The Cyclades Islands are world-renowed for their whitewashed streets and gorgeous beaches and we’re here to show you what to do in Sifnos, one of the most stunning islands in the Aegean Sea.
Sifnos is part of the Western Cyclades group, a sub-cluster of the Cyclades Islands which comprises some of the most laid-back islands in Greece, such as Kea, Kythnos, Serifos, Milos and Kimolos. Each of these islands is unique in its own way but all of them share one important thing in common: they are among the most authentic and unspoilt destinations in Greece.
Sifnos is an utterly picturesque island where it’s next to impossible to find something that doesn’t scream beauty even if you try to. This small gem of an island remains off the radar of mass tourism which means that it retains all of its authentic charms, protects its natural wonders and manages to offer high-quality services to those who choose to spend their summer vacation there.
So, let us take you on a virtual trip to this gorgeous island and we’re sure that, once you check out all the incredible things to see in Sifnos, you’ll definitely start planning your actual trip there too!
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How Many Days & What To Do in Sifnos
When it comes to such small islands like Sifnos, it’s not a matter of how many days you need there so as to see everything. It’s really a matter of how many days you want to relax and take in the beauty without rushing things. After all, Sifnos is THE place to enjoy a relaxing summer holiday.
Therefore, although you won’t need more than three days to check out all the major attractions in Sifnos, you’ll probably want to plan a longer holiday there so as to recharge your batteries and forget about the cruel outer world for a while.
Now, if you’re wondering what to do in Sifnos other than laying in the sun, you should know that the island has many treasures in store to keep your itchy feet busy. From gazing at the amazing traditional architecture and swimming in the waters of some of the best beaches in Greece to eating superb food and learning about the locals’ ancient crafts, the list of awsome activities in Sifnos is a rather long one.
17 Fantastic Things To Do in Sifnos Greece
1. Swim, Swim And, Then, Swim Some More
No matter its small size, Sifnos has a surprisingly large number of beaches, all of which are just splendid. Seriously, every time we went to a beach in Sifnos we were like Oh, there’s no way there’s a better beach on the island than this!, only to change our minds once we stepped on the next beach and then the next and so on.
At some point we quit comparing and decided that we would never have a single favourite beach in Sifnos because we simply fell in love with so many of them. How cool is that?
So, wherever you decide to go swimming in Sifnos, the most crystal clear waters and pristine bays await you. If you’re wondering which Sifnos beaches are the ones that stole our hearts though, take note: Glifo, Apokofto, Cheronissos, Kamares, Platys Gialos.
2. Eat All The Local Food
Sifnos is the birthplace of Nikolaos Tselementes, a Greek chef who was meant to change the way Greeks cook for ever. In 1932, Tselementes published the first ever Greek cookbook, in which he introduced new recipes, inspired primarily by the French cuisine, thus infusing Western touches to the predominantly Eastern cuisine of Greece.
To a great extent, the Greek cuisine as we know it now, this mouthwatering blend of Eastern and Western tastes and aromas, owes its existence to Nikolaos Tselementes. This is why every household in Greece, especially until the 90s or so, had a copy of Tselementes’ cookbook. The latter is such an important element of Greek pop culture that tselementes is a synonym for cookbook in Modern Greek!
Sifnos Island and its people honour their prodigy in more ways than one. First of all, the quality of food served throughout the island is superb. Secondly, food in Sifnos, although traditional and authentic, almost always comes with a little twist, perhaps as a way for locals to pay homage to their favourite child, the person who civilised the Greek palate as the Press of his time put it.
But the utmost celebration of Tselementes and his work takes place in Sifnos every September when the island holds the annual Festival of Cycladic Gastronomy. During this festival, locals and visitors alike have the chance to taste unique dishes from each and every island in the Cyclades, drink local wine and dance to traditional music. Sounds like a valid reason to visit Sifnos in September if you ask us.
What To Eat in Sifnos
Now that we’ve established that Sifnos food is one of the top reasons to visit the island, let’s have a look at some of the local delicacies you must definitely try there.
The ultimate dish to try in Sifnos is revithada, a chickpea stew which is slow-cooked to perfection for an entire night. For this reason, your best shot to try revithada is Sunday at lunch because most traditional restaurants in Sifnos prepare revithada on Saturday night. There are no words to describe how exquisite this dish is and, as an added bonus, vegans and vegetarians can eat revithada to their heart’s content too.
Another chickpea-based recipe you should definitely try are fried chickpea balls (revithokeftedes). These may or may not include cheese so, dear vegans, watch out!
Meat lovers, Sifnos has you covered too! Mastelo is a dish of slow-cooked lamb or goat’s meat with dill. The meat is cooked in a clay pot which is also called mastelo.
Moreover, local cheese in Sifnos is not to be missed. There are a handful of different types (e.g. gilomeni manoura, xinomizithra, chloromanoura) but they’re all absolutely fresh and delicious, so it makes no difference which ones you try, to be honest. Therefore, don’t waste your time trying to pronounce the unpronounceable. Just ask for local cheese or ntopio tyri (ντόπιο τυρί).
As far as dessert goes, you most definitely have to try melopita. This is a cheesecake-like treat made of local cheese and honey. Last but not least, Sifnos is renowned for its wide selection of freshly baked cookies which come in many shapes and flavours, with a certain fondness for almond.
3. Visit Chrissopigi Monastery
The absolute highlight of Sifnos is the picture-perfect Chrissopigi Monastery which is the ultimate symbol of the island. Built in 1640, Chrissopigi Monastery is among the most important places of worship in the Cyclades Islands. Legend has it that it’s connected to many miracles attributed to Virgin Mary.
A visit to Chrissopigi Monastery is one of the best things to do in Sifnos for the wonder of its architecture and natural surroundings alike. Chrissopigi Monastery is also a very popular church for couples who want to get married in a site of absolute serenity and beauty.
4. Admire The Gorgeous Churches
Apart from Chrissopigi Monastery, Sifnos Island is home to many other churches that are worth checking out too. In fact, there are as many as 235 churches in Sifnos. Literally everywhere you look, you will see a quaint church or two whitewashed to perfection luring you like Sirens to go have a selfie with them.
Hands down the most picturesque of all Sifnos churhes is Efta Martires (Seven Martyrs) Church in Kastro. This is yet another popular site for weddings and for good reason. Seven Martyrs Church is built atop a rock with dramatic views to the endless blue sea and Kastro. You can walk to the church via a fairy-tale footpath that starts from Kastro.
5. Lose Yourselves in Medieval Kastro
Kastro is one of the best places to visit in Sifnos. It is the oldest settlement on the island and one of the finest examples of medieval urban planning in Greece. Kastro is the Greek word for castle. The settlement retains all the characteristics of a once fortified town: narrow alleys, small courtyards and arched gates. These are the exact same features that render Kastro an absolutely enchanting place to wander around.
Life in Kastro seems to have remained the same it was centuries ago. Walking around the whitewashed alleys and hearing nothing but the wind carrying around the casual chats of locals is mesmerising. Make sure you walk the circular path inside Kastro and, if possible, look towards the Seven Martyrs Church at sunrise. Last but not least, Kastro is complete with its very own beach, the untamed Seralia Bay.
6. Find Cuba in Sifnos
We’re pretty sure you read this headline twice (three times maybe?), just to make sure you got it right. But it’s true. There’s a tiny piece of land on Sifnos Island that will teleport you to the Caribbean.
We’re talking about Cavo Sunrise, a bar which has become something of a legend. In fact, this bar is one of the top things to see in Sifnos in its own right. Yet you’ll never hear anyone say Let’s go to Cavo Sunrise. Instead, all roads lead to Kouvanos (The Cuban Guy).
It turns out that the Cuban guy is not Cuban at all. Kostas from Sifnos is the proud owner of the best Cuba-themed vintage bar we could ever dream of. The bar’s interior walls are covered with newspapers that feature articles about Che Guevara and Fidel Castro while the floors are decorated with heaps of empty Havana Club bottles.
The go-to drinks at Cavo Sunrise are only two: Mojito and Cuba Libre. Both come in huge sizes at ridiculously low prices. Nothing beats having a drink at one of the bar’s quaint tables as the sun sets giving way to the sweet darkness of the island. If you add a casual chat with Kostas to the equation, then you’re in for an epic experience altogether.
7. Stroll Around Artemonas
Artemonas is one of the most enchanting places to visit in Sifnos. It’s an exceptional village with unique architecture. In Artemonas, instead of small whitewashed buildings which are typical to the Greek Islands, you will mainly stumble upon impressive mansions surrounded by gorgeous gardens.
Artemonas breathes an air of old-fashioned splendour that’s hard to miss or resist. Last but not least, Artemonas hosts two very special annual events. A huge street party that goes on till the early morning hours (August) and the Festival of Cycladic Gastronomy mentioned earlier in this article (September).
8. Explore The Lesser Known Villages
Of course, there are many other lesser known villages in Sifnos that are worth exploring. Our favourite among them is Exambela, a breathtakingly beautiful traditional village and the actual birthplace of chef Nikolaos Tselementes. Other villages that you should definitely check out if time permits are Katavati, Ano Petali and Kato Petali.
9. Spend a Lazy Day in Cheronissos
Cheronissos is a beyond words picturesque fishing village that is unbelievably authentic and unspoilt. There’s no better way to enjoy Cheronissos than spend a day doing absolutely nothing but swim in the village’s incredibly crystal clear waters, read a good book in the shade and eat seafood at one of the two traditional restaurants located right on the beach.
As an added bonus, the drive to Cheronissos is an amazing one. This part of Sifnos boasts a breathtakingly beautiful natural landscape.
10. And a Lazier One in Faros
Yet another fishing village that stole our hearts is Faros. More bohemian than Cheronissos but equally laid-back, Faros offers the opportunity for an unforgettable day that has it all. Swimming in the crystal clear waters of either Glifos or Faros Beach (or both), an easy hike to Chrissopigi Monastery and back and a meal of seafood right on the beach.
11. Take in The Views From Agios Simeon Monastery
No guidebook will tell you that for the best panoramic views to the entire island of Sifnos and beyond, there’s no better place to go than Agios Simeon Monastery. Don’t you just love how we always share our tiny local secrets with you?
Built atop one of the highest points in Sifnos, Agios Simeon Monastery offers jaw-dropping views, especially to Kamares Port. One of the best times to visit is sunset so as to enjoy the golden hour from the ultimate vantage point. Once up there, walk around until you find the spot where a beautiful map of all the surrounding islands is located. The map will help you spot the islands on a clear day.
Last but not least, note that the drive from Agios Simeon Monastery to Kamares Port is probably the most scenic drive in Sifnos.
12. Visit a Pottery Workshop & Buy Ceramics
Sifnos Island has a very long tradition in pottery that dates back to the ancient times. Local craftsmen continue to produce top-quality handmade ceramics to this day. These range from cooking utensils (such as the mastelo pot mentioned earlier) to decorative items.
When in Sifnos, don’t miss the chance to (literally) take a piece of the island back home with you. Buy ceramics from any local pottery workshop in Sifnos. This way not only do you support local economy but also contribute to the preservation of this ancient craft.
There used to be many pottery workshops in Sifnos. Yet now there are only about twenty of them scattered across the island. The two oldest ones are located in Cheronissos and Tsopos Beach respectively.
During our recent trip to Sifnos, we had the pleasure to visit the latter and have a close look at the wonderful artifacts on display as well as the workshop itself. Atsonios Ceramics is a family-run business which is in continuous operation since the late 1800s.
If you’re making the trip to Atsonios Ceramics in Tsopos Beach, make sure you spend some time in nearby Vathi as well. Vathi is a seaside village which is home to one of the longest sandy beaches in Sifnos, one of the best restaurants on the island (Tsikali) and the super quaint Taxiarchis Church.
13. Hike The Quaintest Paths
Sifnos boasts a network of old walking paths which are all signposted and well-maintained. Walking around Sifnos is a unique hiking experience you shouldn’t miss. There are many routes to follow, the easiest of which include hikes such as:
- Faros Village – Glifo Beach – Chrissopigi Monastery
- Artemonas – Panagia Poulati Church – Kastro
- Artemonas – Apollonia and many more.
14. Attend a Traditional Festival
Sifnos is renowned for its traditional festivals or panigiria as we call them in Greek. These are related to major or lesser known religious holidays. During any traditional festival in Sifnos, locals and visitors who attend are served revithada and other local dishes while live music and dancing can go on until the early morning hours.
There are many traditional festivals in Sifnos, especially during the summer months. The grandest of all is, of course, the one held at Chrissopigi Monastery. It takes place every year on the day of the Assumption. The latter is a moveable feast in the Greek calendar (May or June).
15. Discover The Ancient Watchtowers
Sifnos is home to 76 ancient watchtowers that dot the island’s gorgeous countryside. The circular constructions were all built between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC. Yet only a handful of them have survived to this day.
The three best-preserved towers in Sifnos are the White Tower near Platis Gialos Beach, the Black Tower in Exambela Village and the Tower of Katavati Village. If you go hiking in Sifnos, you will most certainly stumble upon signs indicating the exact locations where the watchtowers once stood.
16. Fall in Love With The Kittens
Greece is famous for having the fiendliest kittens on earth. Yet, believe it or not, cats in Sifnos are even friendlier than in other places within the country. Everywhere we went around the island, we seldom walked alone. Almost always, we’d have a furry companion lead the way stopping every now and then so as to claim our attention and hugs, both of which were never hard to get.
17. See And Be Seen in Apollonia
Probably all the other guides you’ve read about the island list Apollonia as the top place to visit in Sifnos. Yet, to us, Apollonia felt rather at odds with the rest of the island. Although it’s the place where the heart of Sifnos beats, especially at night, Apollonia’s authentic character is sometimes lost or, to put it more accurately, hidden behind trendy neon signs and pretentious facades. That was a huge game changer for us.
In any case, you most definitely have to visit Apollonia. It is indeed a pretty island town where you can admire gorgeous traditional architecture once you manage to look past certain cacophonies.
Not to mention that Apollonia is THE place to enjoy Sifnos nightlife. Some of the best (and oldest) bars are Doloma, Mantalou and Argo. All three of them are located along Apollonia’s main street which is colloquially known as To Steno (the narrow alley).
How To Get To Sifnos
There is no airport in Sifnos so the only way to get to the island is by ferry. Kamares Port in Sifnos connects to Piraeus Port in Athens by both high-speed and standard ferries. You can also take a ferry to Sifnos from various other islands in the Aegean Sea if you’re visiting as part of an island-hopping itinerary.
How To Get Around Sifnos
During the summer months, public transport in Sifnos is frequentish and reliable. Starting from Kamares Port you can reach Apollonia or Artemonas. From there you can continue to other locations such as Kastro, Platis Gialos, Faros, Cheronissos and Vathi. However, if you want to enjoy absolute freedom to explore all the treasures this little island hides you’d be better off renting a scooter or, better still, a car.
Where To Stay in Sifnos
As we said right from the beginning of this article, Sifnos doesn’t suffer from the effects of mass tourism. Therefore, the island is in the happy position to offer all its guests high quality services. This holds true for Sifnos hotels as well. So, finding a good place to stay in Sifnos won’t be hard.
That said, there is one certain hotel in Sifnos which isn’t just another accommodation option. It’s a valid reason to visit Sifnos in its own right. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to talk about Verina Astra, the beyond words magical place we had the immense pleasure to call home during our recent trip to Sifnos.
Verina Astra Hotel is in Poulati, near Artemonas. The hotel’s exact location is on a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea. The complex is built in such a way that each and every one of its suites enjoys unobstructed, breathtaking views to the vastness and utter beauty of the deep blue sea beyond.
Astra is the Greek word for stars. Each suite at Verina Astra takes its name after one of the constellations. We stayed at Phoenix, a smartly decorated, impeccably clean and utterly comfortable suite which, like all the other suites in the hotel, has its very own private terrace.
Having taken a late ferry from Piraeus to Sifnos, it was already pitch-dark when we reached Verina Astra. This is why the hotel’s name made sense to us the minute we stepped foot on our terrace. The starry night was unfolding its charms right before our stunned eyes while all we could hear was the gentle sound of the waves in the distance. We already knew that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime hotel experience.
The following morning, we opened our room door and only then did we realise the full extent of how blessed we were to be staying at Verina Astra. The view to the Aegean Sea was absolutely amazing as nothing came between our eyes and this wonder. Moreover, our terrace was so welcoming that we were tempted to spend the entire day there. Yet Sifnos was calling so we had to move.
On our way to the breakfast area, we suddenly saw the hotel’s superb infinity pool. Thank God we had our swimsuits already on. We just couldn’t resist and jumped in for a refreshing morning swim. It was then that we realised that apart from the unobstructed sea views, we also had the opportunity to gaze at gorgeous Kastro and Panagia Poulati Church while swimming.
Breakfast itself was a feast of homemade delicacies, all prepared with care and the best local ingredients.
If you’re looking for a place to stay that is the definition of relaxation, bliss even, then look no further: Verina Astra is the one. If you’re discouraged by the fact that the hotel may not be among the most affordable accommodation options on the island, don’t be. Trust us when we say that this is a hotel stay that you will remember and cherish for ever. For that alone, it’s worth every penny.
Besides Verina Astra, there’s another Verina Hotel in Sifnos. Click here to check them both out. However, Verina Astra holds a really special place in our hearts and it’s the one we recommend for a unique vacation on Sifnos Island. Book your suite directly at Verina Astra’s website or check out the best deals on Booking.com now. Oh and do us a tiny favour, please. When you do go to Verina Astra, don’t forget to say hi to Clio and Marinos for us.
1. Verina Astra is the best place to watch the sunrise in Sifnos.
Sunset is not bad either.
2. Verina Astra enjoys the perfect location from where to hike to Panagia Poulati Church, one of the island’s most gorgeous churches, as well as Poulati Beach, which, to many, is one of the best beaches in Sifnos.
Where To Eat in Sifnos
Sifnos is a culinary heaven. Therefore, you can’t go wrong with any of Sifnos restaurants. Below you’ll find a small selection of the places we personally tried and particularly liked.
- Simos Restaurant in Kamares for mouthwatering revithada and other traditional dishes.
- Mosaico in Artemonas for fantastic meze dishes.
- Kitrino Podilato in Artemonas for dessert.
- Drakakis in Apollonia for meze dishes.
- Gerontopoulos Pastry Shop in Apollonia for melopita and cookies.
- Tratamento in Apollonia for crepes and sandwiches.
- Cheronissos Tavern in Cheronissos for seafood.
- Perantzada in Apollonia for souvlaki.
What’s So Special About Sifnos Then?
Now that you know what to do in Sifnos you may still wonder why choose this island over any other for your summer vacation. After all, they all offer pretty much the same things, right? Well, yes and no.
Although all Greek Islands are great summer destinations, Sifnos is the perfect island to enjoy a quintessentially Greek summer vacation like no other. Why? Because it’s an island of great and indisputable beauty, abundant in amazing pristine beaches and famous for its fantastic local food.
What more do you need for a real vacation than this Holy Trinity of beauty, beaches and food? Oh yes, a couple of drinks too. Off to the Cuban Guy then!
*The featured image shows Kastro under a glorious moon, as seen from Verina Astra Hotel.
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Disclosure: We were guests at Verina Astra Hotel but, as always, we express nothing but our honest opinion about the experience we had. And, God, this was THE hotel experience of a lifetime.