Mina Agnos, co-founder and president of Travelive, knows Greece extremely well. We asked her for an up close report of one of her favorite destinations there and she’s shared her tips for visiting Ios, from the best beaches, to the bars and how to live like a real local.
For many American travelers and agents, Greece has become synonymous with Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and perhaps Crete. These destinations offer the most upscale accommodations and boast a well-developed tourism network of luxury cars, activities and yachts. And, while they remain high on the must-see list for Greece, travelers focusing strictly on these islands may be missing out on some untouched authenticity and a brush with the local culture.
I am excited by the development of gorgeous boutique hotels and some really local experiences available on some of the lesser-known Cycladic islands. Ios in particular, has gained my attention for the 2016 summer season.
Ios is located in the heart of the Cycladic Island group. It does not have an airport and connects by ferry to Athens in four hours, Mykonos in two hours, or Santorini in 45 minutes. Private yacht and helicopter transfers are also available from both islands.
Ios boasts more than 40 stunning, pristine beaches. Some, like the gorgeous Papa Beach, are only accessible by private boat and offer seclusion and serenity. Here, guests can enjoy a private day by the sea with a scrumptious picnic or seaside BBQ lunch.
For more excitement under the sun, guests can head to Mylopotas Beach where they will find more than a half-mile stretch of golden sand and the exhilarating Free Beach Bar and Lounge (+30 22860 28357 /freebeachbar.gr). Here guests can lounge in king sized beach beds while enjoying delicious cocktails featuring locally grown fruits and Greek liquors.
For a more traditional outing, a visit to the picturesque Chora offers the white-washed village setting with the lovely pedestrian footpaths overlooking the stunning blue sea.
Here, step back in time with a Greek coffee or an ouzo with meze at the traditional “Paradosiako Kafenio” (Greek for “traditional coffee house”) under the shade of the fragrant bougainvillea.
In the Town Hall of Chora, guests can find the archaeological museum, which is home to several examples of pottery, kitchen utensils and work tools made from metal, and stone from Skarkos ([email protected]). Skarkos is the prehistoric settlement of the mid-3rd millennium BC that had been exceptionally well preserved and the site located near Chora is open to the public daily. Nearby, the tomb of Homer, the famous Greek poet known for the Odyssey, can be found. Two must-see sites for lovers of the Greek Classics … and an exhilarating walk for hikers and trekkers.
Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy a private trekking tour to one of the few cedar forests in the Aegean at the private Papa Estate. Here, a variety of farming and culinary pursuits are also available. Foodies can revel in a walk through the Estate’s delightful organic vegetable garden with a local chef and participate in local recipe cooking classes using these local vegetables along with regional Cycladic wines parings.
Ios is known for its gorgeous fresh local foods. There is sumptuous seafood from Koumbara (+30 22860 91699) or traditional local cuisine at Polydoras (+30 22860 91132), both located on Koumbara beach. Near the port, Octopus Tree ([email protected]) and Meze Meze (+30 697 393 7083) serve Greek mezedes (tapas) all day long, as well as local favorites. Or break up the beach day with a wonderful fresh lunch at the Drakos Fish Tavern (+30 2286 091281) on Mylpotas Beach.
As evening approaches, guests can head to the stunning Pathos Cocktail and Lounge Bar (+30 22860 28357) to enjoy stunning sunsets with a memorable soundtrack as you toast to the evening. For a variety of Greek meze and cocktails with a unique twist, guests can also visit the quirky Katogi (+30 698 344 0900).
The new Agalia Luxury Suites (Tzamaria, Ios 84001, +30 22860 91019, agaliahotel.com) offers a dazzling base for visitors to the island of Ios. The word “agalia” means hug, which is exactly the feeling that guests will enjoy in this private, Greek-owned property. This beautifully designed boutique hotel offers 12 unique suites and a level of “philoxenia” (local hospitality) that the Greeks are famously for.