^Serifos is called the “Iron Island” of the Cyclades, so I thought this jewelry store name was super clever…and yes, I did like Chem.
Last week Porter and I spent 4 nights on the low-key island of Serifos. For the most part, people who visit the Greek islands follow a particular pattern of locations, in descending order of importance, they are: Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Ios, Milos, Zakynthos. These are the “hot spots” of the Cyclades, and for good reason: they’re well-developed, stunning to experience and to photograph, and have a lot going on. Serifos is also stunning, a little bit less developed, and has a whole lot less going on. BUT it has all of the unique qualities that led to certain islands that were less popular in the pre-Instagram age (eh-hem, Milos, Ios) rocketing toward stardom. In a sad but happy kind of way, I feel like this little island isn’t going to be “off the map” for much longer.
Serifos is a about 2 hour ferry ride from Athens, so it beats out every other Cycladic island as far as convenience goes (if you’re traveling by ferry). It’s quaint, there’s one main road that runs through the whole island, and there are less than a dozen hotels. All in all, if not for a small handful of things I’m going to point out, Serifos would feel very Greek-islands-one-hundred-years-ago-esque and be beautiful, but worth skipping if you were heading to something visually somewhat like it (Mykonos, maybe). But because of this small handful of things, Serifos kinda feels more like a ticking time bomb for a tourist explosion. Kind of like the swimming pigs and crystal clear waters made The Exumas (which otherwise have literally zip going on) start to siphon a whole heap of tourists from Grand Bahama.
Okay, so first reason Serifos shouldn’t be skipped: The island’s Chora (main town) is built on top of the sketchiest cliff almost ever. Porter and I both went into Chora for dinner one night, and had to call a cab because it’s so high up and the little houses and restaurants are stacked so steep that Porter was walking in that cautious jelly-legs kind of way you typically only see on toddlers who are learning to walk (he’s afraid of heights). I’m not afraid of heights, and I still had that rapid heartbeat, I-want-to-get-down kind of feeling you get on a ropes course that feels a lot higher now that you’re on it than it did looking from the ground up.
Okay, so I’m not just saying that to freak people out and say “stay clear of Serifos” (even though I just read that description back, and it sounds kind of terrifying). The town is more thrilling than frightening, and, even better, the incredible views are matched by the run-of-the-mill Cycladic architecture and churches everyone loves to snap pictures of and check off having seen on their bucket lists. The streets look like carbon copies of the streets in Mykonos at 5 am (only they stay that way!). There’s also this one Cycladic church that’s painted in all these different colors (I think it’s in the background of one of the photos) that visually is really unique and stunning. If you climb on top of it, you have a complete 360 view of the entire island, it’s like summiting a mountain (which once again makes me feel like Serifos might start trending up in real life and on our Insta feeds before too long).
Okay, next up is that there’s a whole line of amazing waterfront restaurants (kind of like Little Venice in Mykonos) so if you visit you have two places to choose from for dinner: the Chora or the port, or the third option, dining at one of the islands hotel restaurants. The food in Serifos was all we had heard about when we mentioned we were headed this way to any taxi driver, receptionist, etc. in Athens. Every one said it had the best, most authentic Greek food, and they were right. The port atmosphere just made it all the better. Almost every restaurant has seats inside, outside, then across the street in the sand, and the menus are all traditional Greek food and dirt cheap. Porter and I split about six appetizers one night and dinner cost us 18 euro (and it was the best dinner we’ve had in Greece so far). Sometime soon I feel like more people visiting the islands are going to realize that the best food (tzatziki infused with mint, yes please) for the best value is here.
Adding to what I said about the terrain, the “cliffiness” (not a real word) of the Chora carries throughout the rest of the island. Every beach is basically wrapped up in cliffsides and the water is as calm as if you were in an atoll. Also, and most importantly, this island feels like a vacation. I haven’t visited Crete yet, but I have been to Mykonos (which we’re heading back to today!) and Santorini (which I went to for the first time yesterday!) and even though I absolutely love both of those places, they don’t always feel like a place to recharge. They’re the location for an experiential vacation where you’re doing activities and exploring and on your feet a lot. Serifos is the place to get a lot of sun, swim in the water all day, then have your one outing be for an amazing dinner and unreal sunset views in Chora. Simple, not over stimulating, just a pure vacation-mode setting. I’d say it’s kind of like Virgin Gorda that way: you come here to relax, not to party our engage in a long line of day trips.
There are all of four cabs on the entire island, and the one cab driver we had was the sweetest man ever and waited for Porter to make sure he could handle the height in Chora (then drove us down when he decided he could not) and told us he’d never been further than Sifnos or Milos in his entire life and had been driving his cab for 25 years. I think there’s a tendency in the US or developed world to hear that sort of thing and say “poor guy, he’s never experienced the world,” but seeing the way the little community of Serifos interacts, we left feeling the exact opposite. Every time this man dropped us off he didn’t rush home or head over to pick up the next person, but would sit down at a cafe or restaurant and hang out with whatever buddies of his were there, laughing and having coffee, until we were ready to go. He had the means to travel further, he just didn’t have the desire to. What a blessing to be so content and in love with the place you come from, however isolated it may seem from the outside looking in. We realized he wasn’t secluding himself at all, but experiencing his own world has fully and fulfillingly as possible.
In our opinion, two or three nights in Serifos is the perfect way to end a Greek islands vacation. You can breathe, swim, eat amazing food, and ultimately fall asleep in a comfy Coco-Mat beach chair and wake up three hours later knowing you didn’t miss much. At the end of a longer, busier Greece vacation, what more could you want?
We’re going to put together an ultimate Greek vacation itinerary at the end of our time here. We have about two weeks to go, so stay tuned…
Anna Lisa & Porter