I ended up in Sifnos by happy accident. I had left it until the last minute to buy my ferry ticket to leave Serifos for Athens and, because it was a Sunday, all of the seats had already been booked by Athenians returning home after a weekend away. Sifnos, the island next door and back towards Milos, was easier to get to and only half an hour away. So I thought I’d go there.
The mammoth Adamantas Korais arrived an hour late and it wasn’t until I was on board that I was told that the ship wasn’t stopping at Sifnos on the way South. I had to go all the way back to Kimolos and Milos and then return to Sifnos about 4 hours later. New month! New timetable! I was not amused!
Situated in the Western Cyclades between Milos and Serifos, Sifnos covers 74 km² and is 15 kms long and 7.5 kms wide with a population of under 2,625 people at last count in 2011. Sifnos has 360 churches – nearly one for every day of the year! It is famous for its many religious festivals and celebrations and for its pottery.
We finally arrived in Kamares, Sifnos’ main harbour at 16.45 – It was still a scorching 36 degrees. Simeon, of Simeon Rooms and Apartments, my host for the next 2 nights, had kindly come to collect me from the harbour to drive me the very short distance uphill to the apartments. I nearly cried as he showed me into my tiny but beautiful room – so breathtaking was the view! He must have thought I was mad! I spent the rest of the day exploring Kamáres, soaking up the last of the sun’s rays and watching the amazing sunset from a deckchair on the beach.
Sifnos has its tourist act together much more than its sleepier neighbour, Serifos. A slick and efficient tourist information office provided me with an excellent map and bus timetable and the helpful guy working there showed me photos of the sunset he had taken on his phone in his home town of Kastro and made some great suggestions for my whirlwind tour of the island the next day. I bought chicken and chips and some cold beer from the popular town souvlaki shop and sat on my tiny, breezy balcony looking out over the twinkling lights of Kamáres town, the harbour and the mountains all around. Perfect!
I was so annoyed at having lost a day, that I decided to get up early and see as much of Sifnos as possible in a day. The excellent bus service with great connections and helpful drivers make it possible to see a lot of the island in a short time. I started with the stunning Chrisophigi Monastery, one of Sifnos’ most famous landmarks. You have to tell the bus driver where you are going and they drop you off at the top of the path. There are beautiful views of the sea, the monastery and the surrounding coast from the path. There’s even a little café for a frappé stop on the way down. I was the monastery’s only visitor that early in the morning and Konstantinos, the friendly caretaker, chatted to me in very good English as he swept up rice from the previous day’s wedding. The whole place is spotlessly clean and beautifully looked after. These days there are no more monks – they were apparently all killed by pirates long ago. Today the only residents are Konstantinos and his wife.
From Chrisophygi I walked along Apofko beach and took the excellent coastal path to the tiny town of Faros. I joined some Greek tourists for a swim in Faros Bay and dried off under the tamarisk trees on one of the first of the town’s beaches before catching the midday bus to Platis Yialos, one of the island’s longest and most beautiful sandy beaches.
I got off the bus at the end of the long stretch of beautiful Platis Yialos beach and had a beer at one of the beach bars. I then walked around the headland to the tiny Lazarus Bay where a huge beach bar/restaurant occupies the whole bay. Sunbeds are free of charge for the price of a drink so I spent a lovely couple of hours swimming, drinking and people watching before walking back to Platis Yialos for the bus back to Apollonía.
Apollonía is the present-day capital of the island and is a stunning collection of winding whitewashed alleyways and stairways, tiny shops, restaurants with brightly-painted chairs and beautiful blue and white churches that lead steadily upwards to a stunning viewpoint at the top of the town.
From Apollonía the bus took me to Kastro, the stunning ancient citadel town on the South East coast of the island. There are no cars in the centre of Kastro, vehicles can only go as far as the car park at the bottom of town. From there stairways and alleyways lead up through narrow streets, archways and past multiple white churches to the ruins of the castle on the very top. From the top of Kastro, there are amazing views across the island and down to the Church of the Seven Martyrs perched on top of an island rock on the sea side of Kastro town.
After dinner with an amazing view at the friendly and traditional Astro Taverna, I took the bus back to Kamares and wandered around the town and admired the view of the twinkling town from my balcony. Sifnos is a beautiful island with lots to see! The Sifniots have done a great job of being organised without losing the traditional character of the island. The following morning I had breakfast in a waterfront taverna before taking the speedy Speedrunner 3 to Athens. See you next year Sifnos!
NEXT ISLAND: Staying in Greece for one more island, off to the Argo-Saronic group of Islands to visit the island of Hydra.