Greece – Sifnos

Trying to understand why this island has been the favorite of my kids and mum above all other islands we visited in the Greek Cyclades.

In 2013 I took my kids for the first time on an island hopping trip of the Cyclades in Greece. Unanimously, they nominated Sifnos as their absolute favorite. Two years later I am back and took my mum as well. And yes, she as well preferred this one above all the others we visited.

So, why?

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Guess it starts with the moment you set foot on the island. It feels like being flashed back in time. Arriving at a small harbor with this big ferry. A shop, a car rental company, a travel agency, a bank… and that’s it for the harbor I think.

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The first trip I rented a car on each island, returning them each time before we took a ferry. When I was asking about a GPS to rent with the car at the time of booking, the guys probably rolled their eyes “another one of those non-islanders”. As this is an island of course and not that immense, a GPS is considered stupid here. I didn’t know that. I am counting on mine everyday. Overly dependent and … lazy. You could get lost here, but you learn fast enough to look at the sun and your watch/ mobile and search for the sea again. But we didn’t get lost here… we made it ours quite fast.

Sifnos is a rough and quite green island, no high buildings, no apartment blocks, only small white villages dotted across the hills and a lot of nice beaches. Sifnos is not suffocated by tourists. There is no airport, the only way to get there is by boat. Everything is relaxed here…

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One day we decided to visit a quite secluded beach. It had a rather steep descent, but I saw cars below so thought it would be OK. We had a great time, nice swims, great food, it wouldn’t get better than this… and then we needed to go back. Hmmm, the way up was a bit steeper than I thought. Even worse, I needed to take a sharp turn to the right in between rocks before getting to that road. First try… car too heavy, needed to drive backwards around the corner back to the beach. One of the local ladies gave me the required tips: airco off, all ballast out (eg mum and kids), full throttle, then take the 90 degree turn to the right and keep going until the first flat spot. Simple. Yeah right. I did it, in one go, but mum whom I left with the kids at the bottom saw only a big sand cloud and was afraid I fell off the cliff. And they had to do the climb on foot… Anyways, it still was great. Mum tells a different, more horror like story.

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One thing to remember: Go in AUGUST, like the people from Athens do! The pools are not heated and in July the water is just not warm enough… for me at least. Idem dito for the sea water. A vacation in Southern Europe is not a vacation without water… of a pool and the sea. The first trip the kids were so attached to and not removable from the pool. We had a great room with a terrace opening up to the pool area, ideal for me to relax while keeping an eye on them… and sipping from a Mojito.

I really loved the beaches… sprinkled with stars, warm water, softly going deeper and without waves. I never saw a sea like this before, me being used to the North Sea or Atlantic Ocean. Even the sea is chill here. As there were not really waves or high and low water especially in the bays, we found some great places to eat on the beach … yes, ON the beach… I really liked Okeadis in Vathi with home cooked stuff…

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I don’t want to go eat on restaurants everyday. Sometimes I just want something simple, when I want it, while wearing what I want to. Fish is the main source of protein here, logically with this arid landscape. So, that’s what I want to have. I found out that every day around 9 am the fishermen come back with the catch of the day and sell their fish on a tiny parking lot in the main village. With a lot of sign language I managed to buy myself some good fish at an extremely good price. Lovely.

For the second trip I booked almost a year in advance in order to have the best pick: our own private windmill! (Windmill Bella Vista) Obviously it has its disadvantages: it has no square rooms and they are small… duh… But what a view, terraces around it… Best breakfast we had during our island hopping trips, home made…. We had a great connect with the owners. 2015 was a very difficult year for Greece. Cash is an issue. Only foreigners can redraw money in a decent manner. Locals have difficulties purchasing anything online with credit cards as they were deemed not covered by the banks. Getting gear into the island is a nightmare, as the vendors on the mainland want cash. A lot of young people move back to the islands, as Athens and the mainland cannot live up to the promise of a golden future and well paid jobs. Better to live a fruitful live doing what you really like with less pay. But those Greeks don’t lose sight of the good life… despite the misery the owners invited us to a great dinner with local treats. The best food we ate anywhere in Greece. The best company you could ask for.

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Guess the most magical little village was Kastro. The most expensive little village of the island as well, with the houses crawling over and under each other, doors made for tiny people, hidden bars and restaurants and a brilliant sunset spot towards the chapel.

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I can swim!

I can swim!

One of the memories that probably stays with me forever is that my son learned to swim here. We were already practicing throughout spring, but he just didn’t let go of the swimming aids. But then, in the warm bay of Faros, I see my son swimming without aid! He didn’t even notice himself… and I caught it on camera! As my son quoted later on: “I have a strange life: I lost my tooth here and learn to swim in the sea”. Logic of 7 year old.

So… there is not just one thing that can explain why we absolutely loved it. Sometimes it just is. While I am writing this post and knowing I have not yet arranged for anything this summer…. Sifnos is creeping up the list again.