A quintessentially Cycladic island of brilliant light, clear water and steadfast traditions
Some islands remain essentially unchanged. Serifos is one of them; definitely a holiday destination for those looking for something above and beyond the glittery façade. The landscape here changes with the light. If you like rugged countrysides, you’ll be mightily impressed by the wonderful shapes nature has sculpted into the hillsides. In the port of Livadi, memories of older, more innocent times will come flooding back.
You’ll fall in love again at the beaches with their blue-green waters. Then there’s Hora, the island’s town, a vision in brilliant white cascading down its conical hill. There is a special gravitas to this place, felt by anyone seeking holidays untouched by mass tourism.
What to do on Serifos
Take your pick; 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. Lia, Koutalas, Vagia, Ganema, Kalo Ambeli, Psili Ammos, Sykamia. You’ll need several summers to explore all 40 of Serifos’ officially recognised beaches – though the locals claim the number is actually 72 – unless you come by yacht.
Stairway to the castle
Whitewashed houses cling to each other as they perch on the rim of vertical rocks. 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 is stunning.
Upstairs-downstairs… in Hora
Greeks and foreigners have bought and renovated many of the abandoned houses in the upper town – Ano Hora – and brought them back to life. The 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.
The mining museum
The open-air mining museum, and illuminating chats with former iron miners, will give you insights into the island’s 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.
Hidden gems of Serifos
The monastery of the Taxiarchs
Crenellations, battlements and high walls make it look more like a mediaeval castle. The most important monastery on the island, it was built in the 16th century and the view from the abbey alone is worth the visit.
The throne of Cyclops is at Cape Kyklopas, a spectacular location with a panoramic view of the southwestern side of the island. It really does look like a giant armchair and you can’t help wonder just how those seven huge carved boulders got up there.
View from above
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 the town from above.