“Did you visit Santorini?”, is a question I get asked every time I mention my Greek holiday that we took past summer. Santorini is famous all thanks to the dreamy pictures of whitewashed houses atop dark cliffs along a placid, blue Mediterranean Sea that crowd the image search on google. If that wasn’t enough, Santorini is also a favorite exotic location for a lot of Bollywood songs and we as an audience just lap it up…
But the post isn’t about Santorini (I’ll let that be for later); it is about its introverted cousin called Ios (pronounced Eeos) that has its own unique beauty.
Where is Ios?
Ios is a tiny island in the Cyclades (Kikhlades in Greek) archipelago where Santorini and Mykonos are also located. It too is made up of black volcanic rock and has a rugged, hilly terrain. Surrounded by the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Ios boasts of an idyllic island life replete with some gorgeous beaches and lots of sunshine!
Even though Ios is situated near Santorini (an hour’s ferry ride), it is still a virgin in terms of the scale of commercialization. This makes it a perfect destination for budget travelers and backpackers. With lodging and food costs way lower than Santorini or Mykonos, this pretty island has very few fancy resorts but has a plethora of budget friendly AirBnB accommodations, hostels and Bead and Breakfasts. Don’t get me wrong, Ios also has some nice hotels and exclusive resorts but they seem to be way lesser in number than what we saw in Santorini especially Oia.
Apart from it being a budget destination, Ios boasts of some stunning beaches (22 in total), some not accessible by a car. It has something for everyone, from beaches to trekking trails to architecture. But what attracts most people is the party scene that is super hip, super affordable and goes on all night!
Chora, the biggest village or town on Ios is a kilometer away at the end of an uphill drive from the port. This distance can be covered on foot via a footpath that is half a kilometer long. Most of the resorts, hotels and BnB accommodations are around the foothills of Chora while all the party places, pubs and nightclubs are right inside of Chora… The by-lanes of Chora are a vehicle free zone and hence going up and down the little village while pub hopping is not just convenient but also a lot of fun!
What To Do in Ios?
Even though it might seem tame and boring as compared to the more popular islands of Santorini and MyKonos, Ios has some very unique things to offer…
1. Explore and Discover Beaches
Its been 9 months since our trip to Ios and the one thing that we still remember and reminisce about fondly is trekking along the Mediterranean Sea in search for remote, secluded and yet gorgeous beaches one after the other. From super popular and populous beaches to isolated little coves with not a single soul in sight, Ios has something for everyone… Many of the beaches are not reachable via a paved road and hence need to trekked to, on foot…
2 of our favorite beaches were Mylopotas, an organized beach with a plethora of amenities and activities to choose from and Valmas, a tiny secluded cove easiest to reach out of all the beaches inaccessible by road. The trek up to the Valmas beach is delightfully scenic and the beach is isolated. Do not forget to carry some refreshments and some cold beer though since there wouldn’t be anything available on the beach.
2. Party All Night!
Once you are done with beach hopping during the day take a little rest in the evening and wait for midnight to strike because that is when the party scene on Ios comes to life… Even if you had planned for a quiet night in, it is impossible for you to stick to the plan since the vibe on the island after sunset is something that will make you venture out and explore the throbbing nightlife…
The partying crowd on Ios is much younger to what is seen on the other islands and hence in many ways wilder, less inhibited and often times more fun. The drinks are cheap and the music catchy and it is extremely difficult to keep a track of time when you are riding the wave of people going from one club to another. Some of our favorites from the ones we visited on the two nights of wild Ios partying were Coo, Embassy and Disco-69.
3. Take a Leisurely Lunch at the Port restaurants
One of the main reasons why I travel is because of the food. Local, authentic and indigenous cuisines help me “feel” the place, get the local vibe and understand local traditions and the best way to experience it is by looking for haunts that the locals frequent and eating at tavernas that the locals eat at…
However, for a place like Ios, that thrives on tourism and the main source of economy is dependent on globetrotting footfalls it is sometimes a delight to “give in” and simply lap up the “setting” that has been created for the tourist in you… This is exactly what I did in Ios and this is exactly what I recommend you do… Eat at “all” the restaurants at the port… It is a delightful experience… Imagine yourself on a clear sunny day, sitting under an umbrella and digging into a delicious grilled Calamari and a fresh Greek Salad on the side taking in a view that comprises of a deep blue Mediterranean Sea and pristine white yachts docked at the port… Blissful isn’t it? 🙂
How To Reach Ios?
The only way to reach Ios is by Ferry… There are a number of ferry companies that operate between Port Piraeus (Athens) and Ios as well as between Santorini and Ios. Hence, depending on the direction of your journey you can easily book a ferry of your choice. Two companies that we booked our ferries from were the “Hellenic High Speed” and “Blue Star”… Both were super comfortable and have ample types of reservations that you can go for… I would suggest pre-booking your tickets online especially if you are planning to visit the islands during the high season.The journey between Athens and Ios takes about 5 hours while Ios to Santorini takes about an hour and 10 mins.
Where Did We Stay in Ios?
I am a through and through AirBnB fan and hence it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we had an AirBnB accommodation booked in Ios as well. We stayed with Vaggos and his family who run a pretty successful bed and breakfast venture. This is the link to the AirBnB listing. We booked an air-conditioned studio apartment with a tiny kitchenette (fridge + gas top) and a humongous bathroom… The room itself was a little cramped but perfect for a couple, clean and had a gorgeous, rustic Greek feel to the interiors. It had a cute little sit-out with a view of the sea and was halfway between the port and the town center. Vaggos and his wife provide free pick and drop to the port while arriving and departing.
Have you been to Ios? What is your take on this beautiful island?