Are you looking for beautiful things to do in Ios? The captivating Greek Island of Ios is emerging from the shadow of its Cyclades sisters with a choice offering of cool bars, elegant restaurants and boutique hotels. Add in a pretty old town, stunning beaches and glorious sunsets and you’ve bagged yourself an idyllic Greek island holiday. Read on for some of the best things to do in Ios.
Ios in Greece is one of 220 islands which form the Cyclades. Set in the azure waters of the Aegean Sea, it has a reputation for being one of the top Greek party islands. Don’t let that deter you because Ios’ party season only lasts for two months from mid-June to mid-August. Outside of that the island exudes a chilled vibe and laid-back atmosphere with loads of fabulous things to see and do. Here’s what to do in Ios besides party…
Things to do in Ios
1. Check out the Chora – Ios Old Town
In Ios all roads lead to Chora. The Old Town, Chora or Hora in Greek, sits on a hill, a jumble of whitewashed houses with blue painted doors and windows. It’s pretty much the only town on Ios and is the island’s capital. The maze of alleys are lined with cafes, shops and bars. Window sills spill over with geraniums and bougainvillea cling to the walls.
In the evenings it’s clubbing central during party season but peaceful during the day. We barely saw a soul as we made our way to the top of Chora although it was at lunchtime and pretty hot. There are windmills too. They’ve seen better days but worth stopping by on the way to the top where there are stunning views out to sea and four pretty churches.
2. Visit Churches and Chapels
White washed churches and blue-domed chapels scatter the hillsides and coastlines of Ios. It’s said there are 365 churches on the island – one for every day of the year. Many of the smaller ones are built by and cared for by local families. You don’t really need to see them all but definitely climb to the top of Chora and see the four white-washed churches that sit on the hillside.
Take a walk to the top. The views up there are amazing and it’s one of the best places in Ios to watch the sunset. No crowds, a warm breeze and incredible views. The lack of selfie stick wielding hoards that you find on nearby islands is one of the reasons that makes Ios so special.
3. See the sunset at Ios Club
My favourite place to see the sunset in Ios is Ios Club. This gorgeously chilled club has been soaking up the island’s glorious sunsets since the sixties. Back in the day it was just a rock studded hillside. Today Ios Club is laid over a series of terraces which combine design with simple elegance and laid back ambience.
The 50-year old tradition of accompanying the sunset with classical music links the present with the past. After the sun dips below the horizon they up the tempo and Ios Club morphs into an upbeat night bar.
We spent an unforgettable evening sipping cocktails as the sun cast every shade of gold, orange and pink across the bay and Ios Port. I can recommend the Greek Aperol made with Thyme liqueur but if that’s not to your taste there’s a full cocktail and wine menu. The food is excellent. Simple Mediterranean dishes with a Greek influence.
4. Visit Homer’s Tomb
If you’ve hired a car or quad bike/ATV then make the 13km trip to Homer’s Tomb in Plakato in the northeast of Ios. The poet Homer wrote the ancient poems Odyssey and the Iliad. It’s said that he spent his last days on the island because his mother was from Ios.
The marble plaque is inscribed with the words “Here is covered in the ground the holy head of the maker of heroes divine Homer.” It’s never been proved that Homer, or his head, is actually buried here but it’s a pleasant walk through beautiful scenery to the cliff-top tomb. The views of the Aegean Sea and islands beyond are stunning.
5. Explore Ios’ beaches by boat
Get out on the water and take a boat trip around the island. It’s one of my favourite things to do in Ios and a fabulous way to explore its hidden beaches, secluded coves and maybe even go cave swimming. You might be lucky enough to spot turtles or dolphins. We hopped on a boat at Mylopotas Beach and took to the water with Mylopotas Watersports to explore some of the best beaches in Ios. The water around Ios is extraordinarily clear and comes in every shade of turquoise, blue and green.
We headed out of Mylopotas Beach and piloted south down Ios’ West coast. There are beautiful deserted coves, some of which can only be accessed by boat, so you’ll be sure to find a quiet spot. We visited six beaches from the smaller Pepa and Tripiti which were empty to the more popular Manganari Beach at the south tip of the island, the only one on our Ios boat trip which had sunbeds, parasols, bars and restaurants.
Mylopotas Watersports / New Dive offer a range of watersports including Scuba diving, kayaking, canoeing, equipment hire, boat hire and a variety of scenic boat tours to different parts of Ios.
6. Check out the views at Odysseas Elytis Theatre
The Odysseas Elytis open-air theatre in Ios sits high on a hillside and was designed by architect Peter Haupt, a professor of architecture in the University of Berlin. The marble ancient Greek-style theatre opened in 1997 and can hold an audience of 1,100 people. Concerts and theatrical performances are held at the theatre between May and September but even if there’s no show going on it’s worth paying a visit to check out the beautiful Aegean views.
To get there walk up through the Chora and past the windmills. The amphitheatre overlooks Mylopotas Bay.
7. See the Anonymous Men at Gaiti-Simosi Museum in Ios
Right next to Odysseas Elytis Theatre you’ll find the Gaiti-Simosi museum. Gaitis and Gabriella Simosi were husband and wife artists and sculptors that lived on Ios for a number of years. Yannis Gaitis is famous for his repeated patterns of anonymous men. His blank-faced figures can also be found Liostasi Hotel whose owners are collectors.
I understand the museum is unfinished and empty but there are a couple of old churches nearby and it’s where you’ll get panoramic views of Ios town. It’s where the first photo in this post was taken so definitely worth a visit.
8. Eat Freshly Caught Fish at Drakos
Drakos Tavern sits at the west end of Mylopotas Beach at the water’s edge. It’s where we had our most memorable meal in Ios. We spent a lazy afternoon drinking local Ios wine, eating freshly caught fish, octopus and local dishes as the blue Aegean waters gently lapped agains the quayside. It’s what Greek island holidays are all about and we could have stayed at that spot forever.
The staff were lovely, the food was excellent and the setting was out of this world. If you go to Ios don’t miss a meal at Drakos.
9. Skarkos Pre-historic Settlement
Skarkos is an early Bronze Age settlement and one of the best preserved prehistoric sites in the Aegean. The ancient settlement is near to Ios Port and is walkable from the Chora down the path near the windmills. You’ll also get a good view from the higher vantage point in Chora where you can see how the walls spiral round to form a snail shell shape.
An estimated 200-300 people lived at Skarkos in stone buildings consisting of a ground floor, first floor and enclosed courtyard. Marble figurines, ceramics and tools have all been found at the site and can be seen at the Archaeological Museum in Chora. The site was discovered in 1984 and, after excavation, opened to the public in 2008. Entry is €4 and the site is usually closed on Mondays.
10. Mylopotas Beach
There are 32 beaches in Ios but the most popular is Mylopotas Beach. The 1km long stretch of golden sand is lined with beach clubs, bars and restaurants. The Aegean is clear and calm and perfect for swimming and water sports. You’ll find all sorts of equipment for hire from kayaks and paddle boards to boats and adrenalin rides. There’s also a scuba diving centre.
Sunbeds, parasols and cabanas are available for hire on the beach. We settled ourselves on a cabana at the Free Beach Bar section on the sands. As long as we bought drinks the cabana was complimentary. That was never going to be a problem was it!
Free Beach Bar has a club across the road which is perfect if you want to escape the sun in uber cool surroundings. There are shady areas, hanging sun-loungers, pool and a shop. Food and drink is served too but what I loved most was the planet friendly ethos of this family run set-up.
‘We do not have to damage the earth to accomplish our dreams’
Mylopotas beach is 3km from Chora and there’s a regular bus service from the old town that’ll get you there and back. See more about the Ios bus service below in the ‘how to get around Ios’ section.
Where to stay in Ios
Ios accommodation ranges from five star luxury and boutique hotels to self-catering apartments and hostels and everything in between.
Boutique Luxury – Liostasi Hotel and Suites
Liostasi Hotel & Suites – This modern boutique hotel is near to Chora in very peaceful spot with wonderful sunset views across Ios Port. Minimalist styling is complimented by excellent dining and every luxury you’d expect from a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
On the beach – Gorgona
Gorgona is a traditional Greek style hotel set at the far end of Mylopotas Beach next to Drakos Taverna. You’ll enjoy stunning views over the Aegean Sea, airy rooms and pretty patio gardens with the friendly service make for a relaxing Ios holidays.
See Gorgona reviews on Tripadvisor
Rooms and Studio Apartments
Pavezzo Rooms and Studios are located a 20 minute walk from Mylopotas Beach and around ten minutes from Chora. There are beautiful sea views and owner Angela knows everything there is to know about Ios. See reviews for Pavezzo on Tripadvisor
When to go to Ios, Greece
If you want to hit Ios during party season go from mid-June to mid-August. After that the island is much quieter. I went the first week in June when the beaches, and the island generally, wasn’t at all crowded.
The weather was beautifully warm but not too hot. September and early October are also good times to visit when the weather’s a good temperature and the island is quieter. After that many of the bars and restaurants shut down for the winter.
How to get to Ios, Greece
Ios doesn’t have an airport so you’ll need to catch a ferry to the island. Ferries go from Santorini, which is the nearest route and takes around 40 minutes, or Athens on the mainland.
From Athens the ferries take from four to seven hours depending on the route and type of ferry. Athens ferries run to Ios from Piraeus and Rafina ports which is a bus ride from the airport. Personally, I’d spend a night in Athens near the port and head to Ios the next day.
Check ferry schedules here, but buy tickets at each carrier’s website where they’ll be cheaper.
Getting around Ios Island
Ios is just 18 km long and 10 km wide which makes it easy to explore. A bus service connects Ios Port (Yialos), Chora and Mylopotas Beach. There are regular buses which cost €1.80 one way. You’ll find up-to-date timetables displayed at the numerous bus stops. Buses also run to Maganari and Agia Theodoti beaches. To explore further afield you can hire a car, quad bike / ATV or scooter in Chora or at Ios Port
The walk from Chora to Mylopotas beach takes around 30 minutes depending on fitness levels. Going back the other way half the walk is uphill so you may want to return by bus.
From Ios’ blue-domed churches and beautiful beaches to succulent seafood, historic sites and glorious sunsets I hope this has given you an idea of what to do in Ios. It’s so much more than a party island. Stay tuned for my post on where to eat in Ios. There are some wonderful restaurants on the island and they deserved a post to themselves.
Planning your Ios holiday
I visited Ios on a trip hosted by Ios Tourism who paid for my ferry crossing, accommodation and food. They did not pay for flights. As always, all views and opinions are entirely my own and I retain the right to write exactly what I please.
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Suzanne Jones is creator, writer and photographer at The Travelbunny. When she’s not indulging her wanderlust you’ll most likely find her enjoying coastal walks in her home county of East Sussex, UK.
Suzanne co-writes Sussex Bloggers which showcases the best of East & West Sussex.