Sifnos is known all over the world for its great food, fine ceramic tradition, and ancient gold and silver mines. The remnants of a glorious past can still be found on its pristine coasts and hilltops alike as traces of ancient citadels and venerable monasteries scattered across the island.
Sifnosis a relatively small island in the Cyclades island group in Greece, between Serifos and Milos, west of Delos and Paros, about 130 km (81 mi) from the port of Piraeus near Athens. It's port is Kamares, a fully functioning, yet picturesque small village. Sifnos occupies an area of 73.942 square kilometres (28.549 sq mi) and is 15 km (9 mi) long and 7.5 km (4.7 mi) wide with a shoreline of 70 km (43 mi), and a permanent population of about 2,625. The island is served by ferries, both fast and conventional, which run on the Piraeus - Kythnos - Serifos - Sifnos - Milos - Kimolos line and via Naxos. There are also less frequent sailings to other islands in the Cyclades.
Apollonia and Katavathi villages of Sifnos. By Jon Corelis - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10406170
The name of the main town, known as Apollonia, is thought to come from the ancient temple of the god Apollo, on the site of the church of Panagia Yeraniofora, and the second-largest and almost adjacent is Artemonas, thought to be named after an ancient temple of Apollo's sister, the goddess Artemis, located at the site of the church of Panagia Kokhi. The village of Kastro, built on top of a high cliff on the island's east shore, used to be the capital of the island during ancient times until 1836. It has extensive medieval remains and is the location of the island's archaeological museum. The port settlement, on the west coast of the island is known as Kamares.
Archaeological evidence indicates the island was inhabited from at least 4000 BC. and was within the mainstream of Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Cycladic civilization. The island used to be wealthy, thanks to its gold, silver, and lead, mines which were there as early as the 3rd millennium BC. Proof of this is the Sifnian treasury, built at Delphi in the 6th century BC. According to Pausanias, these mines were obliterated by floods in ancient times. Remains of ancient mines, some dating back to prehistoric times, are still to be seen on the island, most notably at Agios Sostis, and remains of ancient fortifications, dating from the 3rd millennium to the 6th century BC, have been found at Agios Andreas, Agios Nikitas, and Kastro. Another indication of Sifnos' wealth is the fact that it was one of the first places in Greece to mint its own coins, beginning around 600 BC, although the number minted does not seem to have been great, and the island of Aegina, which used Sifnian silver, seems to have developed a much greater export capacity in this form of the metal. During the extensive Greek migrations which occurred perhaps as early as the 12th century BC, Sifnos was mostly populated by Ionian Greeks from Athens. The island appears only rarely in the subsequent ancient history of Greece. In the 6th century BC it was invaded by pirates from Samos. In the 5th century BC, Sifnos was an official member of the Greek defensive alliance formed to fight the Persian Wars. In the next century the island was briefly taken over by the Persians but liberated by a fleet sent by Alexander the Great.
Little is known of Sifnos during the Roman and Byzantine eras, though three Roman sarcophagi remaining in the streets of Kastro and visible to the visitor, and a collection of 80 Byzantine coins in the Museum there, testify to substantial continued population during those times. In the early 14th century Sifnos came under the rule of the Corognas, who proclaimed the island independent from the Sanudo dynasty which then ruled most of the Cyclades area, and ruled Sifnos for over a hundred years; around 1440 as a result of a dynastic marriage power over the island passed to a Bolognese family, who ruled until 1617. Though both these dynasties became thoroughly Hellenized, they retained their Roman Catholic form of religion. It seems likely that, as in most of the Cyclades, Ottoman rule on Sifnos was fairly loose, consisting mainly of the collection of taxes, with the islanders largely administering their own affairs. By the early 17th century Sifnos was a significant commercial center, and from 1821 the island played an important role in the Greek War of Independence.
Notable figures from Sifnos in modern times include the chef Nikolaos Tselementes (1878–1958), who wrote a classic Greek Cookery book still used in Greece today.
The island's rich clay veins, sunny weather and high temperatures have made Sifnos a capital of pottery in the Aegean, with unique jars and pots that are a "trademark" of the island. They are typical of the Sifnian everyday life, such as water or wine jars, cooking and food vessels, "masteles", "foufoudes" or "flaroi" (kind of chimneys) etc. The oldest potteries were found in central regions such as Artemon and Ano Petali to avoid pirate attacks. The visitor may enjoy and purchase from a number of active potteries throughout the island. On the small fishermen' settlement of Herronissos, look for "H Dyskolh" pottery studio of Kostas Depastas, a very knowledgeable 80-something year old artisan with fine products and very good prices. (tel.: 22840 33121)
By Margaritaprounia - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32460133
There are 360 churches on the island! Many of them as well as some monasteries are historical sites with significant religious and architectural interest. The monastery of Panagia Chryssopigi is the most important. One of the most "popular" churches of the island, is that of the Seven Martyrs, where many couples choose to get married. Panagia Poulati is renowned both for its beauty and the landscape that surrounds it. Sifnos is also known for the religious festivals that take place during the summer period, an opportunity for a visitor to become familiar with the culture of the island and the famous Sifnian traditional cuisine. In July, don't miss Agia Marina in Flabouro on the evening of the 17th and two events on Prophet Helias, on the evening of the 19th, one on the top of the tallest mountain-also known as Prophet Helias the tall and the other at Troullaki. In August there is a festival at Panagia on the 15th, to be followed by Panagia tou Nigiou and Panagia Platanissa, on the evening of the 16th, Panagia to Toso Nero, in the evening of the 17th and Agios Symeon on the evening of the 31st.
Poulati Beach, Sifnos. By Jimmy-jambe - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16261591
Crystal-clear waters and amazing natural beauty welcome visitors to the beaches of Sifnos, each with its own character and landscape to explore. Vathy is popular further south offering three different beaches, the last one of which welcomes nudists. Nearby is Tsopos, with one of the oldest pottery workshops on the island. The best-organized beach is Platys Gialos, complete with sunbeds, umbrellas, showers and changing cabins. There are many coffee-shops and restaurants. There, we recommend "To Steki". Close-by is the picturesque rocky cove named Lazarou, with crystal-clear waters, sunbeds and a couple of restaurants. The southmost settlement is Faros, with the beaches of Fasolou, Faros and Glyfo, all with shady spots under tamarisk trees. A path leads to the beach of Apokofto, with changing cabins, toilets, a mini market and restaurants. On the other side of Chrysopigi rock is a pebble-covered and quieter beach called Saures. At the foot of Kastro one will find Seralia beach. Poulati is another spot, under the Monastery of Panagia Poulati. The fishing village of Herronissos has a beach with sunbeds and two nice restaurants, while nearby Vroulidia is rocky near the shore and sandy further deeper. Some beaches, like Toso Nero, Fikiada and Artimoni are only accessible by foot and remain totally unspoiled. Others, like Tsouvades, Katergaki, Gialoudia, Tsoha, Vlihada, Hohlaki and Hlakopo are accessible only by boat.