Greece – Ios

Ios, the ultimate party island after Mykonos, boasts its reputation of having a lively atmosphere and endless fun. Ios is one of the southernmost Cycladic islands. The highest mountain is Pirgos, 713 m in height, located in the center of the island. According to tradition, Ios is believed to be the homeland of Homer’s mother, while it is speculated that the great poet died and was buried here. What attracts visitors to Ios are its golden beaches and the characteristic Aegean architecture. The ship will be docked off the coast of Ormos. There are a few interesting churches on the island and most visitors like to go to the monastery of St John (Ag Ioannis) located in Chora, the capital. There are quite a few beaches…most popular being Mylopotas and Manganari beach, reachable by bus or a short 2 km walk down the hill from the capital. Ios is overcrowded with bars and clubs at night in Chora and the rhythm is high all through the night. There are frequent buses from the port of Ormos to Chora. The bus schedule is posted not too far from the dock. Because of its young audience, you’ll soon realize that Chora’s bars boast loud music and drinking competitions. Expect to be entertained on this small but active island!

15 Sep: Everything we have ever heard about Ios referred to its legendary party status. Both of our guidebooks further hyped onto that image with opening descriptions of “This drink-till-you-drop party island is rivaled only by Mykonos when it comes to nocturnal Dionysian rites. Daytime activity generally centers on the coast, as beachgoers soak up the sun’s energy to prepare for the long night ahead” and “Branded – unfairly at times – as the party capital of the Cyclades, Ios offers much more than hedonism and hangovers”. Well of course we couldn’t wait to get acquainted with Ios in person after reading these tantalizing descriptions!

We pulled into Ormos Harbor at 1330, and were anxious to get off the boat as soon as possible. Our initial plan was to jump on the local bus for a ride up to Hora (cost was about a Euro), but the driver informed us that he wasn’t scheduled to depart from Ormos for another 15 minutes. Also, it was stifling hot on the bus and we felt like we were withering away just sitting there. That was incentive enough for us to hoof it up to the Hora, which was a fairly easy walk that only took us about 20 minutes. The only thing on our mind was food, and finding a quick bite. Amazingly, at 2 pm, everything in Ios’s quaint hora was closed! No souvlaki stands, no supermarkets, no gyro huts…nilch, nada. Our only saving grace was the Ios bakery, which some kind soul pointed out to us as a “maybe” option. Sure enough, the bakery was open and doing some brisk business as there were plenty of other like-minded souls in the same position as us. After grabbing a couple of ham & cheese croissants and an apple pie treat, we sat on some shaded steps opposite the bakery and put an end to our hunger pangs.

The walk through the hora’s labyrinth had been really cool, and we had plenty of time to scope out where we wanted to return to tonight, provided we could find our way back! Lots of bars and clubs had posters plastered around town offering “2 for 5 Euro cocktails” or “down 6 shots, get a free t-shirt”…it certainly felt that Ios was a party town since not a soul was stirring in the middle of the day. Most people were probably resting up for the night’s activities! Despite the bar/club atmosphere, Ios’s hora is worth a daytime detour, as it is full of charm…lots of nooks and crannies to explore. But our main goal was to find a beach for some R&R so we asked a local for directions to Mylopotas.

Since Mylopotas was only a 20 minute walk downhill from the hora, we decided to hoof it over there rather than waiting to catch the bus. Bob kept insisting that on the return trip, we would have to break down and catch a ride…as he wasn’t keen at all on hiking 2 km back up the hill. We just laughed and said we’d play it by ear. Mylopotas Beach did not disappoint. From our vantage point at the top of the hill, we could see the entire expanse of the beach and it looked lovely. The clear blue water and the fine golden sand looked like the perfect place to snooze the rest of the day, and we soon found our spot on the beach.

We met a British woman who vacationed every year on Ios and she told us that in August, there were over 20,000 tanned bodies jammed together on the beach as it was peak season and everyone was in party mode. She preferred visiting in the middle of September as the parties were dying down, and she could enjoy her beach days sans crowds. Since she had been on Ios for a couple of weeks already, she gave us the scoop on what had been going on in Ios lately. First, no Thai food at Ali Baba’s anymore as the restaurant had recently suffered from a fire, and was no longer open for business for the remainder of the season. Second, if we were in the mood for Thai cuisine, she recommended Delphini’s as they had two Thai chefs who were excellent. (Lucky for us, Delphini was right there at the edge of Mylopotas beach, so we didn’t have far to walk!) Third, she said nightlife in the hora didn’t really get rocking till about midnight, but we would have fun no matter what. It was great advice, and we were looking forward to taking her up on it.

After several hours of soaking up the sun and swimming in the refreshingly cool sea, we decided to stop by Delphini’s for dinner. What a nice spot…the couches overlooking the beach are super comfy and the place to watch the sunset with a beer or two! Our Thai dinner was simple but delicious and for the first time since we had arrived in Greece, we didn’t leave the table over-stuffed.

Poor Bob did not get his wish to take the bus back up to the hora. In fact, somehow we suckered him into walking uphill in the dark no less…but what a trooper, once he actually started going, he kept going, leading our contingent back uphill. Actually the hike to and from the beach really wasn’t that bad and before we knew it, we were back in Ios’s hora. At this point, we split into two groups, with Bob and Ann returning back down the footpath to Ormos. We decided to hang out in the hora, checking out the shops and the impending nightlife, before returning back to the cruise to preload on some alcoholic beverages.

Stumbling back up to the hora in the dark on an uneven (and steep) footpath when you are half drunk was not the brightest idea we have ever had, but somehow we thought it would be a fabulous idea at the time. 20 sweaty minutes later at the stroke of midnight, we finally joined the late night revelers in Ios’s party district. The music was pumping, the crowd was dancing, and everyone looked like they were have a great time. Yes, you could easily say that Ios rocks…Opa!

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