Wild nature and detailed organization – two things that rarely seem to go hand in hand. Which made the quiet and vastly underrated Greek island of Sifnos both rare and the absolute perfect match for these two strangely divergent obsessions of ours. Obviously, we love to hike. We’ve been doing it all over the world for more than 8 years now. However, less obviously, is just how much I love to have said hikes clearly mapped, meticulously planned and, in a perfect world, fastidiously recorded in document form. Lists, descriptions, info, degrees of difficulty, altitude gains/losses, all the little logistical perks that make it easier for us to simply relax and enjoy the walk without having to wonder if we’re going the right way, how long it will take, or how on Earth we’re supposed to reach, or return from, the trailhead. Luckily for us, though, recently the Sifnos travel board undertook a major upgrade of the island’s trails, improving way-markers, maintaining trails and, most importantly to someone like me, accurately numbering, mapping and publishing info about all the trails, both online and in the form of informative maps that are available for free at various places around the island, including the Info Center right where the ferries disembark.
There are 19 trails outlined, although for some reason they refused to number them past 10, instead opting to use a number of A’s and B’s, presumably liking the symmetry of the number 10 more than the suggestion of a rating system. Something I can appreciate, even though would personally would have suggested something a little more marketable, like using descriptions based on Greek mythology. Who wouldn’t look forward to traversing Prometheus’ Spine, getting a firsthand look at the Hills of Athena or, for the truly adventurous, attempting the arduous climb to the top of the gargantuan Pillar of Apollo? Throughout our 5-night stay we hiked all or part of at least 6 or 7 trails but our favourite was definitely the loop trail currently known as “#4” or, as I’ve proposed calling it, “The Treasure Trail of Hermaphroditus”. Over the course of roughly 4 hours it took us up and around a high hill with great views down to Vathy and Fykiada bays, then around, over and back to Platis Yialos. Tough climb, great views, I was briefly chased by a pig. It really had it all.
For our stay on Sifnos we chose to base ourselves in the small, quiet beach town of Platis Yialos, which I suppose was a bit daring considering we were already on a relatively quiet island at a very quiet time of year. Well, you probably never would have guessed this, but it turned out to be very quiet. Many of the hotels were already shut down for the year and only a few restaurants were still open. There were two small “super”-markets offering a very limited and strangely eclectic mix of products. Thirteen kinds of whiskey but just one brand of beer. Virtually unlimited milk, but eggs would take a few minutes to fetch, still warm and dirty, from the coop. With a bit of flexibility and a willingness to return every few hours with fresh hope, over time we managed to scavenge enough for most of our breakfasts and a few lunches, and filled in all the other gaps eating at the friendly pizza/crepe place (Votsalo’s) on the beach directly in front of our apartment. The apartment itself (Pension Moschoula) had a great view from the terrace, and two bedrooms and two bathrooms, conveniently helping us keep up an acceptable ratio of visitation time to total bathroom queues.
In between hikes we enjoyed strolling along the short beach and swimming in the surprisingly warm water. So far the Mediterranean has been far and away warmer than any of the pools we’ve been in, and even a couple of the showers. It is also fascinatingly buoyant, allowing Laynni to float around like a discarded wine cork. Even my upper body hung in there longer than usual, although apparently no sea is salty enough to prop up my legs, as they still quickly sank like hairy re-bar. We also took full advantage of the actual couch and decent, if intermittent, internet speed that allowed me to spend several of the wee hours each night streaming Blue Jays games. 8 pm EST may sound like a reasonable time for those watching back home, but is somewhat less so 7 time zones to the east. Totally worth it to watch them embarrass the pathetic Rangers in three straight, though. Enjoy the off-season, Rougned.
Groggy mornings and gritty eyes aside, though, we have both agreed that Sifnos is our favourite of the five Greek islands we have visited on this trip, and the only one we would seriously consider returning to for a longer stay. Perhaps a month or two in an apartment with a view, maybe in the centrally-located Apollonia where we could more easily replenish our stocks of salami and ointments while gradually working our way through all 19 of the local hiking trails. One day an easy saunter along Artemis’ Clavicle, the next a brutal foray around Hades’ Uvula, finished off with a celebratory beer on a terrace overlooking the deep Crevice of Aphrodite. And maybe a minotaur to carry our lunch. We’re fairly open, really.
Some of the other highlights of Sifnos:
The brilliant white village of Kastro prominently perched on a pointy hill above the ocean. It has a typically Greek warren of confusing narrow alleys, the remains of a formerly imposing fortress and a cute little church occupying a tiny peninsula branching out into the sea. This is also where we finally found salami.
Agios Andreas is an ancient Mycenaean citadel located on the highest point of the island, most of which was originally built in the 8th century B.C. Probably not the ticket booth or W.C., though, they looked quite a bit newer to me.
The port village of Kamares. Most of the port towns in the Greek isles have forced us to rethink our general stereotypes of dirty, dangerous port towns (no offense, Valparaiso, you’re still pretty cute from the right angles), yet even when held against that higher standard Kamares stood out. Tucked into a little valley between soaring hills, with its own small beach, several places to have a drink with a view of the bay (or get completely hammered with a view of the bay, your choice), and locals restaurateurs tending lines right off the docks in search of the evening menu.
The large and excessively forward pig above Vathy Bay that was somehow convinced that I had something it desperately needed, at first causing me to uncomfortably sidestep its probing, shit-covered snout, then more actively backpedal, before finally fully sprinting away in hopes it would lose interest. It did not.
Ya su, Sifnos, I promise we shall see you again someday soon. Next up, all you could ever want to know about the famous volcanic caldera island of Santorini. As long as you’re okay with fake information and offensive stereotyping. Otherwise, someday you may still want to know more.