As our late summer vacation we spent a week on Ios, which is a small island part of the cyclades and right next to Santorini. It was my absolute favorite vacation so far! The island is breathtaking with it's typical white and blue Grecian architecture, the clear ocean, the friendliest people and amazing food.
The trip to Ios is a little bit difficult since the island doesn't have an airport, but it's absolutely worth it. You can either fly to Santorini airport and use the ferry, or do what we've decided to do: fly to Athens, spend an evening in the city and take the speed ferry early the next morning. This one is taking about 3,5 hours, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well organized, punctual and comfortable traveling with the ferry was. Definitely better than traveling via different airports including transfer periods to Santorini. And what's best, you can see a lot of the ocean and other island during the journey, which is a great start to your holiday.
When arriving into the harbor of Ios you'll immediately get this vacation feeling with the clear blue ocean, the first sight on to the hills of the island and the beautiful architecture. In just 5 minutes with a taxi you'll be in the main town Chora and in 5-10 more minutes in Mylopotas beach, which is where we stayed.
Read on to find out more about the best time to go, where we stayed, the most delicious restaurants and what to do during your stay.
What time to go
Late summer - September
The middle of September was the perfect time to go there since there where not a lot of tourists anymore, but the weather was still amazing in its late twenties. I would say it's the right time to go as a couple without kids, if you'd like to have a relaxed romantic holiday. The whole island was very calm and I was more than relieved that there were no party tourists. In Greece it can get very very hot with about 40 degrees in the summer, which means you can't really do anything but hiding in the shadows until 6pm. This time of the year I really enjoyed to easily experience Greece and discover the island during the day while having the most beautiful weather and temperatures in September.
Where to stay
Ios Palace Hotel & Spa, Mylopotas Beach
Right next to the Mylopotas Beach and near the main town Chora this hotel has the perfect location for your Ios holiday. But we were especially drawn to the hotel's design and architecture which is a perfect mix of white Grecian buildings with modern stylish interior design elements. It's build into the hill, which gives you the best ocean view from the pool, the breakfast area or your room's balcony. We have been to room 110 which is at the very top of the hill and therefor a little apart from the rest of the hotel. It was our own little paradise!
Normally a laid-back day would start with a lovely breakfast at the outside patio followed by a quick fitness session with amazing views over the bay and lounging around and reading at one of the fabulous pools right after that. In the afternoon you just have to walk five steps and your at the beautiful Mylopotas beach, where you can enjoy your time until the sun sets and finish the day with a romantic walk along the beach. In the evening it's just a short drive (5-10 minutes) or walk (15 minutes) to the main town Chora, which has the cutest narrow alleys and delicious restaurants.
All in all there is honestly not one point of criticism for the Ios Palace hotel. The people have been very kind and friendly and we immediately felt home in our room. Furthermore we were always in awe when walking the grounds, looking over the bay and appreciating all little details they included so thoughtfully. We will definitely come back.
Where to eat
Agosto - Chora: dinner
Offers a mix of mediterranean cuisine and has the best atmosphere and interior design. You should definitely get an Aperol Spritz here as well, since they're the best we've had so far.
Lord Byron - Chora: dinner
This restaurant looks a little crazy, but is on the top of our list of the best food we've tasted during our stay. It doesn't happen often anymore these days that you'll will eat a dish and taste something absolutely new, you've never tasted before. Here you should order the pita bread with the Baba Ganoush dip as a starter.
Elpis - Mylopotas: dinner
This Grecian tavern is right next to the Ios Palace hotel with the perfect view over the ocean and offers traditional Grecian cuisine in a very great quality. Take the seafood!
Cantina del Mar - Mylopotas: lunch
On probably six out of our seven days on the island we've had lunch at the Cantina del Mar. Located right next to the beach it has the best variety of lunch snacks. From yoghurt with fresh fruit, to pancakes (my favorite), salads, baguettes, wraps and smoothies - everyone will find their personal craving satisfied.
What to do and visit
Rent a quad or scooter
There's nothing more fun than discovering all parts of this small island on a quad or scooter. Since the island is fairly small you can easily reach the furthest beach in 50 minutes while driving through the most scenic landscape. And I have to say the way to our destination was one of the most fun parts since I loved driving our little quad up and down the hills and around all the curves (the child in me definitely came out to play). Also the streets were surprisingly in absolute immaculate new condition.
Visit Manganari beach
This is by far the most beautiful beach on the island with clear water and fine sand. Most of the Grecian beaches do have some stones, but not this one. It's perfect! Right before arriving you can take a turn to the left beach or to the right beach - take the right turn (to Antonios tavern), since this beach is a little more deserted from the other and the sand even more silky-soft.
Walk or drive to the capital Chora
Chora is the personification of a Grecian town with its white buildings, blue roofs, traditional churches and narrow alleys. Build onto a hill, you'll have an amazing view from the top and can get lost in the cute alleys on your way up and down. If you'd like to have photos with the typical Grecian background, you're right here.
Boat tour to hidden beaches
Since some of the beaches are not accessible onshore it might be a fun activity to book a little boat tour bringing you to that secret beaches. We haven't done this during our stay, but it's definitely on our list for the next time. That way you can also soak in all the pretty coast views and feel the sea breeze on board.
Ios is perfectly located next to a lot more of the cyclades islands that might be interesting to visit. So if you'll have a little more time, you can easily book a ferry to Santorini, Naxos or Paros. Or the other way around - if you're staying on one of the other islands, you should definitely plan to hop over to Ios.