Serifos: rare, authentic charm
What to See
Drive the route from Hora to Pyrgos – the oldest settlement, now abandoned – and then to Galani, a pretty Cycladic hamlet with superb views. Here a footpath begins that will take you to beautiful Sykamia, in the north. Also visit the 1572 Monastery of Taxiarches, on the road connecting Hora with Platys Gialos. It is actually a fort with a high wall and bastions, built to repel pirates. Two kilometers down the road, stop at the village of Kalitsos, built amid lush greenery above a steep gorge that ends in a cove.
Serifos, one of the western Cyclades, lies 73 nautical miles from Piraeus. Serifos is a rare example of a Greek island without a noteworthy maritime tradition; it prospered thanks to its iron ore mining industry for a long period after 1870. A collapse in metal prices in 1915, however, led to labor unrest, motivated by demands for an eight-hour workday. It resulted in a violent confrontation the following year, which left several workers and police officers dead. The event is commemorated annually on August 21.
The rusting remains of the mining facilities, now long closed, create an eerie feeling in the southeastern bay of Megalo Livadi, one of the island’s many enchanting locations. Along with the ruined workers’ houses and the neoclassical building that housed the offices of the mining company, they contrast with the few palm trees and the area’s fine beaches. In fact, the ‘Metalleia’ mines are one special reason for fans of exploration and photography to visit – but then again, this holds true for the entire island.
At first sight, Serifos’s landscape is one of the most beautiful in the Cyclades, and this is probably what Elytis had in mind: the daunting massif with its steep slope dotted with whitewashed houses above the picturesque tree-lined bay at the port.
In contrast to most other Cycladic islands, where jacuzzis mark hotel verandas and 4x4s plow even the outlying roads, Serifos has curiously managed to retain its authentic charm, low-key profile and laid-back ambience. You will not find hip bars, fusion cuisines, jetskis and fancy sunbeds here. The food in the little tavernas has a homemade quality and the golden sand or colorful pebbles on most of the 72 beaches of all sizes bear few, if any, footprints – just as in the old days.
Serifos on the Map
The golden sand or colorful pebbles on most of the 72 beaches of all sizes bear few, if any, footprints
Avlomonas, near the port of Livadi, is the only beach with sunbeds. Livadakia, Ganema, Psili Ammos, Aghios Sostis and Sykamia are also excellent, well shaded and popular.
As Serifos is sparsely populated (1,400), the infrastructure is not well developed and getting to most other beaches requires foot power. In fact, this is half the beauty of a trip to Serifos – discovering its beaches reached via footpaths. But take note: Signposting is poor and directions by locals tend to be oversimplified; get yourself a good map and be sure to take plenty of water with you.
Alternatively, the sailboat gets you there painlessly, and definitely the beaches you explore will have few other visitors.
Hora, the village perched above Livadi, is an enchanting medieval fortified settlement, with entry via two archways – one still bearing a Venetian coat of arms. It is reached from Livadi either by road or an arduous but rewarding ascent on foot – preferably during the late afternoon.
Arched alleyways adorned with bougainvillea lead to the top of the hill where the ruins of the Venetian fort, built in 1434, stand. The view is breathtaking. There are also folk and archaeological museums as well as two restored windmills.
Where to Eat
Being disappointed by the local cuisine and wine is out of the question. Chickpea soup (“revythada”) with rosemary is the local speciality but also look for seafood and sausages.
Aloni, on the road to Hora, has sea views; Kalis, in Livadi, has excellent seafood, especially lobster spaghetti, To Bakakaki for grilled meat; Stefanakos, in Psili Ammos, has fine traditional Greek dishes; Plakes, in Hora, fine grill with views; Pezoulia near Ganema beach, has special dishes.