Discover Sifnos: 8 holiday tips for the Cyclades’ biggest island secre

Who needs beaches when you can descend from mountain slopes to sunbathe on large seaside rocks and occasionally take a dip in the azure sea? Sifnos is for adventurers: travelers who love climbing and scrambling, brisk walking, good food, boat trips and being curious about culture (choose from 235 churches, 72 watchtowers and 65 historic pigeon houses). And above all, Sifnos is for lovers of slow travel. It’s nice and slow and quiet. Dead quiet. delicious. This ‘undiscovered’ pearl will be embraced by the masses in about 15 years, so put it on your bucket list quickly. Here are our recommended activities

1. Go hiking
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Sooner or later, you’ll run into a donkey on Sifnos. The animal is still used by locals to transport items. Photograph: Louise ten Have for Columbus Travel
Sifnos has few asphalt roads. With more than a hundred kilometres of clearly marked hiking trails, on the other hand, it is a true hiking paradise. You often walk up mountain, down mountain with capers and herb-covered donkey paths, with centuries-old high walls of piled stones on either side. You can explore the coast and pass many of the hundreds of churches and pigeon houses that Sifnos has to rich in. We walked with hiking guide Ronia, who told beautiful and funny stories. You pay €80 for a private walk of two to four hours. Bring more people to cut costs.

2. Visit the neighboring islands

Poliegos is volcanic and therefore looks completely different from the non-volcanic but mountainous Sifnos. You can snorkel fantastically here. Photograph: Louise ten Have for Columbus Travel
Take a tour around Poliegos with its secluded cobalt blue coves, imposing rock formations, hidden beach-in-a-cave and extreme rock arch, and visit laidback Kimolos with its lovely municipal beach with canteen and sleepy village. We were half day with Captain Janis of Rib Adventures and his spectacular 370 hp speedboat on the way. You pay from € 450 for half a day. Bring more people to cut costs.

3. Take the slow boat through beautiful bays

Our first introduction to the beautiful rocks and the crystal clear water at the Panagia Poulati church we had sailing with the fishing boat Aegeas. Photograph: Louise ten Have for Columbus Travel
Take a slow trip around the island, perhaps on one of your first days to orient yourself. You sail through beautiful bays, including those where you can’t get by car, such as the more than beautiful Fikiada. You will also pass spectacular rock walls, churches by the sea and the wild north coast. We sail with Captain Michalis and Georgia on their comfortable pooch-pooch fishing boat Aegeas, suitable for up to sixteen guests. You pay € 90 per person.

4. Take a dip in the crystal clear sea

Who always needs a beach when you can also lie on the rocks and swim and snorkel, like here under the Chapel of the Seven Martyrs? Photograph: Louise ten Have for Columbus Travel
To avoid the bright sun, we hiked in time to a seaside rock in the morning to take a wonderful dip in the crystal clear water. The following two places are not to be missed: the rocks southeast of the Chapel of the Seven Martyrs and the rocks that you can reach via the rock staircase at the Panagia Poulati church.

5. Admire the beautiful churches

The Chapel of the Seven Martyrs undoubtedly deserves the top prize for the most photogenic church in Sifnos. Photograph: Louise ten Have for Columbus Travel
Wherever you are on Sifnos, look around and you will see one, two or maybe three whitewashed churches in the landscape. The toppers are the monastery of Chrissopigi, the chapel of the Seven Martyrs at Kastro on a rock in the sea and the high-altitude Agios Symeon with panoramic views over the bay of Kamares. But all 235 are beautiful and publicly accessible. On arrival at the island where an icon is returned to the church, ask for a festivity not to be missed.

6. Knock on the door of pigeon houses

The peristerona is characteristic for Sifnos; in some cases you can stay there. Photograph: Louise ten Have for Columbus Travel
What the famous trullis are for the Italian Puglia are the peristeronas, or pigeon houses, for Sifnos. On the island you will find 65 of these characteristic structures, richly decorated with triangular hanging spots for the pigeons. The ground floor was often a summer house for the owner or a storage room. The first floor was reserved for the pigeons, to breed them, feed them and use the pigeon droppings as fertilization for the poor soil. Only a few peristeronas have been converted into guest accommodations, most of which are still dilapidated. We expect this to be the eye-catcher of Sifnos in the coming decades.

7. Go bay hunting

Many bays of Sifnos act as natural ports for pleasure boats. Cheronissos is also a fishing village with a few restaurants (eat elsewhere) and a beach. Photograph: Louise ten Have for Columbus Travel
What bay should we do today? The secluded and very sleepy Cheronissos, where the water is so clear that it is invisible, or little Vathi with her little church on the jetty? Or maybe Platis Gialos, with its beautiful beach and comfortable beach bars? For every day of the week you have a new bay.

8. Get lost in medieval Kastro

The white village of Kastro is ideal for hours of strolling around. Photograph: Louise ten Have for Columbus Travel
Kastro and its surroundings were our favorite destination on Sifnos. This medieval settlement is built like a fortress: narrow streets, high walls, entrance gates and courtyards. Stroll through the white-plastered streets and descend to the Chapel of the Seven Martyrs or the wonderfully disorganized bay of Seralia.

Travel to Sifnos
Sifnos can be reached via Athens and then the express boat from the port of Piraeus (3 hours) or you fly to Santorini and take the fast ferry there (2 hours). We rented our car for the island at the excellent El Mar, right on the port of Kamares, where the ferry arrives.

Best travel time Sifnos
The best travel time for Sifnos is mid-May to mid-July and mid-August to mid-September, then it is calm and warm weather. But please note that from mid-July to mid-August, strong winds often blow on the Cyclades. This one gives some cooling, but is not ideal for all your water activities, boat trip and your picture-perfect bounty shot. In spring the bathing water is quite cool. Many restaurants are closed before mid-May and after mid-September. Foodies may choose to go in early September during the three-day nikolaos Tselementes culinary festival, where the islands of the Cyclades let you taste their local dishes.

Food and drinks on Sifnos
The best restaurants and dishes on the island:

the zero waste taste sensations of chef Giorgos Samoilis, in his new Cantina in the spectacular and undiscovered Seralia Bay near Kastro, where, for example, the skin of fish and caper leaves are also used in the dishes.
At To Steki in Platis Gialos you can eat delicious, traditional and simple.
At symposio in Faros you chat with chef, farmer and fisherman Marino. Ask for the nectar.
We took a mojito (triple for half price) at Kavos Sunrise from Che Guevara supporter Kostas, who by the way has never been to Cuba. In addition to the interior of the bar, the view over seralia bay is also amazing!
Wherever you eat, don’t forget to try the kaparosalata as a starter, a sweet and sour chutney of capers and onions

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