Exploring the Island of Ios in Greece
Updated: Apr 15
While we did enjoy our time in Santorini, we were ready to see what the other Greek islands had to offer.
In case you are new here, we are Will and Katy. We are a travel couple that is traveling around the world. Ios was our second stop in the Greek Islands, with only one full day to explore, we had some "must do's" before leaving Ios.
The morning we were leaving Santorini, we took a local bus down to the port, and since we got there early, we grabbed a couple of iced coffees at one of the cafes right at the port.
After a short one-hour ferry ride we pulled up to the port of Ios. As we disembarked, locals were lined up at the dock waiting to pick up their family and friends. We weaved through the people and taxi drivers, passed the restaurants, and walked onto the main road that hugged the bay that was just a short distance to our hotel.
This is the only hotel we booked in Greece that was right on the water and it was only $21 a night! I'm not sure if it’s because of the times we are in, or because we were staying on the less touristy part of the island, but we were ready to check into this hotel and enjoy the views.
We only had one full day to explore the island, so the rest of the day consisted of sitting out on the beach. Ok, we did eventually walk over to the local market to pick up stuff to make for dinner, and then quickly returned to the beach, but this time with our drone to capture the sunset.
The next morning we set out to take a local bus to the beach where more of the tourists stay, Myloptas Beach. It was a quiet and bright morning as we walked along the port. We passed a couple of cafes that had locals drinking coffee and eventually made it to the bus stop. We watched the fishermen on the boats nearby as we waited. The furthest boat was decorated like a pirate ship, while the closest boat was a smaller fisherman's boat with a couple of guys cleaning out their fishing nets. As they pulled remains of fish off their nets they threw the pieces onto the dock for the cats who were waiting to be fed.
Right on time, the bus pulled up and we loaded up. It was a small minivan like many of the others we have ridden on so far in our travels, except this one had its interior stuck in the 90s. It looked like the theming of the intro song to Saved by the Bell. With a few other passengers collected, the driver drove off and up the hill toward Chora. Chora is the capital city of Ios, which we were planning on coming back to after we spent a couple of hours at the beach. The two passengers got off at the Chora stop, and the bus driver looked over at us to make sure we didn’t need to stop there. “We are going to the beach,” I responded. He nodded, closed the van door, and continued driving.
We turned the corner and descended down the other side of the hill toward the electric blue water. This water was much brighter than the water at the beach by our hotel. I imagined it was because the port was filled with boats and the water was dirtied by their oil and chemicals. The water on the other side of the hill was purely for the purpose of swimming!
We pulled up to the first bus stop on the beach and the driver told us there were multiple stops, but we could get off here at the start of the beach area. He then told us he would be coming by this same stop later and reminded us of the times. We thanked him as we got off the bus.
The sun was out, the water wasn’t rough, and the beach was the complete opposite of crowded. It was a perfect day to be out on the water. I had done some research prior to arriving and knew we would be able to rent some paddleboards. Paddleboarding was a recent hobby I had picked up when living back in Florida. I had even bought myself a board in early 2020 but later had to sell it once we decided on leaving to travel the world and it didn’t fit in our small 5x5 storage unit that contained the rest of our worldly possessions.
After taking in the initial views we set off down the road in search of a good deal to rent paddleboards. I’ve heard that during normal times, Ios is one of the best party islands in Greece. As we walked down the road, seeing empty poolside areas and former clubs, it was hard to imagine the party days of the past because it was so quiet and there were only a handful of other people around.
We came up to a cabana on the sand with paddleboards and kayaks lined up against the side, and on the other side of the street was their main office with attendants out front. We walked up to the guy that was standing out front with shaggy blonde hair. He was a total beach boy who had sunglasses on and eagerly greeted us. I noticed this was the company I had found online and had good ratings, so I asked about pricing. A lady came over and start listing off prices and other things they offer, so I asked if they had any kind of special price for 2 rentals. “If you pay cash then 25 euro for both for one hour,” she informed us. She proceeded to ask me if I have been paddle boarding before, to which I said yes. She turned to Will to ask him. “No I have not,” he responded. She explained that one of her guys can teach him the basics, and Will said thanks, but he'll probably stay sitting on it the whole time. She reminded him that they had kayaks as well. Will quickly decided he would rent a kayak instead because he had a feeling he would not be good on the board. We had found a good deal, but we wanted to go walking down the beach first before going out on the water. We told the attendants that we would return.
We walked about another 15 minutes down the road, only to witness more empty hotels, cafes, and shops. The beach was empty. There were cabana posts without the tops and a few boats out on the water, but it was not lively at all. Selfishly it had been nice to see places with fewer crowds, so we could enjoy the sites with less hassle. But we did feel bad for these locals whose businesses depended on tourists.
When we got back to Mylopotas Watersports, the staff quickly attended to us. We paid for our boards, put our bags in their holding area, and walked over to the water. Nikko, the attendant from earlier, helped us get our boards out on the water. Will got in first with the kayak and I followed in with the paddleboard.
The water was nice from the shore, but it was incredible when on the board. It was colder than I expected, but it makes sense as it was only May. We began paddling out to sea. Now it had been too long since I was on a board, so I began paddling while on my knees, to get used to the waves. However, my husband kept joking with me saying he thought I was a pro at this. So to prove him wrong, once we got further out, I slowly got up. Even though it was choppier than the Florida inlets I was used to, I did successfully paddle standing up for a little bit.
We had incredible views, all the way around, from the shore to the cliffs, it was all very peaceful. I just laid there letting the waves rock the board and the water take me away. The sound of waves is the most comforting and soothing sound to me. I could lay there forever. But we only had an hour, and that hour came too quickly.
As we approached the shore, Nikko was there to help us bring in the boards. We cleaned up, dried off, got our bags, and made our way back to the bus stop. We went back to our hotel to wash up and grab a bite to eat. Of course, restaurants are an option, but we tried to save money whenever possible. So for lunch it was homemade tuna sandwiches and a Greek salad.
After lunch, we were ready to explore the capital city. The bus dropped us off in the center of town, and we made our way toward the whitewashed blue-domed church called the Cathedral Church of Ios. The church marks the start of the winding roads and alleys. Our goal was to make our way through these alleys and find our way to the top of the hill, where there were 4 churches resting on the top. We purposely didn’t use our Google maps because we wanted to get lost in the alleys.
The alleys were quiet, every now and then you heard a meow from a cat or some distant conversations in nearby homes. The walls were bright white with a splash of color from either the painted doors or the purple and pink Bougainvillea flowers. This is what I picture every time I think of the Greek islands.
We passed by restaurants, with a few locals sitting outside of them. We peaked into one to see if we can grab a drink, but the older gentleman who was sitting at the bar told us, in broken English, that the bar was closed. Confused we moved on. We followed signs that were hung on the walls and quietly passed by homes, so as to not disturb the locals.
We finally reached the first of the churches, and the most photographed church on the island: Ekklisia Panagia Gremiotissa (Church of Virgin Mary of the Cliff). This church was white with bright blue domes that matched almost exactly the color of the sky. As I was looking at the front of the church, I couldn’t tell when the blue painting on the church stopped and when the sky started. There was a courtyard in front of the church, with a large Greek flag flying high that overlooked the town below. We climbed the hill above this church and right behind the bell tower, because we thought this was the way to the other churches. However, the path came to a dead end. But we learned that in Greece you could never make a wrong turn. As we turned around to walk back the way we came, I noticed the tops of the palm trees were perfectly positioned behind the bell tower, which led to an impromptu photo session.
We continued up the correct path to the 3 churches. Moments like this were the hardest for me. I should have been paying attention to where I stepped, so I wouldn't trip and tumble down the cliff, but my eyes were drawn to the sights all around me. There were the churches above me, the port down below, and the flowers growing amongst the rocks. We slowly made our way up, not because it was hard, but because I had to stop every couple of steps to take a photo.
Once we reached the top, we sat down on the benches to take in the view. We snapped a few more photos, and although this would have been a perfect spot to watch the sunset, we had one other destination we had to get to before the sun went down.
Odysseas Elytis Theatre
We made our way back down toward the city of Chora by walking through the winding roads. We did not go back the exact same way though, because we were headed east. We finally made it out of the labyrinth of white buildings and to an open area with a restaurant and a big windmill across from it. As we walked over to the windmill to take photos, we noticed to the right of us the high hill. The one we had just hiked down. After a few photos and videos, we hurried along. This time with our Google maps opened.
We finally spotted a sign for our intended destination, Odysseas Elytis Theatre. The sign pointed toward another high hill we had to hike. As we made our way up, this part of town wasn’t filled with white-washed buildings. Instead, it had farmland homes with fenced in areas holding goats and chickens. We passed what seemed to be a large school right before we reached the top of the hill.
Now a little bit of context. Typically Will does all the research and planning for what we will do in the cities we visit, but I decided to create our Greek island itinerary. Which meant Will had no idea what he was about to see. And as we walked up, he was purely in shock as he looked out at an incredible backdrop to this theater.
“What, how is this even the background of the theatre?!” Will blurted out. “Who would pay attention to what’s happening on stage with that behind them!? What an absolutely incredible view.”
I proceeded to tell Will that this amphitheater, even though made out of marble in the ancient Greek style, was built fairly recently and was still used present-day for shows and events. “Even if the show is boring, you’d have incredible views,” he exclaimed. Well said. I’d go up there for any kind of show.
We walked around the amphitheater, admiring the structure. Touching the marble seats, we were reminded how cool these seats stay even on a hot day. We noticed the same thing when we visited the Panathenaic stadium in Athens. I wanted to put the acoustics of this amphitheater to the test. I asked Will to stay in the highest seat while I went down to the stage. I then began to talk to him in my normal voice to see if he could hear me, and to my surprise, he could. It’s so amazing to think that before technology the human mind could always find a way to accomplish a task.
Once again, this was another view I was sad to have to walk away from. I took enough photos, but even without my photos, this view will always be engrained in my memory. It is by far one of my favorite views. (And I’ve already made one of these photos my desktop background).
With satisfied souls, we made our walk back down to the city in search of dinner. We had passed by a Gyro spot earlier in the day and knew that is where we were headed. After dinner, we popped into a market to grab some ice cream for dessert. We headed to the bus stop only to find out I had mixed up the times and we missed our bus back. So, we began our walk down to the port. We found a staircase that went down the hill, which made the walk back shorter. The sun was setting as we walked back, and we reached the hotel right before the sun hid behind the hills.
We saw a lot on our full day on the island. The next day would consist of chilling on the balcony of our hotel until it was time to take a ferry to our next island, Milos.
You can see more of our time in Ios Greece in our travel vlog "Ios Greece Cyclades Travel Vlog 2021" on YouTube.
Thanks for reading our blog on Ios Greece 2021!
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