Sifnos Island is beautiful all year around and awaits you to get to know it, to host you and to give you unforgettable experiences on its paths, beaches and festivals.
Text: Dimitris Hatzis
Photography: R. Anastasiadou-N. Kalfas
I have traveled and I have seen almost all the Cycladic islands. The years I spent working on fishing boats, gave me experiences that few have lived and even less can live today. Perhaps this is the reason I choose most of my time to travel to the Aegean Sea. One of my beloved islands is Sifnos. Come to share it with me…
Meet the villages of Sifnos
Three days in Sifnos
The wealth of Sifnos
Shortly after Serifos Island, Sifnos, with its beautiful main village (Hora) hanging white over the steep cliffs and the deep blue of the sea and the blue sky is emerging in front of us, at the sunset of a summer day. Prophet Elias and Saint Symeon the two highest mountain peaks of the island, dominate the image of the traveler approaching the island.
The beautiful sunset of Sifnos (Photography: M. Kirianidis)
Kamares, the port of Sifnos, is the largest seaside village and here you will find most tourist offices, ship's agencies, hotels, restaurants, camping, as well as car, bike rental offices, etc.
The village Apollonia or Stavri took its name from the ancient god Apollo and is set amphitheatrically on three hills. Here are all the public services, the Folklore Museum and shops. It has nice restaurants, bars, pastry shops and is of course the center of nightlife and entertainment. North of Apollonia, at 2 km, is Artemonas, the village with its beautiful neoclassic buildings, flowered courtyards and picturesque cobblestone streets, which took its name from the goddess Artemis. It is undoubtedly the jewel of Sifnos.
The old capital of the island and one of its most impressive villages is Kastro. Built on the ancient Acropolis, it is a sample of the Venetian period and is worth strolling in its beautiful narrow streets. From the ring road you can reach the picturesque chapel called Eftamartyros, built on a rock which is emerged from the sea. Further south of Kastro you will find the beautiful beach of Seralia, with good food in the fish taverns beside the pebbles.
On the contrary, Faros, is a quiet fishing village with a safe harbor and picturesque beaches where one can enjoy the sea, tranquility and enchanting scenery. Faros, prefer walkers, families, those who engage in fishing and contact with nature and off season tourism. The only village on the northern side of the island is Heronissos. It has a small harbor, two taverns, with fresh fish, and a quiet sandy beach.
Beaches: In the southwest of Sifnos you will find the most special bay of the island, Vathy. It is a windless natural harbor. The main occupation of the villagers was pottery. Today it has a great tourist development with nice restaurants. The beach is sandy, with shallow waters and wonderful sea. Platis Yialos is the most cosmopolitan place, especially during the day. Endless sandy beach, many shops, rooms to let, hotels, yachts, inflatable boats, etc. It`s the most "trendy" point of the island. It is the favorite place of the Athenian youth and many VIPs.
During my first night on the island, I chose to visit Artemonas, with the cobblestone streets and the beautiful churches and houses with elements of neoclassical mansions that began to be built at the beginning of the last century and differs from the classical Cycladic form. Artemonas has class, a rich history, social and cultural civilization, which the visitor can perceive walking through the labyrinthine alleys, the well-groomed courtyards, the whitewashed joints and walls, and the lively, hospitable and smiling people.
Pottery of Sifnos
Day 1-Hiking on the path to "Chrysopigi-Mines-Faros-Fasolou-Stavros"
The famous Chrysopigi of Sifnos (Photography: M. Kirianidis)
Built on a very small rocky island, the monastery of Panagia Chrysopigi, the patron saint of Sifnos, has become famous all over the world, as it is depicted in most of the advertising campaigns of Greek tourism. From Chrysopigi we started early in the morning in order to avoid the heat of the sun and we headed down to Apokofto, a beautiful sandy beach with many pine trees and eucalyptus, two taverns and very few rooms to let. We crossed it and we started climbing the path careful not to step on holly, sage and oregano. After 15 minutes, we stopped to rest in the small chapel of Saint Charalambos. The scenery was magnificent. In the smooth sea, an all-white fishing boat entered the bay leaving behind a silver line, while seagulls danced harmoniously above it. Before we started heading to the old mine, we drank water from the cistern and filled our bowls. We turned inward, towards the bay of Faros. Above the sea, reminding something like a wreck, something like an old harbor, is the point which was used by the ships for loading the ore. We went down there and swam in the refreshing waters of the sea.
Walking up hill to the mines was a small challenge. A spectacular view and the galleries, like open mouths, were waiting for us. The mines were producing silver and iron, perhaps gold in ancient times. After relaxing enough, we went downhill to the small beach called Glyphos. A quick dip and then we arrived at Faros, where we ate local delicacies. Next, we crossed the small village of Faros and took the stairs to Fasolou, another sandy beach, which in the old times was meant only for the nudists. To the left of Fasolou, on the edge of the cave, there is the beacon after which the area was named and the monastery of Stavros. By the way, the feast, which is taking place here on September 14th, is one of the best on the island. We took the path to the left and reached the rocky beach which is easily accessible and smooth. There you dive into the sea… get out again… lie down and enjoy basking in the sun. Here, it`s you and the Aegean Sea. No crowds, no cars, no umbrellas... nothing. Sun, sea and rocks. It`s the best way to feel relaxed and revitalized! The sun had fallen as we started the way back.
Amazing fishing experience
Day 2: Shall we go for fishing?
Early in the morning, we sailed from the harbor of Faros and headed south, towards Kythira Island. The boat ripped the quiet waters and as soon as we left behind us Chrysopigi the sun rose from the depths of the horizon. During the night, our captain and his son had gone to sstretch the nets into the sea and now we were going with them to pull them up. Nets are one of the most common ways of fishing. This way of fishing requires a lot of working hours, since you have to put them the previous afternoon at the place you have chosen and pull them up early next morning, so that you will not find the fish half-eaten. Then, in the heat, you start to take, one by one, the fish out of the net. Many times the nets are entangled and intertwined with each other and is really tiring to fix them up. Returning to the harbor and after selling the fish, the fishermen stretch the nets out in the sun to dry out. After, they clean them out of stones, seaweeds, etc. in order to be ready for the next time. Undoubtedly, the fisherman's job is very hard and difficult. Later we gathered all together in one of the best known places in Sifnos, in the area of Faros, with the greatest view. As we sat at the tables at the mole, the view of the rock with the famous Chrysopigi Monastery was right in front of us.
Day 3 - Walk to Saint Simeon up to Herronissos
Just a few years ago, you could access the northern side of Sifnos only with boats or donkeys. Now there is a road that starts from Artemonas. The landscape on the route alternates. In the beginning, we passed over steep slopes that reach down to the sea, with a magnificent view of the Aegean Sea, and then turning to the interior of the island, we found ourselves on a plateau with many olive trees, cultivated land and pastures. From the village Troulaki, we went uphill the dirt road to the monastery of Saint Symeon. In the monastery, which is in excellent condition, you can rest, cool off at the cistern, and perhaps feel the contact with what somebody say divine and others simply endless peace. Do not forget to visit it. We started the descend and we went back to the road of Herronissos. After a short route with several turns in a wild and rocky landscape, we reached the small harbor of the village. We jumped straight for a swim in the blue waters of the sea. In Herronissos it seems that time stood still.
The Acropolis of Saint Andrew
Already since the early Bronze Age, it has been one of the richest islands, due to the deposits of silver, lead and copper in its soil and the world's first mine. The mining activity in Sifnos from the 3rd millennium BC and the supply of its ores to the surrounding islands and the mainland of Greece, contributed significantly to the general cultural evolution of the ancient world, being one of the main stages of transition from the Stone Age to the Copper Age. Prehistoric citadels, 76 ancient towers and many archaeological findings, testify the inhabitance in Sifnos for more than 5,000 years. The "Siphnian Treasure" is one of the most important exhibits of the Delphi Museum, a witness of its wealth in antiquity thanks to its mines (gold and silver).Due to the quality of its products and it’s highly developed commercial activity, it held a prominent place in Greece and the Mediterranean area. The ancient art of pottery made Sifnos for hundreds of years a provider for Greece and the Mediterranean in earthenware. It is the art that the visitor of the island can observe in all its stages in potteries, which are scattered all over Sifnos. You can see the soil taking shape and becoming a masterpiece which you can make your own.
The feast of Saint Sostis (September 6th)
- Virgin Mary Chrysopigi, in the church of the same name, on the Ascension Day
- Taxiarchon, in Vathi, July 12
- Profitis Elias, on the homonymous peak, July 19th
- Saint Panteleimon, in Heronissos, July 26 Saint
- John the Baptist, in Mavro Chorio, 28 August
- Saint Symeon, on the homonymous peak - August 31
- Virgin Mary Vrysiani, at the Monastery of Vrissi, September 7th
- Stavrou, in Faro, September 13th
- Saint Nikitas, in Nikitas of Andri, September 15th
- Saint Nicholas, in Aerinas, December 6th
Recently, Sifnos made a very good effort to promote its nature, its paths and the unknown places of the island, which is of particular interest to the visitors of Sifnos and especially to the travelers from abroad. This is the "Sifnos Trails", a program of the Municipality of Sifnos that was implemented in 2015. The Municipality of Sifnos wanted to upgrade the island's network of trails and cooperated with the organization Paths of Greece. The old markings have been removed and new markings, much more durable and uniform, have been placed on all paths. Sifnos now has a network of professional and well-marked trails that exceed 100 kilometers, making it one of the largest in the Aegean Sea! The aim of the Sifnos Trails program, is to help visitors of the island explore, safely and easily, the natural and cultural wealth of the island.
On the way to Mavro Chorio
The path starts from Fyrogia at the beginning of the road to Vathi. We need about one and half hours on an uphill path, sometimes paved, with steps and tiled for the last half hour of the route, in order to reach the oldest monastery of the island and its tallest tip (695 m). There are secret rooms and catacombs in the monastery. The chapel of Saint Hilissaiou has the most spectacular view over and around the island. The route is a little difficult and is not recommended to the elderly or very inexperienced in walking. Returning from the same street takes about the same time.
St. Sostis: The route starts from the square of Artemonas, the most beautiful village of the island. We pass through the village, beside Panagia Maggana and we go to St. Minas. From there another paved downhill trail takes us to St. Sostis, a monastery just a few meters above the sea. Characteristic of the area are the remnants of the ancient gold mines. The route to the monastery lasts just over an hour, and the uphill journey takes a little longer. It is not difficult, however.
Mavro Chorio-Vathi: We start walking from Agia Marina of Cade, on the road to Vathi and within an hour we reach Saint John in Mavro Chorio. The way is easy, without many uphill and downhill, with a great view to Platis Gialos, the surrounding islands and Vathi. In St. John we stop for a refresher! The next part of the journey, from the monastery of Vathi, takes also around an hour and is pleasant and relaxing until the bay of Vathi. On the way, we can see the ruins of the settlement that gave the area the name "Mavro Chorio", the ancient towers and the spring, in Kalamitsi.
Fikiada: We start from Platys Gialos, following the south direction. Most of the route is higher and parallel to the sea. Shortly before Fygiada, we cross one of the oldest olive groves and we see an old farmhouse and the path which leads to the sea. To reach to St.Giorgis`s Monastery, we need about two hours and from there, less than an hour, till the dirt road. The path we follow is sometimes vague (but marked), the ground rocky and its last piece from the monastery, to the road, is steeply uphill.
Kastro-Faros: The walk starts from the square of Artemonas and we follow the dirt road to Poulatos, walking through an old path that leads up to Panagia. From there we take another path to Kastro and we reach the old capital of the island, in less than an hour. After a short tour in the Castle, we pass on the opposite mountain for a walk that will take just over an hour, not too difficult, next to fields, small farm buildings and chapels, with final ending at Faros.
If you are interested in going for a walk with a guide, all the routes start early in the morning or afternoon, upon agreement (depending at which village you are staying, if you have your own means of transport, etc.). The routes for Prophet Elias and St. Sostis end at the same point they start. The others do not. In the monasteries you can stop for coffee, chat and relax (about 30 min.), while during the walk you will hear about the history of the island, the ancient towers and the mines, the festivals, the herbs. You must have appropriate shoes and water with you! The routes listed are indicative only and can be modified according to the mood of the group. There are many others, as of course there is the possibility to get a map and wander on your own. Especially in the western part, which is a NATURA area, you will be enchanted by the green of this, otherwise, dry rock!
There is an artistic touch, on the path to Ficiada, by Alberto Bourdeth (requires a short detour from the path) !
More information on the trails: http://hikersfriendly.com