Sites & Villages
Sifnos has many elements capable of attracting the interest of the visitor, like traditional villages, castles, churches, monasteries, beautiful beaches and of course the archaeological sites. The whole island has about 227 monasteries and small or bigger churches, and about 55 ancient towers, some of them built in the 6th and 3rd century B.C., but most of them being so destroyed that it is difficult to see, with the exception of the White Tower in Platy Yialos which is in an accessible area and in good condition.
The construction of the tower started during the invasion of Samians and according to Thucydides they were used for sending warning signals to other islands about pirate attack or other dangers. This system of communication developed and expanded in the whole island. In the following years these towers were used to protect women and children from enemy attacks.
The villages in Sifnos, except Kastro, are all concentrated in the middle part of the island and so close to each other giving the impression of one big village and making almost impossible to recognize the limits in between them.
Characteristic of these villages are the homogeneous cubical Cycladic architecture with the whitewashed houses and churches, and the stone paved streets. An old fashioned path starts from Artemona and goes all the way down to Katavati, passing through the villages of Ano Petali and Apollonia, and another connects Aghio Louka with Exambela, Kato Petali and Kastro. In almost all the coasts of the island we find villages. The first buildings is these villages were pottery shops with oven because being close to tea sea gave them easy access to the boats that transferred the products to all known markets of the world. In Sifnos the traditional farm houses have usually one common room, a pigeon loft, are full with thyme bushes and have outbuildings used as cellars, stable, threshing floor or wine press spots.
The first thing that the visitor sees when arriving in Sifnos is its port, called Kamares. Its first construction was in 1907 and expanded in 1950, but the village developed at the end of the 19th century. Kamares means arcs and is due to the numerous caves that existed in the rocks on the south coast of the bay, where today we find houses, shops and underground shelters for keeping the boats in the winter time
Kamaresisthebiggestcoastalvillageoftheisland that can offer to the visitor a calm day at the beach and clubs and restaurants for the night. The central part of the village is situated on the right side of the coast where we find the port, travel agencies, grocery and pottery shops and the beautiful church of Aghia Anna. Kamares has a long sandy beach awarded with the Blue Flag for its clear waters and clean beach. On the west side of the village, on the hillside are the houses of the rich and eminent Sifnians. Some of the oldest buildings in Kamares are the church of Aghios Georgios (St. George) & Aghia Varvara (St. Barbara), built in 1785 and renovated in 1906, the Fanari since 1896, the old Mill and the ruins of the old pottery ovens and the ore’s scale loader from 1883.
On the right side of the dock and uphill we find a square named after a known doctor and Member of Parliament, G. Koulouris. Opposite and towards the foot of the mountain Agios Simeon, we see the community of Aghia Marina or Pera Banda where we find restaurants, café and accommodation units. From the beautiful church of Aghia Marina the visitor can enjoy a magnificent sunset. At the beautiful long beach of Kamares and Aghia Marina it is possible to rent wind surf equipment.
Vathi is a small quiet community of about 60 inhabitants that with its windless bay and the beautiful sandy beach becomes one of the most attracting destinations of Sifnos. It is important to mention that Vathi is the oldest community of potters on the island. From here all export of the famous sifnian pottery was done towards the markets of the other Cycladic islands, Crete, Cyprus and Alexandria of Egypt.
It is situated on the southeast part of Sifnos, 10km from Apollonia and 16km from Kamares. The name Vathi is due to the fact that the bay where it is located is in a deeper position than the surrounding area. Another explanation is because the waters used to be very deep even close to the shore, which is a contradiction considering the fact that the beach right in front of the village has shawoll waters making the area ideal for families with children.
The recent construction of a paved street and a dock made Vathi reachable from the land and the sea. The road comes from Katavati in the inner part of the island and one the way to Vathi we see the monastery of Fyrogenon and a bit further the church of Aghios Andreas built on the local pro-historic acropolis in 1701. The ancient findings in the wider area prove live on the island during the Mycenaean and till the Hellenistic period.
On our way to Vathi we see the monastery of Taxiarchi of Mersine from 1738 which celebrates 3 times per year with big festivities. At the right end of the beach we see the double supported church of Taxiarches and Evaggelistrias, dated back to the 17th century. Two more monasteries are above the village, the one of Aghiou Nicolas Aerina and the one of Aghios Ioannis in Black Village.
Themostknownandbusybeachoftheisland,also considered to be one of the longest sandy beaches of Cyclades isPlatyYalos. This area is one of the most popular to the young people for the possibility of relaxing or wind surfing at the beach and for its nightlife. The village of Platy Yalos is situated 10km from Apollonia and has a variety of accommodation units, organized camping, restaurants and pottery workshops.
On the north side, on the hill the monastery of Panagia of the mountain is to be seen built in 1813 and has inside the unique icon of Panagia Macherousa. From its yard the visitor can enjoy an absolutely beautiful view. Celebrations take place on the 25th of March and on the 21st of November.
On the northeast side we find the ruins of the White Castle, the most known from all the castles of the island, which was for centuries the observation station for pirate attacks.
South at the cape of Platy Yalos, the archeologist Chr. Tsountas, discovered a pre-historical cemetery. At the southeast entrance of the bay we see the private, but uninhabited island of Kitriani with the small church of Kypriani on it, built in 1732 and being the oldest church monument in Sifnos. It is known that around this island is the best known fishing area.
PHAROS – CHRYSOPIGI
Pharos is located in the southeast part of the island, about 8-9km away from Apollonia and took his name from the lighthouse, in Greek means pharos, that people put at the entrance of the overall safest port, which until 1883 was the main port of the island. The lighthouse is placed on the right side of the port, next to the monastery of the Cross (tou Stavrou) with a magical view. The small community of Pharos is a fishermen village with small restaurants, shops and accommodation units, with various beautiful beaches like Fasolou, Pharos and Glyfou. In the west side of the golfwe see the ruins of the facilities, where ore were being loaded on the boats to be transferred to Lavrio. On the edge of the bay and on the west side of the beach of Pharos are the foundations of the ancient Fryktoria. From here begins also the path that leads to the small bay of Apokoftou and to Chrysopigi.
At the entrance of the gulf of Chrysopigi we see a long islet looking detached from land, called the “rocky schooner of Chrysopigi”. On top of this islet is the monastery of Chrysopigi, the patron saint of the island and it was built in 1650. It is a beautiful monastery, standing alone on a rock and surrounded by many steps down till the crystal clear sea water. According to tradition fishermen found at that spot the icon of Zhoodocho Pigi inside the waters. Thepictureofthismonasterydecorates so many paintings that became the landmark of Sifnos. There is the possibility to overnight in the monastery in one of the cells provided for tourists in case of emergency.
Kastro (castle) is situated in the east side of the island, built on the summit of a hill and 3,5km away from Apollonia. It is the oldest community of Sifnos and an excellent sample of Venetian architecture with an absolute magnificent view to the Aegean Sea. According to Herodotus it is built on the ruins of the ancient town Asty and it was the capital of the island until 1836 and the See of Archbishopric in Sifnos. Theareaislikeanopenmuseum. Thevisitor enters the castle from tube shaped entrances called “lozies” that used to be secured from the towers. Inside the castle the houses are of two or three levels, the lower being for the poor people and the higher level was where aristocrats lived to be safer from pirate’s attacks. Due to the limited space available, streets and even squares go upon the roof of the houses.
Inside the castle with its arcs and the loopholes, is the archaeological museum in the catholic church of Antonio of Padova. There we find sculptures, columns capitals, pots and remaining that come from the geometrical period until the Byzantine times.
Another sight worth visiting is the Seralia (palaces) situated on the bay under the hill of Kastro. It was flourishing during the Turkish domination and it was for some time the main port of the island. At that period there were magnificent buildings and therefore the area was named Seralia. Today we find accommodation units, fish restaurants and a beautiful beach.
Lastbutnotleastis the monastery of Panagia Poulati, dated back to 1871 and is in 20 minutes walking distance from Seralia. Close to it you will find the homonymous beach.
Cherronissos is a very small community in the north end of the island, about 15km away from Apollonia. The name is a paraphrase of the word hersonissos (peninsula), which means infertile isle. This peninsula is easily reachable either by car passing through the communities of Troullaki and Diavroucha, either by small excursion boats from Kamares, but only during the summer season.
Herronisos belongs to the wider area of Artemona and it is a quiet fishermen’s village for relaxation and concentration with a beautiful small beach with clear blue waters. The development didn’t reach yet Herronisos so there are only few accommodation units and same small restaurants (taverns). Year before also Herronisos was a center for pottery, but today only a small traditional workshop reveals the past.
Artemonas is located in the east side of Sifnos and about 2km away from Apollonia. It is ane of the most beautiful village with a mixture of neoclassic and Cycladic architecture. White painted houses and mansions with flowery gardens and yards give a magnificent picture to the visitor. On the top of the hill we see the remains of a row of traditional windmills, from which only two are in good condition. From that spot we can see Kastro, Kamares and other villages laying on our feet and in the background on a clear day the neighbor islands.
From Artemona comes the national hero of Sifnos, Nicolaos Chrysogelos. Inside the village we can find the house of the local poet Ioanni Grypari and the church of Aghios Constantine from 1462 where the religious rhetorical teaching was developed.
Of significant architecture is the church of Panagia of Konchis with its unique temple. According to tradition the icon of Virgin Mary (Panagia) was found in a konchi (narrow round hole) on the street. On the last Sunday of the Carnival the famous celebration of Kyr Voria takes place in the church’s yard.
Artemonas itself did not develop much and kept its traditional character. Inside, the village has many old traditional bakeries and pastry shops, few restaurants and pottery workshops and various accommodation units. The closest beach is in Poulati.
Ano Petali is a small community south of Artemona with a beautiful view to the east. It used to be the southernmost part of the community of Artemona and the name Petali means a small rocky knoll.
Remarkable is the church of Aghios Antypas (1636) for its history and architecture style. This church was the school that Nicolaos Chrysogelos established in 1821 and put his student George Psaravtis as teacher.
In Ano Petali we find small accommodation units, restaurants and the famous traditional café of Phellos.
AGHIOS LOUKAS (Saint Lucas)
Aghios Loukas is the second of the three villages forming the old community of Artemonas and its name comes from the homonymous parish church.
Apollonia is located on the east side of the island and it’s built amphitheatrically on three hills, 6 km away from Kamares, the main port of Sifnos. According to tradition the name Apollonia indicates that the town was probably dedicated to God Apollo, but it was also known with the name Stavri (Cross), because the houses form a cross.
It became the capital of Sifnos from 1936 until 1914 and it is the administrative and commercial center of the island. The visitor finds a variety of travel agencies, accommodation units, shops, restaurants, café and traditional pastries that make Apollonia a lively nest without loosing its Cycladic character and beauty. Walking through the streets, the visitor except of admiring the panoramic view, is also surrounded by the white houses with the tiny yards full of colorful bougainvillea and the blue domes with its bell towers of town’s churches.
At the central square of Hero, in Apollonia you can visit the Museum of Folklore Art and see beautiful handmade traditional dresses, hand woven and embroideries or ceramic pots, all useful objects of Sifnian’s everyday life.
In the southwest side of Apollonia and on the top of the hill we see the monastery of Prophet Elias, which although today it’s abundant it is a Byzantine monastery with impressive marble columns from the 10th century.
Kato Petali is located on a hill eastward of Apollonia and in its small center we find some accommodation units, restaurants and shop, but its main attraction is the church of Zhoodochou Pighi (1894) with its interesting paved yard. For its maintenance every year the inhabitants sing the New Year Carols in order to collect money. The school of music is also situated in Kato Petali. On the east side of the village we find the monastery of Aghios Ioannis, where according to tradition operated the very first school of Sifnos and later the school of Holy Sepulchre, known then as “Greek Museum Of Sifnos”, before it was finally transferred in Aghios Artemios.
In the south part of Kato Petali in between the olive trees we see a traditional little church of Panagia Koukkia or Myrtidiotissa, dated since 1614.
The name Exambela is the combination of two words and means dry, unfertile wine yards. The village is located in the east side of Sifnos, about 2km from Apollonia. It is extremely exposed to the winds therefore at the entrance of the village we see row of old windmills, called Aerides (Winds), some very well preserved and others totally abandoned.
This beautiful community is located in the center of the island, on a higher point, south of Apollonia. The distance is more or less half kilometer and in a walking distance from a downhill road, hence the name katavati which means downhill. The village was a refuge from the pirates and in the winter a retreat for the monks of the monastery of Prophet Elias of Chamilou. This monastery is maybe the most important Byzantine monument of the island, is located on the south limit of the village and through history it was one of the most secluded and inaccessible shelter of Sifnos.
South of the village of Katavati is the church of Aghios Andreas, dated back from 1890 and after the monastery of Fyrogion from 16th century.