THE CROWD WAS COOL – MOST READING BOOKS WHILE SOAKING UP THE AEGEAN SUN; A MELANGE OF FRENCH, ITALIAN AND LOCAL GREEK TOURISTS. I STAYED UNTIL SUNSET UNTIL THE SKY AND THE SEA RAN INTO ONE ANOTHER. COLORS OF PURPLE, INK AND GOLD. THERE IS NO SIGNAL AT CHERONISSOS BEACH; A PREREQUISITE OF SORTS TO DISCONNECT WHILE HERE. THE WATER REFRESHING IN THE HEAT, THE SAND THE COLOR OF CLAY.
As I drove through the olive groves, I couldn’t help but notice the attention to detail. Sifnian clay chimneys known as ‘flaros’ adorned much of the homes; the land dry but proudly maintained with stone hedges, pruned olive trees and flowers; small, charming, white-washed villages poking out of the hills as if in a pop-up book. Go for an evening walk in Apollonia, the pulse of the island, and peek into the small shops or pick up a delicious gelato from Tratamento. You’ll find a chic, international crowded roaming the narrow, white-washed streets – mostly French and Italian expats who have found solace on the charming island. Sifnos was once the epicenter of ceramics and birthplace to the “father” of Greek cooking. So, it should come as no surprise that there are exceptional restaurants on the island and villages dedicated to ceramic studios.
Sifnos is yet another island close to Athens; a short 3 hour ferry boat ride from the port of Piraeus. This incredibly charming Cycladic island checks all the boxes for a Greek island holiday. Whether it’s gastronomy you’re looking for, or arts and culture, quaint, white-washed villages, Sifnos has it all. And while Sifnos is not known to have the best beaches in the Aegean, I managed to find a handful that made Sifnos one of my favorite islands to date.
A GUIDE TO CHARMING AND DELICIOUS SIFNOS
Sifnos’ history is deeply rooted in the world of gastronomy. Home to the famous Greek Chef, Nikos Tselementis, who was born on the island in 1878 and went on to write a 500-page cookbook, Odigos Mageirikis (Cooking Guide) in 1910 which would become the “cooking bible” of every Greek kitchen. So it should come as no surprise that the island has exceptional restaurants.
Whether it’s at Omega 3 fish bar for an unexpected take on fresh seafood – think, king scallops baked with black fig and local, Sifnian cheese or the freshest trio of ceviche I’ve ever tasted; or perhaps something more traditional like Limanaki in Faros that serves a mean lobster pasta and ψαρόσουπα, fish soup from the fresh catch of the day. Rambagas offers a chic and cool, almost Italian-esque vibe. Make sure to order the baked sea bass with a fiery display that’s just as eye-catching as it is delicious and their fresh spin on a local island specialty, chickpea stew with smoked herring.
The island is said to have 365 churches, one for each day of the year. I did not have time to count them all. but I’ll take the local’s word for it. Perched on the most eastern point of the island, the tiny, blue-domed church was by far my favorite. I woke up and hiked over to the Church of the Seven Martyrs to watch the sun rise over the Aegean. The wind was wild, the sea energetic. I lost count of the number of the stairs on the way down. At precisely 7:00 am, I rang the church bells as a wake up call to the sleepy village of Kastro.
Off the beaten path, understandably charming and no μελτέμια, northern winds, the small bay of Cheronissos beach quickly became my favorite beach on Sifnos. The crowd was cool – most reading books while soaking up the Aegean sun; a melange of French, Italian and local Greek tourists. I stayed until sunset, until the sky and the sea ran into one another. Colors of purple, ink and gold. There is no signal at Cheronissos beach; a prerequisite of sorts to disconnect while here. The water refreshing in the heat, the sand the color of clay. Make a stop to see Mr. Kwsta, the shopkeeper and ceramicist. He has a small collection of pieces, but his stories and enthusiasm for conversation made it one of my most enjoyable encounters.
Check out my other Cycladic island guides, here.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION: Part of the Cycladic Islands in the Aegean, Sifnos is a short 3 hour ferry boat ride from the Athens port of Piraeus. Perfect for a quick weekend getaway or as a jumping off point for the neighboring islands.
VIBE: With charming villages popping up all over the island, exceptional restaurants and a handful of good beaches, Sifnos checks all the boxes for a Greek island getaway. You’ll find a chic, international crowd – especially Italian and French transplants that seem to be in-the-know.
EAT: Rambagas for their baked sea bass and fresh take on an island staple – baked, chickpea stew with smoked herring in Apollonia; Omega 3 Fish Bar for an unexpected take on fresh seafood in Platy Gialos – think baked scallop with black fig and local cheese and the freshest ceviche I’ve tried (reservation recommended); Limanaki in Faros for any of their lobster dishes and their ψαρόσουπα, fish soup; Theodorou’s for something sweet to take back home; founded in 1933 and known for their amygdalota, ground-almond treats in cookie form in Artemonas.
BEACHES: Cheronissos, a secluded and unorganized beach on the bay with n cell reception but two excellent tavernas for a post-swim bite. Hand’s down, my favorite hidden gem of the island; Vathy Beach for turquoise waters and comfortable sun beds with hidden coves. Also, a short walk from Atsonios pottery studio; Platy Gialo for a trendy and Myconian vibe to the islands. Expect to see tiny bikinis and house music playing. We recommend pairing a beach day here with a dinner at Omega 3; Apokofto, an unorganized, sandy beach near Chrisopigi Church, the most famous on the island, with a few tavernas and a low-key crowd.
Tips: Reservations are always recommended but especially during high-season and the month of August. You can use The Fork for booking online and most restaurants also respond immediately via FB or their own booking platforms.