Ios a magical island
Ios …. tradition links the island to Homer the greatest epic poet of all time. The author of the Iliad and Odyssey is apparently buried on a hill top overlooking the blue Aegean in the region of Plakotos. His mother Klimeni was born and died in Ios. The island is home to 2000 residents and has 365 churches. The Port of Ios with the lighthouse on the one side and the church of Saint Irini on the other is a scenic marvel. It is a popular yachting base with 1500 yachts visiting annually and there is also a lovely beach with several good-looking hotels with their own pools.
The drive up from the port to the capital is short and Hora is a superb example of Cycladic architecture and the topography makes it stunning. The Cycladic architecture is something I love and the fact that all the islands have respected this tradition is important and there are no high-rise buildings or multi coloured roof tiles or unfinished buildings on any of the four islands we visited. The elegant town square and the ancient church of the Annunciation is very inviting with the many lanes and small squares and huddled little chapels and churches…. we just loved it.
The hillside of the capital town has three iconic white chapels ascending at intervals and there are also the windmills that have been preserved. This island seems to encourage the young and energetic and from about noon onwards the lanes and squares become busy with people drinking coffee and eating or playing an instrument and shopping. The covered streets are called stigadia and the décor of the little shops and restaurants and night clubs and bars are all enchanting and designed to lure the visitor in.
The stone and marble Greek style open theatre Odysseus Elytis named after Greece’s second Nobel Laureate at Tsoukalaria which seats a 1000 people overlooks the Aegean and offers an amazing view of Mylopota Bay and most of the cultural events arranged by the Mayor and his municipality are held here. I can testify to its perfect acoustics as I tried out a song from both the stage and the highest point. The Archaeological Museum housed in the mayoral building is small but good and reminds one of the antiquity of this wonderful gem of an island. Skarkos is the Acropolis area of Ios and the human presence is dated to the Protocycladic period of 2,800 -2,700 BC. Evidence of antiquity is all around the visitor with the ancient walls of Hora, the Roman aqueduct in Aghia Theodoti, the Byzantine Paleocatro in Psathi and other heritage sites.
We stayed at the Farout Village Hotel on Milopotas Beach initially. This is a splendid place designed for the young and party set though we could see its attractions on this perfectly stunning beach; we however then moved to the elegant and beautiful Liostasi Hotel which is a short drive away up the hillside but with the most stunning views of the Bay of Ios and the surroundings areas out to sea and inland. This lovely hotel was a dream and we enjoyed our short time there with its elegant pool and relaxation area and a small spa, wonderful ascetics and warmth of welcome with the owner taking a close interest. Looking down from my balcony as the sun set is a memory I will always treasure and then again, the sunrise!
There are several lovely beaches but another that we visited was Magganari which lived up to expectations. En route to Magganari we visited Homer’s grave and one of the goats’ cheese dairies. This area I found very evocative…. the thyme clad hills with small wild flowers and the tinkling of goats’ bells in the distance soon showed us the herdsman with his animals being herded to another pasture. The cheese is excellent and we tasted all three varieties and they should be marketed widely. Honey is another important product of Ios and the honey is flavoured by the thyme in springtime and the heather in the autumn as indeed are the goats’ cheeses. Yet again the food was excellent with lots of lovely fresh seafood and authentic local dishes with vegetables which are grown on the island. We dined in the Port area and the Hora and each had a good atmosphere. Walkers would find this a lovely island for their pastime as there are some dedicated walks and there are also some isolated beaches to explore at Papas and Plakon and others like Kalamos. There are 32 kilometres of sandy shoreline and snorkelling and water sports are available at the major beach at Mylopotas as well as Magganari and the Port beach; the natural port is considered the safest natural harbour in the Cyclades for yachts. The modern art museum is called Giannis Giatis – Gabliela Simosi after two artists who fell in love with Ios and the Cycladic sunlight; the concept of the light … the light of the sun reflected from mountains and sea with such incandescence that it may surpass light anywhere else in the world.
Ios is very well maintained with clean beaches and tidy roads and towns. There is a good bus system for those who do not have their own rented car and motorbikes are also easily available. For those with no budget restrictions there is a fully equipped helipad. Sadly, we said our farewells and departed on the Blue Star ferry for Paros on a glorious sunny afternoon with a whole vista of islands to see en route. Truly I want to return to Ios, and I have been in touch with the Liostasi Hotel a few weeks ago which has just had a refurbishment and increased its Spa.
One can fly to Santorini and then reach Ios by ferry, or fly to Crete and then go by ferry. May be a two-centre Cycladic Holiday? Here is the link to my full gallery on Ios which will show you its sheer beauty.