The Greek Islands: What to Do on Ios in the Shoulder Season

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The Greek island of Ios is a bit of a strange one. The word I would use to describe how it looks would be “sparse”; perhaps even “rural.” And yet Ios is known as one of the major party islands in the Cyclades, right up there with Mykonos. Why is this?

Well, Ios became popular with backpackers and other vagabonding types a few decades ago — back when it was acceptable to party all night in the Chora and then crash in a sleeping bag on the beach. Today, the Chora is still full of restaurants and boutiques and discotheques that backpackers flock to in the summer months. They don't sleep on the beach anymore, but tourism still remains a huge fixture on the island of Ios.

I, however, experienced a much different island.

Mylopotas Bay, Ios

Donkey on Ios

But the time I arrived on Ios a little more than a week into September, the partying backpackers had all gone. The discos were shut; the boutiques were all having end-of-season sales; and I got to experience the quieter side of the island. And you know what? It was pretty awesome.

Ios port

Ios Chora

Things to do on Ios

If you find yourself on Ios during the shoulder season (which is definitely when I would suggest going), here are a few things you'll definitely want to do:

Wander around the Chora

The main town on Ios is simply called “The Chora” (or, “The Town”). You'll notice that there are “Choras” on many of the Greek Islands. The one on Ios is similar to most of the others — it has narrow, twisting streets, and plenty of white-washed buildings and churches.

Being on the island at the beginning of the off-season meant that my Intrepid Travel group essentially had the entire town to ourselves to explore. We visited some stores to shop their end-of-season sales, had a couple of Greek coffees, and cuddled with some attention-seeking Greek kitties. It was a chilled-out version of Ios — and one that I really enjoyed.

Churches in Ios Chora

Ios Chora
Ios Chora

Square in Ios Chora

Ios Chora
Many restaurants were already shut in September.

Visit the ruins of Skarkos

If you head downhill and away from the Chora, you'll find the ruins of Skarkos, a prehistoric settlement set atop a hill. The archaeological site is an active one, and you can pay to explore the ruins if you feel so inclined. I don't know that it would be very interesting without a guide (and I'm not sure that there are any on-site that you can hire), but it's still worth swinging by to take a look.

Skarkos ruins on Ios
Skarkos ruins on Ios

Hike up to the amphitheater

If you want a bird's-eye view of the island of Ios, hike through the Chora, past the windmills, and to the new amphitheater that looks out over Mylopotas Bay. The amphitheater was built to host cultural performances (in hopes of attracting non-backpacker types), but I'm told that not much actually happens there. It sure does offer a great view, though.

Ios windmills
Ios windmills
Ios Amphitheater
Ios Amphitheater

Go chapel-spotting

Lastly, perhaps you just want to roam around the island counting churches and chapels. Rumor has it that there are 365 churches/chapels on the island — one for every day of the year.

Church in Ios Chora

Ios beaches

Mylopotas Bay

By far the most popular beach on Ios is at Mylopotas Bay. You can walk here in about 15-20 minutes from the Chora to find golden sand and some tourism infrastructure (including restaurants, sun beds/umbrellas, and souvenir shops). The water at this beach was chilly even in September, but oh-so clear!

Mylopotas Beach, Ios
Mylopotas Beach

Mylopotas Beach, Ios

Other beaches on Ios

Other beaches worth checking out on Ios include Gyalos Beach (popular and close to the port), Kalamos Beach (isolated with clear water), and Magganari Beach (actually a series of beaches in a protected cove).

What makes Ios special

I can't speak to what the island is like in the height of tourist season. But Ios during the shoulder season? It is quiet and beautiful in a very rural sort of way.

Ios

Mylopotas Bay, Ios

The practical stuff

WHERE TO STAY ON IOS

I stayed at Homer's Inn Hotel, about halfway between the port and the Chora. The hotel was fantastic — friendly staff, clean rooms, and a killer view from the terrace/breakfast room (see the third photo in this post). It also had a really nice pool to lounge around if you didn't feel like heading to the beach. It's also quite affordable by Greek Islands standards.

Otherwise, there are a handful of hotels at most of the major beaches, along with some accommodation options in the Chora. Check out:

WHERE TO EAT IN IOS

There are lots of varied options in the Chora. I can personally recommend a family-run place called Lord Byron, which had good food and even better desserts. There are also some nice seafood places down near the port, where you can eat outside near the water.

GETTING AROUND IOS

Ios is small enough that you can reach most places on foot, or perhaps by bike. You can also rent cars and ATVs on the island. And, in the summer months, buses run limited routes around the island.

Is Ios an island YOU would like to visit?

 

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Things to do on Ios

 

*Note: I visited Ios as part of a complimentary Greek Islands tour from Intrepid Travel through my partnership with them. As always, though, opinions are entirely my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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25 Comments on “The Greek Islands: What to Do on Ios in the Shoulder Season

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  1. Loved your post, Amanda and the photos are amazing. I agree with you about visiting in the shoulder season. I haven’t visited Ios (it’s now on my bucket list!) but I have visited a few other Greek islands in the shoulder season and the weather was great and the crowds small. I’m going to check out your other Greek posts now.

      Thanks, Carolyn! I would definitely suggest Ios for your next off-season visit to Greece! It’s a great little island. (And yes, shoulder season is definitely ideal for this part of the world!)

    Your photos are stunning – I especially love the one with the coloured paving stones. I have only ever been to Crete and Hydra, Poros and Aegina (those three were on a day cruise from Athens) and that was back in 1980. I am way overdue for a trip to the Greek Islands. (not so much a fan of the main land..) I’ve been drooling over your pictures of all the islands. As a “person of a certain age” I would definitely go in the off season! Just as an aside, did the Greek men hassle you and do they still make that clicking sound with their tongue when women walk by? I was traveling solo back then and oh man – they were a pain in the a**!!!! Athens was a nightmare for me and they were even trying to pick up a twelve year old girl on my cruise to Hydra, etc. I hope they are now more “enlightened” One good thing about being an oldie – i won’t have to worry about that anymore! 🙂 I can’t wait to hear all about your upcoming adventures in Thailand especially as I want to volunteer at the Elephant Park as well.

      Thanks, Laurie! I would definitely recommend a return trip to the islands sometime! As for the creepy Greek men… you’ll still find plenty of them in places like Athens (I’m not a fan, either), but the islands are a completely different world!

    Beautiful!! I love places in shoulder seasons, it’s my favorite time to go!

      The shoulder season (or even the off-season) is my favorite time to travel, too!

    I adored this island and loved the sunset and cliche Greek buildings I just found it a little too touristy

      You must have gone during high season, Rebecca! When I was there in September, it was anything but touristy!

    I would definitely like to visit los Island. It looks so charming and picturesque. The quietude adds to its beauty. Pictures are awesome!

      I honestly didn’t expect a whole lot from this island (since I only knew it for its party scene), but it really surprised me!

    just the other day I booked myself a flights to Greece and all these posts make me want to visit islands so badly! 😉

      Whoo hoo! Well I hope you do and that you enjoy them as much as I did!

    Yes! I’d love to visit Ios 🙂 I think you’re right about going during the shoulder season. Best to avoid the crowds 🙂

      Definitely! Not that I always mind crowds; they were fine on Santorini. But on this island I was really glad that I missed them.

    Each post about Greece keeps getting better! I have not been to Ios, but it looks very peaceful and sparse like you say. Interesting that it turns into such a party island at night. The picture of the amphitheater looking out over the water is just beautiful!

      Thanks, Bridget! I’m glad these posts are still keeping your interest – there have been a lot of them, I know, but the Greek Islands are just too awesome to skip writing about any of them!

    Did you find the Chora in Ios to be a beautiful town or was it a little more run down than other islands?

      It’s hard to find an ugly town on the Greek islands! It’s also hard to compare Ios with others, though, especially since I was there in the off-season when the city center was super quiet. Some of my photos in this post are from the Chora, though, so perhaps you can come to your own conclusion!

    One of my favourite Greek Islands. When I am in the Cyclades I always find a few days to return to Ios. I have been several times in September (2016 included) and always stay and meet up with old friends at Homer’s Inn!

    I lived on Ios in the early 90’s and have returned a few times since. It is a beautiful, picturesque island that is very quiet during the day because all are sleeping. Last Summer I went in August and it was still great, I like the buzz of a few people around. There’s something fun about walking out of a club, after dancing until 6am in a Greek Bar, and then eating a souvlaki on the way home – at 20 or 50! and walking the ancient donkey track as the sun rises.
    If you get a chance to visit a monastery festival you should – the beautiful dancing and music makes me feel like I’m in another era, such nice customs
    There is a stillness and magic in this island and a climb or visit to any church will remind you

      I was there in September when it was even quieter, but I loved it!

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