Syros is the capital of Cyclades; the island group forming an imaginary circle in the central and southern Aegean. Washed by sunshine and breathing the sea breeze, proud of its crystal-clear water, bright sky and unique blend of architectural styles on a typical Cycladic arid scenery, Syros marries two worlds and cultures inviting you to explore it and experience the joy of carefree vacations.
Dive into a world of transformations in a Greek island. Syros greets and gladdens the eyes as the ship nears the port. The charms of the majestic neoclassical Hermoupolis gives place to those of the medieval whitewashed Cycladic town of Ano Syros, to the sun-kissed beaches and the endless blue of the Aegean Sea.
Get to know the island which Homer describes in his epic poem “The Odyssey” as a land where death never enters and “no hateful sickness falls on wretched mortals.”
The alluring finesse of Syros comes from its very long and rich history going back to the Early Bronze Age. Throughout the centuries, from Prehistoric and Ancient Times to Byzantine Times, the Frankish Rule and the Ottoman Period the island gradually fell under the influence of many, survived and flourished. In the aftermath of the 1821 Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire and being under the French protection at the time, Syros developed into an important commercial, cultural and industrial center, as refugees from Chios, Smyrna, Psara, Asia Minor, Constantinople, Crete and other areas found safety there.
The perfect place to start is Hermoupolis, a marvel of neoclassicism in the heart of the Aegean Sea and the most vibrant part of Syros. Grandiose mansions, marble piazzas with palm trees, impressive public buildings and the exquisite town planning of the capital, fittingly named "City of Hermes" after the Greek god of trade, reflect the wealth, the courtesy of origin and the influences of Romantic Neoclassicism.
Wander around to see:
• The 19th century Miaouli Square: where the heart of Syros beats. Astonishing buildings, palm trees, a marble music stage with sculpted depictions of god Apollo and the Muses, the statue of the admiral from the War of Independence Andreas Miaoulis, all exude an aristocratic aura of a different era.
• The Town Hall: a master piece by the influential German architect Ernst Ziller. The dominating building is a glorious style combination of Classical Greece and Western Romanticism.
• The Archaeological Museum of Hermoupolis: built in 1834 is one of the oldest museums in Greece and hosts important collections such as the Prehistoric finds from the fortified settlement at Kastri and the cemetery at Chalandriani on the northern part of the island.
• The Municipal Library: public library with a valuable collection of more than 45,000 books.
• The Culture Center: an astonishing neoclassical building in Miaoulis Square which was built in 1863 to house the "Hellas Club" of the mighty bourgeoisie.
• The Apollon Theater: one of the major attractions of Syros was built in 1864 by Pietro Sampo who was inspired by four Italian standards including the Scala di Milano.
• The Orthodox church of the Assumption of the Virgin: the second oldest church on the island and house of the authentic icon of the Dormition of the Virgin painted by Dominikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) when he was in his early 20's before he left his native Crete.
• The Orthodox Temple of Saint Nicholas: dedicated to the patron of Hermoupolis, the magnificent Byzantine-Neoclassical temple was build in 1870 to stand out for its lavish interiors and impressive architectural structure.
• The Vaporia district: the most aristocratic quarter of Hermoupolis with magnificent neoclassical mansions of great architectural importance hanging above the sea as if about to sail; explaining the name “Vaporia” (Ships).
• The Custom Office and Transit Warehouse: built in 1860 and 1834 by the sea, with a classically inspired design, the grand structures stand out for their unique aesthetic.
• The Industrial Museum: which exhibits equipment from the glorious era.
Climb up the hill of Ano Syros: a Cycladic citadel of the later Byzantine era, densely built with small houses one next to the other in a steep, circular order with a radial street plan, narrow cobbled alleys and covered passage ways. At the top of the hill stands the Monastery of the Capuchin Fathers. Dedicated to Saint John, the Catholic monastery was founded in 1637 and is a monument of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine era. Visit the Catholic Church of Saint Ioannis, the crypts in the basement of which were used as shelters during the pirate raids. Mingle with the locals and enjoy the small stores, restaurants, tavernas and coffee shops with the characteristic ‘white and blue’ Cycladic color scheme.
Venture in to the country side to explore the landscape of Syros and stroll around: Episkopio or Piskopio; close to Hermoupolis, on a hill slope with thick vegetation and springs, it was the first resort with imposing 19th century mansions of Hermoupolis’ wealthy. Poseidonia or Dellagratsia; seaside village where the elite of Syros built grand manors of unique architecture with towers and large gardens with pine and palm trees for their summer retreat. Chroussa; charming village in the hinterland with pebble pavements, quaint chapels and pine trees, majestic mansions and estates with pavilions and dovecotes. Kastri and Chalandriani; prehistoric fortified hilltop settlement and cemetery, respectively, from the later years of the Early Cycladic period on the northern of Syros. Both archaeological sites are of major importance.
Syros boasts beautiful beaches with pristine waters, protected from the winds that blow from the north or the south depending on their location. If you are a water sports enthusiast, a newer or experienced diver, a hiking fan or a lounging-on-the-beach fanatic, the island gives you all options. If bicycle is your way to get around, Hermoupolis is bike-friendly with routes and rentals
If you have a taste for unwinding your body on a sun lounger mingling with a trendy crowd, drinking coffee and sipping cocktails, Agathopes and Galissas are the beaches for you. Both organized, they are very popular for their sand, their shallow waters and the cafés, restaurants, tavernas and hotels they are surrounded by.
If you dream of splashing around in the water with the kids, Megas Gialos, Vari, Azolimnos, and Kini are the beaches for you. The water is calm and shallow, so ideal for a relaxed swim. The access is very easy and they are dotted with cafés, tavernas, bars and hotels.
If you are looking for waters perfect for water sports or an organized marina for yachts Foinikas is your place. The seaside resort has two beaches; one with sun loungers and umbrellas for hire, showers, cafés, bars and tavernas and one with water sports facilities.
If you need a break from crowded beaches, Komito, Ambela, Achladi, Delfini, Lotos and Kokkina should be right for you. All are favorites among the locals. Some prefer Komito with the beach bar and umbrellas which do not dominate the beach. Some like Ambela, Achladi, Delfini and Lotos with a cozy cafe-restaurant in each. Some are regulars at Kokkina, the unorganized beach with sand, reddish pebbles and tamarisks.
If you seek quiet charm and unspoiled nature, hop on one of the small boats departing from Kini village and head to the northern beaches of Aetos, Lia, Marmari, Gria Spilia and Grammata, where the vibe is unlike anywhere else on the island. Wonderfully calm and laid back, they are far less visited, off-the-beaten-path and away from mass tourism.
Hike in old trails among thyme, oregano and sage in an epic scenery where mythology met history, creating one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. Uphill, downhill or through ravines; walk the paths breathing in the aroma of herbs which run along the island's land, follow the trails through the ecosystems protected under the Natura 2000 network to feel the energy of the landscape. Stand on the top of the close-to-the-sea mountains to take in the incredible views of the Aegean sea.
Those looking for fun things to do that are a little out of the ordinary, horseback riding could be one. Beginners or advanced riders may enjoy the scenery on horseback accompanied by a professional guide who would make the experience relaxed and comfortable.
Take a diving tour to discover the magical underwater world of the Aegean Archipelago. Submerge into the depths to discover the undersea life, shipwrecks, underwater caves and reefs under the supervision of professional diving instructors and introduce yourself to a beautiful and different world.
A favourite destination for fishing enthusiasts, Syros is known for its fishing spots. Even if you are not an avid participant, the fishing contest which takes place every July and August will capture your interest.
Go sailing or embrace a more laid back way by boat touring from the small village of Kini. Join a boat excursion traveling near by the coast to the uninhabited sandy beaches of the north and spent the day swimming, laying under the sun and picnicking. Rent a boat from the port of Hermoupolis to visit the nearby islets Didimi and Aspro.
The gastronomy of Syros reflects its long journey through time; rich flavours, strong aromas and specialties different from the rest of the Greek delicacies. Here you will experience what the junction of the Aegean cuisines tastes like. Fresh fish and seafood, sun-dried tomatoes, top dairy products, amazing thyme honey, juicy fruits and delicacies, cooked to turn regular food into an all-time favorite culinary experience.
Cuisine is culture. Characterized by the main elements of Greek cuisine, gastronomy in Syros has been greatly influenced by different conquerors and refugees who gave their own culinary stamp through time. Spicy flavours from Asia Minor with velvety notes from the Venetians and aromas from the North Aegean islands give a savory boost to the frugality of the ancient Cycladic cookery. Thus, Syros has created its own unique brand of cooking. Evidence of the local mentality "think internationally, act locally" is that the first Greek-language printed cookbook was published in Syros in 1828, under the title “Cooking translated from Italian". The author is believed to be Dr. Zontanos and it was a translation from Italian. Many products stand out such as the world widely celebrated P.D.O. cheese San Michali, Marathies (local sausage made from pork meat and fennel), Louza (special dry cured ham). The most popular recipes are based on the stars of the island such as rock samphire (a succulent wild green that loves perching on coastal rocks and cliffs), caper buds, sun-dried fish. When a sweet craving strikes, go for Loukoumi, the iconic trademark of Syros. The island is famous for these small cubes made of sugar, water, starch, aromas, nuts and covered with powdered sugar which were introduced by emigrants from the island of Chios and Asia Minor. Also delectable desserts are Chalvadopites (thick white nougat sandwiched between two thin wafers), Pastelaries (dried figs with almonds and sesame seeds) and Mastichaki (syrupy sponge-like cake with fluffy stuffing and crispy crust). Syros is full of charming restaurants.
Here are our top recommendations to get you on the right track on this food-blessed island:
If you believe that cooking is passion, then you need to go to Iliovasilema. Set before the gorgeous Galissas beach, the restaurant is a favourite of locals and travellers. Combining great cooking technique and great atmosphere, the menu is an ode to local produce with an innovative twist on Greek food.
If you want to feel what summer on a Cycladic island means, then you choose a place by the sea to eat. The restaurant allou yialou set right by the water on Kini beach, focuses on seafood and loves the creative Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. Enjoy their dishes with a view of the sea flanked by white linen curtains and watch the sun sink in the Aegean.
If you feel like dining in quiet elegance and taste creative Greek rooted cuisine, internationaly influenced, then you have to go to Avant Garden. Across of one of Hermoupolis' crown jewels, the Apollon Theater, the restaurant offers fresh ingredients handled with love and ethics in a cycladic breezed garden.
If you are a fan of Modern Greek cuisine then you should try Kouzina. Located off the main square on one of the brightest, most colorful streets in the heart of Hermoupolis, Kouzina approaches food with care, respecting ingredients and seasons, in an elegant setting. Add a french touch in your vacations in Syros...How does that sounds? Housed in an old stone house in beautiful Posidonia, in the island’s countryside, Perroquet Tranquille is a bistro offering a variety of flavors from the French cuisine. Start your day on its shady terrace with a typical French breakfast, have lunch with refreshing dishes and specialties of the day, or enjoy late evening sessions with a delicate touch of Provencal flavor.
People in Syros love their food. They honour their heritage passing down recipes from one generation to the next. But they also welcome new refreshing touches and they like to experiment. So, take a walk around the main food-shopping market on Chios Street in the capital town Hermoupolis and make room in your suitcase for:
Arom; homemade marmalades and jams. Cyclades Organics; organic herbal teas and herbs for cooking. Organic Beez; organic thyme honey. Denaxa Loukoumia and chalvadopites. San Michali cheese; highly sought P.D.O. cheese which stands out for its unique spicy flavour. Sausages with fennel; highly aromatic and gourmet they have a very special flavour. Louza; delectable appetizer made of the best cuts of pork and prepared differently on every Cycladic island. Caper; growing on the steep cliffs, the caper of Syros is famous for its special flavour and texture. Kopanisti; spicy soft cheese in creamy form. Sun-dried tomatoes; local small tomatoes withered under the sun and preserved with salt. Fabrica White, Fabrica Red and San Ta Maratha; wines made in the local winery.
TRAVEL TO SYROS
Syros is a short distance from Athens and in a vantage location in the heart of the Aegean. Thus, is ideal destination for vacations, short breaks or island hopping. Being an important admnistrative center it is every day connected to Athens and the Aegean islands. Daily ferries and flights connect the island to the ports of Piraeus and Lavrion and the International Airport of Athens Eleftherios Venizelos. The ferry trip takes 3,5 or 4 hours, while high speed boats need about 2,5 hours. Frequent ferry routes connect Syros to the port of Rafina during summer. When Syros is your base, you can explore some of the amazing islands around such as Tinos, Mykonos, Paros and Santorini and still come home to the peace of this beautiful island. Yachting enthusiasts can sail to the island of Syros and anchor their yachts in the safe port of Hermoupolis or one of the marinas in the island.