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Greek Island Trip Report: Santorini, Folegandros, Milos and Sifnos in July

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Nov 7th, 2018, 06:34 PM
  #21
 
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Toujour Voyager, a lot depends upon when you are going, and what you want to do -- things are quite different in May-June (when I am in GReece) and in July-August when Isabel traveled. Is your priority Swimming & beaches? Do you plan to rent a car or ATM, or use public transport.
MILOS -- it has 20+ beaches, some of them terrific, but the beach in the Port town of Adamas is N.G., to be kind. Outside of High Season (July August) has very lame bus service... but from what Isabel says, there's pretty good service July-Aug. so you could stay in Adamas & bus out to beach. That is good because most of the restaurants & all of the nightlife is in Adamas ... & you wouldn't want to stay up late there, and then drive in the dark down unlit roads. Buses probably end by 10-11pm
FOLEGANDROS -- It has a totally beautiful CHORA (high town) ... I walked around it for hours and literally never saw anything that was not gorgeous! (I stayed at a wonderful hotel --Anemousa, on cliff edge above sea, w. infinity pool for amazing low price (€35?) for May 30, but that's probably way higher now. I visited a couple who wre working in Folegandros & they drove me around a bit, and to a (mediocre) beach... a really nice 3 days but I would not know what to do there much longer.
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Nov 7th, 2018, 11:39 PM
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I was on Folegandros in late May several years ago, and it was still very quiet, with some restaurants still not open for the season. Many of the people I met were middle aged couples who came to Folegandros for the hiking. IMO the only place to stay is in chora where you get the views and can enjoy the many cafes and restaurants in the three squares. Being at the top of the island the views are spectacular, but you won't be near a beach.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 03:17 AM
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Thank you Travelerjean. I have not not narrowed down when I want to go but I do know that I would prefer public transportation. I was thinking one week in Koufounisia and then 3 nights in Folegandros and 3 nights in Milos. But now I am going to have to wait for Isabel's installment of Sifnos
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Nov 8th, 2018, 04:02 AM
  #24
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Yes - read the Sifnos part (coming right up) - it might be the compromise you are looking for.
I decided where to stay in each island based on two things - first was I wanted to be in the port town so I could easily find my hotel and not have to take some kind of transportation to another town with luggage (and I travel very light). Second, I wanted to be walking distance to the beach so I didn't have to haul beach stuff around with me. I suppose if you are going to the beach for hours it wouldn't matter but I like to make frequent but short beach trips. I like to be able to just pop down to the beach from my hotel room for an hour or so a couple times a day. I guess it would be different if you're the type to lie on the beach all day long, then you'd want a really nice beach and wouldn't mind not being near your hotel. But I also like to be able to walk along waterfronts and look at boats, especially in the early evenings.


As Heimdall said, in Folegandros chora is where all the restaurants are, it's more interesting and there's the view. BUT staying at Vardia Bay was better for me for the reasons I mentioned. In Milos I agree with Jan that the beach in Adamas town was not great. My hotel was just a block past it so I walked by it all the time, it looked OK but I didn't go. Between the full day on the boat trip and the other stuff I wanted to do I didn't feel the need for beach time there. Sifnos was a good compromise as the port town was large enough to have plenty of restaurants and a (tiny) bit of shopping yet had a great beach.

Last edited by isabel; Nov 8th, 2018 at 04:05 AM.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 08:51 AM
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Hi Isabel! Thanks for your detailed and informative trip report. Re: your ferry transportation....are you saying that you backtracked each time to Santorini in order to get the ferry to the island of your choice and the dates you want? Because when I was planning our trip, I was at the mercy of the ferry schedules to the islands. So for example, from Paros to Sifnos, I can only get the ferry on Sundays or Wednesdays and then to go to Ios from Sifnos the ferry comes only on Tuesdays,Thursdays, or Saturdays. So I was limited to either a short stay or a long stay on the islands of my choice.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 09:24 AM
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Surprisingly, for two islands so close together (you can see Sifnos clearly from Paros), there aren't many direct ferry connections. It would be nice if Sea Jets decided to establish a connection, but for many years the only ferry has been the year-round lifeline ferry (currently Artemis) operated by Hellenic Seaways. In high season there are about three ferries per day between Sifnos and Ios, and about five ferries per day between Sifnos and Milos.

Another way to get from the Western Cyclades (e.g. Sifnos and Milos) to the Central Cyclades (e.g. Paros and Naxos) is via Santorini, usually with a change of ferry.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 10:06 AM
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Thanks Heimdall. Does Milos-->Mykonos also involve a change of ferry in Santorini? My research shows 8 sailings/week with 7 of those via SeaJets, but am unsure if those are direct sailings. Also its a fairly long trip ~6h!! Alternatively, I'm glad there are flights between the 2 islands.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 12:54 PM
  #28
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JoyC - No I didn't back track. Just saying it was the same route that ran each day starting in Santorini at 8:30 and stopping next at Folegandros, then on to Milos, then to Sifnos (then I'm pretty sure it continued to Serifos and then Piraeus). Each ferry ride I took was less than an hour. Except the one from Sifnos to Santorini - that was still SeaJets but a different route and that one took about 3 hours. When I was planning the trip I actually had to do a spread sheet to keep track of all the ferry possibilities as each day had different options. Very confusing.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 01:00 PM
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So - I arrived in Sifnos about 11:30. Sifnos port town, Kamares, (population 250, the population of the whole island is a little over 2000) is larger than Folegandros, but smaller than Milos. There is basically one ‘street’ (and the only cars allowed on it are those heading for the ferries, plus the bus). It is lined with tavernas – whose tables are across the street, right on the sand/water, ice cream shops, and jewelry/clothing/postcard shops. After the equivalent of about two blocks of that, is the beach and past that the bay curves around to a few more tavernas and a cute little chapel up a tiny hill. There are several streets of compact concrete houses climbing up the gentle hill. Between the ferry dock and the start of the tavernas is a tiny harbor with about 4 sail boats and maybe a dozen small fishing boats. Numerous ferries come in and out of port several times a day, but don’t stay long enough to make it feel like a ‘port’. Once the ferries leave you are in a quiet (but not too quiet), town that has a taste of tourism but not enough to make you feel like you are in Mykonos.There is a ‘supermarket’ on the main street (underneath the Stavros Hotel). There is so much interesting stuff crammed into this little store it is like going to a museum. Was able to get fruit/vegetables, yogurt, milk, water, juice, etc. There are supposedly two others but I didn’t see them.


I was wondering how I was going to find my hotel,
‘To Steno’ given that google maps was really unclear, but I just started walking past the tavernas and saw a sign pointing down an alley, then another and there it was. There are three rooms and a reception, not sure if there are other rooms anywhere else. The proprietor checked me in and told me to come back at 2pm cause she hadn’t done the rooms yet. The reception is her living room.

So I went and checked out the town (that took about 20 minutes), then went to one of the tavernas on the water and had a leisurely lunch watching two kittens play with each other and the boats bobbing on the water. By then it was 2pm so I went back to ‘To Steno’ (1 minute walk) and the room was ready. Clean, spacious, bright, private little patio, decent AC and fridge. There was a lime tree surrounded by giant lavender on my patio.

I had read that ‘Sifnos is full of beautiful Cycladic villages, the kind you see on postcards that made you want to go to Greece in the first place”. From a distance yes, Kamares and Apollina are quite scenic. ‘The villages of white cube houses crown it’s hill likes necklaces’ – that is true. Up close, they don’t hold a candle to Santorini, Naxos or Paros in the ‘picturesque’ department. However, Kastro is the epitome of a Greek Cycladic village.

Sifnos has long been a favorite of Greeks, especially Athenians, but now is popular with European tourists but I didn’t hear one American accent the whole time I was there. The mountains that frame Sifnos's deep harbor, Kamares, are barren and from the water the island looks as arid as the others, but inland there are terraced hillsides of mostly olive trees, some figs, occasional grape vineyards. There are still some of the beautiful slate and marble paths across the island, though most are now covered with asphalt to accommodate cars. Sifnos has been inhabited since 3000 BC. There are supposedly 365 churches and monasteries. Most of the churches are tiny one-room buildings, but they are scattered all over, not just in the villages. You can’t swing a cat on Sifnos without hitting a church. And there are cats wherever you look.

I’d read August can be hectic, rooms and cars booked, buses sardine-can full, but in July it was not at all crowded, buses maybe ¾ full, same with beach, restaurants at peak dining times, otherwise mostly empty. On numerous occasions I was totally alone on a path or street. Even in Kastro I almost never had to wait to shoot a picture without people.

Sifnos was the first island in Greece to hook up their plumbing to a purification and waste treatment plant, which makes Kamares one of the cleanest beaches in Greece and certainly the cleanest port. The beach is about a quarter mile stretch of sand that starts just past the ferry dock and circles around the harbor. There is an adorable church (Ag. Marina) part way up the hill side opposite the main part of town, only 100 steps, great sunset views from there.


..

Last edited by isabel; Nov 8th, 2018 at 01:02 PM.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 01:56 PM
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I love your descriptions! I can visualize in my mind what everything looks like! For a first time trip to the Greek Islands, which 2 or 3 would you recommend?
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Nov 8th, 2018, 02:08 PM
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Excellent report! Thank you for all your detailed descriptions!
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Nov 8th, 2018, 02:28 PM
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I love Sifnos as well, and have been there4x I think... but Isabel & I differ on where to stay. It may be because I go in late May .. love to stay up in the hill villages, and take a bus to a beach for half a day. Unlike Milos, Sifnos has quite a good bus system, and Appollonia up n the hills is the center there. Artemonas-Appollonia-Ano Petali are reallly one long string of whitewashed gorgeous villages running one into the other. By accident I found a wonderful little pension about 500 yards or so from the Main hotel & bus stop in Appollonia, but officially Geronit Pension & its nextdoor gem, Nikoleta's rooms are in Ano Petali. Nikoleta has 2 lovely units with grapevine-shaded front patios, looking down a bluff over a valley an to the opposite hills, and also out at the shining sea. In the morning you hear roosters crow, and locals come to tend their vegetable patches on the hill before leaving for jobs. I love taking the bus to Vathy beach, shaded by trees, little tavernas where the chairs sink into the sand. The hiking in SIfnos is considered some of the best in the Cyclades ... from Appollonia, there's a loooong winding road by car, but a flagstoned footpath right thru the valley to the Whitewashed pristine Chora overhanging the sea, little changed from the 1600s. Of an evening, the lanes of Appollonia light up, beautiful people appear, and you realize that's where the club scene is.
Kamares the port town is certainly convenient, but I find it quite busy, always traffic of cars + trucks fom the ferries. I am not a big fan of the beach, because there's enough boat traffici to stir up the waters & its mor brownish than the beautiful translucent aqua-blue of other beaches. Also in Spring as late as June 1, I hve found 2x that` there are no changing facilities or bathroooms, or beach showers or sunbeds & umbrellas for rent .... perhaps way on the far end of the beach by the rocks, but that's quite a walk. Perhpa Isabel's room was in that direction.
Even in high season, they tell me, Sifnos never gets as cram-jammed as some Cycladic islands, because the lodging stock is limited, and when it's full that's IT... so, automatically self-limiting. Another aspect, like Serifos, no airport, and limited ferry service, also tends to keep crowds down (yay!).
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Nov 9th, 2018, 12:24 AM
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Hi Joy C,

What I would suggest, if you want to visit both Milos and Mykonos, is to stay a few nights at an island in-between (Santorini?). There is no easy way to get from the Western Cyclades (Milos) to the Northern Cyclades (Mykonos), but you can break up the journey.

The SeaJet 2 to which you refer doesn't require a change of ferry between Milos and Mykonos, but it does stop at Santorini anyway. That would be the proverbial "ferry from hell" if seas are rough that day. SeaJet 2 is only 42 meters long, one of the smallest ferries in Greece. The reason it takes 6 hours is that it stops at several other islands en route, accumulating delays with each stop, and is usually at least an hour late by the time it reaches Mykonos. I am surprised that Sea Jets Consortium are still using SeaJet 2 and Superjet in the Cyclades, the two small ferries that give the company a bad reputation.
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Nov 9th, 2018, 03:51 AM
  #34
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SeaJet2 and Superjet were the ferries I was on. I agree 6 hours on one would be pretty bad. They were tolerable for the longest trip I did which was only 3 hours, better for the quick 45-60 minute trips but 6 hours I would definitely break up with Santorini.


I think Jan is right about no changing facilities at the beach in Kamares. I didn't see any, didn't matter to me as my hotel was a 5 minute walk but I don't recall seeing any and I walked the whole beach several times. The road is right behind it and there's a parking lot, but once on the beach I didn't notice cars, and the boats were pretty far off. I didn't swim very far out but I think it must be pretty shallow since there were people way out. It was very calm and the water clear.
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Nov 9th, 2018, 04:01 AM
  #35
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As Jan describes above, the centre of Hóra (buses go from Kamares up there hourly, takes about 20 minutes) is the center of the ‘action’ on Sifnos. It is an amalgam of hilltop villages, which have merged over the years into one continuous community. The main town, near the center, is known as Apollonia (pop. 869). The town's name is thought to come from an ancient temple of Apollo on the site of the church of Panayia Yeraniofora. The second-largest town is Artemonas (800), ten-minute walk in the opposite direction from the bus stop, is thought to be named after an ancient temple of Apollo's sister-goddess Artemis. They kind of run into each other, plus three or four other once distinct villages that have now merged. Artemona is where the wealthy islanders built their mansions. So it has some Venetian and Neoclassical houses, that are unusual for a rural island like Sifnos.

The highlight of Sifnos for me was hiking to Kastro from Appolinia.Where to start it was not immediately obvious. From the bus stop head up the main pedestrian ‘street’ a few feet till the ‘market’ and turn left on the flag-stoned path. It goes under the car road and then is pretty obvious. It goes for about 20 minutes or so through a terraced landscape of olive and fig trees, stonewalls, the occasional small plot of grapevines. Some dovecote buildings, a church all by itself in the middle of a field. Very scenic. Warm but not too hot and all downhill. Only one other woman on the path. The warm air intensifies the scents – almost smells like baking or cooking. Eucalyptus, wild thyme, rosemary, lavender. They say it’s a 45-minute walk, took me just over an hour but I stop to take a lot of photos.
Eventually you come out on a car road. The path continued on the other side but was signposted for walking trails and none of it said Kastro. There was a woman walking her dog and I asked her and she said (more or less) follow the car road. After a couple turns (was clearly in a little community at this point) I came to a T intersection with no sign. I asked someone in a passing car, and she pointed and said ‘down’. The car road wasn’t quite as bucolic as the flagstone path but hardly any traffic and views of the towns in the distance, churches, windmills. Then the road started seriously going down, switch backing on it self. And then Kastro came into view. Gorgeous, perfect little white hill town against the sea. As I walked down, down, down and it was getting hotter and hotter, I was thinking I sure hope there is a bus back. And just as I got there a bus went by. Checking my schedule there would be another one in 2 hours. Turned out to be almost perfect amount of time. Just before town is one little chapel on one side of the road, three windmills, and the double church of Ag. Stefanos and Ag. Ioannis Kalivittis.

Kastro (population 118), one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the Cyclades, built on the dramatic site of an ancient acropolis. It was the capital of the island during ancient times until 1836. It is downhill from Appolonia but it’s on top of a high cliff over the water on the island's east shore and today remains very medieval looking. This is the picture postcard town of Sifnos. Until several decades ago, it was almost entirely deserted; as tourists began to infiltrate the island, Kastro sprouted a few cafes. Whitewashed houses, some well-preserved and others eroding, adjoin one another in a defensive ring abutting a sheer cliff.

Kastros has been inhabited for over 3000 years. To protect the town from pirates there were only five entrances in the walls (formed by the houses), which enclosed it. These could be locked by iron gates. Today when you enter the town you go through tunnels and passageways into a labrynth of tiny streets wide enough for only two or three people to walk abreast. On the seaside of the village a small church sits on a rocky promontory, hundreds of steps down from the village: the Church of the Seven Martyrs. It looks like the church from the wedding scene in Mamma Mia only down instead of up.

Last edited by isabel; Nov 9th, 2018 at 04:05 AM.
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Nov 9th, 2018, 04:37 AM
  #36
 
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ISABLE, You're right about SeaJet 2 and Superjet. The only time I've been on SeaJet 2 was it's old route from Mykonos to Paros, which was only 45 minutes. The sea was as smooth as a millpond that day, so a very pleasant journey. You only have to read recent reviews on those two ferries to see that it could have been much different if it were windy that day. The other two times I booked tickets on SeaJet 2 the ferry was cancelled at short notice.

I've never seen changing facilities on any Greek beach, but if you are a customer you can sometimes change in the WC of a private beach bar. Most people just change into their swim suits in their room, then shower and change there when they get back from the beach. Some people struggle to change on the beach wrapped in a towel, as in that famous photo of David Cameron, former PM of the UK:
David Cameron Changing on Cornwall Beach
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Nov 9th, 2018, 08:59 AM
  #37
 
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Thanks for your input Heimdall and Isabel. I don't want to hijack this thread with ferry questions, but just one last thing. How do you know the routing of a particular ferry? When I booked our tickets, it was all non-stop from our port (eg Paros) to another (Santorini). To be honest, I never gave a thought where it originated (first port) or where its final destination was. Like Isabel said, she knew the ferry would go Thira --> Folegandros --> Milos --> Sifnos. So she was able to timed her departures. I booked direct from the ferry company and it never showed routing.

Last edited by JoyC; Nov 9th, 2018 at 09:05 AM.
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Nov 9th, 2018, 11:13 PM
  #38
 
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Joy C, the best website for booking is the company's own website, so you did the right thing. One way to find the routing is to use the website gtp.gr for your planning. Input the usual From and To information, then pick a date, and when you find the ferry you need click "Ferry route details & Booking". The window that comes up will have a picture of the ship, show all the stops it makes, and even have a route map showing where it goes.

Each stop takes only about 15 minutes, and its fun to watch from the deck at the back of the ferry (assuming you booked Blue Star or another conventional ferry) the goings on as vehicles and people disembark and board. The larger catamarans have a small deck at the stern that is open when the ferry is in port.

Nearly all the ferries in the Cyclades originate at either Piraeus or Rafina on the mainland, or Heraklion on Crete. Each day they start at their home ports, then return at the end of the day, having made many stops.
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Nov 10th, 2018, 03:08 AM
  #39
 
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Wonderful report, isabel! I love your detailed description as well as your beautiful photos. Thank you for taking the time to do this! You've now tempted me to make a return visit to the Greek islands - this looks like a fabulous trip.
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Nov 10th, 2018, 04:59 AM
  #40
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Thanks progol


JoyC - in addition to the site Heimall gave you I also used ferries.gr and ferryhopper.com
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