Surrounded by such big names of the Aegean Sea as Santorini, Paros, Ios and Folegandros, Sikinos is not yet another glamorous or buzzing island of the Cyclades, but a place with a very private, often allusive beauty. With its few but eclectic beaches, sign-posted trails, a winery that is open to the public, traditional feasts, summer music and dance fests and the most atmospheric monument in the archipelagos (the Episkopi), Sikinos is a Cycladic island unexplored by many but well worth discovering.
1. The settlements
There are three settlements in Sikinos. The first one you come to is Alopronia, on the east cost of the island where the port is also located. Nevertheless, Chora, consisting of two areas – Chorio and Kastro – probably has greater appeal, with its white houses, quiet lanes and tiny establishments serving everything from coffee to margaritas and tsipouro. In Chora, you will find the old school, a lovely, early 20th century building bequeathed by entrepreneur, politician and national benefactor Andreas Sygros (1830-1899).
2. Sacred sites
It may be small, but Sikinos has quite a few churches. The church of Panayia Pantohara was dedicated to the island by Greek poet Odysseas Elytis (1911-1996) and was built to his specifications after his death. It is unlike the average Greek chapels, with a post-modern design aesthetic. Pantanassa is prominently located in the central square in Kastro, while Chrysopigi is a 1690 monastery built at the edge of a cliff and features secret passages, battlements and murder-holes. It served as a fortress to protect the inhabitants from marauding pirates. However, of all the holy places, the most impressive and significant is the Episkopi, a former Roman mausoleum that was later converted to a Christian church. It is an imposing structure with partly deteriorated walls, columns and a dome which you cannot help but admire.
3. The Manalis Winery
One of the loveliest walks in Sikinos is along a road that leads to the Manalis Winery, which is open to visitors. It produces four wine labels: En Lefko (made from the Asyrtiko, Aidani and Monemvasia varieties), the Rosé (from Aidani, Monemvasia and Mavrotragano), En Thermo (from Mavrotragano, Limniona and Fokiano) and Liosato, a sweet wine made from sun-dried grapes. It is worth sampling them while enjoying the view of the open sea and the fields of Sikinos.
Sikinos is accessible by boat from the port of Piraeus. The journey takes 8-10 hours by conventional boat and 5 hours by fast boat.
4. Beaches and trails
Take a dip in Alopronia, or try Dialiskari and Aghios Georgios, which are accessible by car. You can also go to Santorineika, Aghios Panteleimonas, Maltas and Ai-Giannis (don’t forget to bring water, a snack and a beach umbrella with you), either by boat or by hiking along one of the trails. If you enjoy hiking in general, the island features a number of trails (Kastro-Alopronia / 3.5 km / 35 mins; Kastro-Episkopi-Aghios Panteleimonas-Alopronia / 13 km / 4 hours; Kastro-Maltas / 6.5 km / 2 hours). The Greek Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage has included Sikinos in the Paths of Culture program to establish the trail system. Nevertheless, it is advisable that you consult a local resident to make sure the path you want is passable before setting off.
5. Sikinos Feasts and Festivals
The island hosts the Sikinos Festivities every summer, though the program varies (this year, it ranged from workshops on choral music and Greek folk dancing lessons to astronomy nights and star-gazing with telescopes). But there are also a number of religious feast day celebrations in Sikinos, such as Zoodohou Pigi, the feast day of the Chrysopigi monastery (May 2); Aghios Panteleimonas (July 27); the feast day of the Dormition of the Mother of God (Dekapentavgousto-Aug. 15); the feast of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14) and others.