A Guide To Ios Island, Greece
There are two sides of the coin almost on every Greek island, but maybe nowhere else is as visible as it is on Ios island.
Young, vibrant, and offering plenty of entertainment opportunities, Ios is a trendy party island in Greece, following right after the much more sophisticated Mykonos. And still, Ios has managed to retain a traditional Cycladic landscape, a rustic lifestyle in some of its forgotten clifftop settlements, and a picturesque scenario made of whitewashed homes and tiny chapels along the cobblestone paths of its main town.
Where Is Ios?
The island enjoys an ideal location in the heart of the Aegean Sea close to other more popular islands, including Santorini on its south, Paros and Naxos towards the North, Iraklia to the East, and Sikinos on the West side of Ios.
What Is Ios Famous For?
Among the most popular destinations in Greece, Ios attracts thousands of tourists every year, both locals and foreigners alike. The reasons? One of the most stunning summertime landscapes and a vivid nightlife which defines it as one of the best party islands in Greece. As locals claim, though, in Ios, it’s not just about the clubs and bars, but it’s the island’s philosophy.
The island is also known for its unique town, Chora, the magnificent Odysseus Elytis theater with breathtaking views of the island and the sea, Homer’s grave, its imposing sunsets, and a lot more.
How To Get To Ios?
There’s no airport on the island, so the only direct way to get to Ios is via ferry. Alternatively, you can fly to Santorini from Athens (and other European destinations) and then catch a 2-hour ferry.
If you plan to travel via ferry from Athens, remember that you will also need to reach Santorini first. Ferry connections between Ios and Santorini are available all year round, increasing during summer when at least two daily crossings.
High-speed ferries will take you from Santorini to Ios in about 35 minutes, while the regular ferries (with a cheaper fee) can take up to almost 2 hours. The cost starts at 6 euro and can increase depending on the vessel you board and what seat you buy. Some ferries will also allow you to travel in your car.
It’s also important to remember that the island can get really crowded, so booking in advance is highly advisable. If you are worried about keeping social distance during your holidays, maybe Ios is not the right island for you, believe us, it does get crowded.
The Best Time To Visit Ios Island
As with every Greek island in the center of the Aegean, the weather tends to be pleasant from May until the end of September, when the first clouds and rains start making their way into the Greek skies.
Avoiding July and August also means skipping huge crowds and inflated prices. June and September are probably the calmer months with hot weather and better fees.
Top Things To Do In Ios Island
The island changes from morning to nighttime, meaning that there are endless things to do at both times of the day.
Partying, clubbing, and enjoying beach parties until the sun goes up is probably the best thing you can do at night on the island… But what about the daytime? Here are some of the best things you can do in Ios when the sun goes up.
Visit Ios Chora
Ios Chora (also known ad Ios Town) is the main village on the island and the only important town. And it offers plenty of places to discover and things to see during your stay. The Chora of Ios is located on the island’s western coast, about 20 minutes from the port where your ferry will arrive.
Often described as one of the loveliest villages in the Aegean, the Chora of Ios remains authentic and typically Cycladic, so much so that it has been declared a preserved settlement. The charming postcard-like settlement is crossed by dozens of arches passing over the small streets. There are gorgeous whitewashed, flat-roofed houses with blue doors and windows displayed along a maze of tiny cobblestone alleys.
The best time to visit the Chora is during the morning when most of the young visitors are sleeping, and the rest of the tourists are on the beach. This will secure thousands of perfect photos without people on them if that’s what you’re looking for.
Marvel At The Views From Panagia Gremiotissa And Beyond
The highest spot on the village, visible even from the ferry, is the fantastic white chapel of Panagia Gremiotissa (meaning Virgin Mary of the Cliff). The spot gets particularly crowded during the sunset, one of the best moments to explore the area due to the spectacular lightning that lightens the church’s white chalk walls.
Also, there are a few whitewashed windmills in the nearby area and a magnificent outdoor amphitheater dedicated to the important Greek poet Odysseas Elytis. Not only are the acoustics excellent, but the views are truly unforgettable. It can be a great idea to attend a concert here during summer if you have the chance.
On top of the same hill, it is also possible to explore the ruins of an ancient Venetian castle from which you can admire the entire Chora with its blues, whites, and utterly romantic atmosphere.
Pay A Visit To The Archaeological Museum
No Greek island lacks an archaeological museum, and Ios couldn’t be any less. Also located in the main town, the Archaeological Museum of Ios is reasonably small but nonetheless really important. To begin with, it is housed in an impressive Neoclassical building known as Amiradakio Megaro, really worth a visit.
Once inside the museum, check the collection of ancient items that have been excavated on the island, from the typical clay figurines of the first Cycladic period to prehistoric tools, objects from the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman times, burial columns, and sarcophagus.
Marvel At The Unique Archaeological Site
Skarkos in the area of Chora is the most important prehistoric archaeological excavation in the Cyclades. It is believed to have been an early Bronze Age settlement about a thousand years older than the famous Akrotiri settlement in Santorini.
It is located only a few kilometers from the port and bears a bizarre circular shape. It is located in a very high position, probably to allow its former inhabitants to have unobstructed views of the port and the sea.
Most of the findings from the settlement are now housed in Ios’ Archaeological Museum; however, the visit remains interesting to learn about the fantastic organization of this civilization regarding their ordered street planning with squares buildings and stone-paved floors (not really different from today’s Chora, if you think of it) and defensive walls.
It is good to know that this particular archaeological site has an entrance that people can use on wheelchairs, something not really common in most archaeological sites in Greece.
Check The Tomb Of Poet Homer
About 13 km from the center of Chora, near Plakoto Beach, on top of a hill overlooking the sea, it is possible to visit the tomb of Homer.
Homer is considered one of the greatest historians and poets in ancient Greece and most probably the author of the epic poems the Odyssey and the Iliad. According to the local legend, the poet died on the island, where his mother was born.
Although there was never much evidence that Homer had truly been buried on the island, back in the seventeenth century, an archaeologist found some graves in the area, with one of them bearing an inscription that identified the place as the poet’s grave.
Discover Ios Aqueduct
On the island, you will also find a very ancient aqueduct located in the seaside village of Agia Theodoti, on the island’s southern coast.
There are visible ruins of a tower, traces of an ancient aqueduct, and two different water tanks from the Frankish period.
Best Ios Island Beaches
Beaches in Ios are nothing short of spectacular. Some of them have gained international recognition, while many more have been awarded a Blue Flag for their pristine, clean, and crystal clear waters. These are the ones that you shouldn’t miss.
You cannot say to have been in Ios if you do not make it all the way to Mylopotas, at least once during your stay. The beach is genuinely fantastic, one of the most beautiful in Greece, however, since it is pretty close to the Chora (just 3 km away), it is a very popular destination on the island, often overcrowded, especially in July and August.
The sandy beach is an organized area and a section without any kind of organization. It offers a perfect spot for water sports, mainly windsurfing. Mylopotas has terrific turquoise waters and clear sand.
Due to the party nature of the island, it is a great place to enjoy in the morning, when most tourists are still recovering from a night of dancing and fun, and the beach is more tranquil.
In the area, there are cafes, restaurants, and beach bars. You can arrive there driving from the center of town, taking the bus in the Chora, or walking for about 20 minutes down the hill.
One of the most gorgeous spots on the island, Papa Beach, is about 10 km from the center of town. The sandy cove is quite hidden, surrounded by high cliffs and bushes that keep it somewhat private.
The place is not organized and does not get very overcrowded; the waters are clear and shallow, making it a perfect spot for long relaxing swims in the sea.
Another favorite beach on the island, Manganari, is located further from the center of town. About 20 km from Ios’ Chora, the shore is not often overcrowded because it is quite distant, so keep this picturesque shore in mind if you are looking for a secluded seaside refuge.
The beach has golden sand and beautiful natural surroundings. Since the bay has a privileged position with enough protection from the summer winds, it is an excellent place for families to swim and check Ios seabed practicing snorkeling.
A unique bay located only one kilometer from the port of Ios, it is a small but beautiful shore for those who do not want to move around a lot or those who prefer not to rent a car during their stay.
Although it is narrow and does not offer organized facilities, the clear green waters of Kolitsani are really worth a visit. The beach is popular among naturists and yacht owners who often dock in the area.
One more spectacular sunset spot on the island, Koumbara Beach, has gained quite a lot of popularity. It is located in the village of the same name, which is also a good place to stay when looking for accommodation in Ios.
The beach, only 3 km from the port, can easily be reached by bus or foot. It features both sand and small white pebbles, and it is fully organized, offering the possibility to enjoy water sports and beach activities.
Koumbara has earned Blue Flag for its clean waters and facilities. Although it remains quite close to Chora, it is a relaxing place, with shallow waters quite good for families as well. There are several hotels, restaurants, and bars in the surrounding area, making it a great alternative to the hotels in the Chora.
What To Do In Ios With Children
Although the island has well-earned fame as one of Greece’s top party islands, Ios also offers alternatives for families.
Starting for its tranquil beaches, some of them secluded, there are plenty of shallow bays where small kids can enjoy kilometers of fine sand, natural tree shade, and fantastic swimming opportunities.
The island also has interesting archaeological sites and some of the most spectacular views of the Aegean. There are many hiking paths to explore, leading to small villages worth a stroll with the family.
As with any other Greek island, kids will be able to enjoy a child-friendly and welcoming atmosphere by locals, amazing fresh food, healthy and genuinely delicious, endless hours of seaside fun, and interesting history lessons too.
What’s not to love about the Greek islands if you are a kid?
Nightlife In Ios
The Greek island Ios is one of the best for entertainment, partying, and crazy nightlife; Ios Island has many clubs and discos suitable for everyone. As is customary in Europe, most of them only open after midnight while dancing goes on until the sun rises.
The most important clubs on the island are in the Chora; they are mostly frequented by young tourists and also by young locals. Another popular place on the island for nightlife entertainment is Mylopotas Beach, probably the most famous (and beautiful) shore on the island, where several beach clubs serve drinks on the sand and keep the dancing alive until the following day.
Best Clubs In Ios
Disco 69 (Chora): A club that has been open since 1974, this Chora club is probably the most popular on the island. It serves incredible cocktails, the music is booming, and it is the perfect place to see and be seen.
Scorpion (Chora): Right on top of a hill, steps from the Chora of Ios, this after-club is small but atmospheric, playing the latest summer hits, progressive music, and more.
Sweet Irish Dream (Chora): For a different kind of night, boasting the typical atmosphere of an Irish pub, this club is a fairly popular place to spend the night dancing and tasting exotic drinks and a wide variety of beers.
Ios Club (Chora): A bar that boasts the best views of the island and is famous for the stunning cocktails and appetizers; the huge terrace of this bar is the right place where to start the night right when the sun sets on the coast of the island.
Blue Note (Chora): In the mood for a Scandinavian bar? Then head to Blue Note. A favorite among tourists, the place plays mostly Swedish music and rock. It features a huge dance floor and a long bar.
Free Beach Bar (Mylopotas Beach): Opening from early in the morning until late at night, this is a fin place to spend your day partying if nights are not enough. The place has a stylish atmosphere and is popular among young adults and middle-aged visitors.
Far Out Beach Bar (Mylopotas Beach): One more beach bar on the island, Far Out, has impressive sea views, terrific drinks, and loud music until the morning. There are different events organized during the season, and it has a very relaxing and informal atmosphere.
Top Hotels In Ios Island
The island has many hotels, most of them in the Chora, as well as many studios, villas to rent, and alternative places to stay in smaller settlements scattered around the island, significantly closer to the coast.
Budget Places To Stay In Ios
Villa Mata is an exceptional place to stay in Chora, with top reviews and super reasonable prices. The family-run guesthouse is situated at the edge of the picturesque port of Ios, just 50 meters from the sandy Gialos Beach and 800 meters from the main village.
It is surrounded by a beautiful garden where you can enjoy many relaxing and fun barbecue nights. Frequent buses and taxi services provide you with easy access to and from the village and the main beaches.
Galaxy Hotel is in a magnificent location, just meters from Mylopotas beach. Suites and rooms are bright and ample and feature spacious balconies. The hotel boasts an outdoor pool where continental or a la carte breakfast is served daily.
On the property, there are lovely terrace areas with beautiful sea views. Just a few steps from the hotel, there is a bus stop with regular buses to Ios port and the Chora.
Mid-Range Places To Stay In Ios
Aegeon Hotel is in a prime waterfront location in the center of Mylopotas Beach. Among the facilities, the hotel offers a swimming pool with hydromassage jets and a pool bar, while there is a mouthwatering continental breakfast served every morning.
The two buildings of the hotel feature beautiful gardens and a playground.
Ios Resort is a whitewashed property centrally located in Ios Chora, not far from clubs, shops, and restaurants. It features a swimming pool with a poolside bar and offers tastefully furnished rooms in earthy tones featuring wooden furnishings.
They have a balcony or patio with pool or town views. The hotel’s bar serves refreshing drinks, cocktails, and light meals next to the pool, while continental breakfast is prepared daily; the hotel also features BBQ night and themed events.
Luxury Places To Stay In Ios
Dionysos Seaside Resort Ios is a 4-star hotel located at Mylopotas Beach. It has elegantly decorated rooms, a tennis court, two swimming pools, a beach bar, and a restaurant by the sea. The pool bar serves drinks and refreshing beverages, tea a la carte, Mediterranean cuisine, and dishes with products from the property’s organic garden.
Guests can engage in fitness games with a gym instructor by the private beach area or in the fitness center, such as trx training, pilates, and aqua training.
Liostasi Hotel is one of the most exclusive properties in Ios, just a km from the Chora. Liostasi Hotel features elegant accommodation overlooking the Aegean Sea, with luxury rooms and suites with a private balcony or patio. It offers a pool and a spa center featuring natural products and spa therapy treatments. Complimentary shuttle services from and to the island’s port are also provided.
A traditional Greek breakfast is served daily, including homemade bread, pies, and various cheese types. The on-site restaurant, located in the hotel’s veranda, serves selected Mediterranean dishes, while various snacks and cocktails are prepared at Liostasi pool & cocktail bar.
Best Places To Eat In Ios
These are some of the most popular places to eat on Ios island.
Mozaik is one of the best places to eat in the Chora. This vegan-friendly hotel also serves Mediterranean and fish-based cuisine and informal dishes, including the popular Greek souvlaki.
Allo Bar Tapas is located on Ios’ main road, not far from Chora. It has excellent reviews, and it is known for serving a varied selection of regional cuisines, including French, Spanish, and, of course, Greek staple dishes.
Fun Pub is a convenient and affordable eatery on Ios’ main road, a few minutes from Chora. It’s an informal place serving fast dishes for moderate prices, including fries, hamburgers, and late-night snacks, perfect for those who a bite before going to sleep after leaving the disco.
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