Greece is our favorite country in all of Europe. To us, it’s the best of both worlds: incredible nature and brilliant people. When it comes to beaches, Greece has a 13700 km long coast and almost 6000 islands and islets to discover. Truth be told, only 227 of these are inhabited. Probably Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Crete are the most popular islands. Rightly so, each a paradise in its own right. However, several exceptional islands remain under the tourist radar. Today we take you to the gorgeous islands of Sifnos and Serifos in the Cyclades. Located just a step away from Athens in the Aegean archipelago, they boast extraordinary beaches, charming old towns, and killer sunsets. What else could you possibly ask for? Greek delicious food and superb hospitality complete the feast.
Sifnos or Serifos
- 1 Sifnos or Serifos
- 2 Sifnos Island
- 3 Serifos Island
- 4 How to Get to Sifnos and Serifos
Let’s take a quick look at the two islands. Serifos is just 100km from Piraeus. Sifnos is a bit further away, some 140km from Piraeus. They are roughly the same size, some 75 sq km. Sifnos is more populated and more about culture. In fact, it is the pottery capital of the Aegean Sea. Since there are no rivers in Sifnos, its landscape is rugged and dramatic. The island offers splendid treks to secluded coves and beaches. On the other hand, Serifos’ main rivers, Lygarolakkos and Mavro Klima, and tones of streams, trickle from the island’s hills. Hence, trekking around the island to its sandy beaches is easy and relaxing.
If You Have to Choose
Without a doubt, visit both islands if you can. That said, we believe that you need at least five days to visit Serifos and Sifnos. Rushing through both beauties makes no sense. This is an experience, not a race! To us, Sifnos is slightly more attractive, so we advise you to spend 3 days there and 2 on Serifos. If you are short of time and have only 3-4 days, you must choose Sifnos or Serifos. No worries, both are winning choices. Choose Sifnos if you are into dramatic landscapes and great hotels. Go to Serifos if a laid back atmosphere and cozy beaches are more you. If you are lucky and have more than a week, consider visiting another nearby island. There is no wrong choice: Milos, Syros, and Paros are all great options.
People have lived in Sifnos for thousands of years. Attracted by gold and silver mines, the early inhabitants of the island were wealthy. Several marble pillars, columns, and objects scattered around the island are a testament of glorious ancient times. Today, 2600 people live on the 74km2 (28.5 sq mi) island. Sifnos is known all around Greece for its colorful pottery. Little pots, jars, ashtrays, and chimneys can be seen all over the place. Regarding nature, Sifnos’s impressive mountainous terrain is a sight to behold. Profitis Ilias hill towers 680 meters above sea level in the center of the island. The island’s gorgeous towns crown several hills or sit beautifully at coves and bays. As you can imagine, walking from the hills to the beaches is a fantastic experience. Some treks are harder than others, but the reward is always there.
Cities and Towns of Sifnos
Apollonia and Artemonas
Apollonia, the capital of Sifnos, hangs on top of a mountain in the middle of the island. Its name comes from the ancient temple of Apollo nearby. Next to Apollonia, we find the sister city of Artemonas. Once again, built over the temple of Artemis, Apollo’s sister. Both towns lie along the island’s main road that connects the north and the south. The typical Cycladic white houses and blue domes adorn streets and squares. Fortunately, the center is car-free, perfect for getting lost and soaking up the atmosphere. Apollonia has a wide variety of services, including a post office, police station, banks, shops, a town hall, and a very good Folklore Museum.
Kastro (Sifnos Castle)
Apollonia wasn’t always Sifnos’ capital. In fact, Kastro or Sifnos Castle was the island’s capital up until 1836. Kastro was built on a rock over the ruins of ancient Sifnos. As you can imagine, the views from Kastro are spectacular. If you look to the east, you’ll spot the lovely Church of the Seven Martyrs on a cliff above the sea. Apparently, the wedding scene from the movie Mamma Mia was filmed here. The ruins of a Venetian Fortress are nearby too. Numerous narrow lanes criss-cross Kastro, some go underneath buildings. Ancient sarcophagi and marble objects dot the streets. One of our favorite spots is the fabulous café with great views to the south of Kastro.
Sifnos Hiking Routes
To our pleasant surprise, Sifnos has quite a few hiking paths. Since the hills are rugged, some trails connecting the capital with the beaches can be demanding. Take note that the heat in summer can be unbearable. Thus, we suggest setting off in the afternoons along relatively easy hiking trails. For instance, we loved every moment of our walk from Apollonia to Kastro. The path crosses fields and then twists around the lovely Kato Petali village. Then take the old narrow path under the main road. Two cute geese greeted us there to our amazement! Close to the Kastro, you have to walk on the main road, but since there aren’t many cars, it’s pretty safe.
Beaches in Sifnos
We believe Kamares is the nicest beach in Sifnos. It is also the largest beach, with the most dramatic landscape. All boats arrive in Sifnos in Kamares Town, south of the beach. The 500 meters long sandy beach stretches between Agia Marina village in the north and Kamares town on the south. Beach bars and restaurants dot the south. The northern tip ends at the chic Isalos Beach Bar. Kamares is an organized beach with several sunbeds and umbrellas. Salt cedars, a typical tree of the Cyclades, line the beach and provide shade. The sea at Kamares beach is pretty shallow and warmer than on other nearby islands.
Platys Gialos to the south is the second biggest beach in Sifnos. Though it is equally long as Kamares, it is quite narrow. Likewise, the restaurants and bars along the beach lend it an urban atmosphere. However, the village next to the beach is quite small. One of our favorite beaches in Sifnos is Vathy on the southwestern coast. It’s a beach as natural as Kamares, but there are no boats! That’s probably why its accommodation offer is limited. Those of you into smaller beaches will love Heronissos, Chrissopigi, and Faros. The other beaches in Sifnos are secluded and have no tourist infrastructure.
Where to Stay in Sifnos
We are all for staying in a luxury hotel by the beach everywhere we go, and Sifnos has several. We stayed in the extraordinary Nymfes Hotel in Kamares Beach. Rooms overlook the whole bay, so we enjoyed killer sunsets from our private balcony. The delicious homemade greek breakfast is served around a lovely pool. Authentic local pottery decorates the hotel, and the service is elegant and classy. If you are into luxury resorts, then the Elies Resorts on Vathy Beach is your hotel in Sifnos. The rooms are big and come with sea views. They have a big open-air swimming pool, tennis courts, a gym, and a spa.
If Sifnos seems scarcely populated, wait until you see Serifos! With a population of 1400, it is one of the least populated islands in Greece. Serifos is as big as Sifnos, 75km2 (29 sq mi). Mythology lovers will recognize the island from the ancient legend in which Perseus turns King Polydektes into stone. Apparently, the King tried to marry his mother by force. Serifos today is famous for its slow rhythm and spectacular capital. Perched high on top of a mountain, Chora of Serifos overlooks the entire island. Since the rest of the island is not overly mountainous, it’s ideal for long walks. What’s more, you can walk to several of the nicest beaches in Serifos.
Cities and Towns of Serifos
Serifos Town (Chora)
Serifos has only one real city, which is also its capital, Chora. According to many, this is the prettiest city in the Cyclades. Chora sits on top of a tall mountain that rises sharply from the sea. Just like in other cities in the Cyclades, whitewashed houses dot the narrow alleys of Chora. The epicenter of the city is the 15th century Venetian Fortress, Kastro. Plateia Agiou Athanasiou, the main square, is in the middle of the Chora. Here we find the cathedral, the city hall, and several cafés and taverns. Do not forget to go to the top of the city and visit Agios Konstantinos, the Church of Ioannis, and the Church of the Christ. You will never forget the views.
Livadi is the charming little port of Serifos, 5 km away from Chora. The town’s main beach to the north is also called Livadi. Livadakia, to the South, is bigger and prettier. Livadi town doesn’t have important historical sites. That said, the church in the center, Agios Nikolaos, and the one close to the cemetery, Agios Georgios, are lovely. The town stretches all along Livadi beach. Most bars, cafes, and restaurants are in Livadi. Our favorite, the Yacht Club Serifos, is inside an old building and has the best vibe in town.
Serifos Hiking Routes
Serifos has many hiking routes and most of them are relatively easy. From Livadi, you can hike all the way to Chora. Note that this is an uphill trek, and some may find it demanding. Another option is to take a taxi to Chora, explore the city on foot, and then hike down to Livadi. Our favorite hiking route in Serifos is the one that leads to Agios Sostis beach. The small peninsula with its old church is probably Serifos nicest beach. This path takes you along Livadi Beach, through Bamboo forest, and above the hills on the eastern shore of Serifos. At one point, you can see Lia beach from a distance.
Beaches in Serifos
There are many beautiful sandy beaches in Serifos, but you can’t stay on most of them. That’s probably why they are so nice! The good thing is that you can walk to several from Livadi town. Again, we recommend staying next to the beach if you visit in the summer. Livadakia is our favorite choice, since it’s a beautiful stretch of sand, with salt cedar trees all along. The beach starts at the town of Livadi on the north and ends at a small hill that separates it from another beach in the south. Several hotels, guesthouses, and very good restaurants are directly on the beach. The water is shallow and slightly chillier than the one in Sifnos.
Serifos has about a dozen long sandy beaches, especially in the south and the east. Our favorites to the south are Koutalas, Ganema, and Vagia. Only a couple of houses and a few trees line these sandy beauties. Dry hills surround these three consecutive beaches. The tiny village of Megalo Livadi is on the west, at the end of a small bay with the same name. Megalo Livadi beach is small and pretty. Until 1963, Megalo Livadi was an important mining town, and you can still see abandoned houses from those times. Don’t miss the 1932 loading – unloading platform right next to the village.
Where to Stay in Serifos
Serifos has fewer hotels than Sifnos. The vast majority of them are in Livadi and Chora. Don’t expect luxury hotels here. That said, there are nice hotels around Livadi town. We stayed in Livadakia in the wonderful Coralli Bungalows. The bungalows are right on the beach. From your bungalow, you cross a gorgeous garden full of trees and flowers and get to a splendid tree-lined beach. We loved chilling on there and on our huge terrace. If you are looking for a private apartment, the Vassilia on the Beach offers great rooms next to the beach, some of them with sea views. Their beach restaurant offers excellent food.
How to Get to Sifnos and Serifos
Athens to Sifnos and Serifos
It is very easy to get from Athens to both Sifnos and Serifos. Just like most ferries in the Cyclades, boats depart from Athens’ main port, Piraeus. Since several companies serve the islands, travel time depends on the type of boat. Most ferries to Sifnos stop in Serifos on their way. The slowest ferry between Piraeus and Sifnos takes 5h30min, and one hour less to Serifos. Zante Ferries operates these boats. Aegean Speed Lines has semi-fast ferries that take 2h30min to reach Serifos, and just over 3 hours to get to Sifnos. Finally, Seajets has the fastest boats. They take you to Serifos in 2 hours and to Sifnos in 2 and a half hours.
Sifnos and Serifos from Milos and Other Islands
Sifnos and Serifos are on the route between Athens and several other islands. For example, all three abovementioned companies operate the route Athens – Serifos – Sifnos – Milos. So if you add Milos to your trip, you’ll save some time and money. From Sifnos to Milos, the journey lasts between 40 minutes and 1h30min. From Serifos to Milos, it’s between 1h10min and 2h30min. Besides, Seajets connects Sifnos with Paros, Naxos, and Mykonos. Please note that due to the current situation, boats get canceled frequently. Hence, we suggest buying tickets a few days in advance and checking with your hotel before you leave for the port. They will verify the exact time for you.