Syros island, the hidden beauty of the Cyclades
I am going to be straight with you: I have not heard of Syros before this trip. Just like you probably… And I don’t understand why! Syros is very well known locally but not internationally. And to be honest, I was very tempted to keep it a secret, but…I can’t. It would be too selfish of me! I know, I know, you can thank me later when you go there. 🙂
I went to Syros at the end of September, as part of #discoversyros campaign, literally the last few days before the closing of the summer season. This timing was good and bad at the same time. Obviously the good part was that there were less tourists but on the other hand the weather can be a bit tricky if you are planning for loads of sunbathing. However, I find Syros a good place to go all year round. I know we normally turn our attention to the Greek islands for the summer (or shoulder season at the most) but I think Syros is different. Syros island does not shut down once summer is over. Locals continue their normal life in every season here.
So let me just quickly introduce to you Syros island:
- Syros is the capital of the Cyclades group. Yes! Exactly!…the same group that includes the very popular sister islands of Santorini and Mykonos.
- Syros is one of the smallest islands in the Cyclades group and at the same time, is the administrative center of the group
- It is sometimes called Little Venice or The Duchess of the Aegean
- Throughout its history, the little island of Syros has been inhabited by many civilisations: Romans, Arabs, Ottomans Turks, Venetians. They all left their mark on the island
- Due to its rich heritage, Syros is both catholic and orthodox (one side of the island is catholic, the other side is orthodox) and it is one of the rare places that celebrates both Catholic and Orthodox Easter at the same time (on the date of the Orthodox easter)
- Syros is located right in the centre of the Cyclades group of island
So now that you have an idea about Syros island, lets see what you can do there and what you should absolutely not miss.
Top 10 things to see and do in Syros
Just a small “warning” before I start: I am a very visual person and I strongly believe that a “picture says a thousand words”. No matter how nice a place is described in words, I always want to see how it really looks like, so I do the same myself in my posts. If you are following my blog, you must be used to that by now though. That’s why all my guides are in fact photo-travel guides.
Without further ado….
1. Take a stroll through the picturesque Ermoupoli (also spelled Hermoupolis)
Ermoupoli is the capital city of the island and a place that got me hooked from the very first moment. From the marble paved streets to the pastels of the houses and shops, the city is a treat for the eye. And top that up, it was bougainvillea season! (big hearts eyes!))
All in all, photography heaven!
But let me just give you a bit of back ground information about the city, because its past is not something you can dismiss easily. The city of Ermoupoli was founded in 1821-1830 and it actually means “the city of Hermes“. I am sure you all know who Hermes was…Well done! Indeed, he was the god of commerce and…thieves (cause the two are linked, aren’t they? 😉 ).
Back in the time, the harbour of Ermoupoli was the most important and strategic harbour in the country. Although it has lost its place to Piraeus port since, today it still plays an important role in Greece. And once you have spent a bit of time there, you will realise that the harbour is the heart of the town.
Now you can see why I was hooked on Ermoupoli from the first moment. Its architecture is also very different than anything else I have seen so far in Greece. It is a combination of many styles in fact and has elements from all the civilisations that have passed through the island. You can see oriental style houses, Venetian style, German or even a combination of a few styles, especially where the building has been renovated. All in all, a very eclectic and interesting combination.
Add to that very narrow streets and put all of the on a hill, giving a terraced layout and voila! A gorgeous city!
2. Indulge in some beach time
We are on a Greek island here, so no matter how special and unique it is, the beaches are always going to be a top attraction. Being part of the Cyclades islands, you can expect nothing less than incredible beaches with crystal clear blue water and yet only a fraction of the tourists from the more popular islands. So you can actually enjoy your time at the beach!
Most of the beaches are located on the west and south coasts of the island.
My favourite was Galissas, on the west coast, which is also the most sheltered beach on the island. If you have been to the Cyclades before, you know how windy they can get. If not, well, now you know 🙂 .
I was lucky cause as I was staying in Galissas town, a very short walk from this beach.
Kini beach is also situated on the west coast of the island, a bit north of Galissa. Kini seemed to be very popular with families, probably for its shallow waters. But the beach treats you with some gorgeous views and nice restaurants, including my favourite one (see further below).
Asteria beach in Ermoupoli is not your typical beach. You will not find any sand here. The beach is in fact a concrete elevation just above the water, that you can reach by going down the staircase nearby Agios Nikolaos church. What I loved most about this beach was THE VIEW though! But the crystal clear water was certainly very inviting as well.
Other beaches that are worth checking while on the island are: Vari (very popular one), Delfini (considered one of the best), Possidonia, Finikas ( the second largest on the island). Unfortunately my limited time there did not allow me to explore all of them. But I am certainly going back to Syros and explore more.
3. Get lost in the alleys of Ano Syros
Be prepared to step into a fairytale!
Situated on a hill overlooking the sea, Ano Syros is one of the most charming parts of the island. A maze of narrow staircases, cobblestoned alleys, pastel houses and doors, all giving a very medieval feel. The most difficult thing to do is to fight the urge to stop at every step to take a picture . Did not work for me!
Apparently Ano Syros was built in a fortress style to protect the inhabitants from the many invaders in the past, mostly pirates.
On top of the hill sits the Catholic Cathedral of Saint George, governing the district of Ano Syros. Remember how I mentioned at the beginning that the island is both catholic and orthodox? This is the catholic part. From the top you can admire a beautiful sunset or soak in the amazing views over the island!
4. Find that perfect place/rooftop for some stunning views
The terraced architecture of the island is perfect for offering some breathtaking views. All you have to do is search, ask and walk a lot. And this is what you can get in return!
5. Visit the most impressive buildings of the island: Apollon theatre & the Town Hall
I must admit that I was surprised to find such a wonderful place here. Apparently Apollon theatre is considered “a miniature” of Scala di Milano! We were lucky enough to be there at the same time with Anima Syros and were invited for the opening night of the festival.
Normally I would not include a town hall in a “must see” list from a place unless there is something very special about it. And this is the case here. Designed by a Bavarian architect, the town hall is one of the most imposing and beautiful town halls in Greece!
I found the inside even more impressive in fact.
5. Admire the curch of Agios Nikolaos
This is the orthodox cathedral of the island and it is located in Vaporia district of Hermoupolis. Go down the stairs from the side of the church to the Asteria beach and take a perfect picture of the Cathedral
6. Chase that sunset or sunrise
Being situated on a hill, there are plenty of opportunities to find a perfect spot for the perfect sunset picture. Unfortunately we were not that lucky with the sunset due to the weather.
….but the chase itself was a fun activity and we were treated with stunning views.
For some stunning sunrise time lapses though you can head over to my friend Chris from Trip and trail.
8. Eat your way through the island
I don’t think I need to add much here: it’s Greece, it’s an island…you get the gist! Syros has a bit for every taste, whether you are a seafood addict ( like me) or you cannot have enough of those delicious souvlaki.
Here are a few recommendations:
Allou yialou – this was my favourite restaurant! The seafood was amazing and the location is perfect for such a restaurant, right by the sea. The restaurant is located on Kini beach.
aVentoura – this is my pick for delicious home made food. Run by Ventoura family, the restaurant is located right on Galissa beach. Again, perfect setting.
Kouzina -Situated on one of the charming streets right in the centre of Hermoupolis city, this restaurant takes traditional food and adds their own innovative signature to it. Everything we tried was amazing.
Have you heard of Loukumi? It also goes by the name “turkish delights”. I have had one of the best here in Syros.
If you want more details about the food scene though I would recommend you head over to my friend Nathan’s post about the best restaurants on the island
9. Watch life go by from one of the colourful terraces
When it comes to beautiful outdoor places, your are spoiled for choice in Syros. Whether you prefer to be right by the water, along the harbour or on one of the charming little streets inside the city, you can always find a place to suite your taste.
10. Island hop in the Cyclades
Located in the centre of the Cyclades islands group, Syros is a perfect base for island hopping: Mykonos, Naxos, Paros are just an hour away by ferry.
How to get there:
And talking about ferries, that is the best way to reach the island. The easiest way is to take the ferry from Athens. It usually takes around 4 hours. Did I tell you that we have been treated to first class on the Blue Star Ferry?
Where to stay:
I stayed at a Ventoura apartments in Galissa which I highly recommend. The location is perfect for the beach, the people are extremely friendly and, you know….just look at it!
Phew! I hope you enjoyed your virtual trip to Syros. If you have any questions, suggestions, feedback, please leave me a comment below.
If you enjoyed this post, please pin it here