“That is my store. If you need anything, you can find it there. The restaurant at the corner is my cousin’s and did I tell you about the winery on top of the hill? It’s my brothers'”
This was our first introduction to Sikinos, recited by the landlady who came to pick us up at the port, who undoubtedly repeats the same routine to all visitors. Her words, though carefully designed to promote her relatives’ businesses, immediately painted for us a picture of a laid-back, quiet island, where family ties reign supreme.
That was exactly what we were looking for, from the moment we decided to include Sikinos in our tour of the Cyclades Islands.
There are no resorts on the small island that lies almost perfectly halfway between the more lively Ios and Folegandros. There aren’t even proper hotels, just a couple of pensions and a dozen room rentals. No bars open till late, no clubs, no fancy restaurants (except for one that tries to distinguish itself from the typical Greek taverna, but ends being just a little bit out of place).
Renting a scooter means having to wait for the single bus that plies the route between the port of Alopronia and the upper village of Kastro to return to its stop in the former, because the bus driver is also the owner of the rental company. He will gladly hand you the keys to one of his bikes in exchange for money and tell you to park it along the road, with the keys in the ignition, when you’re done using it.
He will also warn you that the only gas station on the whole island is open from 10AM to 12AM and from 4PM to 6PM. Not that you will need to refuel often, considering that the whole road network is probably no more than 10km in length; it goes from Alopronia to Kastro and a bit beyond, up to the aforementioned winery, with a detour to the splendid beach at Agios Georgios.
Speaking of Manalis Winery, it is set on the side of the hill, surrounded by vineyards and affording a breathtaking view of the Aegean. Sipping a glass or two of their pretty nice wines while watching the sun go down to the west, one can almost forgive the fact that half the dishes listed on the menu are generally not available. The ones that are available are pretty decent, but the place is all about the location and the wines.
As for beaches, there are only two that can be reached via the road. One is in Alopronia, just beside the port. It is surprisingly quiet, considering the location (but Sikinos is a minor port, with only a couple ferries coming and going each day). It is also very clean, with fine sand, and fitted by the city with fixed, large umbrellas and wooden benches. Though there are only a handful of umbrellas, we always managed to find a free one, by coming in the morning. This should tell you how little crowded the place is.
There are fixed umbrellas at Agios Georgios too. This is a pebble beach that lies at the end of the road, only a few kilometers from either Kastro or Alopronia. If you come in the morning, before the first bus arrives, you can have the place all to yourself. Even when the bus starts offloading people, you are guaranteed to have plenty of room.
The part of the beach that lies farther from the road has some flat rocks where you can lie to soak in the sun and the water there is crystalline. On the opposite side there is a small taverna that serves fresh seafood and the usual Greek specialities, all very fresh and tasty.
The third beautiful beach of Sikinos is called Malta and lies a bit north of Agios Georgios. As there is no road leading there, you must take a boat. There are also no umbrellas or tavernas there, so bring your own food, drinks, and whatever is needed to create some shade.
Aside from the beaches, the only attraction of Sikinos, if you can call it like that, is the Zoodochos Pigi monastery on top of hill that dominates the village of Kastro. After having been abandoned for many years, it is now inhabited by a single nun, who will kindly show you around. The best reason to climb up there is to engross oneself in a 360° view over the island and the surrounding ones.
The other reason to go to Kastro is that there are a few bars and cafés there, a couple shops and even a quaint bookshop. Of the two eateries that completely cover the space of a tiny square in the middle of the village, we chose the one called Klimataria on a couple occasions and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
While not the most photographically stimulating, Sikinos is the Greek island as I think it should be: easy-going and tranquil. Compared to Ios, from which we had just come, the contrast was strong, but the latter deserves a visit too. We will discover Ios in the next episode of this series.
All the images contained in this article were shot with Fujifilm cameras (X-E2 and X100s) except for one, which was shot with an iPhone 6. Can you guess which one it is? Leave a comment if you think you have found it.