Due to strong winds, our sailing ship, the Star Clipper, could not make its scheduled stop at Mykonos. Instead, we visited the Island of Syros. I had done my research for Mykonos previously, but I was unfamiliar with Syros. The Star Clipper docked right in the harbor of Ermoupoli, the island's capital, which happens to be the capital of the Cyclades archipelago as well.
With bright end-of-summer sun and morning temperatures already in the 80's, we decided to rent a car for the day and to find a worthy beach to visit.
Travel Tip: Car rental services are located right in the port area.
After short 30 minute drive to the Western shore of the island, we arrived at our destination. Agathopes is a beautiful beach with crystal clear, warm, shallow water. You can rent a chair and umbrella for less than $10. We started to explore the cliffs on the both sides of the beach which have sheltered school of fish and small crabs and some with our GoPro. For lunch, we stopped by locally run restaurant right across from the beach, which served local favorites, including gyros, Greek salads, & beer.
Back in Ermoupoli the streets were quiet because of Siesta and we spent the afternoon wandering around the main plaza and getting refreshed with a glass of frappe, and catching up on social media.
Travel Tip: Siesta time usually starts at 1:30-2 pm and last for couple of hours.
In the center of the town, is the prominent Town Hall building in neoclassical architectural style evidently influenced by the German and Italian architects. Most of the restaurants, trendy cafes, and shops are located on small streets between the port and the Town Hall plaza. When the shops opened again at 5 pm (the Greeks also have a Siesta), we did souvenir shopping
On the highest hilltop overlooking Ermoupoli, is the Venetian town of Ano Syros dating back to 13th Century.
Travel Tip: The best time to visit as the locals suggested was in the evening.
We started driving up hill with windy cobblestone roads. Finally, we reached the top of the hill.
The town is closed to (auto), traffic, so after we parked our car at the entrance, we started climbing the many marble stairs and cobble streets which led us to the St. George’s Cathedral perched on the very top of the hill. The Cathedral had stunning paintings and frescoes and I paid respect to my patron saint & protector (St. George)
Travel Tip: For memorable photos, step out to the large terrace, which offer unforgettable, sweeping panorama of the entire island.
Syros is one of the true treasures of the Northern Cyclades. It enchanted me with it’s rich cultural heritage, affordable shopping, & trendy cafes, its beautiful beaches and friendly locals. The island is off the radar of many international travelers, but is frequently chosen as a summer escape by the locals.
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Often, when my memories take me back to our Star Clippers Cruise, I think about Amorgos and I see intense sparkling blue. This magical island in the Aegean Sea is part of the Northern Cyclades Group and was less known on the travel map until the late 80's, when it became famous with the shooting of "The Big Blue" featuring Jean Reno (a movie about freestyle diving).
Compared with more popular Greek Isles, such as Santorini and Mykonos, Amorgos has a very peaceful and spiritual vibe. The mountainous relief of the island is hilly and steep with narrow and windy roads -- a perfect choice for travelers interested in hiking and connect with nature. The cliffs that are formed fall into the sea, offering spectacular vistas
Travel Tip: Many of the secluded beaches are accessible only via boat.
Travel Tip: The best way to explore the island is to rent a scooter or a car. If you are not experienced with driving a scooter and navigating through windy roads, we highly recommend to rent a car. After research my husband and I choose Asset Car Rental, a local establishment, located right in the Katapola Port. The daily charge was 45 Euro for a car and 15 Euro for a scooter.
We began driving to the east side of the island, where you can find the island's main point of interest: the Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa (The Virgin Mary), a whitewashed edifice carved into the sheer cliffs dating back to 11th Century.
On our way to the Monastery, we stopped in Chora, the main town located in the middle of the island, just 3 miles away from the Katapola Port. We started wandering around through the narrow streets, passing traditional houses, local craft stores, and accidentally discovered a little culinary gem. Jazzmin Café is a locally-run, bohemian-style, café serving tasty brunch during the day and at night offering night entertainment with live music.
Travel Tip: The second floor terrace is the place to seat with panoramic views of the island and the Aegean Sea. My yogurt smoothie was so delicious!
Refreshed, we continued our journey to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary, which was an adventure on its own. To reach the entrance & its holy doors, prepare to climb approximately 300 steps (approx. 10-15 min)
Travel Tip: you must wear long pants/skirts and cover your shoulders to be admitted inside. The edifice has 3 levels connected with a narrow marble staircase, so once admitted inside, be prepared for more climbing.
After this somewhat tiresome climb, we were pleasantly surprised when we reached the chapel level. The monastery monks welcomed us with glass of cold water and home-made local cherry liquor.
Travel Tip: For best picture opportunities, the views from the top-most balcony were simply breathtaking.
The secluded beach right below the monastery and the gleaming waters of the endless Aegean Sea are hard to describe, leaving long lasting memories. The divinity of this place is evident from the moment you set foot on this holy ground.
Instead the beach located right below the monastery, and following the advise of our contact at Asset Car Rental, we continued on to Mouros Beach, located on the southeast side of the island. The beach is famous for it’s crystal-clear water, underwater caves and attracts local tourists (some of which are clothing-optional). There is a small tavern/cafe right next to the parking lot where you can order drinks, refreshments, and if you're early, even some tasty sandwiches to enjoy with the views from their terrace, or once you're down on the beach itself. There is a somewhat narrow path with steps descending to the beach, which is one of the most beautiful and scenic anywhere in the Aegean.
In the late afternoon it was time to return the car and embark on board the Star Clipper. We ended the day with hearts full of treasured memories.
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