Ios is one of the islands in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea. It is a hilly island with cliffs down to the sea on most sides, to be found halfway between Naxos and Santorini. It is about 18 km long and 10 km wide. Ios is part of the Thira region and the population was around 1,800 in 2001.
The port of Ios is at the head of the Ormos harbour on the northwest side of the island. From there the bus or a 15-minute walk up the steep donkey path takes you to the village, known as Chora as at most Greek islands. Chora is a picturesque Cycladic village with whitewashed houses, stairs and narrow paths, that makes it inaccessible for cars.
Today, the main path through this village is touristic with restaurants, shops, bars and clubs. Apart from the port and the village of Chora, Ios has only some small settlements, just a few houses and some tavernas near the popular beaches like Theodoti, Kalamos, Maganari.
The local authorities have since the 1990s worked on Ios’ development towards attracting different types of tourists (not only young partying people like in the 1970s and the 1980s). With the help of European Community funds some roads have been made, all of them paved, and a scenic amphitheatre has been created by the German architect Peter Haupt at the top of the village hill. Still, though, only few cultural events take place up there.
Ios was the setting for the movie Ginger and Cinnamon (Dillo con parole mie). Also, scenes from the film Big Blue (Le Grand Bleu) were shot in Manganari.
History of Ios
Excavations on Skarkos hill revealing a prehistoric settlement, provide evidence that Ios has been inhabited since the early Cycladic period. In some places the architecture at Skarkos is preserved up to a height of almost 3 meters, and it seems most of the buildings had two storeys, stone-paved floors and a sewage system. Numerous well-preserved pottery, tools and utensils made of metal, stone and bone were also discovered. In 2008, Ios was among six European locations (out of 109 candidates) awarded the European Union Cultural Heritage prize for its exceptional conservation efforts at the archaeological site of Skarkos.
It is believed that Homer’s mother was from Ios, and that he himself was buried there. The locals will show visitors the site of the ancient town of Plakotos at the northernmost end of the island, where the rocky entrance to a tomb can be seen. There is no physical evidence connecting this with Homer though. There are signs of a Mycenaean settlement.
The north end of Ios has a ruined Venetian castle from the 15th century. The island is said to have 365 churches and chapels, like the days of the year.
Ios has alway attracted a large number of young tourists, many of whom used to sleep with their sleeping bags during the 1970s on the popular beach of Mylopotas (near Chora) after partying through the night. Today Mylopotas beach has been developed to an equivalent mass package tourism resort like Platys Gialos and Paradise Beach of Mykonos.
Ios has regularly been voted in various polls as having one of the “Top 10 beaches in Europe” and it boasts 75 km of beautiful, white sandy beaches and turquoise coastlines. Regular buses or boats are on offer to take you on various excursions to the remote beaches on Ios, where you can find areas of real tranquility and avoid the crowds.
Over the last few years, Ios has developed into an island that has something for all ages to enjoy. For many years Ios was known as the party island, however, there is so much more that Ios has to offer. Chora still has a vibrant night life, but if you prefer a quiet night out there are other places like Yialos or the Port, or the beautiful Milopotas beach which are excellent places to escape the crowds during the evening.
Things to do on Ios
Watersports – At Milopotas, Yialos and Maganari Beaches you can go diving, do wind-surfing, water-skiing or on blow up “donuts” behind speed boats.
Ios Water Sports Center
Skarkos – Go and see the amazing prehistoric settlement which was awarded the European Union Cultural Heritage prize for its exceptional conservation efforts. You’ll find it in Campos (near the port in the Campos area).
Party – If you have decided to go for Ios, grab the opportunity to party all night and see the sun rise on this beautiful island. Chora has plenty of bars and clubs to have fun all night long.