Sometimes you arrive in a place and… just know. Know you’re going to love it, can’t wait to explore it, assume you’ll happily gloss over all its faults because of that amazing first impression. Well, spectacular Serifos Greece was one of those places for me.
From the moment our ferry from Paros pulled into the harbour a closed in on the steep hills and that captivating, glowing white village spilling improbably down from the top of the tall hill looming just behind the calm, blue bay – we were pretty sure Serifos was going to be our kind of place.
Serifos is a lightly populated island in the Cyclades chain of Greek Islands, leaving much of its dry, hilly terrain open and untouched except for the occasional farm or hiking trail. Known as the Iron Island for its rich mining history (and fascinating mining ruins), It also has an impressive rocky coastline, over 70 beaches, 100 churches and 10 well-marked hiking trails. And just 1,400 permanent residents.
Holiday homes, on the other hand, seem to be on the verge of a boom as we saw many different properties under development. Which will inevitably change the current off-the-beaten path atmosphere of Serifos island but, thankfully, that will take time and it will probably never reach the level of Greece travel chaos found in nearby islands like Santorini or Mykonos.
Either way, for now, Serifos remains a surprising joy among some of the busiest islands in Greece, perfect for those more interested in natural scenery and quiet beaches than party bars and donkey tours. It is also the famous island where Greek legend Perseus saved his mother by returning with the head of the nefarious Medusa. We didn’t see the head personally, though, so I can’t speak to its current condition.
10 Excellent Reasons to Visit Serifos
Besides the obvious – it’s gorgeous, it’s small, it’s Cycladic, it isn’t overrun by cruise ships and package tours – there are also plenty of specific highlights that make it a must-see on your Greek island-hopping itinerary.
1. Chora Serifos
For us, it all starts with the Chora (pronounced Hora because, you know, Greece). Yes, it’s true that most Greek islands have their very own Chora (which simply means “town”), and pretty much each one we’ve seen has been some level of freakin’ adorable.
Serifos Chora, though, takes white village charm to a whole new level, mainly by being built on and around the very point of a very tall hill with panoramic views of three-quarters of the island. Split into two parts – Kato Chora (lower) and Ano Chora (upper), it has all the usual village features.
Sugar-cube houses, lovely little churches, tiny plazas, a museum, a town hall, a theatre and a maze of narrow, white alleys, not a single one of which is straight. Just to give you an idea, it took us at least 4 or 5 times coming and going before we were able to confidently find our hotel without any wrong turns. And even after 5 days I still hesitated now and then.
Perched high above Livadi Bay and the main town of Livadi itself, the views from Chora are simply stunning. We stayed in a traditional stone house located right on the cusp of both upper and lower Chora – tall and narrow with no less than 4 terraces facing south which meant we were able to watch every sunrise (didn’t happen until around 7:30 am) and sunset (cold Mythos beer in hand).
For an even more expansive look at the island, you can (and should) continue up another 10-15 min (and 50m of elevation gain) to the Kastro (castle) which sits at the very top of the hill. From there you can look down on both parts of Chora, plus Livadi and the entire bay and probably half a dozen beaches and the picturesque hills to the north. With or without one of the two churches in the frame of your photo (Agios Konstantinos and the Church of St. John).
And, as good as the views were from up there, I still can’t decide if I preferred the ones FROM Chora or OF Chora. Whether you are getting a first glimpse of the island from the ferry, looking up from Livadi, trying to concentrate on the winding east road while seeing Chora’s white houses spilling down on either side of the peak or glancing back over your shoulder while hiking the central hills, it is a stone-cold looker.
There isn’t much for tourist infrastructure in Chora other than a few restaurants (all of which had shut down for the season in late October), a few shops (ditto) and a pair of small supermarkets. These, at least, were well-stocked, allowing us to self-cater some meals when we didn’t want to travel to Livadi, not to mention stock up on sunset beers. On one visit we ran into two of the monks from the Monastery of Taxiarches doing some shopping. One of them purchasing a 3-pack of combs (and sporting an admittedly impressive head of salt and pepper hair).
Chora can be reached from Livadi by car via a series of steep, paved switchbacks (5 km / 15 min) or you can walk up. Along the road at first, then following multiple sets of wide stairs that go up more directly than the road and pass through both Kato Chora and Ano Chora on the way up to the Kastro. From the marina to Kato Chora it is about 3 km (45 min), and another 10-15 minutes to Ano Chora.
Just off the last corner of the road before Ano Chora a small path leads down to an ancient washing station (nicely painted and refurbished) with excellent views down the valley. Meanwhile, the road leading out of Ano Chora to the northwest passes some traditional windmills, a church and a viewpoint back to town. This is also the starting point for several of the main Serifos hikes.
2. Livadi Harbour
Most Greek Island harbours are exceedingly photogenic and Livadi Harbour is no exception. A sheltered bay, colourful boats, waterfront tavernas, a long beach with trees for shade and the white village climbing the hills in behind. You can’t miss it, and you wouldn’t want to.
3. Scenic Road Trip
My favourite activity on Serifos (assuming we don’t classify drinking beer and enjoying the view as an “activity”) was driving its handful of smooth, scenic paved roads. You can circle the entirely island by rental car in an hour or so if you don’t make any stops. But you will stop – for churches, for beaches, for viewpoints, for surreptitious urination – so set aside a few hours, take your time and just enjoy the fabulous scenery.
And be warned, the small, secondary roads leading down to the beaches and other villages are certainly not “smooth” or “paved”. But mostly passable if you drive carefully.
Of course, we should acknowledge the fact that we visited Serifos Greece at the tail end of shoulder season (late October) so the roads were blissfully empty (along with everything else except the tavernas in Livadi). But at the height of tourist season in mid-summer there can be as many as 200 rental cars in use, which surely makes driving much less peaceful. That won’t change the incredible views, though.
4. Serifos Hiking Trails
Similar to its close neighbour to the south, Sifnos, there is an impressive network of hiking trails on Serifos. There are 10 officially marked trails (plus lots of opportunities to extend or modify them). We did a couple in full and parts of several others and each one has some benefits to recommend them.
For a good mix of terrains and views, I would recommend Trail 1 from Chora to Kallitsos. It leads down from Ano Chora through some farmland and coulees before climbing back up to the top of one of the highest points on the island with views down to cute Kallitsos. The entire hike offers great looks back to Ano Chora as well.
Following the trail up the hill to the west out of Chora provides one of the best angles down to Livadi Bay and another easy option (not a marked trail) is to go straight down the hill behind the Chora supermarket, then circle to the east and eventually all the way around the main hill, returning up through Kato Chora (my own invention, which I call Chora Circuit).
And the walk up to Chora from Livadi is actually quite nice with a good mix of old town and big views.
5. Serifos has 72 Beaches
First of all, it probably goes without saying, but we did not personally visit, explore and evaluate all 72 Serifos beaches. We didn’t even try counting them to see if this number is accurate or not. But that is the number they claim and it sounds pretty impressive. And, based on the old eyeball test (scientific AF), it is definitely in the ballpark.
So, while it would certainly be a fun goal to try and see them all, for now we’ll give you a brief overview of the ones that stood out to us.
Starting with Livadi Beach, which is right on the harbour, fairly long, has trees for shade, lots of sunbeds and umbrellas, a beach bar, lots of tavernas nearby, a volleyball court and even a small football (soccer) field adjacent. Nice and convenient.
Livadakia Beach, on the other hand, is just on the south side of the marina, tends to be a bit quieter and also has shade and facilities.
Triantafyllidiko Beach is a small crescent of sand on the east side of Livadi Bay. It looks good from above and has good views back across the bay to Livadi (and up to Chora).
Heading counterclockwise away from Livadi, there is Lia Beach, known as the main nudist beach on Serifos. I guess because it is tucked away down a small dirt road, where you then have to walk a few minutes through a lush valley to get around a hotel. Staying at the hotel would probably be pretty cool but the beach itself is only average so unless getting naked among likeminded individuals is next up on your travel bucket list, there are better choices not far away.
Paralia Agios Sostis (Holy Saviour Beach) was our second-favourite beach on the island. It is popular with the locals, is photogenically bookended by rocky promontories, divided by a narrow sand isthmus and features a classic white and blue church on north side where you can climb up rocks for a higher view. Also, unlike some of the others, there is lots of room for parking and some people even walk here from Livadi (roughly 45 min).
Next up is Psili Ammos Beach (Fine Sand), a big, award-winning beach with a couple of tavernas, good protection and some trees. There is even a reservoir up the hill behind.
Then Agios Ioannis Beach (Saint John Beach) is a decent beach with some trees that stood out to us mostly for the fantastic photos of the church and beach along the hike down. Also, the weird little patch of gorgeous, soft sand that was completely different from the rest of the beach (perhaps some manual sand migration has taken place?).
Platis Gialos Beach on the north shore was, we’d say, just okay. At the end of a rough little road, it is pretty and quiet with a small taverna. For our money, though, “Little Beach”, right next to it, is much cuter. Of course, they’re both free, though, so the money thing doesn’t really apply here.
Sikamia Beach combines well with the Monastery of Taxiarches. It is quite large and faces northwest, putting the sun behind you most of the day. And the views on the rugged paved road on the way down are exceptional.
Back down on the south side of Serifos, sheltered from the prevailing north winds, you’ll find attractive (and VERY sheltered) Malliadiko Beach (perfect for windy days). Rumour has it naked folks dig this beach, too.
Close by is huge, organized Ganema Beach, which features popular Grandma’s Café and is a good choice in high season when extra space is a must.
Then Vagia Beach, which is also quite large, has nice sand, is conveniently close to the highway (unlike most Serifos beaches) and, of course, has a pretty great name. If you haven’t ever matured beyond 8th grade, I mean. Or so I’ve heard.
6. Kalo Ampeli
Finally, deserving of its own section is Kalo Ampeli, our pick for the best beach on Serifos. In typical Greek island fashion, it isn’t so easy to access but the sand is powdery, the water is clear and beautiful, and the whole scene is protected by hills and cliffs. There are even a couple of small sea caves to explore (one of which had its own mini-beach).
There are two ways to get there. From the east you can park at a dead-end and follow an (initially) marked trail down about 5 minutes to a church, then follow an even more obvious path another 5 minutes down to the beach.
Or you can drive in from the west all the way to the church and cut your walk in half (assuming you can find a parking spot).
Kalo Ampeli is off the beaten path enough that it wasn’t surprising to have the entire place to ourselves. Although it was a bit creepy when, just as we were leaving, a large bag floated up toward us with “PARANOIA” on it in big letters. Which rather cleverly made me feel exactly that…
Down in the same corner of the island there is also a lighthouse. I almost always find lighthouses cool (it’s a prairie kid thing, probably) but, I have to say, this one was barely fine, and not really worth the lengthy and very rough dirt road to get there.
7. Megalo Livadi
Megalo Livadi (or Mega Livadi) is a very unique place on the west side of the island. Now a small village but formerly a mining boomtown that was one of the most important flashpoints in the establishment of labour unions in Greece. It has a pretty little beach hemmed in by steep hills that are full of the scattered remnants of old mining equipment.
There are old rail cars leading to the shattered end of what used to be a bridge across the bay, plus a tunnel that leads all the way across to another beach. It is the kind of place that some will find mildly interesting and take a few photos while others will be fascinated and explore these historic ruins for hours.
From its days leading the revolution to a 40-hour work week in Greece to today’s semi-ghost town feel with some beachfront tavernas and a few new villas popping up, it is hard to tell at first glace if its dying or growing.
8. Monastery Taxiarches
A very important monastery because it is still very much in use today. However, this means that most of the monastery is off-limits to casual visitors so if you really want a comprehensive look at the place you should call ahead and arrange for a guided tour.
While the parts you can see on a drop-in are still quite attractive, we found it much more memorable from about a kilometre farther down the hill, where you it looks far more like the major defensive fortification it was for many years.
9. Serifos White Tower
While it isn’t comparable to the stunning fictional White Tower in the Wheel of Time fantasy series (fiction is funny that way), it is still an interesting road trip stop with panoramic views of the surrounding hills and valleys.
You can easily combine it with the Throne of Cyclops just a little bit down the road, a square stone structure that, I suppose, could work as a chair for a legendary mono-optic giant but, far more likely, is just another old building.
Once again, though, great views, and the chance to let your imagination run wild wondering how bad Cyclops was at judging the distance of oncoming traffic. An excellent sunset spot.
10. Archaeological Collection of Serifos
Sort of a fancy name for the museum, this well-intentioned historical record of Serifos Greece has a good variety of information and displays that shed a bit more light on its humble beginnings and the long, winding road that eventually led to it being declared “Dean’s favourite Greek island”.
Where to Stay: Serifos Hotels
Your first big decision is going to be location. Livadi has the most options and is the most convenient for restaurants and shops but Chora is, well, stupidly cool. We chose to stay in the Traditional Stone House for our 5 nights and enjoyed it immensely.
Of course, considering the time of year, tourist facilities in Chora were essentially shutdown, meaning we had to either go to Livadi to eat in restaurants or stock up on groceries and eat in. Which is why renting a car was essential, although there were still two well-stocked shops open in Chora so we were never far from supplies.
Anyway, it truly was a “traditional stone house” – located right on the cusp between Kato Chora and Ano Chora – whitewashed walls, cramped stone interior, narrow staircases. However, somehow it also managed to have no less than 4 decks, all with incredible views.
We ate breakfast on the lowest one, took in sunrise from the third one in eerie silence (only occasionally interrupted by a distant rooster, a flock of pigeons setting out for a big day of waddling or our old neighbour’s coughing/spitting fit) and enjoyed sunset drinks and panoramic views on the top one. The second one is where we hung our clothes to dry.
The apartment even comes fully equipped with a neighbourhood cat that loved spending quiet mornings on Laynni’s lap but always developed attitude when not invited inside.
Other great Serifos hotels:
Just around the corner from the port but a world away in atmosphere is Alexandros Beach Resort on pretty Livadakia Beach. Known for its friendly welcome and outstanding restaurant, this is a very good choice just away from (relative) hustle and bustle of Livadi.
Asteroskoni of Serifos Greece has a terrific spot directly across the bay from Livadi, giving you peace, quiet and views just a short drive or brisk walk away from the comforts of town. Beautiful rooms, a lovely roof terrace and even a pool.
Serifos Dream Houses are four modern units located right behind Ganema Beach with fantastic views. Away from the main tourist group of tourists and perfect for those looking for a relaxing beach holiday.
Where to Eat: Serifos Restaurants and Nightlife
Fair warning, there is no real Serifos nightlife to speak of, although there are some Livadi tavernas that can get a bit festive in high season. Meanwhile, Batrachos (the Frog Bar) and Gaidaros (the Donkey Bar) are the places to go in Chora (and I felt it best not to delve too far into those names). Both have good food as well.
When it comes to Serifos Greece restaurants, however, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Any of the tavernas along the harbour are good options for seafood, typical Greek dishes and local delicacies, particularly Kalis and Mpakaki.
Passaggio Café has fabulous pastas and Greek salads (with grilled vegetables) and Chill & Co is a wonderful choice if you’re getting a bit taverna-d out and are looking for something with “dog” in the name (I can vouch for the chili/cheese/BBQ sauce hot dog concoction).
Finally, a popular (and affordable) local choice is Taverna Marina, right next to the port, where they usually have a buffet and a couple of daily specials to choose from.
When to Go: Livadi Weather
Like most of the Greek islands, Serifos Greece enjoys a very mild climate year-round thanks to the surrounding Aegean Sea. It doesn’t get as hot in summer as some of the other parts of Greece (22/28 low/high) and remains pretty reasonable even in the dead of winter (10/14 low/high).
It generally has a very dry climate, with virtually no rain in summer, although there will be a bit of rain in winter (December in particular). Although there are some hills in the centre of the island, the wind can be fierce and is probably the biggest variable for your stay on the island. Spring and fall are generally the calmest times.
While Serifos gets very busy in summer, May-June and September-October can be ideal times to travel for good weather and fewer fellow tourists. From November until the end of April many of the restaurants shut down and there will be fewer accommodation options, although there will still be enough places open to keep you housed and fed.
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Livadi: How to Get There
There is no airport on Serifos but it is well-connected to Piraeus port in Athens as well as with several every other Cycladic Islands. The major nearby hubs of Naxos and Paros are particularly useful when trying to get to Serifos.
Schedules and fares vary considerably throughout the year. In summer, the most popular routes often sell out well in advance so it is a good idea to reserve your ferry tickets as soon as you have finalized your dates.
FerryScanner has one of the best ferry networks in the world and is the most user-friendly site we’ve come across. It is the site we use to book all our own ferry trips.
How to Get Around on Serifos
Livadi is where you’ll arrive on Serifos by ferry and, from there, by far the easiest way to get around Serifos is by car, which lets you reach the less popular spots and set your own schedule.
There are around 8 car rental places to choose from. We got a friendly welcome and good deal from Kartsonakis Car Rental on a somewhat older Fiat Panda that served us well over the course of our 5-day stay in Serifos.
Normally we find we get the best deals through Discover Cars, although because it was off-season on Serifos they no longer had any availability on their site. It is worth checking there first, though.
Driving Times from Livadi around Serifos Greece
Livadi to Agios Sostis Beach: 3 km / 10 min
Livadi to Psili Ammos Beach: 4 km / 10 min
Livadi to Chora: 5 km / 15 min
Livadi to Kalo Ampeli: 5 km / 15 min
Livadi to Ganema Beach: 10 km / 20 min
Livadi to Mega Livadi: 15 km / 30 min
Livadi to Sikamia Beach: 15 km / 35 min
The parking situation in Livadi Serifos is a bit grim but at least it’s simple. Just drive along the waterfront and hope to find a spot. If that fails, you can head out on the main road toward Chora and eventually find some space along the side of the road.
There are two official parking areas in Chora – one at the last main switchback before Ano Chora where there is room for about 10 cars (near Montagu Café). This is the best spot for access to Kato Chora.
Then just another few hundred metres up the hill you’ll find a much bigger parking lot that can be used to access Ano Chora. And once those are full, just park on the road as close to the side as possible and assume traffic will just go around you. I believe it is called, “The Greek Way”.
Serifos Greece does have three bus routes that originate in Livadi and run to either Chora, Kallitsos or Megalo Livadi. However, the timetables vary with the season and the gaps between buses can be long. During high season, there are also tourist buses that run a few times per day to and from the eastern beaches or Ganema and Vagia in the west. Fares range from €1.80 to €5.
Which is Better: Serifos or Sifnos?
It is a tough call and you certainly can’t go wrong visiting either one. Sifnos was our favourite island from our first visit to Greece and Serifos is shaping up to the be the best of the bunch from our latest Greek island-hopping adventure (it always takes a bit of time for things to sink in before we can say for sure).
Both have exceptional hiking trails set among hilly, beautiful terrain. Sifnos has more trails and probably a bit more variety. And, while they both have a lot of amazing beaches, the best beaches on Sifnos have a few more facilities (but also get busier).
For me, though, Serifos Chora is just so impressive and unique, dominating the island from almost every angle, I would personally choose Serifos (if I absolutely had to pick and couldn’t just visit both).
Sifnos also has its own terrific old town in Kastro with some awesome viewpoints but Serifos Chora is in a class by itself with incredible scenery both of the town and from the town, not to mention plenty of history. You can’t go wrong either way, though, I promise you that.
Serifos Greece Summary
We absolutely loved our time on Serifos, and after taking some time to reflect on that leg of our trip we have declared it our favourite Greek island (for now, anyway). Livadi Serifos probably won’t go down as the most exceptional or memorable of all the different Greek towns we’ve enjoyed but Chora is simply phenomenal, especially staying in the heart of the old town.
And with great hiking, all those beaches and easy, scenic driving, Serifos is a pleasure. Plus, we’d be hard-pressed to come up with a single negative thing to say about this relatively quiet Greek island. Other than maybe the parking – but that’s standard Greek island stuff.
And it even provides the benefit of that sudden, satisfying thrill you feel when you stumble across a tiny, imperfect parking spot still blocks away from your intended destination. One of the best feelings in Greece, certainly.
So, yes, Serifos is fantastic – you should definitely check it out.
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