Ios: the fun part of the Aegean

The Cyclades' hilly island with cliffs down to endless beaches flanked with night and beach clubs

If there was one Greek god who would make their home in the island of Ios it would certainly be Dionysus; god of wine, revelry, madness and the celebration of chaos. Such words encapsulate the vibrant party atmosphere that is found there. With travellers from across the globe drawn to this Greek island for its legendary festivities, you may well find that this charming yet vibrant hotspot will provide you with the wildest memories of summer in Europe.

Ios belongs in the Cyclades group of islands, just a four-hour ferry ride from the capital city of Athens – and ferry will be your only option, as there is no airport on Ios. However, don’t mistake the island as simply one enormous raging party, as it is equally renowned for its delicately beautiful and classical Greek streetscapes. The main settlement, Ios Town (also known as Chora), is yet another charmer that reflects the immaculate beauty of a cluster of whitewashed stone buildings, perched ever so peacefully on the side of a mountain. Catering for young energetic crowds, Ios Town’s flourishing entertainment, food and shopping establishments are as strong as ever, making it the perfect destination.

Accomodation-wise, Ios can offer both calm and isolation in idyllic boutique hotels or apartments, as well as central camping sites and modern boutique hotels.

Staying at Far Out Village will mean you are totally immersed in the crazy party life all day long. Its grounds are divided into two areas: Far Out Camping and Far Out Hotel. Both areas have a swimming pool, computers and mini-market. The hotel is certainly the flashier side of Far Out with 45 rooms, a restaurant, a bar and even a sushi ‘cave’ to satisfy those poolside edamame cravings. The Village Camping provides tents as well as bungalows for those who can’t live without aircon or a comfy bed, and will only cost a little more. Meanwhile, apart from the day beach parties thrown by Far Out and the ‘Life is a Beach Party’ sailing crew, always ready to take you on a cruise around the island, the avid traveller can even learn how to dive with the Meltemi Diving Centre.

Staying in Ios Town (Chora) means you get the best of both worlds. With buses heading down to the beach from the town’s centre square every half hour, getting to the beach is a breeze.

Only a 10-minute walk from the famous Mylopotas Beach, the Levantes Ios Boutique Hotel is located over the sandy beach, offering views towards the neighbouring islands. It features a pool and elegant accommodation with balcony overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Francesco’s is an incredible hostel/hotel right in the heart of Ios Town, which makes the nightlife very accessible. The combination of dormitories and hotel rooms means it can cater for a variety of travellers on all sorts of budgets. The rooms are very clean, cool and the hostel atmosphere is perfect for partying in Ios. Meeting fellow travellers is effortless, and Francesco’s comes with a pool that overlooks Ios town and the nearby port. The establishment also offers transfers from the port via mini bus, and Francesco and his family are very warm, welcoming and helpful. For those coming to Ios, this is highly recommended.

Hermes Hotel is located between Ios Town and Mylopotas beach; the perfect hotel if you want to balance your experience with an incredible view of Ios Town from a different perspective, even when you are sinking in its swimming pool. Hermes also offers transfers from the port.

Ios Resort is found right across from the town’s main road. Like Hermes, it also has pool parties with cheap drinks and deep tunes for chilling out during the day – great for meeting and hanging out with fellow young travellers.

Artemis Pension Ios Apartments are perfect for the low-budget traveller in a very central town location. From as little as $10 per night, its rooms are fully equipped with amenities and private bathrooms.

Ios’ nightlife is busting with venues suiting all types of music and taste, sure to make every traveller happy. The alleyways become flooded with youths, whereas the chic restaurants hanging from the cliff edges are packed with families, couples and food enthusiasts.

If you are into dancing and enjoying exotic cocktails mostly made of fresh produce, definitely give Flames, Circus, Slammer and Coo Bar a chance. Sweet Irish Dream and Disco 69 are also Ios town’s classics.

Ios is overflowing with a diverse array of cuisines, from Mexican to authentic Greek.

Harmony is a must, perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking Mylopotas beach, sporting some of the greatest Mexican food ever tasted, cheap drinks and live acoustic music. Can you get much better than this?

Free Beach Bar is also located on Mylopotas beach, home to some delicious food and cocktails at its stunning beach bar. The owners are incredibly accommodating and friendly, offering vegan and gluten-free options.

Porky’s is the after-hours paradise offering the best gyros on the island, along yummy toasties, crepes, hamburgers and salads. Food ranges from two to six euros, making it an ideal way to cut down on your spending.

Ciao Bella serves authentic Italian food right in the centre of Chora.

We’ve saved the best for last: the beaches.

Mylopotas and Ormos are the most popular beaches, especially amongst younger visitors, showcasing a wide variety of bars, watersport activities, restaurants, a mini-market and the infamous Far Out Village.

There are, however, 21 more beautiful and easily accessible on the island, included in the list of best places to swim in Greece. Most of Ios’ beaches are still secluded and remote, with crystal clear blue waters and white sands.

Manganari is one of the most mesmerising and quiet seaside locations with clean waters, found on the southern side of the island. Agia Theodoti was named after the small chapel that stands on a hill above the coast 9km east of Chora. Gialos and Psathi comes highly recommended for families and travellers who prefer organised ‘swimscapades’. Koumbara beach is only 2km away from the main town, but its golden sands and deep blue waters make you feel closer to paradise. Kolitsani is a small beach south of the Ios port, a popular anchorage for sailing yachts, hidden between rocky hills and under green trees hanging from the sky. Kalamos is probably the most secluded beach on the south eastern side of Ios, ideal for couples. The Papa cove lies right next to Kalamos, and is famous for its turquoise and golden, almost Caribbean look. At the northernmost end of the island lies isolated and primitive Plakoto beach, with its untouched coast and crystal waters. If you prefer pebbly beaches, Cape Karatzas, in the northeast, is ideal, but on your way there, pay Diamoudia Cove a visit. Another unspoilt pebbled paradise 10km away from Chora is Kambaki, so make sure you get lots of water and food supplies with you.

Also close to the town lie Valmas, Tzamaria, Loretzena, Neraki and Plakes. Tripiti, Tris Klisies and Vathirema, on the other hand, are located 20km from Chora and are preferred by naturists, sometimes even nudists.

If this article finds you in the midst of organising your next visit to Greece, maybe you should consider popping Ios onto your list.

* Alexandra Manatakis is a travel blogger and owner of FOREIGN.5 (www.foreignpoint5.com)