Endless Fun for Anyone
Homer’s fatherland is an island with a carefree vibe and a laid-back lifestyle gifted with beautiful beaches, traditional villages and archaeological sites.
Many foreigners have settled and are still living in Ios since the glorious ‘70ties days. Nowadays Ios is a cosmopolitan island, attracting many visitors from all over the world especially during summer and the majority is still young people.
About the Ios Island
The myth of Ios as the most rocking destination for young people not only from Greece but also from all over the world, at some point, was identified with rumors of wild outbreaks and nightlife. Mixed information about its wild natural beauty, deserted white chapels, the beaches that were awarded as the most beautiful in the Mediterranean, the wild nights with many decibels in the open air, broken beer bottles in the cobbled streets created a positive image of the island. Ios is also called Nios by the locals.
It is no coincidence that the Island is called the island of yachts and that it is one of the most important stations in the “Aegean Rally” that takes place every year.
Chora village offers you everything you need. Gifts, books, magazines, shadow, rest. Freshly painted stairs and unexpected surprises in every corner. A magical country with two faces, family, calm during the day until early in the evening and ready for strong decibels and fun until the final fall for the midnight hours.
Ios is generally a safe island
The small and rocky Ios has been “discovered” at the beginning of the ‘70ies by young people and it used to be one of the beloved destinations of hippies and cult young people who were mysteriously attracted by this “funky” island at that time.
Even though during the last decades Ios had a “bad” reputation and gathered many tourists that took part in drinking marathons, today things are quite different. The tourism in Ios regained its quality and the young visitors are more restrained, giving accent to fun and not to their personal conflicts.
Therefore Ios with the endless golden beaches was re-discovered by Greek and foreign tourists and became the ideal destination for couples but also for family vacations.
Ios Island Best Beaches
There are a lot of beaches to visit on Ios! To be more precise, there are 35, but only a handful is adapted for tourism. Below is a list of the most popular beaches in Ios.
The beaches are a treasure of this island, so please take care of the environment. Do not cross any beach by car or motorbike. To protect nature, leave nothing else behind you except your footprints in the sand.
There’s no place quite like Chora: the beaches are long and sandy and the nightlife is pretty wild. It is a young people’s place, perfect for carefree, lazy days and very late nights.
In Greece, it is common for the capital of an island to be simply called “Chora”. This is the Ios village.
Chora, the main village of the island, located on a hill overlooking the harbor, is a typical sample of Cyclades architecture with narrow streets, whitewashed houses, many churches and some old windmills on its northern edge. The numerous clubs and bars are the center of the vivid nightlife, which seems to be a big party of young people strolling around, drinking, singing and dancing all night long. “Big Blue” movie was shot in Chora.
In Chora one could also see the ruins of the Venetian castle built at the end of the 14th century by the Duke of Naxos (Ios was part of the Duchy of Naxos). There is also an archaeological museum (Amoiradakio Megaro) with an interesting collection dating back from 3rd millennium BC.
Chora is built at the place where the ancient town used to stand. The old settlement is considered preservable thus reassuring the effort to remain simple and scenic, without any intervention.
The Cycladic architecture is constructed to protect the people from extreme weather. The thick stone walls form isolation against heat and cold. The whitewashed walls reflect the sun and reduce the heat, while the flat root houses offer little resistance against the strong wind. The maze of narrow winding streets break the gusts. Arches and galleries give shadow and protect the inhabitants from invaders and pirates. Therefore neighboring cellars were finished with passages.
You can discover many old churches hidden between houses, or climb to the top church Panagia Gremiotissa for a breathtaking view of the village and Yalos (harbor).
If you want to enjoy the beauty of Chora quietly, you´ll be better off visiting during the daytime when most of the people are on the beaches.
In Chora, you can find a wide range of hotels, apartments, pensions, and rooms. It is the center of activity and roaming around, you will discover romantic restaurants, many fine jewelry shops, gift shops, boutiques, and mini markets.
In the evening you´ll find Chora busy, the main pedestrian street passes through three squares. It can sometimes be slightly overcrowded, and it can take some time to get from one end to the other. As you reach the main square, the crowd is guaranteed and is always good fun.
Many lose their way in the small side streets. But anywhere you go, you will always find bars, restaurants, and shops.
The village also holds many cultural activities and local festivals to which guests are usually invited to join.
A great variety of properties for any standard and budget are ready to accommodate visitors from all over the world.
Sightseeing in Chora
The top church of Chora, recognized by the palm tree, devoted to the Holy Mother, is featured on most postcards of Ios. Its blue dome and the palm tree in the yard stand out from the cliff. Take a walk and get there – the view is really unique.
Above Chora, on the slope, the twelve windmills remind you of farmer days, when the islanders used the power of the wind efficiently to make their windmills work.
In a safe distance from the main road, the windmills at night become love-nests for eager summer couples.
Nowadays at a standstill, they represent a tourist attraction.
Amphitheatre Odysseas Elytis
In the amphitheater above the windmills are often special events, performances, and concerts with a great view over Mylopotas beach.
History of Ios
The finds of the archeological excavation on the hill of Skarkos prove that the island has been inhabited since the early Cycladic period.
Like most of the islands of Cyclades, Ios has a long history and allegedly it is the birthplace of Homer’s mother and also the place where the famous poet of the antiquity died. It is a must to visit Homer’s and his mother graves in Plakoto. Another historical site is the ruins of the temple of Apollo.
Over hundreds of years, a myth has grown and the belief is that Homer died in Ios and his tomb is located in the north of the island near the beach of Plakoto. Archaeological discoveries and ancient historical texts indicate that Homer was buried in Ios at the birthplace of his mother, Klymeni.
During the ancient years, the island was emigrated by Ionians and later became a member of the great Athenian Alliance. At the beginning of the 13th century, Ios was occupied by the Venetians who built a castle in Chora (city center).
Later in 1537, Ios was occupied by the Turks until 1832 it was liberated along with the other Cycladic islands during the years of the Greek revolution against the Turkish oppression.
Today, Ios is changing day by day and it´s a typical example of the complex of islands in the area. It perfectly combines the classic white houses style, with small windows and big doors along with the small roads and whitewashed pavements.
Dozens of churches are found all over with the biggest one in the center of Chora. Tradition meets modern life and entirely unites with the cultural background of the people. Guests experience the famous Greek hospitality and kindness in its greatest moments.
Regardless of the party atmosphere, there is always time to visit the Archeological and Folkloric museum in Chora or the Modern Art Museum in Kolitsani.
How to Get to Ios?
Located in the Cyclades, Greece Ios is only accessible by boats since Ios does not have an airport. Most people choose to fly directly to Athen or Santorini and from there take the ferry to Ios. Boats and Ferries mainly depart from Piraeus port in Athen (Greece biggest port) from and to Ios.
A lot of airlines are approaching Greece daily. Most international airlines fly to Athens regularly, others even offer inner greek flights – so just find out which airline offers you the best option..
To get to Piraeus from the airport, it´s recommended to take the bus, it’s cheap, clean, air-conditioned and just as fast as taking a taxi. The bus to Piraeus takes about 1 hour to 1.5 hours.
If you land at the Santorini airport you can get to Ios by boat in just 2 hours (Flying Dolphin 45min). From Santorini airport to the port you can travel by taxi or bus. If you take a taxi the price is max 15 euro – 4 persons (15 min trip).
You will find 6-8 cafe´s/bars at the port where you can relax while you are waiting for the boat.
Blue Star Ferries offers a comprehensive website with information about prices, departing hours to and from Ios and sales agents contact information.
Hellas Flying Dolphins is another company taking you to Ios. Search for available routes and book online or play with their Interactive route map.
Ios has buses that run between the port, Chora, and Mylopotas every 15 minutes. There is also a bus to Koumbara from the port every hour. Tickets on the buses cost around 0,5 euro per route. This is a fixed fee regardless of where you’re going. The bus driver will normally stop in front of some hotels on the way and in the regular bus stop locations.
These buses run to Aghia Theodoti beach, or Manganari beach every day, leaving from the port, Chora and Mylopotas beach. These buses return later in the evening. For more information about this excursions contact the travel agencies on Ios.
There are a few taxis on the island that runs between the Port, Chora, and Mylopotas. Taxi rides to Aghia Theodoti and Maganari can be arranged without problem for a good price.
Ios has an impressive variety of goods to offer shoppers, from top designer labels and exquisite jewelry to fine antiques and high quality leather goods. Shops are open 9 am-10 pm. 7 days a week.
Ios is quite famous for it’s original jewelery design and competive prices. Greeks have always been good at making jewelry, as proved by both ancient and modern history.
Yialos - The Harbor
The bay of Yialos is one of the biggest natural harbors of the Aegean sea and is the second most populated area on the island. Being the only point of access to the island, the port plaza is usually busy with travelers coming an going. At the port plaza and the bus-stop are the travel agencies. Along the promenade are supermarkets, boutiques, fine jewelry and gift shops.
The Yalos area offers a wide choice of bars and restaurants, occasionally with live musicians.
Yalos have a wide range of accommodations: from luxury hotels with swimming pools to apartments with cooking facilities to private rooms for reasonable prices. And in no time at all, you can find yourself at the sandy Yalos beach with watersports.
During the season some really nice yachts anchor in the marina. The yachting culture gives a special atmosphere to Yialos.
The yachting crowd looks forward to the yachting regattas, like Cyclades Rally and the Aegean Rally which has a long tradition. This event gained a status as one of the best in the Cyclades, providing near-perfect sailing conditions.
The little fishermen´s port at the marina is busy in the morning and in the evening when the fishermen are coming back on their traditional Kaikis with the harvest of the sea.
At the waterfront, they prepare their nets for the next fishing trip. The locals throw their baited lines into the water and wait for a fish to bite.
You will find a long beach of Yalos to the right of the port, where you’ll also find many restaurants, bars, and cafes. The next beach after Yalos is Koumbara. It will take you about 20 minutes to get there if you decide to go on foot, or 5 minutes by bus. Besides its main sandy beach, Koumbara consists of many small and picturesque sandy beaches.
You can travel to Chora by bus or alternatively on foot, following the paved steps of the old donkey track, next to the church of St. George. The road goes uphill with vegetation, eucalyptus and drinking fountains on either side.
Another pleasant walk from the port leads to Kambos and on to the hill of Skarkos, a site of archaeological interest where excavations from 1984 up to our days have revealed various ancient ruins.
Sightseeing in Yialos
A Byzantine church, built in the 17th century is well worth seeing. You will no doubt have noticed its beautiful situation in the bay of Yalos when you arrived with the ferry.
How to get there: The Church can be seen from Yialos and is accessible by a footpath around the marina.
It´s a breathtaking experience, it´s nighttime… it´s Ios nightlife! That is all about & life at night! The sun goes down, time feels like rolling slowly but life is just about to explode on Ios!
Usually, everything starts at the island´s main square. The majority of the bars, the clubs are to be found around the square or at the back of it in the slip roads of the town.
You can´t really tell how the party starts but you feel it on the air. It´s thrilling, it´s stimulating and makes the moments fly by as the beat pumps up. Makes the eyes burn as the bodies hammer the dance floor.
In the night Chora is really transformed! The streets and squares are filled with people, cheerful voices and music, as everybody gathers to start another memorable night. You will find the village very busy, especially during the high season (June-August).
The main pedestrian street passes through three squares. It can sometimes be slightly overcrowded and it can take some time to get from one end to the other, but it´s just great fun as you meet a lot of people from all around the world.
As you reach the Main Square, the crowd is guaranteed and this place is always a great meeting point.
Many lose their way in the small side streets. But anywhere you go, you will always find bars and clubs. At the main street, you find all the bigger nightclubs of Ios. Weekends they use to close some hours later than the music bars around the main square. Each club has its own music style.
The night seduces, ingenuously allure and everybody keeps on partying. There is no dress code other than being yourself. There is no thought other than party hard. There is no dream other than live the nightlife.
It´s the people and the happy mood all share with no regret.
Chora is the heart and soul of the island’s nightlife. To put it simply, at night everything is happening here! However, no matter how wild the night may be or how much people will litter, the streets of Chora are clean and neat every morning. The locals are having a hard time cleaning up all the mess, so it’s a matter of respect for all of us who really love Ios to protect the village and the island as much as we can!
Party on and feel the vibes of Ios!
Besides swimming, sports, excursions, and nightlife, Ios has to offer a special touch to your holidays with its cultural activities and local festivals. Once a year, each one of the hundreds (365) of small churches scattered throughout the island hosts a festival on the nameday of its saint, and its courtyard fills with life.
Such celebrations are not conventional religious ones. In the evening before the feast, lots of free wine and meat, cooked over the fire, are offered to everybody. All visitors are invited to join the Islanders in the dancing and the general merrymaking, which doesn’t stop until the morning.
Equally warm and hospitable is the feast in Aghia Theodoti, in honor of St. Theodoti, on the 8th of September, where pilgrims carry the saint’s icon on foot from Chora. If you are not inclined to walk, don’t worry. On these dates, there are buses scheduled to transport you from Chora.
The most important cultural event of the island is the “Omiria”, in Homer’s honor. Homer may have been born here, but most probably he lived here towards the end of his life (see about Homer’s tomb in Plakoto). The Omiria started in 1991 and each year, on the first two weekends of May attracts more and more people, locals and visitors, as well as official guests from all areas of social life.
Ios is a tireless hostess, who is rewarded by the presence of many well-known foreign artists to her land. From the more than twenty artists that live here, we will mention the ones who have converted a part of their house to a gallery, open to visitors during the hours noted below. Helmut Kand, the famous painter from Vienna, has been spending every summer in Ios for the past 28 years. His sojourn on the island allows him to return to Vienna with a complete set of images each year. The main features of his dreamlike images are the landscapes, the sun, the sea and the transfiguration of floating or flying objects. The painter has exhibited in many countries all over the world.
It is surprising, therefore, that he finds the time to visit so many places because his images look like he has never left the Garden of Eden! Open daily from 7 to 9 p.m. Two more representatives of Austrian art are the painters Aqua Aqua and Elizza C. Wong (Gallerie TAO Wien), who have been keeping the Modern Art Gallery TAO for 18 years.
Elizza’s creative pictures and multicolored Mediterranean wood-carved works, as well as Aqua Aqua’s water images, are exhibited here. His depictions make the liquid element look like a visual body, and some European art critics have called him “painter of the (fresh) water” and “founder of aquatism”. In the workshop of John Loukianos, the old traditional art of the mosaic is still kept alive. His patterns, taken from the ancient Greek tradition, give a special vividness and elegance to the place. You can visit him and buy some of his works of art every day from 8 p.m. until midnight.
Ios has to offer a special touch to your holidays with its cultural activities and local festivals. Once a year, each one of the hundreds (360) of small churches scattered throughout the island hosts a festival on the nameday of its saint, and its courtyard fills with life.
Such celebrations are not conventional religious ones. In the evening before the feast, lots of free wine and meat, cooked over the fire, are offered to everybody.
All visitors are invited to join the Islanders in the dancing and the general merrymaking, which doesn’t stop until the morning.
The feast of St. John Prodromos
The The most significant local feasts celebrated during the summer are: On the 24th of June and on the 2nd of August, the feast of St. John Prodromos at the monastery of Pyrgos, on the highest spot of the island.
The most important cultural event of the island is the “Omiria”, in Homer’s honor. Homer may have been born here, but most probably he lived here toward the end of his life.
The Omiria started in 1991 and each year, on the first two weekends in May, attracting more and more people, locals and visitors, as well as official guests from all areas of social life.
The landscape of Ios is rocky with little vegetation and sun-drenched throughout summer. Chora is the main village and consists of whitewashed buildings trimmed in blue and threaded with interesting alleys winding in all directions. The layout of Chora is designed to offer relief from the sea winds and the blistering summer sun.
In ancient times the labyrinth of the narrow streets also served as protection by confusing invaders and pirates who often sought refuge from bad weather in the calm harbor of Ios (find out more about history). The harbor of Ios is still said to be the safest natural port in the Aegean Sea. It is easy to spend hours exploring the village and tinkering in many shops.
One of the most notable features within Chora is the painted white lines on all the streets, as they have been done over the centuries. The streets are painted twice weekly. The lines are not only aesthetically pleasing, but offer a cooling effect against the hot summer sun.
There is an amazing amount of churches in Ios. Located throughout the village and across the island, many offer some of the best lookout points. The top church – Panagia Gremiotissa (right picture) is notable for viewing spectacular sunsets. The church with its palm tree is at the summit of the Chora hill and is somewhat of an icon in Ios.
Venetians ruled Ios for over 300 years, their greatest legacy is the castle, built as a defense against pirate invasions. If you examine some buildings closely, you will be able to see evidence of Venetian architecture.
The combination of the picturesque village, the churches, the glorious beaches, the crystal clear water, and the welcoming locals make Ios a perfect tourist destination. The hospitality of the Ios islanders has been a key factor in the success of tourism.
Because of the growth in tourism since the early seventies, many original buildings have been adapted to new purposes – it is almost impossible to believe that many of the throbbing bars used to be donkey stables in former times! Although tourism is the main source of income of the island, the island’s administration had the foresight to protect the local architectural style so even new buildings are constructed in the typical Cycladic tradition.