Apollonia is the capital village of Sifnos and the main spot for most visitors. It stands on a great location, along the slopes of a three hills and numerous smaller villages around are connected with Apollonia through scenic paths, we loved the fact that we could have small trails to these villages too especially the beautiful Artemonas (1,5km north) or/and Ano Petali (1km north), Exambela (1km south), Kato Petali (1,5km east) etc Many people prefer to book a room here because they can visit other villages and beaches by bus (all of them pass through Apollonia)
Apollonia became the capital of Sifnos island in 1836 and it is the administrative center of the island. In ancient times there used to be a temple for god Apollo, hence the name but it is also known as Stavri (cross) as it is located on the crossroads between Artemona (N), Kato Petali/Kastro (E), Kamares(W) and Platy Yialos/Faros (S)
We stayed in Apollonia for 3 days, most of the day we were exploring other parts of the island but in the evening we just walked around in Apollonia. Near the parking lot is the central square (Iroon square) where you can see the monument of the heroes (locals that died between 1912 and1922) can also visit Folklore Museum (open only during summer months). 2’ walk from there you can walk at the main pedestrian alley, it’s the heart of the nightlife in Apollonia as it houses all the pubs, traditional taverns or upscale restaurants and many souvenir stores. We liked the free wi-fi connection almost everywhere around, also Apollonia is the village that houses many different banks and ATMs, also other public facilities, post office, the town hall, travel agents, pharmacies, health center, super markets and 2 gas stations (we didn’t see any other on the island).
The architecture in the village is in typical Cycladic style, whitewashed houses with blue windows, with cats playing around in the front yards that are full of blossom flowers. There are many churches around, Agios Spyridon is the main church(was built in 1905) but we also liked some smaller ones, in the center we saw Agios Athanasios church (1746), Taxiarches church (1650), church Ipsoseos Timiou Stavrou (1727), Christos church (1587), Panagia Ouranofora church, Agios Sozon church.
At Rampaga square (where you can see the bust of Keanthis Triantafyllos (1850-1889) who was famous with his nickname Rampagas, he was a publisher, journalist and satirical poet that was born in Sifnos island in 1850 (at Exampela). Opposite this square you can visit Giomisti Kefali , a nice exhibition hall with temporary exhibitions. Another spot where you can see temporary exhibitions is Prokos Foundation Agia Aikaterini (opposite the Town Hall).
As many people live here permanently Apollonia is the village that houses many different banks and ATMs, also other public facilities, post office, the town hall, travel agents, pharmacies, health center, super markets and 2 gas stations (we didn’t see any other on the island).
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Cheronisos is a tiny seaside village at the very northeast end of Sifnos island. Most people come here for the beach of course, it is very relaxing, we were almost alone in early may, just us and a family. There are some houses that overlook the beach on the right, Cherronisos has about 100 inhabitants but I wonder if they live there all year round. By the way the village has long tradition in pottery.
There’s not much to do here except lying of the soft sand (ok there are some pebbles too) and swim in the crystal waters of the sea. But those who are tired of the noisy Apollonia will find here the ideal place for peace and isolation.
The picturesque bay of Cheronnisos houses a sandy shallow beach (200m long) which is the main attraction here of course, in early May we were almost alone except one guy with his kid.
On the left there is a fish restaurant where you can have a lunch with some fresh fish and local wine or ouzo and complete your ideal day trip from Apollonia or elsewhere on the island, especially for those who love peace and isolation. It was very pleasant and enjoyable for us.
Cheronisos used to be more isolated some years before with only a dirty path/road leading there, now the asphalt makes things easier, still the scenery is beautiful on the way anyway, we passed from some small rural settlements like Diavroucha and Troulaki.
If you have some time to kill before your bus come again you can visit the church of Agios Georgios that is located up on the hill that overlooks the bay, just follow the path. Nearby are the remains of an ancient tower.
The village celebrates on july 26 which is dedicated to Saint Panteleimonas.
- Religious Travel
Artemonas is a village 1,5-2km north of Apollonia. It’s the second biggest village in Sifnos (after Apollonia) and took its name from goddess Artemis that was worshiped here in ancient times, most probably where now is Panagia Kohi.
Walking around in Artemonas is the best you can do here as it has many lovely corners, the renovated windmills, some beautiful mansions, the house where poet Ioannis Gryparis was born (a famous greek poet, philologist and translator, his statue stands at front yard of the elementary school) and finally lots of churches that fit perfectly with the rest of the village, we visited Taxiarches church and Konstantinou & Elenis church but there are many more (Panagia Ammou, Panagia Kochi, Agios Loukas, Panagia Mpali, Agios Spyridonas, Ai Giorgis Afentis). Artemonas is also the birthplace of Nikolaos Chryssogelos, the great local teacher and national fighter during the greek revolution against the Ottoman Turks. He became the first education minister of the modern Greece. We saw his bust on the small square that was named after him.
It’s a picturesque place in general, we enjoyed not only the elegant mansions, the picturesque alleys and the flowered gardens (usually filled with perennial conifers and fruit trees) but also the numerous bakeries and patisseries where we bought the bread of the days and some delicious local desserts.
By the way here is the starting point of all buses on the island so its very convenient for those who choose to book a room in Artemonas. Although there’s no beach in Artemonas you can find plenty of rooms and hotels, café and restaurants and as I said many many bakeries and patisseries where you can taste local desserts. The village is much quiter than Apollonia but also not really far if you want to be near the pubs of the capitals.
Most nice buildings can be seen on the central alley, I think the houses of Artemonas are the most beautiful of Sifnos in general including some elegant mansions. Don’t miss the area of the windmills (east side of Artemonas) known as Bella Vista, no surprise it has great view down to Kastro and the sea. One of the windmills is renovated and transformed into a small hostel.
Opposite church Panagia Mpali you can visit the folklore exhibition of Ioannis Atsonios “Emeis Palia Sta Spitia Mas” (once upon a time in our homes ) where you can see some exhibits of traditional life on the island. The exhibition takes place only in summer months.
In mid august the narrow main alley houses a street party, local Djs play loud music through out the day (and night) for those who want to dance.
In early September for 3 days at the central square of Artemonas takes place the Festival of Cycladic Kitchen “Nikolaos Tselements” (named after the famous cooker/writer that was born in Sifnos) that includes booths from other islands of Cyclades.
You will find many traditional foods but also several other events, fold dances, music, representation of potteries etc What’s more a bazaar with local products will satisfy those who want to buy local food.
Check also the Cultural Center of Sifnos that houses several temporary exhibitions (it’s located at the beginning of the road towards Herronisos)
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Monastery of Chrysopigi (Virgin Mary of Golden Well) is the most important church of Sifnos island. It dates back from 1650 and houses an icon of Virgin Mary which is dedicated to Zoodocho Pigi (means Life-giving Font) and the legend says that it was found flowing on the sea and rescued by fishermen. Believers come here to worship the miraculous icon that supposed to have healing powers.
It is located at the edge of a small rocky cape so we had lots of photo opportunities not only of the monastery (pic 2) but also from the monastery to the surrounded area. A breathtaking spot for sure by the fully white structure of the monastery among almost no vegetation around and the big blue of Aegean sea in front of us. After the photo shooting we went inside, simple decoration but very touching, maybe we felt that way because we visited it during Easter week. The church celebrates on Ascension day every year (40 days after Easter Sunday) with locals coming from every corner of the island. The monastery is inactive in our days with most cells rented by visitors.
After visiting the church you can walk/drive to Apokofto beach (pics 2-3), there’s also a tavern there or if you walk a bit more (25’) through the path you can reach Faros village.
- Religious Travel
Exambela is a village a located just 1km away from Apollonia. Actually we walked there the first day but we didn’t know we were already out of Apollonia as Exambela spreads from Arades (where the row of 10 windmills are, some of them in good shape) and beyond toward the south. The name probably is a short version of ksera ampelia which means dried vineyards in greek, I guess they must be abandoned, I didn’t see many of them around except the back side of Vrisiani monastery.
The village houses some interesting churches among them church of Panagia, church of “Geros” Ai Nikolas, church of Agios Nikolaos, church of Agios Athanasios, church of Christos. Other attractions are the ancient tower Fryktoria (6th century BC) also known as Black Tower and a closer to Vrisi Monastery another tower.
On our way back from Platys Yialos we stopped at monastery of Panagia Vrisis (or Vrysiani) which is the most interesting attraction of Exambela, a bit outside the main village.
We walked up the white steps and got inside the castle-like monastery. There are some nice corners, with red roses here and there. The church is a beautiful small orthodox church with a nice wooden temple from 1750. There used to be an older church there, dedicated to Theotokos (Virgin Mary).
The monastery that dates from 1642 houses on the upper floor a Museum of Eclessiastical, according to the sign on the door the exhibition is a study on the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Sifnos. It houses religious related items, icons, manuscripts of masses, a Holy Bible from 1796, sacred vessels and vestments and the embroidered feloni of Kassiani. Unfortunately it was closed in early May so we couldn’t visit it, and didn’t see anyone around to ask about timetable.
Exambela was the birthplace of many notable greek people, among them:
-Nikolaos Tselemendes, great cooker of the early 20th century that became famous as author of cooking books, his first book was published in 1910, many greeks refer to any cooking book as tselemende now.
-Kostas Markou, another chef from Exambela, also author of cooking books, no surprise there is a long tradition of good food in Sifnos in general
-Aristomenes Prvelegios, poet, translator, academician, professor of Philosophy and History of Art. His bust is located in front of the school at Arades while his house at the main road of Exambela.
-Ioannis Maroulis (1792-1816) and his son Nikola Marouli, painters
- Religious Travel
Faros is a small seaside village 8km south of Apollonia.
Faros means lighthouse, it was named after the lighthouse which can be seen at the right of the entrance of the bay. I was surprised to read that this small port was until 1883 the main port of the island and served the communication and business needs of Sifnos. Some years before there were a lot of potteries and workshops in Faros, none of them exist today.
It is a quiet fishing village with calm waters as it is protected from the winds by 3 capes (Faros, Glypho, Fassolou). There are some restaurants and many rooms to rent if you want some peaceful holidays, just sea, sun and ouzo :) We just went there for swimming. There’s also a small theatre where concerts and other events take place in summer months.
What you can do here is visit the beach. Actually, except the main sandy beach in front of the village you can also visit 2 other sandy beaches, Fassolou beach is a small walk on your left (there’s also a restaurant there) and Glypho beach, a 150m long beach 3’ away from Faros on your right hand.
From Glypho you can follow the path that leads to Apokofto beach (20’ walk) and end up at the Chrysopigi monastery, the most important church in Sifnos. We didn’t do the hike as we visited Chrysopigi by car.
Kamares is the port village of Sifnos, located at the west side, 5km west of Apollonia.
Kamares means arches/vaults, probably due to many caves that were located on the rocky south coast and were used as garages for small boats, they were called syrmata (wires) back then. In our days these caves are not visible as they had been covered by houses and stores.
We arrived at Kamares by ferry from Piraeus and stayed there for 2 nights before we move into Apollonia. Although a port it is very peaceful and definitely more relaxing than Apollonia that gets noisy during the night (more bars etc). Of course in Kamares you will have everything you want, a 300m long sandy beach, lots of local restaurants, a bar for your drinks, some café etc There’s also bus connection with Apollonia if you get bored or want to visit other beaches and villages (every bus on the island departs from Apollonia/Artemonas). Alternative you can rent a car or a scooter.
The port gets a bit busy when a boat arrives but after some minutes it goes back to lazy attitude. We arrived late in the evening and was very peaceful, we noticed the litted monastery of Agios Symeon up in the mountain. We walked through the main road along the water front, there were plenty of taverns and café there but only a few customers in early May. There are numerous of small hotels here and the prices seem much better than the ones in Apollonia. We booked a room at Agia Marina area (at the far side of the beach), a great hotel with friendly owners, nicely decorated rooms and great prices. In Kamares you can find a camping too.
Agios Georgios church is the main church in Kamares, although small in size attracts many locals. We saw plenty of them gather inside but also outside the church during the Easter Week. It was a weird situation because you could hear the priest during the mass while the café next to the church was showing the semi final football match for Champions League. We preferred to visit the church the morning after when there was only an old lady inside.
Agia Marina is a small settlement at far side of Kamares (pic3, on the left), just follow the beach and you’re there. Locals call the area Apenanti (across) or Pera Panta. If you stay here you’ll be in much more quiet area than the port but still close enough to walk to the restaurants and café of Kamares. The church of Agia Marina which is located low on the foot of St.Simeon mountain named the area, overlooking the beach. Not much to do here except following the road down to the beach or along the beach to Kamares. In the past the area was full of potteries and furnaces for the ceramics, now you can only see mainly hotel rooms.
Kastro is a picturesque village, 3km east of Apollonia. It was the old capital of the Sifnos (since medieval times) until 1836. This medieval village is by far the most picturesque village on the island, located on the top of a rocky hill going down to the sea, with plenty of small cobblestone alleys, nice old houses with wooden balconies and coats at the front doors, ancient columns, many churches from 16th and 17th century etc It still maintains the characteristics of the Venetian fortress style that they used around 1635 for defensive purposes, hence the name Kastro (castle). Although most visitors stay in Apollonia or Kamares it is Kastro that usually becomes the highlight of any visit to Sifnos.
We visited some of the churches but also the small archaeological museum that houses a small collection of artifacts that were excavated on the island (mainly at Kastro area, don’t forget that Kastro was inhabited since 1130 BC!!). The entrance fee was only 2 euros.
Although we didn’t stay for the night we returned the next day again just to walk again around. Other things you can do here include a visit down to the beautiful church of Seven Martyrs (pic 3) that is located on a rock peninsula, swimming at Seralia (the old port of Sifnos but now a peaceful place) or take the long path to another picturesque spot the church of Panagia Poulati.
First schools on the island functioned in Kastro (early 17th century) as well as the famous School of the Archipelago (mid 17th century) both of them where now you can see the churches of Saint Stephanos and of Saint Ioannis Kalivitis. Nikolaos Chrysogelos graduated from this school, later became a teacher that led the men that participated in the Greek revolution of 1821 against the ottomans, later became the first Minister of Education of modern Greece.
Finally, Kastro was the birthplace of the university professor Georgios Maridakis, we saw his marble bust in front of St.Ioanis Theologs church in the center of Kastro.
3km east from Apollonia, we drove toward Artemona but turned right on the zig zag road that goes toward the sea.
There are also local buses from Artemonas and Apollonia (1,60e one way).
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Kato Petali is a tiny village, 1,5km east of Apollonia and 1,5km west of Kastro.
Petali means small rocky hill in local dialect, Kato Petali is located on a small hill between Apollonia and Kastro.
Kato Petali(lower Petali) must not be confused with Ano Petali (upper Petali) the village located on the hill north of Apollonia.
We were watching Kato Petali every day from our balcony in Apollonia but it was only on the morning of Great Friday (during the orthodox Easter) when we finally decided to visit Kato Petali on our way to Kastro. We saw the central church Zoodochu Pigi that morning which was packed with every inhabitant of the village. Friday is the most sacred day of the Holy Week, it’s the day of the culmination of the passion of Jesus Christ with deposition from the cross and His burial. Traditionally it’s a day of mourning, I remember since I was a kid the women didn’t do the usual home activities (no cleaning, no cooking etc), so there was no surprise the whole village was at the church. According to a sign over the main door the church was built in 1894. The church has castellated spiers but also a beautiful paved forecourt, a unique sample of folk art. This is the main square of the village. Later in the evening the Epitaph procession takes place, a lady told me that it’s very nice to see it here but we attended the one at Apollonia.
Next to the church is the Music School of Sifnos “Frangiski-Psacharopoulou Karori”. It is housed on the neoclassical building of the old elementary school that was built in mid 1920s.
The local café was closed so we just took some pictures of the buildings (typical cycladitic architecture, whitewashed houses with blue windows), we strolled a bit more around the village through the clean nicely decorated alleys. Most locals in Kato Petali are into agriculture and I guess some of them in tourism (there are some rooms for rental here).Then we strolled a bit around the village taking some pics and left for Kastro.
To the east of the village you can visit the historical monastery of Agios Ioannis Chrystostomos that dates from 17th century and housed the first greek school in Sifnos island.
To the south of the village is the picturesque church Panagia Koukkia (Myrtidiotissa) that dates from 1614.
Pano(or Ano) Petali is a tiny village, 1,5km north of Apollonia. It is actually located on the hill between Apollonia and Artemonas, so you easily combine both of them in one shot as the path from Apollonia continues through Ano Petali to Artemona (or vice versa).
Petali means small rocky hill in local dialect. We visited Ano Petali one evening walking up the paved path because we wanted to reach the church Ioannis Prodromos(pic 2), it was during Holy Week and the church was open with many locals already there. We were there on Holy Thursday Evening, usually the orthodox church services have symbolic representation of the crucifixion that day just before the mourning period begins. In other islands I have seen women do traditional mourning through out the night, at Agios Ioannis church there was a small chorus of 3 cantors (2 men 1 woman), it was a touching moment, devout atmosphere for sure, although the only pic I got was before entering the church, we should always respect the believers.
Outside the church while we were enjoying the view from the terrace we had some discussion with a local lady, she explained some of the customs that would follow the next days, which church to visit etc
From the terrace of the Ioannis Prodromos church we had great views to the east down to Kastro (4km away) but also view of Apollonia to the south (pic 5).
Not much to do in Ano Petali, there are some rooms to rent, a few café and restaurants but we just walked up the main path, checking the architecture (whitewashed houses, decorated with traditional architectural ornaments and small yards with blossom bougainvillea) and some smaller churches on the way, the most important is the church of Agios Antypas that dates from 1636. Among other churches we saw was the historical church of Panagia Ouranofora (Virgin Mary Skyclad ) that was built up the church of Agios Georgios (16th century). The one we saw was renovated in 1767. There was another one, a beautiful small one, didn’t see any label (I think it’s called Taksiarchaki), only the date it was renovated, in 1870. On our way back we saw this one again, it was beautifully litted from inside.
Panagia Vounou (Virgin Mary of the Mountain) is a monastery that houses a church that was built in 1813 by monk Gerasimos Avranopoulos on the top of a hill (hence the name?). It is located on a great spot with beautiful view over Platis Yialos bay (6km long beach). Most visitors come here take some pictures and go but don’t do just that, stand for a while at the stone benches under the big pines, look the whitewashed walls and feel the harmony of the place (it is very quiet) before you get inside.
Although the monastery is inactive you can get in and check the interesting church, the lady that takes care of the church was there (she tries to keep the church open some hours daily). She took some time to explain some local customs (we visited Sifnos during Easter Week). Much of the furniture but also the utensils of the church are donation from Sifnians that lived in Istanbul. At the temple we noticed the icon of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus, her eyes seem to look at you no matter where you stand, a popular catchy technique. The main church was actually built during 19th century expanding the old one from 17th century including some doric columns!
We didn’t see the -empty now- cells of the monks but she told us they try to keep them clean as local festivals take place here. The famous greek writer/philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba The Greek, Last Temptation of Christ etc) stayed here for 2 weeks (july 9-24, 1915)
Outside the church there are numerous flower pots on every spot fulfilling the area with colors and smells.
- Religious Travel
Platys Yialos is seaside tourist resort at the south part of Sifnos island, It is famous for its long sandy beach hence the name Platys Yialos (wide seashore). It gets busy during high season but in may looked like a ghost town, we found it really dull anyway. The beach is lined with fish taverns and watersport facilities but the general architecture is boring, along the main road are dozens rooms for rent, small or medium size hotels, not my cup of tea…
I guess people that want to stay in a room and have some facilities around including small markets, café, bars, plenty of restaurants and some pottery workshops will be ok for them and as I said this is the most popular beach in Sifnos. The truth is that we loved some smaller ones much more (Faros, Vathy, Heronisos etc) but we were there just for the beach, The only good thing about Platy Yialos beach is that it is protected by the arms of the bay so the breeze never gets inside.
Northeast of the beach is located the White Tower, it is the most famous of the 55 ancient towers of Sifnos but the area is not open to the public. Same applies for the prehistoric graveyard that was found in the promontory at south part of Platis Yialos. Opposite the bay you can see the uninhabited (and privately owned) islet of Kitriani that houses the church of Panagia Kiprianis (date back from 11th century)
If you drive to Platis Yialos don’t miss (about halfway between Apollonia and Platy Yialos) a visit to the monastery Panagia Tou Vounou that dates from 1813, the view down to Platis Yialos is great but also the church worth a visit itself.
Seralia is the port of Kastro, it was the old port of Sifnos island (very busy during the occupation by Franks) but now a peaceful humble settlement. Seralia is a nice but strange word, probably comes for the Turkish “saray” (palace) that was here a looong time before.
It was completely deserted in early may but in summer it gets busier as many people go down there for the small pebble beach (only 30 meters long) that is surrounded by protective towering rocks. I guess people that love small quiet places will fall in love with it too, nice spot for relaxing holidays.
We walked down the steps, took some pictures of the small churches around, we noticed a pigeon house but most of all talked with the laziest cat on earth (oh you humans, what do you want from me? I didn’t expect tourists so soon…).
At the end we saw an old man getting away leaving behind a typical greek image for us, an empty bottle of ouzo, a cup of coffee and an astray full of cigarettes… (pic 4)
Vathi is a small seaside 10km SW of Apollonia. There are only 50 inhabitants but it gets busy during the summer months. You can drive there or just take the local bus from Apollonia (1,60e for single ticket). Some years before you could only reach Vathi by boat from Kamares (port of the island).
It is built around an enclosed bay in a tranquil natural area full of olive trees and vineyards. Vathi means deep, probably because of the depth of the sea near the shore (don’t forget that this was the old port of Sifnos).
People come here for the sandy beach which is not impressive but has crystal waters with lovely blue/green colors.
Behind the beach is a row of small hotel units, some humble houses but also some more expensive, everything seems to fit perfect though. As expected there are some fish taverns where you can have your lunch and drink your ouzo and also some stores for the basics and a bar but in general it is ideal for those who seek some relaxing days. We just went there for swimming and then we had some ouzo and food at one of the taverns (Okeanida, great simple but tasty local dishes, loved the pantzaria salad). Later I felt dead for 4 hours because of the ouzo :)
Apart from the beach and the taverns you can visit the church at the promenade. Local festivals take place on july 12 when the church of Taxiarchis celebrates, also on September 6 and November 8. The church is dedicated to Archangels Michael and Gabriel (in greek orthodoxy the lead the heavenly host so they called taxiarchs). The church dates from 17th century and used to be a the church of a monastery that was located there. Most rooms that the monks had are now rooms for tourists.
We didn’t spend much time here, we took some photos of the exterior and then we got inside, typical orthodox decoration, we stood for a while lighting a candle and got out again.
Visit also the local workshop of traditional ceramic, Vathi has a long tradition in pottery, in the past was the place of manufacture and export of ceramics pots not only to other Cyclades islands but also to Crete, Athens, Cyprus and Egypt. If you go there by car you can visit also the Monastery of Fyrogia, the church of St. Andrew and the monastery of Taxiarch of Mersini (18th century), and if you are interested some old buildings that are located in the position of prehistoric citadel that was inhabited continuously until the Hellenistic period.
Learn Some Greek Dances...
...well in my case learn how to do some alternative Greek dances!!
This was something we started on Serifos (where the photo was taken I think) and continued here on Sifnos with the georgous Gala as our instructor. Well, I blame my aching feet rather than the ouzo for my lack of co-ordination!! It was fun tho', Yamas Gala!
- Sailing and Boating
- Beer Tasting