Some islands remain essentially unchanged. Serifos, in the Cyclades, is one of them, a wonderful holiday destination for those looking for something above and beyond a glittery facade.
The landscape on Serifos changes with the light. If you like rugged countryside, you’ll be impressed by the wonderful shapes nature has sculpted into the hillsides and around the island are beaches with blue-green waters. Meanwhile, in the port of Livadi, memories of older, more innocent times will come flooding back.
And then there’s Serifos’ main town, a vision in brilliant white cascading down a conical hill and one of the most beautiful to gaze upon in the Cyclades. And that’s saying something!
Blue or green, shallow or deep waters, sand or pebbles, shaded or sun-drenched, blessed by a chapel or garnished with its very own taverna? The choice is yours. Lia, Koutalas, Vagia, Ganema, Kalo Ambeli, Psili Ammos and Sykamia are some of the highlights. But you’ll need several summers to explore all 40 of Serifos’ officially recognised beaches (though the locals claim the number is actually 72) … an impressive number even for an island, let alone one in the Cyclades. Perhaps you might be hiring that yacht after all?
The whitewashed houses of Serifos cling to each other as they perch on the rim of vertical rocks above Hora. Facing east, they seem to tumble down the slope, solid and fluid all at once. They rest on the scattered ruins of the ancient town, referred to by Xenophon. A stairway leads higher and higher to the Venetian castle that encloses the chapels of Agia Varvara, the Saviour, Agios Konstandinos and Agios Ioannis. The view from here one of the best in the Cyclades.
Greeks and foreigners have bought and renovated many of the abandoned houses in the upper town (Ano Hora) and brought them back to life. Serifos’ main square, Pano Piatsa, is dominated by the church of Agios Athanasios and the neoclassical Town Hall. At night, it becomes one big party as the tables fill with appetisers, ouzo, coffees and other drinks. To avoid the heat, walk down to the lower town (Kato Hora) in the early morning. It’s a Cycladic maze of whitewashed alleys and small courtyards and cascading bougainvillea, a startling contrast with the bare expanse of mountains beyond.
Discover the Cycladic charm of Serifos’ Hora
The open-air mining museum (and illuminating chats with former iron miners) will give you insights into Serifos’ main source of income in years past. At sunset, wander over to the impressive loading rig that juts out over Megalo Livadi bay. The hillside above it is rust-coloured, decorated with old rail tracks, wagons and tunnel mouths.
Crenellations, battlements and high walls make the Monastery of the Taxiarches look more like a medieval castle. The most important monastery on Serifos was built in the 16th century and the view from the abbey alone is worth the visit.
This geological formation really does look like a giant armchair and you can’t help wonder just how those seven huge carved boulders got up there. The Throne of Cyclops is at Cape Kyklopas, a spectacular location with a panoramic view of the southwestern side of the island.
At sunset, take the stone path the old miners used between the heliport and Hora and you’ll see a magical side to the island. This is the only spot where you can witness Serifos’ town from above.