Food. Life. Travel

Greece 101: A Quick Guide to Sifnos

 

We ended our Greece Girls Trip in the beautiful and quiet island of Sifnos. If I had known the things we could have done on this island I would have extended our trip. Sifnos is like a tranquil retreat.

According to a CondeNast Traveller Article, Sifnos is considered “the most delicious Greek island.” I could not agree more. Sifnian cuisine is delightful. Now I know in my previous blog post about Paros, I mention that Paros is the tastiest island. In reality, Sifnos comes first then Paros.

 

The minute you step into Kamares (the port), you will find yourself in a small village, a pebbly beach to one side and beachside restaurants on the other. Do not let this sight fool you. Instead, take in what Rachel Howards describes as the

 

“… the aroma of orange-and-anise biscuits drifting down whitewashed lanes; pockets of sage and oregano in wind-chiselled valleys; blasts of brine as sea urchins are prised open, orange roe scooped up with salty fingers.”

 

Close your eyes and breathe in that deep salty scent. When you open your eyes, find yourself in front of a small store. As you walk in you will find shelves stacked high with different olive oils and vinaigrettes, biscuits and spices, and olive wood carved tenderly into kitchen utensils.  The vibe is cheery and relaxed on this island. Life is lived at the pace of the sea breeze. It is smooth, it is tranquil, it is soft. There is no rush.

If I could have spent a few more days unwinding in Sifnos, exploring every nook and cranny I would have. Alas, hindsight is 20/20 which is why I hope you find my Sifnos Travel Guide to be incredibly helpful for when you plan your trip to the island.

WHERE TO STAY

 

Room with a view

Nymfes Hotel, Kamares (Agia Marina)

We stayed at the charming Nymfes Hotel in Kamares. However, the highlight is the view. The hotel truly has a room with a view.  To the distance you will see the rugged mountainous landscape, the bougainvilleas drape elegantly over the balcony and birds gently chirp in the morning.

The rooms are spacious and clean (as with all our accommodations in Greece). Breakfast is provided, and although it is not a lavish affair or a grand spread, it will satiate your hunger. Furthermore, the hotel is a 5-minute walk to Kamares Beach and to the plethora of other restaurants in the area. Adding to this, Nyfmes has a beautiful outdoor pool that I spent many hours lounging by during the late afternoon and early evening.

However, the selling point of this hotel is the bathroom toiletries they provide. Normally I am not a fan of using hotel provided toiletries (I prefer my own), but I was won over. The shampoo, conditioner, body wash and body cream are all organic and natural. They are from a brand called APIVITAIn all honesty I was tempted to break into their stash of toiletries to bring a bunch back home with me. APIVITA along with Korres are the two major (natural) cosmetic brands in Greece.

Way back when, Sephora used to carry the Korres line, but sadly it has been discontinued. If you live in the USA they have a website where you can purchase a limited selection of the products. Apparently, Shoppers Drug Mart carries the brand as well, but with limited products. A quick search on Amazon displays a few products. So it looks like within the last 3 years the demand for Korres in North America has increased! Which is lucky for me 🙂

 

WHERE TO EAT

A restaurant along the streets of Kastro

Sifnos is the culinary island of Greece. An array of tantalizing restaurants combined with a fusion of Greek cuisine influenced by their diverse history gives way to mouth-watering dishes. If I return to Sifnos, it will be with the intent to dine out more, exploring the cuisine in this beautiful mountainous region. In fact, Sifnos is where majority of the world’s famous Greek chefs come from!

Leonidas Tavern, Kastro

The area in which Leonidas is situated is also home to many other restaurants. In fact, as you walk up the steep streets to reach Leonidas, you will see many other restaurants along your way. However when we were in Kastro, many heartily recommended that we try out Leonidas.

Upon first glance, this restaurant appears to be a road side stop for travelers or truck drivers. Its outward appearance doesn’t elicit any sign of being a culinary candidate. However, what Leonidas lacks in aesthetic appeal, it makes up for in charm.  The restaurant is charming, the service is personable and the food is wonderful. We indulged in the stewed chickpeas and fried fritters, and let our server surprise us with the rest. As for dessert, my mom fell in love with the warm chocolate cake served with a rich chocolate sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I encourage you to take your time dining at this restaurant. When we first arrived we chose to sit inside and were treated to a spectacular view. Below is the jagged edges of the cliff and the stormy waters of the Aegean Sea. It is magnificent. I then wanted to sit outside and our kind server obliged, moving our items to the veranda. It was windy, you are after all on top of a hill in Kastro, but watching the hum of people walk by is a perfect accompaniment to dinner.

leonidas tavern kastro sifnos

O Argiris, Kamares

This restaurant is so good that we went there twice! It is at this restaurant that we once again indulged in the famous Sifnian dish of stewed chickpeas (the best on the island in our opinion) as well as the tomato fritters (to which the name escapes me).

Of course, I became accustomed to ending my meals with Greek coffee, and O Argiris served me the best Greek coffee. In fact, I would return to Sifnos purely for that coffee!

The restaurant is located adjacent to Kamares beach which is convenient. You can swim and then dry off and grab a bite to eat. One thing I will warn you about is that there are plenty of cats roaming this restaurant. Although there are cats (and dogs) everywhere in Greece, for some reason the cats in Sifnos are more manipulative in their cuteness.

DO NOT GIVE IN TO THEIR ADORING STARES. They will continue to hound you for food. I learned the hard way when I fed a tiny kitten a piece of chicken, and then 5 more followed suit. It gave new meaning to being a crazy cat lady when I had 6  cats surrounding me. Needless to say, my mom wasn’t pleased LOL!

cats of sifnos greece

Cats of Sifnos – how cute are they?!

Kitrino podilato-patisserie (Yellow Bicycle), Artemonas

Pastries and cookies are something you must indulge in while in Greece. Regardless of whether or not you have a sweet tooth, the pastries in Greece are something different.

I mentioned in my Naxos Travel Guide that the bakery we went to every morning had delicious cookies and biscuits. Thus while in Sifnos, we wanted to indulge in the same treats. While in Artemonas (a slightly bigger town than Kamares) many people told us about this bakery. Now they would say it in Greek and once they saw our blank stares they would repeat (in English) “Yellow Bicycle bakery – it has a yellow door!”

kitrino podilato bakery sifnos

Yellow door of Kitrino Podilato

 

And so off we went, searching high and low for this bakery. Two hours later I spotted a yellow door and we tentatively walked inside. I asked the young man at the counter what the name of this place is called. To which he replied something in Greek (it’s all Greek to me 😉 )

“What is that in English?” I responded hesitantly.

“Yellow bicycle!” Alas, we found the place.

The bakery is wonderful, it is small and quaint and charming. Everything about Sifnos is charming. The people at the bakery were so kind. When they found out we wanted to take the items back home to Canada, they wrapped up all our items as best as they could so that they would last the journey home.

 

WHAT TO DO

There are plenty of things to do in Sifnos, but none of them are high energy activities. Instead, to truly explore and enjoy this island, I recommend doing so at a more leisurely pace.

Explore each of the small villages

I will expand on this more (under the section “Where to Explore”), but each village in Sifnos offers something unique. It is easy to get to each village by bus. The longest bus ride (to Kastro) is about 20-minutes. Taking the bus to explore the villages is efficient and cheap. Once there all you need to do is walk! You can take a car if you like. However, parking can be a hassle and the streets are quite narrow

artemonas sifnos

Believe it or not, but this is a radio station in Artemonas that plays smooth jazz!

Marvel at the history

Churches in Sifnos

Sifnos has roughly around 3000 years worth of history to marvel at. Now obviously you cannot do all of it in a day, or even three, but you can surely enjoy whatever you can.

As you stroll through the various towns, take a look at the architecture, the cobblestone, and even the churches. Each holding a different aspect of history. It is incredibly beautiful.

Church of the Seven Martyrs at night

Church of the Seven Martyrs at night

Take a stroll

I cannot stress this enough. Walk. Walk. Walk. Everywhere. Greece, much like the rest of Europe, is so walkable. There is no excuse not to walk in Sifnos because it is not a massive island. All the villages are easily walkable and it is fun to explore and get lost.

 

Go for a hike

We were unable to do this while in Sifnos, but the island has plenty of hiking routes. None of them are too laborious or long, and in the end, you get a stunning view. In fact, one hike takes you all the way up to a church that sits atop a hill.

When I was on a “date” with this guy from Tinder (separate story on my Instagram) I marveled at how nice it would be to hike all the way to the top. With a look of confusion and mild distaste he responded: “Why would you do that, when you could just take a cab ride up?”

So maybe hiking isn’t for everybody.

Hill top terraces of Kastro

Purchase their pottery

In addition to their cuisine, Sifnos is well known for its pottery. At any village on the island, you will see the display of their pottery, whether in restaurants, hotels or even people’s own household. The pottery of Sifnos is beautiful.

We found a shop in Kamares / Agia Marina where a man handmade all his items by himself. We ended up purchasing a bowl and a jug. I admit, the pottery is expensive (I believe we spent about 40 euros or so in total for both items), but it is well worth it.

Nothing makes me happier than taking out the items during a dinner party and explaining where we got them from. They will indeed be conversation starters.

WHERE TO EXPLORE

Kastro

Aside from the restaurants, Kastro has many historic neighborhoods you can explore and stroll through before or after your meal. That is because Kastro is built on the ancient capital of Sifnos. Its history is marked by the Ottomans as well as the Venetians. In fact, some of the boundary walls of the Venetian fortress survives today.

We took our evening walk down the narrow little streets, marveling at the architecture. Everywhere we saw entrances to the old castle called lozies, and beautiful homes nestled one next to the other along the streets. If you want to know more about the architecture, check this site out!

One pathway we took was not well lit at all. In fact, if we took a wrong step we might have fallen to our deaths below! I imagine during the day time it is less hazardous of a walk. At the end of this little pathway, we found we came upon an art gallery tucked into the side of the cliff, looking upon the valley below.

However the real highlight of Kastro is the Church of the Seven Martyrs, that sits atop a hill at the bottom of the cliff. It is incredibly beautiful at night, almost in an melancholic and eerie way, and in the morning it looks glorious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This may look like a painting but it is actually a house in Kastro

 

The Seaside in Kastro

Kamares

Kamares is where the popular beach is located and where one can find pottery. It is a bit more touristy, though far from garish. We enjoyed exploring the restaurants and local food stores in this area. Along with pottery, you can also purchase olive wood utensils, spices like oregano and basil and as well as olive oil!

kamares sifnos

View of Kamares

Apollonia 

Apollonia is the capital of Sifnos and is the heart of the island. It is picturesque with its white washed walls, contrasted by the tall willowy trees and fragrant flowers in full bloom. Here is where you will catch the buses to take you to the other villages on the island. With that being said, although the buses came regularly the schedule is spaced out. This meant that if you missed the bus you would have to wait an hour for the next one.

Bustling streets of Apollonia

Use this opportunity to explore Apollonia. We took this time to walk around the town and browse the various merchants (I was on a hunt to find some more Korres products). Since it was so hot outside, we needed a place to seek shade and a drink. We chanced upon this small hipster cafe. I loved the decoration and art work. Our server, a guy with dreads and a wide smile brought out some lemonade. Sitting in the cafe we just watched as both locals and tourists hurried to their destinations, moving with intent and leisure.

cafe art sifnos

Cafe Art

Artemonas

Beautiful blue doors

We spent an entire afternoon roaming around Artemonas on our last day. That is when we were on the hunt for the Yellow Bicycle bakery.

Aretemonas is beautiful. There are plenty of white washed walls, churches and the envy of it all, peoples homes. I absolutely loved the homes in Sifnos. They were quaint and charming. I envied the people behind the walls. Their ability to stand on their balcony and see the sea. How they hung their laundry to dry in the hot sun. How they could walk those smooth cobblestone pathways to get to where they needed to be.

Needless to say, an afternoon in Artemonas, although hot, is the perfect way to spend the day.

A peek into the charming homes of Sifnos

BEACHES

Kamares Beach

Agia Marina, here is where Kamares beach is located

We only went to one beach, and it was Kamares beach. I loved it. Rather than having smooth soft sand, the sand is gravely and the shores of the beach are pebbly. My sister and mom found the water to be cold and rough. I attribute that to be because Sifnos is windy, but that did not deter me from enjoying the beach.

Instead of the beach, we spent our time by the pool at the hotel. So, unfortunately, I was only able to enjoy the beach for a little bit, but a little is better than nothing at all.


~~~

One word to sum up Sifnos is charming. Sifnos is an island full of charm and charisma. I loved the island. The food melts in your mouth, the wind is a sweet relief from the heat and the history is steeped into every nook, cranny, arch, and pathway on the island.

This island was the perfect destination to end our trip on. Sifnos forces you to calm down and enjoy the time given to you to be in Greece. Nothing is done in haste. There is a calm force that washes over you as you explore the towns. There is silence. Instead, the noise comes from the bristle of leaves, the whir of the wind, the fragrance of the flowers. All of these aspects add to the allure of this island.

Come to Sifnos to unwind. Indulge in the food, munch on the biscuits, let the sun warm your bones. It’s a time to relax.

 

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