SIFNOS: Places We Love

The Cycladic islands in Greece are most known for their iconic white-washed buildings stacked on a hillside that wrap around small, sparkling bays. Islands like Mykonos, Santorini and Paros are often the first to capture tourists’ hearts, however, it is well worth the effort to venture off the beaten path and visit some of the lesser known jewels of the Aegean Sea. 

In an attempt to avoid the tourist masses and discover what the Cyclades are truly about, our family first began visiting the small island of Sifnos nearly 20 years ago. Sifnos, back then, and still today is known for its wild beauty, architecture, ceramics, and unique cuisine. The way individual porches and verandas open up to the streets and pathways on the island have attracted architects from all over the world to come visit. Sifnos is perhaps best known for their history of ceramics produced on the island which date back to antiquity. For centuries, the island’s towns were busy with pottery workshops and ceramics were stacked onto fishing boats and exported all over the Mediterranean. Today, the pottery is still alive and thriving, but only a few workshops continue to use the same traditional clay and glazes, such as the Lembesis family. This family includes 5 generations of potters and their studio is in a small village near the top of the island and worth visiting, but until you do be sure to check out our collection of Lembesis bowls.

Katerina Lembesis is 86 years old and has been decorating pottery since 1950, alongside her husband, father and now grandsons. Her designs are inspired by the land and sea—the things she knows and loves best.

Katerina Lembesis is 86 years old and has been decorating pottery since 1950, alongside her husband, father and now grandsons. Her designs are inspired by the land and sea—the things she knows and loves best.

Nikos Lembesis works alongside his father, Yiannis at the wheel producing the same ceramics that his father, and grandfather made.

Nikos Lembesis works alongside his father, Yiannis at the wheel producing the same ceramics that his father, and grandfather made.

We couldn't mention a Greek island without talking about food -  unlike the rest of the Cyclades, Sifnos has its very own cuisine and is home to the annual Cycladic Gastronomy Festival. Read more about the food this island has to offer and why Conde Nast says Sifnos “has the most sizzling food scene in the [Mediterranean] right now” in the “To Eat” notes on our travel page

From Athens, Sifnos is three hours by catamaran or five hours by ferry. For ferry schedules, check here. You an make easy connections from Sifnos to the islands of Milos and Serifos. From Sifnos' port of Kamares, we take a bus or taxi to our windmill villa at the top of the island and from there we rent mopeds to scoot around during our stay. To prepare for the rest of your visit, check out our recommendations on our travel page and for some light reading try The Greek House, Christian Brechneff's lyrical memoir of his 30-year love affair with the island.

To Eat

When you arrive at the port town of Kamares be sure to stop at the first taverna on your left. This is our family's favorite spot to refuel before catching a bus ride to one of the villages. For lunch, we enjoy the beachside tavernas which offer shade and refreshments in between swims. At Chrysopigi, known for its monastery perched on a rocky cliff in the sea, both tavernas offer great food and views of the scenery. At Heronissos, visit the fish taverna by the sea where you can choose your fish or lobster which were likely caught that day. For dinner, when you want a break from the traditional Greek dishes, be sure to visit Mamma Mia's next to Stavros Eleonas Apartments on the footpath between Apollonia and Artemonas. Mamma Mia's is owned by Phillipo and his son Andrea who come to Sifnos every summer from their home in Milano---you can expect delicious, authentic Italian food here and don't be surprised if you want to return the next night. Another dinner option and our favorite for authentic, Sifnos cuisine is "To Xryso" (Chrysso), located at the end of a narrow path that opens up to views of the island. Finding this dinner spot can be tricky so be sure to ask a local for help.

To See

When you arrive in Sifnos’ small port town called Kamares, be sure to stop by the port tourist shop after getting off the ferry for a copy of a map of hiking trails and footpaths published by Anávasi - a well-respected mapmaking company in Greece. A new edition of the map was released last year in conjunction with the island’s new effort, Sifnos Trails. There are now 100 kilometers of professionally designed and way-marked trails, one of the largest trail networks of the Aegean. Many of these footpaths take you along ancient towers and churches (there are over 365 of them) still remaining on the island. When you are ready to give your feet a break, take a swim at our favorite beach, Chrysopigi. Swimming around the sacred rock of Chrysopigi with the white monastery above and the never ending Aegean sea around you is always breathtaking. The monastery of Chrysopigi is no longer active, but there is a church you can visit. The popular, long, sandy beach of Platis Yialos is around the corner from Chrysopigi and offers lots of food and activities but has a little more traffic than the other beaches. A trip to the other side of the island has a great place to snorkel in the tiny bay at Heronissos and one of the best fish tavernas.  

Photo by Konstantinos_K/iStock / Getty Images

To Stay

Most Greeks that visit Sifnos love to stay near the sea and beach. We prefer higher up on the island at a group of windmills converted to villas - it's quiet and has a nice breeze at night . You can reserve a room or suite with this company or this one. All the rooms have incredible views of the Aegean sea and on sunny days you can sometimes see as far to Paros or Santorini.