Another day, another island ... The islands of the Cyclades are barren and mountainous, and have monasteries, windmills, towns ("horas") with labryinthine alleyways, the stones outlined in white; whitewashed cubicle houses with blue shutters, white chapels with blue domes, and lavishly blooming magenta bougainvillea. Cats are everywhere, especially at tavernas, posing prettily in hopes of a hand-out ... All these similarities, and yet, each island is unique.
White chapels atop cliffs on either side of the entrance led to the pretty little bay of Faros, on the southeast coast of Sifnos. As soon as the anchor was down we donned masks and took a swim in the clear water, both to cool off and to check the anchor. No longer is it hard to take the first plunge, as air and water temps are rising.
We could see one way that Sifnos is different soon after sunset: a lighted pathway climbed from the village along the side of the cliff, out to the church that we passed on our way in. We could see several people hiking up and down the trail. Later we learned that there's an extensive network of hiking trails around the island, including a steep climb to the monastery on top of the mountain, over 650 high. There may be trails on other islands, but they aren't being promoted as on Sifnos. No package tourism or large beach resorts here (due no doubt to a lack of large beaches!); it's a very pleasant, unspoiled place.
Next morning we caught the bus to Apollonia, the small capital of the island, with its ceramics shops (for which Sifnos is famous), its cafes and museum. We discovered the most wonderful shop selling fancy marzipan and nut concoctions, and couldn't resist buying a sample of several, which sustained us on our hike to Kastro (castle), an hour away. It was a hot, windless day and when we got there, we ordered iced fruit tea at the first cafe we came to, a fancy New Age place with annoying music. We didn't take note of the price when ordering: 4 EUR ($5) per glass, no free refills!
Thus refreshed, we explored the winding alleys of the hora, encircled by walls of an ancient castle. While waiting for the bus to take us back to Faros, we struck up a conversation with two Americans. The woman, late 50's, was a bona fide hippie from the 70's, still wearing tie-dyed clothes, long hair and jangle jewelry, who had spent much of her adult life in India and Greece. Now she's an ESL teacher in Washington State. Her partner was a primary school principal there, widely traveled and interesting. Both were very fit and up to hiking in the heat. We enjoyed dinner with them at a taverna in Faros that evening. They told us about a big festival taking place at the monastery the following week, but alas, we needed to move on. A strong Meltemi was forecast and we wanted to spend the time at the next island on our itinerary, Paros.
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF SIFNOS