Schinoussa is a small island in the Cyclades with an extraordinary Greek and international fan club. It is literally tiny (fewer than 400 inhabitants and just 9 square km), so small you’ll have difficulty finding it on a map. It is just south of Naxos and a stone’s throw from Iraklia, Donousa and the Koufonisia isles (fellow members of the so-called Small Cyclades). There are just three settlements – Mersini (the port), Hora (the main ‘town’, consisting of pretty much one street that you can walk down in 5 minutes) and Messaria, and virtually no cars (most people just walk to the beach).
Holidays in Schinoussa are about authenticity and simplicity (stilettos are a no-no). There are no big hotels or Instagrammable cocktails … just beautiful sea and many fabulous beaches. It’s an island that casts a spell on those who find it unimaginable to spend a summer away from it. So let’s get you in the mood with some of the best things to do in Schinoussa.
Start as you mean to go on at Psili Ammos beach
There’s no denying that hitting the beach is No.1 on anybody’s list of best things to do in Schinoussa. So let’s start as we mean to go on, with a day at Psili Ammos (meaning fine sand in Greek), around 25mins walk (2.1km) north of Hora. You’re greeted by a narrow sandy beach, tamarisk trees and crystal-clear water. It’s best to get there early to experience Psili Ammos without crowds. And if you’re a really early bird, you could even catch the sunrise in Messaria, which you pass through on the way. But sunrise or not, you can enjoy a truly authentic village breakfast with possibly the freshest eggs on earth (with warm bread and a taste of the local cheese) at To Petrino, a traditional taverna in Messaria.
Choose a different beach every day
The beauty of Schinoussa is that you can choose a different beach for every day of your holiday. They are all within walking distance (from tip to tip, Schinoussa is only 5km long). The closest beach to Hora and Mersini is Tsigouri. It’s only 600m from Hora but, wherever you are on the island, don’t think about driving. There’s nowhere to park anyway. Tsigouri beach is protected from northerly winds and, even though it can get busy, rarely feels crowded. Another wide, sandy beach close to Hora (1km), Livadi is a favourite with families, with natural shade and a 1970s feel.
Roughly a third of Schinoussa’s available rooms-to-let are located here. The beachside cafe-restaurant (Livadi) is perfect for lunch and early dinner (Livadi is one of Schinoussa’s best sunset spots). Alternatively, a short walk away are the beaches of Ai Vasilis and Aligaria (sandy and with lovely water, especially for snorkelling) and over on the southeast coast is Lioliou, a small sandy beach that is 2.7km from Hora. And for a real hidden gem, Gerolimnionas beach is a secluded little cove on the northwest coast that’s perfect for when you crave solitude or if it’s windy.
Get the best first impressions in Mersini
You’ll enjoy every meal in Schinoussa but if there’s one restaurant that stands out, it’s Nikolas tis Schinoussas, a restaurant located in Mersini that’s an institution – and quite possibly the very first thing you see when you arrive at the port. On days with kalosyni (calm winds), don’t be surprised to see an influx of boats from the Koufonisia isles, Paros, Antiparos or even Mykonos, just for lunch at Nikolas! The food is excellent and the restaurant has, to a great extent, put Schinoussa on the map! It is ideal for lunch or dinner, with a great ambience and smiling faces as well as views of all the activity in the port. If you want a nearby beach for a swim before your meal, Mersini beach (with turquoise water and tamarisk trees) is just across the bay.
Make every meal in Hora an experience
You’ll be returning to tiny Hora often during your holidays in Schinoussa, especially for evening meals. So our next suggestion is a couple of dinner spots that will stay with you forever. Kyra Pothiti a lovely, honest taverna, wholeheartedly offering authentic dishes to visitors and a wonderful example of progress made by Schinoussa’s younger generation. It has evolved into an outstanding restaurant, with authentic yet imaginative dishes that aren’t to be missed. Very close by is another Schinoussa landmark, Deli, which has a verandah with panoramic views of the island and the Aegean … and of course excellent food (especially the meat dishes). On very busy days, you might have to be patient – but patience in Schinoussa is definitely a virtue!
Local tip: Deli also has an all-day bar that is great for a drink before or after dinner.
Take a boat trip around Schinoussa or go island-hopping
Temptations are everywhere in Schinoussa … not just the beaches but what about all those other Small Cyclades islands winking at you in the distance! Luckily for you, the Aeolia comes to the rescue with a selection of boat trips around Schinoussa and to nearby island gems. You can choose to explore the Schinoussa coastline and visit beaches that are otherwise inaccessible or go island-hopping. Captain Manolis and his crew (Maria) are outstanding hosts on half-day tours around Schinoussa or full-day trips to island’s likes of Iraklia, Keros and Ano (Upper) and Kato (Lower) Koufonisi.
Try the local products … they’re unforgettable
Spending time in Schinoussa is all about getting back to nature, not least because of the purity of the local produce. Tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, melons, watermelons, figs, grapes … so that’s what they should taste like! But there’s one local product that Schinoussa is famed for … fava. It’s a local variety of yellow split pea and used to make a dip that almost every restaurant offers as a starter. If you like it, you can buy a bag of fava and make the dish at home.
The split peas are widely available (in mini markets, some tavernas and even aboard the Aeolia) and the dip is easy to make.
Almost every local will be happy to share a recipe. If you store the bag in the fridge, you can cook the fava any time within a year. There’s even a Fava Festival you can attend in June.
Tip: It’s not just food when it comes to memorable local products. Over the past few years, a local artist called Akathi has been painting stones and mugs. Her style is so distinctive that as soon as you see her stones, chances are you’ll want to buy more than one. You’ll find a selection at Nikolas tis Schinoussas.
Enjoy the late-night music vibes of Vrachos
The last of your things to do in Schinoussa is something unexpected when it comes to an island you’ve chosen for its peace and tranquility. But just because you value the simple life doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a few late-night drinks. So the last of our things to do in Schinoussa is to visit the island’s only live music venue, Vrachos, which feels like it’s in the middle of the nowhere (around 15mins walk south of Hora). It stays open till late (later than any other place in Schinoussa) and has a loyal local following. It is so popular that it has recently started operating as a restaurant as well.
7 unique things to do in Schinoussa
One of the legendary Small Cyclades, Schinoussa is one of the best small Greek islands to visit. It’s the kind of island where you bring all the books you’ve been longing to read, settle down on a sandy beach and press the pause button.
FAQs about Schinoussa
Schinoussa is a member of the Small Cyclades, the little-known collection of Greek islands that are part of the famous Cyclades islands (including Mykonos, Santorini, Syros, Paros, Milos etc) in the Aegean Sea. It is just south of Naxos and very close to the other Small Cyclades islands, such as Iraklia, Donousa and the Koufonisia isles.
The easiest way to get to Schinoussa is by ferry from Athens (around three ferries a week from Piraeus Port, taking 7-8hrs) or from Naxos 1.5-2hr ferry crossing). There are also summer ferry connections with other Cycladic islands (including Paros, Amorgos, Syros, Koufonisia, Iraklia and Donousa).
No, Schinoussa does not have an airport. The closest airport is on Naxos, which has regular ferry connections with Schinoussa.
Schinoussa is a small and simple Greek island, known for its authenticity that’s perfect for anyone who wants to completely relax and get away from the rhythms of everyday life.
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