Syros is a 3.5 hour ferry ride or a half hour plane ride from Athens. It is the capital of the Cyclades and is well-connected to the other islands in the archipelago. It is a small island which falls into three distinct parts: the main town of Ermoupolis, one of the most beautiful in Greece, the wild north of the island, a paradise for walkers, and the more domesticated south with its villages, tavernas and beaches. Historically it has never had to court tourism, unlike its better known neighbours, as its particular history meant that its wealth was derived from trade and shipping. The result is a beautiful, friendly, unspoilt island with fantastic beaches, excellent walking and fascinating history, which tourism has yet to discover.
The capital is undoubtedly one of the island’s main attractions. It was built in the 19th century by the merchants who settled here and got rich in Syros’ heyday as Greece’s biggest port. At its centre is the magnificent Plateia Miaoulis, which sets the tone for the city as a whole. From here streets of neo-classical houses spread along the waterfront and up the stepped streets behind. The town boasts three large churches, one of which has an icon painted by the young El Greco. Other places of interest are the Archaeological Museum, the Industrial Museum, the Apollo Theatre and the old shipyards.
In the summer the town has something of a cosmopolitan feel as it hosts several festivals: the Syros International Film Festival (SIFF), the Akropoditi DanceFest, the Hermoupolis Guitar Festival and the Syros Accordion Festival in July, the International Festival of the Aegean (Opera) and the International Classical Music Festival of Cyclades in August, Animasyros – International Animation Festival in September and Syros Jazz Festival in October as well as numerous concerts and art exhibitions.
The rest of the island
A single road leads to the north of the island, known as ‘Ano Meria’, or the ‘Upper Part’. It first passes Ano Syros, the original capital of the island, a traditional white-washed Cycladic settlement perched on a hill just above Ermoupolis. Beyond this is wild country — just steep, terraced hillsides, rocky paths and deserted beaches. And incredible views across to the neighbouring islands. It’s a walker’s paradise in spring and autumn; and in the summer its pristine beaches, only accessible by boat or by foot, are blissfully quiet.
There are two sites of historical interest in Ano Meria: the prehistoric citadel of Kastri, impressively situated on a rocky outcrop in the north-east of the island, and in the extreme north-west is Grammata, where you can see sailors’ inscriptions from as early as the 2nd century BC. Both of these make good destinations for walks.
The south is where most of the island’s villages are, as well as its most accessible beaches, which are all within 30 minutes of Ermoupolis. The villages of Kini, Galissas and Finikas all have well-protected beaches and a choice of tavernas, while Poseidonia, Chroussa, Parakopi and Piskopio boast several magnificent mansions, built in the 19th century as summer retreats by wealthy Ermoupolis families.
Syros has a rich and fascinating culinary tradition, formed by the mingling of the simple cooking of the Cycladic islands with the more sophisticated, cosmopolitan cuisine of the 19th century upper class. The result is a distinctive blend which you will have the chance to sample in the island’s many tavernas and restaurants.