In the center of the Aegean among the Cyclades islands, Ios is always there waiting, exuberant and sensual, colorful and traditional, unspoiled and romantic … eternally young!
The ferryboat ties up at Ormos, otherwise known as Gialos, which lies in the arms of a natural bay, well protected from the winds. Higher up, clinging to the ridges of the bare hillside, are the snow white houses of Chora. Though you may start with the initial impression that you have arrived at a resort island popular with the young just for the night life, don’t be too hasty to jump to conclusion. The Ios island or “Nios” by the locals, knows how to keep its secrets well hidden.
History at a glance
A human presence on Ios has been detected as far back as the Proto-Cycladic age (3200 to 2000 BC). It was later settled by the Ionians (11th century BC), to which the island owes the name it bears today. Legend has it that Homer spent the last years of his life here. Locals even claim that he was buried here at Plakoto!
In classical times Ios participated in the 1st and 2nd Athenian Leagues, whilst in the Byzantine period it was used as a place of exile. During the period of Venetian occupation, when the House of Sanudos held sway in neighboring Naxos, the island passed under their sphere of influence (1207). In 1537 the Turks occupied the “Little Malta”, as they referred to Ios, because of its safe harbor. It became part of the Greek state in 1828.
A stroll around Chora
White houses, flowering window pots, narrow cobbled backstreets, old windmills, as well as tiny squares with small churches, all mixed together to create the essence of a genuine Cycladic island.
You can walk up the alleyways to the church of Panagia Gremiotissa (Our Lady of the Cliffs), which seems hung on to the gray rock face, known for the incredible view. The Theatre “Odysseas Elytis” holds annual cultural events which are definitely worth attending, as the theatre itself set above the sea, seems to “float” beneath the feet of the spectators www.ios.gr.
It’s worth visiting the Archaeological Museum housed in a 20th century mansion (+30 22860 91246). Fortunately sceduled public transport bus between Ormos, Chora and the main beach on the island-Mylopotas, is very frequent.
The twin beaches of Koumbaras can be easily reached from nearby Ormos. But most of young people who come to Ios, usually prefer the sandy Mylopotas, where the famous beach parties take place and water sports facilities are gathered here. Maganari bay is also very popular with its golden sand and azure blue waters (14 km from Chora). For those who like to explore, rough dirt roads lead from Maganari to Treis Kleises cove, which has two leeward beaches. Further along the north coast is the well hidden Papa Avlaki tiny bay accessible by a short footpath.
From Kalamos Monastery you can easily come to the wide shore of the same name (4 km). Drive another 3 kilometers to reach Plakes beach at the southeastern edge of the island. Starting out from Chora and travelling north east, you will come across the very good but windy Agia Theodoti (9km). At a short distance the sandy bay of Psathi is found. In the north of the island the Plakoto beach is probably the best choice.
The Temple of Pythian Apollo: Although not much has survived of the ancient Ios, there are still some remains left of a temple, dedicated to Pythian Apollo in Chora near the church of Agia Aikaterini.
The old windmills: There were once 200 windmills working on Ios, serving also the neighboring islands. But from the early 20th century onwards, just 13 of them located on the hillside of Chora, have been preserved.
The old castle: In the 8th century, in the most inaccessible part of the island the inhabitants built the “Castle” as a lookout point to the northwest, in order to avoid pirates raids. The area is also known as Paliokastro (you can get there walking along a track).
COPYRIGHT PHOTO: Theo Athanasiadis / Views Of Greece
COPYRIGHT TEXT: Germaine Alexakis/ Views Of Greece
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