A ruler from the shadow, Syros could easily be described as the most important Greek island you’ve probably never heard of. The antithesis to wild Mykonos, who is just 30 minutes away by speed boat, this beguiling hidden jewel oozes a completely different atmosphere. Polished, reserved, and blessed with enchanting neoclassical mansions, Syros is the epitome of old-world grace and aristocratic charms.
Though far less frequented than neighboring islands, the island is sprinkled with azure sandy beaches where you enjoy breathtaking nature without the crowds you might stumble upon in Mykonos and Santorini.
While it is often overlooked by tourists, their loss is your gain. You’ll be able to roam the towns freely while discovering dazzling historical sites built by nobility in the 19th century. Much of the island is covered in marble steps, speckled in colorful flower petals that fall from the blooming trees.
Sometimes giving out the impression that you’ve somehow managed to travel back in time, Syros has managed to retain much of its authenticity through centuries. The history of the island stems back to 5,000 BC when it was home to the Early Cycladic civilization and, later on, the Kastri culture. If you deem yourself a history enthusiast, visit the incredibly well-preserved prehistoric settlement Chalandriani to learn a bit of the customs of these long gone by days.
Syros had a turbulent history with many ups and downs, and at one point, the harbor enjoyed more privilege than Piraeus. Architects from Italy and Germany harmonized the classical and ancient architecture with the romanticism of the west. Venetian rule was so strong that to this day, almost half of residents are roman catholic. As you stroll through the gracious towns and villages, you’ll discover many churches that witness the island’s different eras and cultural influences.
The fabulous culinary scene of the island is another reason to visit. With numerous debonair restaurants, Syros is a hedonist force to be reckoned with. Take a break from sightseeing in one of the century-old cafes to enjoy strong, spiced coffee with a side of loukoumi, a sweet brought by Ottomans and perfected in Syros so much so that a batch was sent each year to Buckingham palace to her majesty, Queen Victoria, who was a big fan of the delicious the Turkish delight.
Best places to visit in Syros
Built around a crescent-shaped bay, Ermoupoli gleams with pastel-hued neoclassical villas and a sparkly natural harbor. It was established during the Greek War of Independence in 1820 by refugees who were pushed out of other Cycladic islands by the Ottomans and soon distinguished itself as the leading industrial and commercial center of Greece and was home to the first shipyard in Greece. You’ll notice significant Venetian influence in the architecture of the town. From the polished Miaouli Square to the lavish town hall, many consider the town as the most exceptional example of 19th-century building styles. Named after Hermes, the god of wealth, commerce, and knowledge, the city rises from the sea like a mystical fortress. A joy to discover on foot, the port town is home to one of the most sophisticated neighborhoods in the Cycladic archipelago, Vaporia, whose name translates to “ships.” Here you’ll find the majestic church of Saint Nikolas, a grandiose site with two impressive bell towers clad in marble brought from Italy. On a rainy day, you can visit the Archeological or Industrial Museums, both of which have interesting permanent exhibitions. The only casino in the Cycladic archipelago is located here - while it’s not extraordinary, it is still a fun activity for those who feel like testing their luck.
Technically a catholic extension of the capital, Ano Syros is the medieval settlement of the island that is just high above the sea. With a maze of labyrinthian streets, ochre-colored houses, and cobbled blind alleys, the town serves as a time capsule and still oozes a 13th-century ambiance. Founded under Byzantines and conquered by different rulers, Ano Syros is a distinct and cosmopolitan melting pot of many cultures. Here, you’ll find the charming Church of Saint George, founded in 1208, with frescoes and iconostasis of vast artistic importance. The church was destroyed three times and lastly reconstructed in 1834 and now serves as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syros and Milos. Further ahead, you’ll stumble upon the intriguing Capuchin Monastery, pinned on a tall rock above the sea. Established by King Louis XIII of France in 1653, the monastery is truly a unique site and will take about a few hours to explore. Along with the Jesuit Monastery, found just steps away, it played an essential part in the island’s cultural and educational life. The Jesuit Monastery has a library with over 6,000 rare books, iconostasis, and artworks.
Just minutes from the capital, this scenic fishing village attracts visitors with its turquoise harbor and unhurried Mediterranean tempo. Although small, Kini offers plenty of activities aside from endless walks around the picturesque port. Make time to visit Agia Varvara’s monastery, which rises from a hill above town and affords the loveliest views of the azure bay and surrounding villages. You’ll find several superb seafood restaurants near the harbor that serve the daily catch of fish and a quirky monument of the mermaid Virgin Mary.
Tucked away in a thick pine forest, Poseidoinia is a stunning neoclassical village with an aristocratic appeal. Just minutes away from Hermopolis, you’ll find this mesmerizing regal resort with many fragrant gardens and belle epoque mansions that overlook the sapphire-colored bay.
Previously known as Della Grazia because of the beautiful Catholic Church of Madonna de la Gratia, the village was later renamed in honor of the Olympic god of the sea.
Best Beaches in Syros
A yachtie’s paradise, Galissas fishing village is home to the most popular beach in Syros, famous for its toasty golden sand. Tufted verdant pine trees, the azure oasis was awarded a blue flag award thanks to the translucent and clean seas. Just 5km from the capital, Galissas is walking distance from Armeos beach, another fascinating swimming spot popular for windsurfing.
A sandy beach surrounded by traditional whitewashed Cycladic houses, Agathopes is a heavenly swimming spot in the aristocratic resort town of Posseidonia. Thanks to the pristine nature and limpid seas, the beach is protected by the Ministry of Environment. Ideal for those traveling with children, the beach also has a great diving club where you can get your certification or sign up for lessons. Several tavernas offer complimentary parasols, drinks, and refreshments where you can recharge after a full day of swimming and snorkeling.
For those that like to have the beach all to themselves, Delfini Beach offers a perfect blend of beauty and tranquility. The beach is divided into two parts, one pebbly and the other with fine blush sand, with calm water and good wind protection. Delfini is so seldom visited that many naturists come to the far end of the beach and go commando when enjoying the sparkly seas.
Possibly the most family-friendly beach on the island, Vary is located in the most sheltered bay in Syros and thus perfect for those who come to enjoy splashing and to swim with little ones.
Situated on the island’s southeast coast, the beach is a great sunset viewing spot and has several tavernas and bars where you can pick up cocktails or get a few bites to eat.
An aquamarine gem just 4 kilometers from the capital, Azolimnos is a gorgeous beach with excellent organization, where you can spend a carefree family day in the sizzling Greek sun. After you’re done swimming, you can walk around the charming village of Mona, with luscious farms perfect for a relaxing family lunch.
Best restaurants in Syros
A fabulous restaurant in the capital, Mazi offers a stellar fine dining experience in a gorgeous environment of a bougainvillea studded garden. A modern rendition of Greek classics, the menu is an extensive play on traditional meals and some Mediterranean dishes.
Another jewel in Ermopoli, Seminario, has a similar environment to Mazi, but is a better option for the health-conscious eater and those following a vegan diet. With several fantastic salads on the menu and traditional Greek dishes such as the slow-cooked Creten lamb, this is surely one of the best restaurants you’ll find in town.
Maison de Meze
Set in a traditional whitewashed house with blue shutters and a wonderful garden, this rustic restaurant has an extensive menu of ridiculously underpriced gourmet masterpieces to enjoy during your stay in Ano Syros.
Set in a beautiful garden on the waterfront of scenic Kini village, Allou Yialou is the place to enjoy the best of delicious Greek seafood dishes. The grilled octopus is simply out of this world, and the anchovy sauce can’t be described with words.
De la Gracia
A chic beach restaurant in the gorgeous belle epoque village of Poseidonia, De La Gracia is one place where you can easily spend the entire day without even noticing. Here, you’ll find artfully prepared seafood and sublime cocktails to enjoy between dips, as well as a heavenly brunch menu to enjoy on your lazy beach day.