what to see and what to do on the Greek island of 237 monasteries

Island known for its 237 monasteries and churches, magnificent sea and ceramic art, Sifnos is the fourth largest island of the Greek Cyclades. An earthly paradise where culture, art, magnificent beaches and centuries-old traditions come together to give life to experiences to be lived. In this guide, we will discover what to do and what to see in Sifnos, one of the pearls of the southern Aegean Sea.

Sifnos Cyclades: tourist guide

Sifnos, also called Sifanto, is an island particularly appreciated for its natural beauties and the cultural offer that derives from a very ancient history and traditions. The whole territory is protected for its biodiversity, consisting of the marine environment and the cliffs, the mountainsflora and fauna that coexist harmoniously with man.

There are 13 on the island villages, all characterized by the typical Cycladic architecture: white houses with flat roofs to collect rainwater and clay fireplaces, cobbled alleys, courtyards, windmills, dry stone terraces and many, many buildings of cult scattered here and there. For their suggestive charm, i villages Central Sifnos have been declared “places of particular natural beauty” and are protected as such.

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Sifnos: the history

Starting from the thirteenth century BC Sifnos it became a colony of the Achaeans-Mycenaeans who built a small fortified town at the monastery of Agios Andreas. In the Archaic period, this island was transformed into a flourishing and prosperous polis due to the presence of gold and silver mines, from whose trade benefited all the inhabitants since a system of redistribution of wealth was in force.

As the mines ran out, the decline of Sifnos but, despite the various passages of power from the Venetians to the Byzantines and from these to the Ottomans, the island always maintained a certain vocation for self-government. Since ancient times, Sifnos appeared in documents such as island of monasteries, as many as 237, and of master potters who, for over two thousand years, have handed down the secrets of ceramic processing and production techniques from generation to generation. Today there are 19 pottery workshops on the island.

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How to reach the island of Sifnos

To reach theisland of Sifnos there are ferries, active all year round, departing from Piraeus, Milos, Kimolos, Serifos, Kythnos, Sikinos, Ios, Folegandros, Santorini, Paros and Syros. During the summer season the ferries increase and further connections are added from Mykonos, Naxos and Lavrio.

L’island has a heliport located near Tholos. The closest airports are those of Paros, Milos and Syros, while the closest international airports are Santorini and Mykonos. Alternatively, the “El. Venizelos ”of Athens.

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Sifnos: attractions and places of interest

The living traditions carried on by the inhabitants of the island, the scenic beauty, the dream beaches and the slow pace of the days make Sifnos one of the ideal destinations for vacation summer. Apollonia is the inhabited center where most of the tourist activities are concentrated, such as restaurants, bars, shops. Beyond the other small villages, the rest of the territory is natural and uncontaminated.

After this quick introduction, let’s now take a closer look what to see in Sifnos, the attractions and sights not to be missed.

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Main countries – Sifnos

Apollonia is a town that winds its way through the rolling hills of the hinterland, among olive trees and green cultivated terraces. It is the capital and administrative center of the island. The name derives from the cult of the god Apollo. Artemonas it is located near Apollonia and with its characteristic alleys it is the largest village on the island. There are important ancient churches, ceramic workshops, magnificent neoclassical buildings, houses with flowered courtyards. From the area of ​​the windmills you can admire the settlement of Kastro, the sea and other islands of the Cyclades.

Kastro it is the ancient capital of Sifnos and one of the most picturesque villages, as well as an important archaeological site. Kastro flourished in the 6th century BC around the temple and theater of Dionysus with luxurious marble buildings. The country looks like a castle with an elliptical shape, typical of medieval defensive fortifications. Its structure is made up of two defense rings made up of compact rows of white houses. The ruins of the ancient citadel dominate the top of the hill together with the Catholic cathedral.

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Churches and Monasteries – Sifnos

The large amount of churches and monasteries on the island derives from the fact that in ancient times the Turkish sultans granted religious freedom to the inhabitants of the island. The monastery most important and most iconic of Sifnos is that of Chrissopigi, protector of the island. The white building is set on a tongue of rock in the middle of the blue sea in a landscape of incomparable beauty.

There church of the Seven Martyrs is located in Kastro and is one of the most photographed in the Cyclades due to its scenic location between the rocks and the blue waters of the sea.

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Archaeological sites and Ancient Towers – Sifnos

L’acropolis of Agios Andreas it dates back to the 13th century BC and is the only organized archaeological site of Sifnos that can be visited, in an area of ​​about ten thousand square meters. The excavations have brought to light the mighty Mycenaean wall of the acropolis and the layout of the urban area that included the great sanctuary, buildings, roads and the aqueduct.

The ancient towers they were built during the island’s period of prosperity, around the sixth century BC with the exploitation of mines. The first towers were built near the mines, then gradually throughout Sifnos. The towers served as observatories and outposts for communications, as well as a refuge in case of attacks from the sea. All 77 towers were round. Among the most accessible, we point out the White Tower of Pantocrator from the 6th century BC, the Black Tower of Exabela from the 5th century BC and the Tower of Kades from the 4th century BC

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Museums – Sifnos

The archaeological museum of Agios Andreas it is the most modern of the island and exhibits the finds from the excavations in the area as well as other finds from the island, referable to a time span that goes from prehistoric times to the Roman age. The folklore museum in Apollonia exhibits finds of the peasant and seafaring life of the island, ancient costumes, a collection of swords and rifles, carved wood, embroidered lace, the famous canopies of Sifnos.

“We are old in our homes” is a folkloric exhibition in Artemonas, in an old house with traditional architecture. Store traditional furniture, photos, engravings, lithographs, earthenware utensils, traditional costumes and other furnishings in impressive display environments.

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Excursions – Sifnos

Sifnos boasts a network of trails for a total of about 200 kilometers. These are historical routes, beaten for millennia and created for the daily needs related to agriculture and livestock. Today they can be traveled to get to know the churches, the beachesthe ancient towers, the abandoned mines, the mills, the ceramic kilns and the splendid landscapes of the island.

There are 19 officially marked trails on the island. Among the simplest we point out the agricultural trail, 7.5 km long starting from the main square of Apollonia. From here we will go to the discovery of Kato Petali, crossing olive groves and cultivated terraces. After touching the 16th century Vryssi monastery, which houses the Museum of Ecclesiastical Art, we arrive at Platys Gyalos, one of the longest beaches in the Cyclades and an ancient and important center of ceramic production in Sifnos.

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Sifnos pictures and photos