Among the Cycladic islands, Sifnos stands out for both its architecture and natural beauty. Once a thriving gold and silver mining location, it has, since ancient times, cultivated a reputation for the finer things in life. Today the island combines the picturesque with a rich tradition in cuisine and crafts, along with a high-level infrastructure in tourism. Despite its refined culture and “Cycladic chic” ambience, Sifnos retains a low profile that instills peacefulness in the visitor.
The island offers a wide array of beaches, from Panagia Chryssopigi, where you can dive from rocky ledges, to more organized swimming at Kamares, Platys Gialos and Vathy. For those who prefer to avoid crowds there is Fykiada, accessible on foot, while if you rent a yacht or have your own the island has multiple small, secluded natural bays to enjoy.
The town of Artemon is defined by its beautiful neoclassical homes and well-tended narrow streets, while its surrounding villages stand out for their whitewashed courtyards, the deep colors of the bougainvillea and the finely crafted terracotta chimney tops on the roofs. Traditional cuisine on Sifnos includes chickpea soup made in ceramic bowls, mastelo (lamb or kid baked on vine branches) and salad with capers. A swim at the quaint little ancient port of Seralia can be followed by a seafood hors d’oeuvre, and later on by a walk up to the medieval settlement of Kastro (Castle) with the Venetian loggias to see the sunset and finally you can wrap up an eventful day with Sifnos’ rich nightlife.
Apollonia also offers plenty of choices for entertainment, as well as more traditional pursuits, especially the island’s church festivals (panigyri), which are accompanied by food for all and music – the island even has a name for locals who organize the festivals (panigyrades). If you go to the island in September, you will catch the annual Cycladic Gastronomy Festival, named after its native Nikolaos Tselementes, a renowned chef in Greece forever synonymous with the Greek cookbook.
Like a gracious cosmopolitan hostess who also follows local tradition, Sifnos is an island of opposites that work together and provides a mix of people and lifestyles without losing its balance.
Things to do on Sifnos
Trek the trail from Kastro to Eptamartyros
One visit to this conical hill, where you will find the walled mediaeval village of Kastro (Castle), will capture your imagination. Vaulted arches, mystical little chapels, stone cottages nestled behind ancient foundations. Take in the breathtaking view from the trail around the settlement towards the sea to the chapel of Eptamartyrou. Mariners love this point, as well as the port of Seralia that flourished under Frankish rule. There you can savour local delicacies in the quaint little ouzeries.
Cycladic architecture harmonising with nature
The villages of Sifnos are built in perfect harmony with each other and with the landscape. Apollonia, Artemonas, Ag Loukas, Exambelos, Katavati, Pano (Upper) and Kato (Lower) Petali, all dotted around the centre of the island like electrons around a nucleus. Here students come to learn the essentials of Cycladic architecture first hand. During your holidays here, you’ll never tire of walking around them with their cobblestone lanes and whitewashed stairways.
One for the road
Sifnos by night is a one-way road. Whatever you end up doing, you will pass through the famous street of Apollonia, teeming with restaurants, cafes, chapels, boutiques and stone dwellings with beautiful patios; an ideal setting, in fact, for sipping cocktails!
The potter’s art
The island’s soil is famously fortified by clay, water and sun. Potters set up their workshops here centuries ago and their ceramics became famous throughout Greece. Visit the workshops, where traditional artisans still use the potter’s wheel, and Apollonia’s Folklore Museum to find out all about this unique art.
The irresistible beauty of Vathi
From the hill above Vathi, the view is like an aerial photograph. The bay with its calm, deep blue water almost forms a complete circle. St Taxiarchis, a church built in the 16th century, sits on the dock, a landmark at the edge of the beach. This picturesque port, with its sandy beach and seafood restaurants, is guaranteed to charm you.
A site of pilgrimage
At dawn, the sun rises behind the belltower of Chrysopigi Monastery, painting everything in resplendent shades of pink and orange. The 17th century monastery, built on a craggy rock, is the most important pilgrimage site on the island.
Hidden gems of Sifnos
Local chickpea soup
In every Sifnian household, every Sunday morning, chickpea soup steams in a ceramic pot. The cooking begins the previous night, when the chickpeas are boiled with oil and rainwater and then left to simmer slowly all night in a wood-burning oven.
Locals enjoy their soup after coming home from the morning church service, accompanied by olives, bread and wine. It is featured in the restaurants here, along with mastelo (lamb or goat slow-cooked in a clay pot). Sifnian recipes prove that true happiness lies in simplicity.
The island’s acropolis
At the top of Agios Andreas Hill, you will discover the ruins of the fortified acropolis built in the Mycenaean era and the church of Agios Andreas. The view is extraordinary.
Virgin Mary of the mountain
Looking out from the courtyard of the beautiful church, the panoramic view stretches from Platis Yialos to Kimolos. You can have a similarly dazzling experience at the church of St Simeon, the white church overlooking the port of Kamares.
Experience the best of Sifnos
A walking tour of Sifnos’ main town
- Cycladic architecture harmonising with nature
- One for the road
- The potter’s art
- A site of pilgrimage
- The island’s acropolis