The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide

Ultra-soft sand, rejuvenating waters, eclectic services and an unrivaled positive energy can have you returning to Ios island in Greece every year for more.

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide
Picture-perfect: Ios, in the Cyclades.

Yes, most of us older crowds remember the isle, nicknamed “Nios” by the locals, as the Greek party island extraordinaire. It was actually dance (and drink) till you drop a few decades ago and even further back… tourists from all over the world would just come to Ios nearly penniless, sleep on the beach, mingle and feel forever (care)free.

This however has all changed and thankfully for the better in many respects as Ios takes on a whole new identity: luxury, finesse and a passion for tradition: all in one place. Should I mention the food?

Ios belongs to the Cyclades island complex and is situated  between Naxos and Santorini. It may be small to the eye, but don’t let that fool you. There’s plenty to see, do and experience. 

For me, Ios magically grows on you, and I think this has to do with two things: the lingering positive vibe created over the decades by happy and free-spirited people who came here looking for the real meaning of life and the islanders themselves, who somehow, despite their isolation and poverty, were open and free themselves and welcomed (and still do) the world to their humble abode in the sea, no questions asked, no judgements passed. 

I’ve been visiting the island over and over again in the last three decades and I always manage to find something new to bring me back. I’m sure you will too.

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide

What Can I Do on Ios Island

Well, for starters, you can wander through the Hora, the island’s capital, an Aegean Sea beauty if I do say so myself.

Narrow white-washed footpaths lead to an architectural mix of the wealthier two-storey mansions and one-floor fishermen dwellings all dressed in their best with flowers blooming all year round. 

First things first: walk your way up to the Church of Panagia Gremiotissa (which means the “Virgin of the Steep Cliff’) and catch some the most breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea

Solo Female Traveler? Go to Greece

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide
Ios from the award-winning Liostasi Hotel.

You can actually walk (uphill) to the Hora from Yialos, the port – it takes about 15 minutes or take the bus (regular services). I strongly suggest visiting the Hora at all times of the day: morning for traditional Ios breakfast and stupendous views, and at sunset… the perfect time for an aperitivo at one of the many bar-cafes dotting the Virgin’s cliff and below. For those of you who have dinner at around that time (Greeks usually eat after 9pm) sit at one of the tavernas or restaurants and enjoy the sun’s spectacular dip into the deep blue.

And of course, be there at night, when the Ios party begins. Lots of music, lots of happy, suntanned faces, lots of chillin’ crowds – everyone’s just mingling and enjoying Greek summer in all its glory free of worries.

Visit Agia Irini chapel on the far end of the port. This minimal 17th-century, all-white chapel standing proudly in a pine tree-filled courtyard is the perfect place to get married or catch the fishermen in action. 

Discover the unexplored Ios

🗺️ with special trekking tours created by local enthusiasts and get an insider tour of the island.

Book the experience

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide

5+1 Reasons to Marry or Honeymoon in Greece

Indulge in the food  

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide

Ios may be small to the eye but it boasts a very unique-to-the-island version of Cyclades cuisine. First and foremost, get your hands on some local “skotyri” – a creamy, sharp-tasting cheese that is just perfect with sesame- and cinnamon-filled dried figs. Make sure to order “tsimetia” which are unbelievably delicious rice-filled zucchini blossoms (yes, we eat those too!). And of course for breakfast, dessert, snack, dinner, anything   … indulge in some “kalasounia” – cheese-filled sweet pies.

Go sailing

Ios has one port, Yialos, one the safest in the Cyclades, where you can either rent a yacht or sailboat, or take a day cruise to the neighboring isles.

Swim in Ios’ Soothing Blue Seas 

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide
The sand literally glitters like gold. Mylopotas, Ios island, Greece.

If you’re looking to find one of the world’s best beaches, well you’ve come to the right island. Ios’ Maganari beach has not only been awarded multiple times as one of the best beaches in the world, it is here that  scenes from the Big Blue were filmed.

Picture it: massive beach, golden sand, aqua marine waters. Bliss! I remember waking up in the morning to the sound of goats grazing, their bells ringing away. 

But yes, the island has other great beaches too. Closer to the Hora, a mere walkable (some hilly stops) 3kms, is Mylopotas. Besides its velvety, soothing sand, which local friends tell me changes in texture from one side of the beach to other, Mylopotas is the place to be if you want to test your mettle in a crazy variety of sea sports

This is also the favorite beach of locals and must for the younger crowds because: a) it’s protected from the often wild Ios winds b) it has all the facilities a true sun-seeker would ever dream of c) it’s where it’s all happening and d) this is where the Ios magic started in the 1970s (see more on that at the end of the post).

But you can also go off the beaten track. When I first holidayed in Ios, even Manganari was hard to get to. For the adventure lovers, visit Psathi, windy, wild and secluded. 

| Tip

🤿 Discover Ios and its breathtaking underwater world on a scuba diving adventure ! The experience is suitable for all levels and backgrounds.

Dance Till You Drop

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide
Truly international: Ios parties today at the FarOut Beach Club at Mylopotas beach. Photo @ FarOut Beach Club

You can either start off with a drink in the Hora and head to the massive party on the beach at FarOut Beach Club at Mylopotas or party first, and then go to the Hora to chill. This awesome club right above the beach brings some of the world’s hottest DJs and yes, impromptu rave parties are free. Just bring your bathing suit and some good vibes and enter the Ios party magic. In the words of the club owners: “ATTENTION: Do not expect a normal vacation… be prepared to escape from reality”.

Maria’s Tips: Visiting Ios

 On the road again

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide
Ios island: the wild side.

Ios is still not easy to get to. Regular ferries depart from Piraeus port daily in the summer but the journey lasts for about seven hours. Although I do admit, I love long ferry trips, they help me disconnect from the madness of daily life. Once I get there, my mind is empty and ready for vacation time.

You can always take the high-speed, which is a four-hour ride but tickets are more expensive. Or you can alternatively fly to Santorini and in 45 minutes take a local ferry or sea taxi from there to Ios. The trip lasts about 45 minutes.

✓ Settle down… 

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide
Find the heart in the sky… Ios from above.

If this were 20 years ago, I’d say: on the beach or at Ios’ notorious campground. Today, however, life is different. Ios has accommodation options for every pocket and for every style. You can choose the fairytale-like Pavezzo near the port for the best hospitality in town. Ask for Angela (former head of the Ios Tourism Board) and a vibrant, out-there personality. Tell her Maria from The Greek Vibe sent you! Find more great hotels on here.

If you’re willing to spend more, Liostasi is a great choice and worth every penny. This could be the most romantic spot on the island. This is also where you’ll find one of the island’s best gastro restaurants, and of course, its very own open-air cinema overlooking the bay! Ask for Despina. Tell her Maria from The Greek Vibe sent you and ask her to whip up something local.

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide
Traditional Greek island sweets: ‘pasteli’ and ‘loukoumia’ can be found in every island house to welcome guests.

Time for Greece’s Open-air ‘Therino’ Cinema

 Indulge in… 

Ios cheeses: “skotyri”, “niotiko” and “xino”, the local “matsi” pasta, and for dessert: “mosenta” – a local pie made of watermelon, raisins, honey and sesame seeds, stuffed dried figs.

 Don’t forget to buy…

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide

Stuffed figs, local cheeses, spoon sweets, honey, capers, fava and chickpeas, herbs, “amygdalota” (almond macarons) to kill for, and baklava, which is not local but is delicious none the less. Go to Mosenta and ask for Maria (Kontonikoli), tell her Maria from The Greek Vibe sent you, and remember everything is handmade. 

12+1 Greek Food Products You Must Try

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide
Minimal perfection made in Ios, Greece.

✓ Truth or dare… 

Hop on an incoming ferry and be in cosmopolitan Santorini in 55 minutes or take a passing high-speed or sea taxi and be there in 35 minutes.

➣Do the same for Sikinos island, where you can enjoy dinner and wine at the Manalis Winery with views to Folegandros and beyond.  By sea taxi about 30 minutes.

| Tip

📱 Make sure you have high-quality mobile and Internet connection: I recommend you get an eSIM on Airalo.

Sikinos: A Remote Greek Island Getaway for the Quiet Types

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I end today’s post with a mini-documentary instead of a song: The Children of an Endless Dream – 1970-2020, which premiered on May 10, 2022 and won three awards already at the South Film and Arts Academy Festival, the Indie Short Fest, and the New York International Film Awards – NYIFA. Written by Tilemahos Katsigiannis and directed by Aris Katsigiannis it speaks volumes of why we all keep going back to Ios.


In the words of the creators: “This movie is dedicated to all the beautiful people who have been pouring out their hearts & souls each summer to welcome people from all around the world. To all precious grandmas who have been opening their hearts and homes to strangers. The ones who manage to define Greek Philoxenia globally.

The Magic of Ios Island: The Ultimate Guide

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