A fiery island famous for its parties and overflowing with people, loud music and bars, Ios (or Nios) also has long, sandy beaches, countless beautiful churches and gastronomic delights such as watermelon pie with honey and spicy skotyri with pepper and thyme.
A pole of attraction for fans of all-night partying for decades now, Ios is known for its nightlife, bars, cocktails and pulsing music. If you enjoy wandering around the dark Cycladic backstreets, bar-hopping and dancing till dawn, head for Chora, the island’s main town. It is the best place for the summer’s first all-nighters or to relive one’s youth.
2. Byzantine Palaiokastro
Aside from its intense nightlife, the island has many other, more low-key features. If one is in search of some peace and quiet, it is worth following the stone-paved path to Palaiokastro, the remains of a Byzantine fortress in the eastern part of the island, for a view of the silky sea.
Swimming in Ios is most enjoyable. The island’s lovely waters and welcoming light-colored sand make it the perfect place to relax on the beach with a hat and ice-cold beer and to experience the long Greek summer in all its glory. For a swim, try Aghia Theodoti, Koumbara, Psathi (suitable for wind surfing), Gialos, Mylopotas, Maganari (with tavernas and water sports), Treis Kleisies (a path provides access), Diamoudia and Kalamos, or more remote beaches like Papa and Plakes.
4. Watermelon pie and pancakes
Try the mosenta (watermelon pie with flour and thyme honey), sweet pumpkin pie, pasteli sesame seed bars, melitinia (pancakes with mastic and myzithra cheese), dried figs with sesame, tsimetia (stuffed zucchini flowers), karavoles (snails), skotyri (spicy cheese with summer savory, pepper and thyme, xino (creamy cheese for salads), and if you come across an expert in Ios cheese-making, ask for some gritsi (cheese curd).
5. Churches and festivals
The Greek landscape is teeming with churches, but Ios has more than its fair share. According to tradition, there are about 365 churches on the island – as many as there are days in the year, but it is probably an exaggeration. Nevertheless, there are plenty of churches in Ios, many of which are quite lovely, and several have been designated historical monuments. Visit Panagia Gremiotissa and Aghia Ekaterini in Hora, Aghia Eirini at the port, Aghia Theodoti at the spot with the same name, and Panagia at Palaiokastro. It is also worth visiting one of the feast day celebrations which usually include dancing, eating and drinking until the early morning hours. The major feast days in Ios are on 24/6 (Ai Giannis Klidonas at Pyrgos), the Dekapentavgousto on 15/8 (Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Gremiotissa), on 29/8 (Ai Giannis of Kalamos and Psathi) and on 8/9 (Birth of the Virgin Mary at Aghia Theodoti and at Palaiokastro).
Boats for Ios leave daily from both Rafina (5-7 hours) and Piraeus (4-11 hours), and occasionally from Lavrio (10 hours).