airports to Sifnos are the airports of Milos, Syros and Paros. For emergencies, there is an organised helicopter-deck at the Monastery of Panagia of Brysiani.
For more information:
Port Authority of Sifnos: 22840 33617
Port Authority of Piraeus, Tel. 210 4226000-4, 210 4593140, 210 4593150
GREEK TELECOME: 1440
Kamares, from 01/05 till 31/10
www.makiscamping.gr, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. 22840 32366, Fax: 22840 32366
PLATYS GIALOS CAMPING
Platys Gialos, from 01/06 till 30/09
www.sifnos.gr, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. 22840 31975, 31977, 33661, Fax: 22840 28961
For more information:
Pan-Hellenic Union of Camping Owners
POLICE: 22840 31210
PORT AUTHORITY: 22840 33617
MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY: 22840 31345, 22840 31110, 22840 32388
HEALTH CENTRES: 22840 31315
LOCAL TRANSPORT: 22840 31925, 22840 31345, 22840 31110, 22840 31293, 22840 31257
SIFNOS REGIONAL TOURISM INFORMATION OFFICE: 22840 31977
Website of Sifnos: www.sifnos.gr
Sources: www.cyclades-tour.gr, www.visitgreece.gr and www.sifnos.gr