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Situated in the heart of the Cyclades islands, this pretty island is not nearly as well known as its neighbours Mykonos, Santorini, and Paros. With an area covering 83.6 km² and with a population of 21,500 permanent residents it has all the magic of the Cycladic islands – without the crowds.
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A Guide to the Greek Island of Syros
Where is Syros
Syros is one of the smaller islands in the Cyclades group which lie southeast of Athens in the Aegean Sea. Syros lies 78 nautical miles from the Greek capital city.
How to get to Syros
Air: Syros has its own airport, which is situated just two kilometres from Ermoupoli, the main town. There are domestic flights from Athens all year through. The flight takes 35 minutes. During the summer n months, there are also internal flights from Thessaloniki on most days.
Ferry: There are ferries from Pireaus (Athens) to Syros, almost daily and these operate all year round. During the summer months, there are additional ferries from Rafina Port which is situated close to Athens Airport.
The ferry takes 3.5 hours to the island and there is the opportunity to island-hop as there are many inter-island ferries. Tinos is just 30 minutes from Syros and Mykonos, 45 minutes. It is also possible to visit Andros, Ikaria, and Lesvos from Syros.
The best time to visit Syros
The most popular time to visit Syros is from May until the end of September when the weather is pleasantly warm during the day and at night. The highest temperatures are recorded at the end of July and these average 29ºC during the day and 23ºC at night.
The weather becomes cooler with a greater chance of rain during October, which is the cheapest month to visit. Because the island remains ‘open for business’, it is lovely to visit during the spring and autumn when the days are sunny and pleasantly warm and perfect if you are planning to explore on foot or by bike.
Average Temperature and Rainfall in Syros
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18 Things to Do in Syros
1. Get lost in the alleyways of Ermoupolis
Ermoupolis is the island’s capital and main town and is said to be one of the most beautiful towns in the Cyclades. It has elegant marble neoclassical buildings and beautiful Venetian mansions as well as numerous winding alleyways and a bustling port.
The town’s name comes from ‘Hermoupolis’ meaning ‘City of Hermes’, named after the Greek god of trade. Originally, the town was in Ano Ermoupolis (Upper Ermoupolis). It grew in importance during the Ottoman period when it became the centre of the Latin Church. Even today, there are many Catholic residents in Ano Ermoupolis.
During the war of Greek Independence in the 1820s, many refugees from other islands such as Chios, Psara, Crete, and Asia Minor arrived in the town. They began to develop the harbour area, making it the largest in Greece. Its population grew to 14,000 people and it became a major trading centre and the new town developed culturally too. Ermoupoilis has retained its importance as it is the regional administrative capital for the Cyclades islands and many companies’ have regional offices there and there is also a courthouse.
The town had one of the first high schools in Greece – the Lykeion- and also one of the first post offices. Ermoupolis is the only town in the Cyclades to have a casino, which is situated on the waterfront. Ermoupolis has an amazing array of architectural styles and many places of interest to visit. There are smart restaurants, tavernas, coffee shops, and ouzeries plus some really good shops.
Check out my post: A guide to Ermoupolis, Syros.
2. Check out the Archaeological Museum
If you have seen the town’s magnificent Town Hall and have had a great desire to walk up its beautiful front staircase, you can, as it is the way to reach the Archaeological Museum! The museum was founded in 1834 and is one of the oldest in Greece. It was moved to the Town Hall in 1899 and occupies four of the large rooms there.
There are a number of excellent artefacts to see there including the Amfikypellon which is a cylindrical cup 15 cm in height and dating from the 3rd millennium and there is a vase that is a similar age. There is an interesting marble statue of a woman that dates from 730 BC. The museum also has an exhibition of the projects undertaken by the archaeologist Christos Tsountas.
3. Visit the Apollon Theatre
This delightful theatre is situated in Platia Miaouli, was built in 1864 by the Italian architect Pietro Sampo and looks like a mini ‘Scala di Milano’.
The theatre regularly holds performances, exhibitions and lectures. The theatre also hosts the annual classical, jazz and contemporary music festivals.
4. ’People watch’ over coffee in Platia Miaouli (Miaouli Square)
Miaouli Square is dominated by the Town Hall and other elegant buildings. The Town Hall was built in 1808 and at its front has an impressive marble staircase measuring 15.5 meters in width. The square with its numerous palm trees is sizeable and impressive and is named after the naval admiral Andreas Miaoulis, in the Greek War of Independence.
His statue stands in the square. Fringed by a number of little shops and kafenions, the square is the perfect place to start the day, with a cup of Greek coffee and some serious people watching! You can relax in the morning sun and enjoy the breakfast of thick creamy yogurt drizzled with local honey and accompanied by fresh fruit. The square is very much the focus of local political and cultural life and many different events are held there.
5. Explore Vaporia neighbourhood
Taking a stroll around this attractive neighbor with its gorgeous candy-colored neoclassical mansions that are a testament to the town’s great prosperity during the 19th century. The mansions were once owned by wealthy ship owners.
6. Visit Agios Nikoloas Church
Situated on a hilltop overlooking the harbor in Emoupolis, this beautiful, blue-domed church was built in the 19th century and has two bell towers. Ayios Nikolaos is the patron saint of the island. The church faces another church which was stands on the town’s second hilltop – the Catholic church of Agios Georgios in Ano Syros. At nighttime, both churches are floodlit which looks lovely.
7. Swim in Asteria Beach (Ermoupolis)
Asteria Beach is certainly a different type of beach as there is no sand at all, just rocks and a large concrete platform. It is the perfect place for a dip as the water is crystal clear. After your swim, you can relax in the sunshine at the Asteria Beach Bar and admire the view of Ayios Nikolaos and Vaporia.
8. Marvel at the view from the church of the Resurrection of Christ
Standing on the top of Vrodado Hill above Ermoupolis is the church of the Resurrection of Christ. It was built in 1870 by local architect, Dimitris Eleftheriades in the Byzantine style and looks across towards the Greek Orthodox church of Ayios Nikolaos on another hilltop overlooking the harbor. Standing outside the church, there is a wonderful view looking out to the Aegean and the neighboring islands of Tinos and Mykonos.
9. Discover the Industrial Museum of Ermoupolis
This interesting museum was opened in 2000 and is housed in four old factories on the edge of the town. The factories were Kornilaki Tannery, the Skagiopoieio Anairoysi, the Velissar Opoulou weaving mill, and the Katsimanti Paint factory.
The museum is full of machinery and tools linked to the island’s golden age when it was producing textiles, tanning leather, printing, and glass. Its most popular exhibit is the world’s first electric car – the Enfield 8000 which was produced in Greece.
10. Marvel at an El Greco Painting in the Dormition of the Virgin Church
In 1983 the island’s greatest art treasure was accidentally uncovered in the three-aisled basilica Church of the Dormition of the Virgin which is situated behind the port in Ermoupolis. The discovery was a painting by Dominikos Theotokpoulos – ‘El Greco’.
The icon was painted in the 16h century in around 1562 when El Greco was about 21 years old – making it is earliest known work. It is quite unlike his other work, but well worth seeing. Whilst you are in the church, do look up at the inside of the domes as these are ribbed with wood to replicate fishing boats.
11. Walk the alleyways of Ano Syros
It is fun to wander through the narrow cobbled streets of Ano Syros and to stop for a coffee or herbal tea or browse in the numerous small shops. The town was founded in the 13th century by the Venetians who chose the location on a hilltop away from the coast, as it protected the residents from pirate attacks.
There are a number of interesting places to see both inside and close to the town and these include the Jesuit and Capuchin monasteries. The town definitely gets busier the nearer it gets to sunset and many will be climbing up the marble steps to the hilltop to get an amazing view of the sinking sun. Ano Syros is situated 3.5 kilometers from Ermoupolis and it is fun to make the journey on foot.
Check here: A guide to Ano Syros
12. Admire the Catholic Cathedral of Agios Georgios (St George) in Ano Syros
The town of Ano Syros stands high on a hilltop overlooking Evropouli and begs to be explored as it is a labyrinth of winding streets with shops, restaurants, and churches. The view from the Catholic cathedral situated at the top of the town is impressive and is well worth the climb up the numerous marble steps.
The cathedral is a three-aisled basilica that was built by the Venetians in the 13h century). It features beautiful marble floors and an altar that was sculptured on the nearby island of Tinos and brought to the island.
13. Visit the museum of Vamvakaris in Ano Syros
Apo Syros was the birthplace of the famous rembetika singer, Markos Vamvakaris (1905-1972) whose best-known song is ‘Frankosyrianni’ which is a love song that tells the story of a Catholic girl from the island. The village is justly proud of Vamvarkaris and has a museum dedicated to him and his music and also a square with a statue of him. Frankosyrianni is his best-known song and one of the most loved songs in Greece. Everyone knows the words and will sing along when it is played.
14. Check out the Aristocratic mansions at Posidonia seaside resort
This part of the island is the aristocratic resort of Syros, named after the Greek god, Poseidon. There are many luxury villas to be seen with elaborate architecture and gardens and two churches; the Orthodox church of St John and the Catholic church dedicated to St Peter.
There are several lovely beaches in the area. Agathopes is popular with botanists in the springtime as the rare sand lily (Leucocrinum monatanum) can be found growing on the beach and sometimes, several seals (Monachus-monachus).
15. Explore the beaches of Syros
Syros has lovely beaches that are all clean and safe. Some of them have sunbeds and umbrellas with a beach taverna, but there are no water sports facilities. Kini is a delightful coastal village, with one of the best beaches and is well known for its fish tavernas.
Vari is a great beach with fine sand and its waters are particularly calm and clear. Agathopes is a popular sandy beach with several tavernas that lies close to a small naval base. Finikas is lovely as the beach has numerous tamarisk trees that give some welcome shade and there is a good fish taverna by the beach. Azolimenas beach is pleasant, but seems to be windier than most!
The best way to get around the island if you don’t want to take the bus is by hiking or cycling and there are two places that hire cycles. If you are happy to cycle or walk for some distance, away from the towns and villages, you will find beautifully unspoiled and secluded coves.
Check out: The best Syros beaches to visit.
16. Watch the sunset from Galissas seaside resort
This is definitely the spot to be as the sun begins to sink in the sky! Galissas is a lovely village, with a snazzy fishing harbour that has been built to appeal to the yachting fraternity and it certainly does!
You might want to check out: my guide to the Galissas Beach Town.
17. Take a boat tour to Syros secluded beaches from Kini resort
A fun way to reach the island’s more deserted beaches is to jump on a boat at Kini – take plenty of drinking water as there will not be a tavernas on this hidden beaches.
18. Taste the traditional Loukoumia
The island is well known for its loukoumia which is an irresistible sweet and similar to Turkish Delight. If it widely available on the island and you can often smell the aroma of a tray of loukoumia cooling on a windowsill or from one of the little factories in Ermoupolis. When a ferry arrives in the port, a number of local people hurry along to the port carrying large wicker baskets filled with pretty boxes of loukoumia. Another great tasting local delicacy is the island’s creamy colored nougat.
How to get around Syros
There is a good island bus service operated by KTEL. The bus starts at the fire station in the Ermoupolis harbor area. There are a variety of services, but the main one has a circular route, visiting Ano Syros, Azolimnos, Vary, Megas Gialos, Posidonia, Kini, and Foikikas. There is some information available online, but the best thing is to pop into the KTEL office in Kythnos Street, in Ermoupolis for the latest information and to book tickets.
The best way is to rent a car. Cars are easy to hire in Syros. You can pick up a car at the airport or in Ermoupolis – in several different locations. There is plenty of choices as there are branches of international chains and some local companies. There are some good deals available, but it is hard for companies to confirm a particular marque of car. Car hire companies also deal with scooter hire too.
Flavours of Syros
The food in Syros is really good and very authentic and this is because many of the visitors to the island during the weekends and in the spring and autumn are Greeks from Athens seeking a relaxing break! Consequently, the dishes served in the island’s restaurants reflect this and the quality is high and the prices are more reasonable, compared to the more popular islands.
Amongst the delicious array of island dishes to enjoy are: Aetopita – a fish and vegetable pie, Karabola, which is snails served in a sage sauce and Lahanodolma – cabbage leaves stuffed with rice. Other specialities to enjoy include Loosa ham, fennel sausages and San Mihalis which is a delicious spicy cheese that’s name and recipe is legally protected. Halva Pie which is made from roasted almonds and thyme honey and Pastelaries, which are dried and salted figs.
Where to eat in Syros
There are some fun places to eat in Ermoupolis including Arhontariki tis Maritsa’s that is situated in a traditional building in one of the town’s prettiest streets that is filled with bougainvillaea. It serves all the local dishes and they are beautifully cooked and there is plenty of choices.
Amvix is the Italian restaurant that is situated just opposite the harbour and it has the reputation of being one of the top Italian restaurants in the whole of Greece! If you fancy relaxing in the local style, Karafo Tsakismata is on the waterfront and is the popular meeting place for local musicians. Soon one of them will start playing and you will have a wonderful time singing along with them, whilst you drink ouzo and eat an array of snacks.
Where to stay in Syros
There are some delightful places to stay on the island and these are mainly located in Ermoupolis, Galissas, Kini and Azolimnos. All of the choices are small, attractive and each has its own character. There is a good choice, with something for every budget. It is easy to arrange your own accommodation and Booking.com has a good selection
Ermoupolis is an attractive and popular choice and the Diogenis Hotel is a very special choice. It is situated in elegant 19th-century mansions and has beautiful architectural details that include painted ceilings and polished wood floors, which give both a welcoming ambience. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
In contrast, the Hotel Benois in Galissas lies just 50 metres from the beach and is a snowy white coloured building with comfortable rooms and an enticing infinity pool. Click here for more information and check the latest prices.
Angela’s is situated just 200 metres from the same village and has both guest rooms and apartments. Galissas is just nine kilometres from the main town of Ermoupolis but has good restaurants and shops too. – Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
For those seeking a relaxing holiday without the buzz of the busier islands in the Cyclades, Syros is perfect. The island is naturally beautiful and the islanders are very welcoming. You will soon realise that in Syros, time is measured by the length of the shadows during each day and the passing seasons of the local fruit and vegetables each month…