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9 UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN IRAKLIA

By Panagiotis Karderinis
READING TIME
As long as it takes to eat a souvlaki

You’ll either fall in love with Iraklia at first sight, or you’ll be out of there on the same day! You’re likely to hear that phrase from people who vacation there often. The biggest of Greece’s Small Cyclades, and one of the smallest of the Aegean islands altogether, Iraklia stands for authenticity and can offer tons of summer fun. There are only limited eating and nightlife options but, as you’re about to discover, small really is beautiful when it comes to the things to do in Iraklia.

There are beaches where the treeline and shoreline become one and there are others that are hidden between the rocks. This island has everything and nothing, but nothing here is everything. All you’ll need are comfy clothes (leave the designer wear at home), a pair of shoes, flip-flops and a swimsuit and towel.

A different walk to Vorini Spilia

Follow the dirt road that starts from Taxiarches church in Agios Georgios (the main settlement and only port) and after 25-30 minutes you’ll get to the beach of Vorini Spilia. The path is relatively easy, but you’re advised to wear trainers. This beach is a veritable paradise, especially on windless days. You’re virtually guaranteed a degree of solitude, which you’ll appreciate all the more as you survey the deep blue sea and the mountains at your back. It’s best to ask a local if it’s a good day to visit Vorini Spilia, so the elements don’t interrupt your beach time. 

An early morning swim in Agios Georgios beach

Agios Georgios is the most easily accessible and popular beach on the island. And it’s hardly surprising, as its yellow sand and turquoise waters are heavenly. The ample shade from trees and rows of benches make this a sought-after spot, so it’s worth getting here early as it does get busy. So here’s a tip: join the early-rising residents for a morning swim while most tourists are still asleep or having breakfast. If you want to live like a local in Iraklia, it’s definitely one for your bucket list of things to do. 

Relish the feeling of isolation in Livadi

Livadi is the biggest beach in Iraklia and the most accessible (aside from Agios Georgios). It is reachable using one of the dozen or so daily bus services or by foot, as it’s just 1.5km from the main town. You’ll find shallow turquoise waters and several food and drink options as well as shops. And there’s ample shade, thanks to trees, and space for everyone. No matter how crowded the island gets, on Livadi you’ll find your spot to enjoy the sun and sea without a care in the world. And if you’re the kind of beach-goer who enjoys dispensing with the swimsuit, then there’s a section of the beach just for you.

 

A boat ride to Karvounolakos and Alimia

There are no roads to the beaches of Karvounolakos and Alimia, but there’s no way you’re leaving Iraklia without visiting them. How do you get there? Well, just book yourself onto the Anemos and you’re away. You can book a day cruise at Perigiali convenience store and most boat trips last around five hours. Don’t worry if you don’t have a beach umbrella, as you’ll be given one onboard. Other than that, just sit back and enjoy the traditional island tunes ringing out of the speakers. Before reaching Alimia, the captain will stop at the wreck of a World War 2 ARADO AR196 airplane. It’s worth every cent of the €15 you’ll pay. Definitely one of the most memorable things to do in Iraklia.

The logo that makes you one of the honorary People of Iraklia

As you meander along the quiet streets of Agios Georgios, you’ll stumble across a house with a boat in the yard. That’s where you’ll find Maro, who lives here during the summer months and has set up a silk-screen workshop that prints People Of Iraklia logos on bags, towels and sweaters. Visit her Instagram account and find out more about her amazing stories. If you’re in Iraklia and bring her a piece of clothing, you’ll walk out of her yard with a handmade item, a lot of knowledge and no bill to pay. 

Morning coffee at Melissa

Melissa is the town coffee shop (or kafeneion) and three other things besides. Here, locals can also procure their boat tickets to Naxos, buy groceries and send and receive mail. That’s right! Melissa is a designated coffee shop, travel agent, grocery store and post office – all in one. Definitely try a traditional spoon sweet, stock up on fresh oregano for the winter and sit down for a morning coffee. When it comes to things to do in Iraklia, it’s a must if you want to experience the island at its most authentic.

Chef Giannis Gavalas’ culinary delights

There’s a certain degree of beauty in knowing that a taverna was once the proprietor’s family house. If you build it, they will come. And build it, he did. Celebrity chef Giannis Gavalas has created a restaurant cum museum laid out with exhibits from his childhood on the island. The menu is an ode to Aegean cuisine… authentic and with raw materials that stand out and combinations you’ll adore. Araklia is rightly considered one of the best dining experiences in the Cyclades and Iraklia is all the more enticing for it. 

Dive right into Tourkopigado beach

Tourkopigado is another one of Iraklia’s unique beaches. Luckily, access is easy as you can get to it by car, scooter or one of the bus services. You can even walk (it’s only 45mins from Agios Georgios). You’ll find it in a small bay with green-blue water. And if you’re lucky, you may even find goats there, adding to the rich natural tapestry. You’ll be luckier still if you’re still there after 17:00 when a luxurious shade covers the beach. Just watch out for sea urchins. 

 

The best sunset is in Xilompatis

You won’t find this spot in a guide book, but locals certainly know about it. Ask them freely for directions and you’ll discover what many view as the best sunset spot on the island. There are no benches or shops here, but that just gives you more freedom to concentrate on the unique colours painting the skyline like a masterpiece. Best of all, you’re likely to be alone as it’s a place that tourists rarely get to. 

9 Unique things to do in Iraklia

Iraklia is like no other island in Greece. It’s wild and remote yet hospitable and friendly. It’s worth spending a few days here – without a laptop or nightlife expectations – to really appreciate your holidays in Iraklia. Your mind and body will know what it means to be truly carefree. 

Discover more Small Cyclades islands

 

FAQs

Agios Georgios is the main settlement and only port. There are several ferries a week from Piraeus (the main port of Athens) or a daily ferry service from Naxos to Iraklia. 

You won’t need a car (there are no petrol stations on the island anyway) but there is a regular bus service if you need it and we recommend walking everywhere as distances are short and sweet.

Akathi: For grilled fish and one of the tastiest lemonato goat stews in the Small Cyclades.

Syrma: Come in the afternoon, grab a table with a view and order a moussaka. The king-sized portions are enough for two!

Maistrali: Great for breakfast under the shade of bougainvillea. The eggs couldn’t be fresher.

Pera Panta: At Livadi beach. Ask for the pumpkin pie and get a coffee to go for the beach.

Drosia: Build your day around a visit to Panagia and lunch at Drosia. The menu includes amazing local meat dishes and a velvety fava (split pea) dip. The local xinomizithra and ladotyri cheeses are a must. 

Araklia: Enjoy some of the best Aegean-style dishes at chef Giannis Gavala’s restaurant.
 

En Lefko: The ideal spot for a night cap.

Surfin Bird: This bar gives you refreshing cocktails and killer sunsets for the price of one.
 

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Panagiotis Karderinis
Panagiotis Karderinis
Digital Marketeer, Lifestyle Blogger & Greek Islander

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