Sifnos was the 8th island of my Greece trip through the Cyclades. I absolutely fell in love with the island due to its sheer natural beauty, ultra-picturesque towns, delicious food, and fantastic views. Sifnos is a quintessential cycladic island that maintains its laid back and unpretentious vibe. If you’re looking for the “authentic” Greece but still want a solid selection of bars, nightlife and activity, then Sifnos is the spot for you. In fact, I’d say that Sifnos, along with Folegandros and Amorgos were my favorite islands in the Cyclades.
Sifnos is home to 300+ churches which is even high by Cycladic standards where there is literally a church on every street it seems. It’s the only island where I found so many churches in the highest and most dramatic of places. The views from the mountains are stunning which is also why Sifnos leads the Cyclades as one of the top hiking destinations. While I didn’t do that much hiking, I could easily see why it gets this reputation.
Sadly, I broke my camera in Naxos, the previous island I was in so these photos are all taken by my smartphone. Trust me, it saddens me more than you but please accept my apologies for subpar photos and enjoy what I have to offer with my Galaxy phone!
Santorini was one of the islands I visited on my month long trip island hopping through the Cyclades. If you’re also planning a multi-island trip through the Cyclades, make sure to read my itinerary and guide to planning your own Greek island hopping trip!
How to get to Sifnos
Sifnos is not the easiest island to reach. It is less popular (which is good) and does not have a big population. Nevertheless, in the summer months, there are still ample ferries servicing the island. Usually, you’ll take a ferry that passes through Naxos with Seajets and Blue Star ferries both having daily boats to the island. There are a few ferries from Athens to Sifnos as well.
There are no airports on Sifnos but there is a helipad so if you are very much a high roller, you probably are not reading this blog but if you are, there is a helipad.
For a comprehensive guided on Greek ferries and navigating your way around the Aegean, make sure to read my Greek ferry guide.
Kamares may be the port of Sifnos but it is also one of the nicest places to stay due to its long beach, fertile valley, great restaurants and cafes and the fact that the ferries generally are not in long enough to make Kamares seem like a ‘port’. Once the ferries leave you are in a quiet (but not too quiet), fishing town that has a taste of tourism but not enough to make you feel like you are in Mykonos or San Tropez.
I actually quite liked the beach in the town as it offered a long sandy stretch with areas that had sunbeds and areas without. The water was calm and beautiful here with crowds that never seemed overwhelming. There are a ton of cafes and restaurants to the side of the beach which made for having great breakfast coffees on the beach (literally).
I stayed in Kamares because that was where the cheapest accommodation was in the August high season. Even during times of Coronavirus, Appolonia and Artemonas were completely full or had only expensive properties left. Nevertheless, I found very good accommodation for €60 a night and could walk to the apartment from the ferry.
From Kamares town, you can rent a scooter, ATV, or car to explore the island from the numerous shops, or you can take the bus which connects to all the points of interest on the island.
Kamares town is built along the edges of the beach. One side is mostly residential and the other side which you will see as soon as departing the ferry includes many restaurants, bars, and houses.
Apollonia is the main town of Sifnos. It would be considered the “Chora” of Sifnos but Sifnos is one of those islands that has their Chora as a name that’s not the name of the island (similar to Milos’ Plaka town).
Apollonia is located high up in the mountains roughly 7km from the port town of Kamares. There is a main road that connects the two towns as well as semi-regular bus service. The medieval civilizations preferred to build their towns inland away from the ports and out of sight because it helped deter marauding pirates.
Nowadays, Apollonia is actually a collection of different villages of which Apollonia is one of them (confused yet?), Artemonas, Ano Petali, Kato Petali, and Exambala. I mainly focused my time around Apollonia and Artemonas which are the two largest and most beautiful towns in the island.
Apollonia town is a quintessential Cycladic town with so many beautiful little houses, iconic stairs filled with shops and cafes. There is one main street with that you can walk through that has all the restaurants and bars the town has to offer. It’s similar to the Chora in Amorgos but it can’t compare to it in beauty!
About 1km away up the hill from Apollonia you’ll find the even more beautiful town of Artemonas. You can easily walk to Artemonas from Apollonia but be prepared for a bit of an incline. In the theme of the Cyclades, the higher you go, the more wealthy you are and Artemonas is definitely where the wealthier Greeks go to build their houses.
Artemonas is without a doubt one of the cutest Cycladic towns I saw during my entire trip through the Cyclades. It’s absolutely beautiful yet unpretentious with its perfectly manicured white houses, cobblestone steps, and flawless bougainvillea trees. As the town is built on a hill, there are some serious stairs that you can use to ascend the town with churches, houses, and panoramic views all along the way. I’m very sad I didn’t have my DSLR with me as the photo possibilities here would be endless.
Nevertheless, you can’t walk too far without wanting to take photos, especially along the steps near to the church.
I kind of secretly wished I stayed in Artemonas now!
Visit Kastro Town
Next up is the old town of Kastro and my oh my does it just keep getting better. Sifnos is just so blessed with the most picturesque villages in the Cyclades. Kastro continues this trend. Located roughly 3km east of Appolonia and Artemonas, Kastro as the medieval capital of the island located on a hilltop overlooking the sea. You can easily reach Kastro by vehicle, bus from Kamares/Apollonia, or walk the 3km filled with beautiful views!
When you enter the town you go through tunnels and passageways into a labrynth of tiny streets wide enough for only two or three people to walk through. Once I made it through the tunnels, my jaws simply dropped at the sheer beauty of the houses so perfectly built next to each other. You can tell these houses have been in Kastro for centuries but yet it’s still been preserved so perfectly throughout time. There are still people that live here as I was berated by a local grandma for sitting there like a robot taking photos.
The Kastro is in much better conditions than other places I’ve seen like in Antiparos and I could spend endless time here taking pictures. It really reminded me of the Kastro in Folegandros but perhaps 5x the size.
On the sea side of the village are two small beautiful churches. The Church of the Seven Martyrs on the left sits above one of the finest spots for snorkling on the island. Many people think this is the church from the wedding scene in Mamma Mia. It might as well have been. From the tiny church of Saint Nicholas you can see the surrounding islands of Folegandros, Sikinos, Antiparos and Paros.
This is the ultimate place to have breakfast in my opinion and there’s a perfect bench that faces East to watch the sunrise over the ocean. Since I stayed in Kamares town, there was no way I was going to make it to this sunrise at 6am in the morning.
Sunset at Prophet Elias Church
For one of my all time favorite sunsets in the Cyclades, it has to be at the Prophet Elias Church near the port town of Kamares.
Upon checking into my guesthouse in Kamares, I was greeted with beautiful views of the bay and the towering mountains that surround the town. I immediately noticed that there were two white churches at the very top of these mountains that seemed like they would have epic views.
After renting my scooter, I asked the guys if those churches are possible to visit. Turns out they are! You simply need to drive up a very windy and steep road up to the top of the mountain that overlooks Kamares until you get to the starting point for the Prophet Elias Church, which is the one closest to the ocean.
Then there was a 20 minute hike from the main road to the top of the mountain which had this beautiful church perfectly placed.
The sun set directly in front of this church into the sea with perfect panoramic views of Sifnos and the surrounding islands. I made sure to bring a Mythos beer up to the church to enjoy the sunset. It was absolutely magical and one of my best sunsets in all the Cyclades. I even flew my drone here which I was expecting epic photos. Sadly, the wind was so strong that my drone stood no chance at promptly got taken away and into the abyss.
Nevertheless, this is one of those sunsets that will go into the memory bank but definitely one I can recommend to future travelers!
Stargazing at night
Sifnos is known for its hiking so you can expect a lot of mountainous terrain. Having just watched the sunset at Prophet Elias and following it up with dinner at Troulaki, I had to drive my scooter back through the mountains to the town of Kamares.
There is absolutely nothing on the road. No houses, no street lights, no traffic or anything. I stopped on the side of the road, turned my scooter lights off, and simply looked up. It was incredible. t
Where to eat in Sifnos Island?
Sifniots (I think this is what they are called?) are renowned in Greece to be some of the best chefs. It’s not hard to see why as Sifnos has some of the best foods the islands have to offer. I wish I had more time just so I could eat at the countless tavernas the island has to offer. I made do with what I could and here are some places I can recommend!
Dinner at Sunset in Troulaki
After spending the sunset at the Prophet Elias Church, there is a taverna with beautiful views of the sunset and ocean down the road. Since I already saw the sunset earlier, by the time I arrived it was almost dark. However, this is an option for those that want an amazing sunset view but without the hike to the church.
The food here is also top notch as it’s a family run taverna serving local Sifnos(ian?) style food. I had the lamb chops and a greek salad and like every other dinner I’ve had in Greece from a family run taverna, it was out of this world.
The owners were very friendly and even gave me alcohol afterwards.
I had dinner one night in Apollonia along the main strip one night and settled on this really well rated meze style restaurant called Kafeneio.
I immediately knew I came to the right place just from the sheer demand of people looking to eat there. I had a bunch of different mezes including the lamb souvlaki which was amazing.
In Artemonas, I had dinner one night at a more upscale place. This restaurant was more “modern” but still stayed true to the local flavors. It had a beautiful open air garden that was perfect for a one person dinner.
Make sure to try the local style Sifnos lamb dish called Mastelo which is fall off the bone tenderness.
This taverna was recommended to me by my guesthouse as well as some French people I met that lived on the island. It’s not as much on the main strip in Artemonas town but my goodness was it delicious. The food is farm-to-table and you can really taste the freshness of the delicious ingredients. Service was a delight and the prices are very reasonable.
Located in the beach town of Platis Gialos in the south, this place came highly recommended. It’s an amazing fish restaurant where a lot of dishes are based on the south america cuisine. Raw fish, crab, shrimps, scallops all are combined to form excellent dishes. The restaurant serves shared plates so you can taste a lot of different ones. The place is also excellent since you are dining by the sea. Prices aren’t cheap but it is well worth it in my opinion.
Visit the beaches in Sifnos
Sifnos, as Cycladic islands do, offer a ton of beautiful beaches. The beaches in Sifnos are not the best in the Cyclades, that honor would go to Ios in my opinion, but there is a solid selection.
This will be the first beach anyone sees in Sifnos. As you approach by ferry, you will see the port town of Kamares which is home to a beautiful long beach filled with sunbeds and the works.
Beaches by the Church of the Seven Martyrs in the Kastro
There are a bunch of flat rocks near the Church of the Seven Martyrs in the Kastro district where I saw many people sunbathing and jumping into the sea. I’m not a huge fan of rocky beaches but I suspect if I had more time in Sifnos or if I were staying in Kastro, I would definitely pay a visit to this place.
Platis Gialos Beach
Located in the very south, Platis Gialos is a beachside town with lots of nice resorts, restaurants, and bars built up. The beach itself is also quite nice although very busy in the peak months.
Located about 20 minutes west of Gialos is Vathi Beach. Vathi is also another town filled with resorts, restaurants, bars and the like. The beach stretches for about a mile and though not officially a nude beach, you can get far enough away so that nobody will care.
When is the best time to visit Sifnos?
Sifnos is in the middle of the Cyclades archipelago. The climate in the cycladic islands are pretty much all the same. It enjoys a mild and pleasant climate all year round.
In the summer months, temperatures are highest around 30 degrees or so during the day and dropping to 24 or so at night. The days are normally sunny for months on end. I spent all of July and August traveling around the Cyclades and it was only cloudy or rained one day. Every day is paradise in the summer months.
The shoulder seasons from Sep to Nov and Apr to June and also quite pleasant but you will see some days of cloud and rain, albeit still not that bad. However, I have heard that November can be particularly bad with the rain/clouds.
The winter months or off season is usually colder but temperatures never really drop below 10 degrees. These months between Nov to Mar are the slowest months and tourism usually grinds to a halt.
When should I to visit Sifnos?
So what is the best time to visit Sifnos? It really depends on what you’re after. If you want non stop hot sun, then you will need to visit in the summer. These are the best months to swim in the ocean as the water temperatures will be a pleasant 24 to 25 degrees. However, this is also when all of Greece and the rest of Europe also choose to visit Greece so the crowds will be at their peak.
Prices will be the highest between June and Sep (particularly July and August). I visited the Cyclades during Coronavirus times so even during the peak months it was not overwhelming but there were still a good amount of people. I can only imagine what Sifnos and other islands would be like during a typical summer.
If I were to return to the Cyclades, I would come during the shoulder months, particularly May or October. These months, while not as hot as summer months, will still be very pleasant in the 20-25c range. I’m not crazy about the beaches in the Cyclades as I don’t really find them to be that beautiful so I can deal with not swimming in the ocean. However, the prices for accommodation will be 30% lower, and the crowds will be at least 50% lower which would be absolutely divine!
Getting around Sifnos
Sifnos, like pretty much every other island in the Cyclades is really meant for a DIY type of adventure. While there are cabs you can take, they are not cheap and not easy if you’re looking to explore multiple places. If you’re staying in the Chora and just want a cab ride to the nearest beach, then that will suffice but otherwise it’s best to have your own transportation.
In Sifnos, the best way to get around is by scooter or ATV in my opinion. Cars are also an option but I always prefer a good scooter as it’s more interesting. Sifnos is a large island so if you’re not really a fan of scootering, then I’d recommend renting a car since you’ll need to cover more distance.
Rent an ATV or Scooter
Renting an ATV can be done pretty much anywhere on the island. There are countless shops in the port town of Kamares that have scooter/ATV rentals so there’s no need to book before hand. Prices are mostly set but there is always some negotiation room but do not expect to get huge discounts because the shops work with each other to form a minimum price.
ATVs can be rented for around €30-40 depending on the motor size. Gas is not included in the price but they do not take much. Scooters can be had for around €20 for a 125cc engine.
You will need an EU Drivers license or international drivers license to rent a scooter or ATV
Greece is famously strict about adhering to the drivers license rule. If you have an American drivers license, they will not rent you anything unless you have an international license to go along with it. I did not find anyone that would skirt these rules, even with the shadiest looking of places. Thankfully, living in Europe and having the right US drivers license, I was able to convert mine into a EU license quite easily.
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