Ios Island used to be known as the Greek island for partying – I remember hearing about it when I was backpacking a long time ago (thank god those days are over!!!). It still attracts a young crowd in the old town at the height of summer but it also now has some great boutique hotels, lovely restaurants (the food is amazing), some hidden gems and importantly a long list of Intstagrammable things to do in Ios Greece!
1. Things to do in Ios – Take a Boat Trip
If you only do one thing whilst on the Greek Island Ios do make it taking a boat trip. As you can imagine, there are many different boat tour Ios options available. The most common option takes off from Mylopotas Beach. It then heads north for some swimming in caves and even cliff jumping if that is your thing.
The boat then heads south down the West coast of Ios island Greece. There are several small beaches along the way that are only easily accessed from the water so the crowds tend to be low no matter what time of year you are visiting. These include Klima, Pepa, Tripiti and several others.
The typical Ios Greek Island boat trip then ends with a stop at Maganari beach, the second most popular beach on Ios island located at its southern tip. Maganari beach Ios has full facilities – not as many as Mylopotas but restaurants, bars, sun loungers and umbrellas etc.
There are many different boat options at Ios in Greece. Take a small boat if there are just a few of you and you want to set your own itinerary – this is what we did. Or there are options for no matter what size party you are with as well as alternatives to add in food etc.
It really is lovely heading down the stunning coastline of Ios Greece. Afterwards, we headed to Drakos for lunch (more on that to come) and a few wines and then lazed around on the sunbeds at the Free Beach Club – a great thing to do on Ios island!
2. Blue and White churches and really any Greek Church
Rumour has it there are 365 churches on Ios! That isn’t confirmed but there are certainly a very large number of extremely photogenic churches on this Greek Island! The good news is that many of them are the signature super cute Greek Island blue and white as well!
3. The Chora backstreets
Chora is the old town of Ios and filled with winding streets lined with white houses and bougainvillaea and blue doors and window sills and other photogenic Greek things. It is definitely worth wandering these photogenic back streets. However, in general, Chora old town is not a great place to go in the evening. It is filled with bars offering many low-cost shot options etc and if you’re over 25 possibly a little slice of hell!
However, I do recommend heading there during the day to explore. I also had a fantastic lunch at The Nest in the centre of Chora.
4. The Top of Chora
So my number two must-do activity in Ios is to walk to the top of Chora to see the churches – and the view. It is extremely easy to find the walk – literally, just head up through the old town and there are many signs. If you are relatively fit and healthy it is an easy walk up. Also, the walk up takes you through some of the nicer backstreets of Chora.
Once near the top, you will be rewarded with four Greek Island churches! The first is the full blue and white extravaganza Panagia Gremiotissa, the most iconic church in Ios. It isn’t possible to go into Panagia Gremiotissa (or the other churches further up the hill) but it is easy to wander around and take photos.
There are then three more cute churches dotted up the top of the hill. I visited Ios Greece at the beginning of June so some beautiful colourful wildflowers were in bloom – very helpful for the foreground of photos!
In addition to the churches, this walk affords some amazing views over Ios island. It is also a great place to take photographs of Skarkos as it is possible to see the whole site from above.
I visited the churches around 3 pm. It is said that sunset is the best time to visit so if you can perhaps check out this option as well.
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Skarkos is the largest known settlement of the procycladic world and dates back to the mid-3rd millennium BC. Excavation began on this well-preserved site in the mid-1980s. The area covers 1.1 hectares.
It is possible to visit parts of the site for a fee. Photography is limited. Skarkos is outside Chora and a bit tricky to get to without a car or moped/bike.
6. Homer’s tomb
Legend has it that Homer died on Ios. The Iliad one, not the yellow one. Apparently, Homer visited Ios and the fishermen of the north of Ios island posed a riddle to him that he was unable to solve. He was so distressed that it is said to have caused his death! Homer really needed some work-life balance!
Homer’s tomb is now commemorated with a large stone plaque and is located at the northern tip of Ios island. It is a short walk up from the car park area and the views are absolutely amazing!!!!!! Visibility of the nearby islands of Naxos and Irakla is fantastic. There isn’t a lot here but I think the views alone make this a worthwhile place to visit on Ios island.
7. Odysseas Elytis Theatre
Next up is the stunning modern theatre, Odysseas Elytis. Although it was completed in 1997, it was modelled on the ancient theatres of Greece and feels like it must be considerably older. Its stands are made out of marble and can accommodate 1100 people.
Concerts are regularly held at the Odysseas Elytis Theatre between May and September. It must be an amazing place to see theatre or hear music. The theatre itself is stunning and the views are outstanding.
8. The Modern Art Sculptures of Ios
On the way to Homer’s Tomb, you will pass some slightly unusual modern art sculptures. Whilst they look like they have been in place for some time they are actually relatively new. Their ahem shapes may be a bit of a give away that they are of more recent time.
The second photogenic modern art sculpture is located at the Gaitis museum which is just above the Odysseus Elytis Theatre. Greek artist Yannis Giatis is responsible for quite a bit of the more modern interesting design on the island of Ios. You can see more of his work at the Liostasi hotel.
9. Free Beach Resort at Mylopotas Beach
Several of the most exciting restaurants/clubs/hotels on the island of Ios are owned by the Luxurios Group. They are a family owned sustainable hospitality group who love Ios. I visited a couple of their properties and just loved them! They are bright and fun and feature quirky designs and details.
The Free Beach Bar and Restaurant is their property on Mylopotas Beach. The beach club itself is like some Dali-esque dream in pastels! and there is a lovely good sized pool in the middle. There are sun loungers, suspended beds, shaded areas, full sun and well everything you could possibly imagine!
There were even dance lessons going on while I was there. Plus a cute shop. Free Beach Bar offers a full menu as well as cocktails etc.
Free Beach Club also has some lovely sun loungers with umbrellas on the actual Mylopotas beach. I settled into one of these beds for the afternoon and was very happy. There was no charge – just the assumption that you would purchase at least one drink which of course I did!
The Free Beach Club and its beach loungers are located about halfway along the beach so it is much quieter. Mylopotas is so big that apparently, the middle and end section (eg the opposite end from Chora) is often not terribly crowded even at the height of summer.
This was definitely to my mind the best place on the beach for relaxing.
The water of Mylopotas is incredibly clear and clean and so lovely to swim in. The sand is slightly golden rather than white but still very clean and soft to walk on. The sea isn’t particularly rocky so you won’t need special shoes to go in to avoid damaging your feet.
10. Drakos at Mylopotas Beach
If you’re after the quintessential Greek taverna experience look no further! Drakos has been running for over 40 years and it is easy to see why. It has an amazing location at the southern end of Mylopotas Beach virtually on the water. Most of the seating is outside so you will be sitting very close to the source of your meal!
This is a restaurant which knows its seafood. The seafood is prepared out on the deck in many cases – with octopus hanging off strings. Whilst we were there fresh fish was brought in on ice and weighed and chosen. There was seafood everywhere and very photogenic!
Unsurprisingly Drakos’ signature dishes are octopus and squid. We enjoyed some delicious grilled octopus – smoky and seared on the outside and oh so soft on the inside. The calamari was lightly fried in a tempura-style batter and just delicious.
The fava at Drakos is also a speciality and delicious. The Drakos Greek salad is prepared with local fresh white cheese which melts in your mouth.
Another highlight was the zucchini flowers. There are two preparation options – with rice or with fresh local cheese. We tried both and I definitely recommend the local cheese option – I could have eaten many of these! Small lightly fried shrimps are another Drakos speciality and very moreish.
We had a couple of bottles of wine and sat and ate and drank for a good couple of hours over lunch and it was just wonderful. When it comes to Ios things to do I would put visiting Drakos at the top of your list!
11. Mylopotas Beach
There are at least 30 Ios island beaches – but the main beach is Mylopotas Beach. Located only 3km from Chora, this is 1km long beach is the most popular on Ios. There is a lot going on along Mylopotas Beach. There are many sets of sun loungers and umbrellas, extensive water sports, boat trips and of course swimming.
Mylopotas Beach has some of the most popular restaurants and beach clubs on Ios as well. The sand is golden and soft and the water translucent. The area closest to Chora eg the northern end of the beach tends to be the busiest. For some quiet head at least halfway down the beach or further as apparently even at the height of the season there will be space.
The beach itself and its many sun beds and umbrellas are very photogenic, as is the clear water. Along the beach are several of the places mentioned in this post such as Drakos and the Free Beach Bar.
12. Manganari Beach
The second most popular beach on Ios is Manganari. Manganari beach is located at the southern tip of the island. Many people visit Manganari on a boat trip from Mylopotas. It is, of course, possible to get to Manganari via car or moped. The beach is 23km from Chora.
Like Mylopotas, this is a beautiful beach of golden sands and clear water. And its location means it is far less visited than Mylopotas but has a similar level of facilities. There are a few restaurants, sun loungers, watersports, boats, beach umbrellas etc.
Also, Manganari is located in a bay so there are calm swimming and easy snorkelling. This is the quintessential stunning Greek Island beach – so much so that the movie Infinite Blue was shot here.
13. Gorgona Hotel
This whitewashed hotel with pale blue shutters and colourful trims is located at the southern end of Mylopotas beach next to Drakos Restaurant.
The location is quite frankly outstanding. It is only a few metres to the beach. There is no need for the Gorgona Hotel to have a pool. Mylopotas beach is its pool.
The beautiful big breakfast room looks out over the beach as do all of the rooms. Inside the rooms are simply decorated in white with colourful accents. And the bathrooms are an amazing azure blue.
It would be very easy to stay at this hotel for a week and just swim and eat at Drakos next door every night and not move!
14. Taste of Joy
The second Luxurios property I visited in Ios was their Taste of Joy restaurant. I didn’t actually eat here just came to take photos! It appears the same designer was used for Taste of Joy as was used for the Free Beach Club. It isn’t quite as out there Dali-esque as the Free Beach Club but still looks fabulous and is very photogenic. And apparently, the food at Taste of Joy is great.
15. Liostasi Hotel
A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the world, this is my kind of Greek Island boutique hotel! Designed by a Greek theatre director Liostasi Hotel’s chic design is in keeping with the classic colours of the Greek islands. However, it features quirky design touches like its modern art sculptures and its stunning pool which features quotes from Homer’s Oddysey around its frame – which is lit up at night. Only in Greece!
The rooms at Liostasi are stunning. Simple and white but with every creature comfort you would expect from a 5-star hotel. Acqua di Parma toiletries (not often seen!), high-quality towels and bathrobes, coffee machine etc etc.
Grandma’s restaurant comes with outstanding reviews for good reason. Firstly, its fantastic breakfast (buffet and hot choice to order) has won awards in Greece. Dinner at Grandma’s restaurant Liostasi is also a culinary delight. And there is a spa. And there is an outdoor cinema. And the staff are lovely. And there are amazing sea views. And it is perfectly located for the sunset. Liostasi really has everything for an outstanding Greek Island boutique hotel experience.
16. Ios Club
I absolutely loved Ios Club! What a spot for sunset – and what a back story! Hippies first started coming to Ios in the 1960s and this was one of their favourite spots to watch the sunset. However, at that time it was literally a grassy hill.
A bar was built in the 1970s/1980s that was quite popular. However, it was not updated over time and ended up being rather rough looking.
That changed when the lovely current owners bought the property in 2014. She did a major renovation and Ios Club is now a very stylish and modern beach club/bar. The sunset bar is over several levels, offering a huge range of views.
A highlight of Ios Club is the music. It is a tradition to play classical music at sunset on Ios in this spot and they have upheld that. However, once the sun sets it moves to modern music.
Ios Club has a fantastic aperitif menu – perfect sunset drinks! I very much enjoyed the Italian aperitif.
A terrific dinner is then on offer at Ios Club. We started with the Greek selection. Grilled octopus, fried Atherina fish, roasted shrimps, Tarama with sesame, olives and of course amazing Greek bread. Then followed up with skirt steak and the same style of cooking for our chicken. There was no room for dessert!
17. The Windmills of Ios
The majority of windmills on Ios are found in Chora. Twelve “stand watch” over the town and two have been renovated. In the past, these windmills were used to produce energy to grind grains. Today, they keep the unique architecture of Ios’ past alive and provide an excellent photo opportunity!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Ios Travel Guide with a photogenic focus! Here are some logistics to help you to plan your trip to Ios.
How to get to Ios Greece
If you’re coming from outside the Greek islands the nearest airport to Ios is Santorini.
Once at Santorini airport the port is a 15-minute taxi ride away -theoretically. It is normally much longer than that as the traffic backs up massively on the one road in and out of the port. I would suggest allowing 45 minutes to get between the airport and the port.
The ferry from Santorini to Ios leaves from the port at the town of Thira. There are 5 different ferry companies who operate on this route. Travel times vary between 35 minutes and 90 minutes. Golden Star Ferries and Blue Star Ferries run the route most frequently.
Alternatively, there are ferries between Piraeus in Athens and Ios. Depending on which boat you take the trip will last between 4 and 8 hours.
In the summer there are also ferries from the Athens port of Rafina to Ios.
There are quite regular ferries between Ios and the other islands of the Cyclades like Santorini, Sifnos, Paros, and Milos.
Who Paid for What with this Post
The island of Ios was kind enough to host the majority of my stay in Ios. I paid to spend a night at the lovely Liostasi and I paid for my flights to get to and from Santorini (The island of Ios covered the return ferry tickets).
If you click through on the links in this blog post and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. I just wanted to make sure you were aware of this.
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