The Cycladic Island of Ios lies halfway between Naxos and Santorini and is often overlooked as one of the stops on the way from one island to the other or completely neglected unless you are a spring breaker or party crasher.
But if you manage to stop here instead of pursuing your journey onwards and discard the hordes of party goers, you will find a surprising island full of history and wonderful people. We arrived with no expectations and left with wonderful memories and mixed feelings.
Currently the only way to get here is to board a ferry from Athens or one of the other Cycladic islands. The ferry will drop you off at Ormos, the delightful little port village with a typical relaxed Cycladic flair with bars, restaurants and souvenir shops.
There are many opportunities to rent a car or scooter in Ormos, Chora or at Mylopotas beach, (the main beach on the island). A bus connects the three throughout the day and is a 20-minute ride from Ormos to Mylopotas via Chora every half hour for EUR 1.80. If you want to discover more of the island, you will need your own wheels. You can save some money by booking in advance through Rentalcars.com (the earlier the better). Cancellations can be done, often up to 36 hours before arrival in case you change your plans.
We found probably the nicest accommodation of our Cycladic tour in Ios. Hotel Psili Ammos is located at the far end of Mylopotas beach on a rock overlooking the Aegan. You will be greeted by the owners themselves and accommodated in simple, clean and comfortable rooms with a stunning sea view. Breakfast is presented in a buffet, after you have selected your meal you carry your tray to your room and enjoy breakfast on your balcony. It’s kind of a self-service-room-service.
If you prefer apartment accommodation, Gianemma is a good option. It is located on the hill behind Mylopotas beach, far away enough from the loud beach bars. Ios Art Studios is located in the Chora, if you prefer not to stay at the beach, make sure to get a renovated room.
Ios has a large population of post-hippie era expats that run various providores and services. So, it offers many cuisines that you might not find on other islands. In the Chora, you should definitely book a table at Lord Byron run by a Californian. As the name indicates, you will not find typical Greek food here but an interesting fusion of styles and flavours. Another Chora favourite for us was Katogi, a small village bistro with long lines of waiting, unless you have booked in advance.
If you fancy a Greek treat, Drakos Tavern just next to Psili Ammos Hotel serves fresh seafood and other typical dishes with style and pride. The reception of fishermen’s catch is in itself a show to watch. The Nest in Chora is of constant value and large enough to accommodate you for a real Greek night even without a reservation.
Go to Skarkos hill. This early Cycladic, bronze age settlement proves that Ios played an important role on the sea roads to Crete thanks to its safe natural harbour. Only discovered in the early 80’s and carefully and outstandingly conserved, the site is accessible by foot from the Chora and offers a small 10sqm museum and a self-guided tour for EUR 4 per person. Check the opening times, they are quite restrictive off-season.
Have a stroll and a coffee in Ormos, the Port of Ios. You will encounter a lot of sailors and see the statue of Homer who is said to have died in Ios. If you want to see more of Homer, there is a spot in the north of the island which is said to host his grave. Ormos also has the Church of Agia Irini. It is probably the first thing you see on your arrival as it greets the incoming ships on the right-hand side of the hill. It has two altars and two towers, one for Roman Catholic and one for Greek Orthodox worshipping. As with many of the churches in Greece, entrance is restricted but the place offers a great spot for sunsets.
Another sunset spot lies on the top of the otherwise uninspiring Chora. A five-minute hike will bring you to the church of Panagia Gremiotissa and three other smaller churches for that perfect sunset Instagram post.
Using a car or scooter drive to Agios Ioannis monastery and Agios Giorgos church. Both offer panoramic views of the Aegean and a guaranteed calmness from the hustle and bustle of Mylopotas.
Mylopotas is the main beach on Ios. Party goers ensure a selection of all kinds of beach bars that try to outplay each other with loud music. The beach is large, has fine sand and spots that offer shelter even on windy days.
Kolitsani is a wild beach protected by the winds. To find the road there is a little tricky, you need to follow the signs on the road from Chora to Mylopotas. About 10 minutes of walking is required after you leave your car in the parking spot. Nudity is accepted on this beach.
Koubara Beach is easy to reach from Ormos. The seafood restaurant with the same name compensates the otherwise soulless beach.
The beaches at Magganari on the south of the island are less affected by north winds and offer a good option for families due to shallow waters. Bring your own picnic, the tavernas here are not worth spending your money in.
Did you know
There are plans to build an airport on Ios. The story tells that a greek investor who has made his fortune on Wall Street is planning to put Ios “back on the map” by building new hotels, beach bars and an airport. Some of the places are already open, such as the Pathos Lounge Bar and Restaurant, Agalia Luxury Suites and Calilo Beach Heaven at Papas Beach. In addition to bringing palm trees to the Aegean, this investor has brought a completely new style to the Aegean which we leave to you to judge for yourselves if this is the right direction for Ios? In the meantime, enjoy all the authenticity that is still strong on this island.
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