Syros, Greece. Photo courtesy of G Adventures.
I recently spent a month on the island of Syros, in Greece. A friend of a friend had a house, the house was empty, we were all invited to use it before high season began. Though Syros is in the Cyclades, a group of islands that includes the popular Mykonos and Ios, I had never heard of it before my trip. This was my first trip to Greece, so it’s fair to say that I hadn’t done much research, but of all the islands in the news, Syros was conspicuously absent.
I quickly learned that this was a very good thing. From a medieval town overlooking the harbour to small family-run restaurants in secluded bays, Syros had a lot to offer even during its shoulder season.
You can see my long photoessay from the island here, but since G Adventures Greek Sailing program does stop in Finikas, the town I walked to daily for groceries, I wanted to put together a short piece on what you can do during a visit to the island.
Eat at Dios Xeipos
This family owned taverna not only serves some of the best thin fennel pies on Syros, but it is run by one of the nicest couples I’ve met in my time on the island. Plus: wifi. Try their mixed grill plate and their tomato, mint, and feta salad. With a view of the Finikas marina, it is a perfect place to base yourself for a few hours as the sun goes down.
Dia Xeiros restaurant. Photo courtesy of G Adventures.
Finikas marina. Photo courtesy of G Adventures.
Visit Ano Syros in Ermoupoli
The island’s capital of Ermoupoli rose to prominence during the nineteenth century, a base for refugees fleeing Chios, Psara and Asia Minor during the war of Greek independence. Long before this industrial peak, however, the city of Ano Syros was built at the edge of a cliff, houses clustered tightly around one another to provide places to hide if it was attacked. While the city itself was constructed during the thirteenth century, much of it remains and has been restored, with tiny cafes and shops serving snacks and drinks, and the incredibly picturesque teeny alleys providing a backdrop for some lovely photos.
Another bonus is that from Ano Syros you can get a wonderful view of Ermoupoli below, including the busy harbour and ferry docks. While the current city is only a shell of its former shipbuilding and economic hub, it is on the rise once again within Greece, since many of the ferries heading to Mykonos stop at its port.
Climb to the top of the old city, view the harbour Anastasi
Another view of the city comes from the beautiful Byzantine Anastasi Church, its blue dome sticking out from the Vrondado hillside and matching the often-clear sky. Built in the late 1800s but completed in 1909, Anastasi is a sight to behold, but remains an ideal place to see the city below. From its doors, you can look to the dizzying narrow staircases of old Ermoupoli, and further down still, the modernized pier and the shipping crates heading in and out of the island. Bring a bottle of water, a snack, and enjoy the view.
Ermoupoli Harbour. Photo courtesy of Jodi Ettenberg.
Anastasi Church. Photo courtesy of Jodi Ettenberg.
Visit Ambela beach and eat at Ambela tavern
While nearby Megas Gialos beach remains the most popular on this side of Syros, right at its door is the miniature cove of Ambela, including an incredibly delicious fresh food stop at Ambela Tavern. From apaki (Cretan smoked pork) to the fish of the day, you can make a full afternoon of swimming in the bay, followed by reading on the beach, and finally a well-priced but glorious meal.
Don’t miss their desserts, either—honey topped with walnuts and fresh yoghurt make for the best end to any meal.
Swimming at Ambela beach. Photo courtesy of Jodi Ettenberg.
Head to San Michali for its famous cheese and honey
San Michali has been likened to Greek parmesan, but the cheese has a taste unlike any other, so much so that it has been awarded a Protected Designation of Origin. It is a hard cheese much like parmesan, and made with cow’s milk – but its aftertaste is salty and then spicy, a complicated mixture of two disparate flavours unlike other cheeses I had eaten on the island. You can head to To Plakostroto Taverna, where the cheese is made, with great spirits and appetizers to keep it company in your stomach.
View from To Plakostroto Taverna. Photo courtesy of Jodi Ettenberg.
Looking to make the most out of your time in Greece? Look no further. G Adventures sails around the Greek Islands with the choice of 8, 10 or 15 day itineraries. So, what are you waiting for?