A Guide to Serifos
Serifos - it isn't the first island that comes to mind when you think of the Greek islands, or maybe you haven't heard of it at all. It sits in the Aegean Sea and is just over a two hour speedboat ride from Athens, making it one of the easiest islands to get to that doesn't have an airport. With over seventy beaches, a population less than fourteen hundred people, all whilst being only thirty square miles, Serifos makes for one of the most beautiful untouched islands in the country.
Serifos' residents live in the port, Livadi, or in Chora, the ancient capital that sits 200 meters above sea level. The rest of the island is desolate mountains, isolated chapels, and dispersed farming communities connected by paved mule tracks, which now serve as hiking trails too.
TRAVEL TO SERIFOS - When traveling from outside Greece, Athens is the closest airport to fly into. From Athens, you will have to get a speedboat or ferry from Piraeus, a port city 12km south from the city centre. The total journey time by speedboat is two hours and twenty minutes, otherwise four and a half hours by car ferry, both of which you can book here. It will cost around €135 return for an economy seat and can be booked in advanced, which is advised as the boats get very busy in the summer months.
TRAVEL WITHIN SERIFOS - Serifos is small, so distances between places is very short. However is it is recommended to hire a scooter, ATV or as a last resort, car, to travel within the island. Serifos cannot accommodate for traffic and does not have designated car parks, so parking on side roads can be difficult, especially during peak seasons, leaving your car a long distance away from your point of interest. There is also a bus that runs from Livadi to Chora, but it runs every thirty minutes and does not cover all destinations. I booked a scooter from here and it cost €18 per day. The pick up is located conveniently at the port where you disembark the speedboat, allowing you to take your scooter directly to your accommodation.
Previously, accommodation was confined to humble bed and breakfasts in and around the port, Livadi. However, recently creative Athenians have discovered Serifos as a getaway location, reinventing spartan residences as stylish hideaways.
STUDIOS AMFITRITI - € - located in Livadi, a short distance from the restaurants and bars, with views of the harbor, these studios are easily accessible from the port. The rooms are simple with sea-view private terraces and they offer breakfast as well.
COCO-MAT ECO RESIDENCES - €€€ - a complex of 13 miners' houses built in the early 1900's, now an upscale, contemporary eco-friendly place to stay. COCO-MAT Eco Residences sits nicely on Vagia Beach, offers a buffet breakfast service and has a lounge bar.
AIRBNB - there are so many options for every budget on AirBnB all around the island. Old island homes have become stylish, yet traditional cycladic villas with staggering views of the Aegean Sea:-
Castle Suite - €€ - Enjoy 360 degree views of Serifos from this AirBnB that was recommended by a property manager we met in Serifos.
Villa by Psili Ammos beach - €€ - serviced villa cleaned everyday with exclusive views of the Aegean Sea.
Cycladic House - €€ - I stayed here, a restored heritage home, situated at the peak of the island in Chora, on the ruins of a 16th century Venetian castle, and cannot recommend it highly enough. Gracefully furnished in true Cycladic style, this AirBnB oozes unique charm, with many of the original Serifian architectural features and woodwork from its 180-year history still in tact. The rooftop allows you to soak in the staggering views of neighboring islands Milos and Sifnos, as well as 360 degree views of the whitewashed cubist buildings and centuries-old churches in Serifos. The interior is rustic and romantic, with an antique cast-bronze bed with billowing linen drapes, complete with its own outdoor private lounge.
In terms of which area to stay in, I would recommend Chora. You will feel safe anywhere on the island but this doesn't feel as remote as some places. There are plenty of food options and stores in Chora so you do not need to head out far to eat. Do note that cars cannot go all the way up Chora and much of it is paved foot paths, so luggage and strollers would need to be carried up and down.
Life on Serifos is truly island life - somnolent and little in terms of tourist attractions. Your sole reason to visit would be to switch off, go to the beach, eat great Greek food and relax.
BEACHES - With over 70 beaches in Serifos, you almost have a beach menu you can pick from - pebble beach, golden sand beach, big beach, secluded beach only accessible by boat, beaches with road access, rocky beaches, beach with a church! Below are my top choices.
Vagia - accessible by road, soft sand and fairly popular
Ganema - one of the larger beaches, accessible by road, white pebbles and sand, gradual sea depth increase
Psili Ammos - rated the best beach in Europe in 2003, fine sand, accessible by road, with gradual sea depth increase and has a really good beachside taverna
Agios Sostis - named after the church of Agios Sostis, which sits alongside, this sandy beach is accessible by road and is considered as one of the most beautiful beaches in Serifos
Notino - a small gulf with a rocky sea bed and pebbles, only accessible by boat or following a trail path
Skala - a sandy beach with trees offering shade, accessible by boat or following an easier trail path
Sikamia - situated on the northern side of the island, a secluded, sandy beach and is accessible by road
Each day, we would decide which beaches we would be checking out, get on the scooters and hit the road. The beach we would pick to visit around lunchtime, would be the one that has a beach taverna we could eat at. The quality of the food at all of the tavernas is really good - you do not want to skip this! And with Serifos being so small, chances are, you will find yourself bumping into the same faces over and over again, at the same tavernas, the same beaches, and definitely in Chora.
CHORA - Nestled on the hilltop is the cascading Chora, the capital of Serifos. Chora is essentially split in two parts - Ano and Kato Chora - upper and lower town.
View from Agios Konstantinos (church) - Ano Chora
To see the most incredible view in Serifos, you can climb to the top following faded arrows marked on stones through narrow, whitewashed paths leading to the church. The view from the top is breathtaking, both at day and night, overlooking the harbor on one side and the sugar-cube houses on the other. Our AirBnB was situated a stone throw away from here, so we got to see the sunset and the sunrise everyday from our terrace. If you picked accommodation outside of Chora, the Church of Agios Konstantinos is where you want to see the sunset with the locals, visitors and of course some Greek wine. There is a store you will pass just before entering Agios Athanasios Square on your way up, where you can purchase wine and snacks.
Agios Athanasios Square - Ano Chora
The buzzing square of Chora is filled with colored tables and chairs, the faint sound of Greek music, smell of souzoukaklia and the murmur of people. A handful of traditional cafes and mezedopoleia (places that serve appetizers and drinks) dominate the square, alongside the city hall and church. Summer is known to get very busy here, although when I was visiting in September, it wasn't crowded except for the first night when there was a wedding at the Church - beautiful! There are also several gift shops in this area.
Serifian Windmills - Ano Chora
Although there are not many standing today, there is a small cluster of windmills at the foot of Ano Chora. Instead of taking a right to go towards the church and the square, you take a left. If you go up the hill on the road to the back, you will eventually find some steps you can climb and reach a good viewpoint. Funfact: one of the windmills has been converted into a home that you can rent!
Kerameio - Kato Chora
Kerameio is a high aesthetic pottery studio and shop, showcasing ceramics for decoration and practical use. Everything is handmade by either local or other Greek artists, and can be shipped to your home.
Photo by Kerameio
Given the size of the island, one of our favorite things to do was getting on the scooter and follow the road, wind blowing through our hair whilst the sun was kissing our shoulders. As well as getting off at the beaches, we would stop to see mountainside villages, remote chapels, abandoned settlements and mine shafts. The main road is smooth with many shoulders to stop and take in the incredible views.
If you are not hiring a scooter or ATV, you can do one of the hiking trails to get the same feel. Some are fairly easy and smooth, others steep and not apparent, any many pass through wild fields and hills. For more information on the different hiking trails, click here. The winds can get strong so that's something to keep in mind.
The port is full of bars and tavernas as well as a gas station (important!), bakery, post office, gift shops and mini-market. One of the largest beach on the island is located here, called Avlomonas. The modern marina is nice to walk down, watching the small boats sway side to side at the pier. Livadi is also picturesque during sunset.
Spend some time around the remains of the iron ore mines and buildings where you will see Mega Livadi's abandoned iron bridge that leads to nowhere, allowing you to gain a fascinating insight into the history of the island.
TO EAT & DRINK
The food in Serifos is definitely something to write home about. The produce is so fresh on the island that the most simplest dishes taste nothing short of perfect.
TIP - During peak seasons, make dinner reservations ahead of time. (In summer months, it is common for some tavernas to be closed for weddings.) Order a greek salad with local cheese at every spot you visit.
Οι Πλάκες/ Plakes - €€ - excellent traditional Greek food in Ano Chora. Watch the sunset from the windmills and then come here for dinner after, or get a table on the terrace and watch it all happen. Their eggplant lamb moussaka and saganaki (fried cheese) are a must.
Stefanakos Tavern - €€ - when you visit Psili Ammos beach, have lunch at the beachside taverna overlooking the turquoise waters. The atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed, with everyone taking a break from the sea. Make sure to order horta and their saganaki (Greek greens and fried cheese)
Kalis Seafood Restaurant - €€€ - a good choice for the island's fresh seafood located in Livadi port. You can pick your fish and dine by the water. Reservations are recommended here.
Pezoulia - €€ - when visiting Gamena beach, stop to have lunch here. The views are breathtaking, the service is so friendly and the food is incredible. When we visited, the waiter/ owner would stop serving and start dancing with diners (there was a dance group there) so service was slow, but hey, we were on island time.
Στου Στράτου/ Stou Stratou - €€ - situated in Chora square, this cafe is the perfect place to have breakfast. You will soon become pals with the friendly owner who will serve you the best greek yogurt with local honey and fruits, as well as Greek egg options. When you are here, you must order the double Greek coffee with condensed milk which is prepared in a small pot called “briki” (μπρίκι). It tastes strong, sweet and so good!
Aloni Tavern - €€ - possibly my favorite meal in Kato Chora. The food choice is vast, ingredients fresh and service so good. There is an outdoor patio area overlooking the harbor, perfect for those summer nights. The wine selection is excellent.
To Bakakaki - €€ - located in Livadi, this is a place for all meat lovers, although they do have veg options as well. The portions are generous and service is fast.
Home - prepared breakfast - € - to get the full Greek experience, visit the local bakery and mini market in Livadi or Chora to buy ingredients to prepare a breakfast at home. We bought local honey, yogurt, peaches, olives, fresh juice, tomatoes, cheese and some traditional breads to enjoy on the terrace. It was the perfect way to start our day and kept us held over until lunch.
NIGHTLIFE - You do not go to Serifos to party, however there are some bars you can have evening drinks at.
Barbarossa - €€ - cocktail bar in the square in Chora
Gaidaros - €€ - another cocktail bar in the square, this one with a roof terrace
Yacht Club - €€ - go here to drink, not eat. Past midnight, you will likely bump into everyone on the island here as it's one of the few spots that remain open
Serifos sees most traffic between June and August. The best time to visit is in September when the crowds have gone. During peak season car parking is very difficult. The gas station for your rental is in Livadi. Temperatures can get to 30C in the summer, but it is not unbearable. The island is built on a hill so comfortable shoes are needed; either flat or wedge sandals, tennis shoes or sneakers. Some of the whitewashed paves can be slippery so take caution. There is no Uber or Lyft in Serifos, although there are local taxis. No vehicles can get to the top of Chora so you will need to carry your luggage up by foot. Most people can speak English. The currency used is Euros.