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What to do in Syros, Greece, the best alternative to Santorini

With its elegant white-stucco buildings clinging to precipitous cliffs, well-known black-sand beaches, and historic mountaintop ruins, it’s straightforward to see why Santorini tops so many bucket lists. But the island is falling sufferer to its personal success — Santorini’s permanent inhabitants stands at simply 15,000, but some two million vacationers visit every year. Unsurprisingly, its infrastructure simply isn’t outfitted to cope with this influx, from water provide to rubbish disposal.

Yet, 75 miles to the north, you’ll discover another of the Cyclades Islands that’s each bit as lovely, while attracting just 10 % as many tourists. Syros is the capital island of the Cyclades, nevertheless it scarcely registers on the agenda of most visitors to the area. Listed here are nine the reason why travelers should commerce Santorini for Syros.

1. Ano Syros places Oia in the shade.

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Oia, with its now-famous white and blue homes overlooking the vast volcanic caldera that shaped Santorini as we know it in the present day, is undeniably lovely. However in case you fancy snapping an image of the iconic clifftop village at sunset, be ready to share the second with lots of of different guests.

Crowds on that scale are nowhere to be seen in Ano Syros, a medieval hilltop town on Syros that looms above the capital city, Ermoupoli. The unique residents selected this hard-to-reach location to shield themselves from the common pirate incursions that threatened the island’s coast.

There’s lots to see in Ano Syros. Most impressive is the historic Church of St. George, the sprawling and renovated Catholic complicated that sits at the city’s summit. Seen from miles around, it’s considered one of the first belongings you’ll see when arriving in Ermoupoli by boat.

Even should you don’t fancy testing the points of interest, you’ll be able to spend an afternoon getting lost in the city’s slender, sprawling alleys (few of the roads are vast sufficient for automobiles). Savor the views, play with the local cats — you’ll find them basking on rooftops, skulking along partitions, and meowing at restaurant diners — and cease for normal refreshments at the historic town’s chilled-out bars; the terrace at Συριανών Καφεποτείο (Syrian Cafeteria) is a superb spot.

2. There’s more artwork and culture than one can wish for.

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Ermoupoli might solely have a population of 14,000, however it’s thought-about a metropolis thanks to its origins as a key buying and selling port and shipyard. Meaning it has heaps of museums and lovely buildings.

Explore the island’s historic historical past by visiting the Archaeological Museum of Ermoupoli. Housed in the imposing city hall, it’s certainly one of the oldest museums in Greece. Or should you choose your history slightly extra up to date, take a look at Ermoupoli Industrial Museum, where — among much else — you possibly can study the island’s position in constructing considered one of the world’s first electrical automobiles, the ill-fated Enfield 8000.

However you don’t necessarily need to go to a museum to study the historical past of Syros — you possibly can take it in by simply roaming the marble streets of its capital metropolis.

When you’ve seen the Neoclassical splendor of the town corridor and the Apollo Theater, head around the coast to Vapória, the metropolis’s most picturesque neighborhood. Traditionally the buying and selling hub of Syros, it’s dotted with ornate Neoclassical mansions that when housed the island’s wealthiest retailers. The identify “Vapória” is taken from the Greek word for ship — a reference to how the coastal houses are so close to the sea that they virtually appear to float on it.

three. You get to glimpse at authentic Greek island life.

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Whereas every nook of Santorini has already been completely invaded by tourists, a lot of Syros — notably the island’s hinterland — continues to be largely unexplored. Depart the resorts and bigger towns behind and you’ll quickly come throughout conventional villages hidden away in coves or perched on mountaintops. Virtually untouched by tourism, these spots give an actual concept of how life has been lived on the Cyclades for generations.

Notably distant but properly value the journey is San Michalis, also called Syringas. Situated in the far north of Syros, this mountainous settlement is house to little various dozen stone houses, a couple of cozy tavernas, and the tiny but pretty Church of St. Michael, from which the village takes its identify. Stop for some meals and a stroll along the village’s historic cobbled streets.

four. There’s lip-smacking cuisine.

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Syros is the residence of some of the nation’s most original and best-loved dishes. Perhaps the most well-known of the island’s culinary delicacies is loukoumi — primarily the Greek version of Turkish delight. You’ll discover these smooth, fragrant, sugary treats in all places from devoted candy outlets to kafeneia, where they’re typically dished up alongside cups of robust black coffee.

Cheese lovers are nicely catered for on Syros, too. San Michali — a tough cheese made solely from the milk of the island’s cows — may be loved either on its own or in omelets and souffles. Its style is spicy and fruity, thanks in half to the food plan of fragrant herbs and crops on which the local cows are fed.

When you’re in search of Greek staples, the dozens of restaurants lining the waterfront and backstreets of Ermoupoli serve up all the souvlaki (grilled meats), seafood, crisp salads, and saganaki (fried cheese) you might dream of, and each village has at the least one family run taverna.

5. The tiny island has a big-city nightlife.

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Ermoupoli could also be small, however its nightlife places many much larger locations to disgrace. In truth, its compact measurement truly makes for a fantastic night time out, with dozens of bars and restaurants occupying just some hundred ft of the city’s harborfront. Here, you’ll find fashionable, divey joints — the graffiti-clad Boheme del Mar is one in every of the best — rubbing shoulders with upscale cocktail bars, restaurants, and gelaterias. Most nights, you’ll hear the strains of rebetiko music – typically referred to as Greek blues — being performed in a nearby Greek bar or taverna.

Greeks tend to assume nothing of staying out until the early hours, regardless of the day of the week. Should you actually need to take in the environment, eat late and drink slowly. Anticipate to be introduced with bowls of popcorn, chips, nuts, and other salty snacks each time you order one other glass.

6. Syros is the island of festivals.

Photograph: Syros Worldwide Movie Pageant/Facebook

At the least a dozen festivals happen on Syros annually. Most are centered on the capital, Ermoupoli, which is residence to Syros Tango Pageant, Akropoditi DanceFest, and the Pageant of the Aegean — a two-week collection of operatic recitals — together with several more. Others, akin to Syros International Movie Pageant, happen at venues throughout the island.

As well as cultural celebrations, Syros levels the largest and most boisterous Easter festivities in the Cyclades. Marked by noisy processions and fireworks shows, it’s one in every of the most enjoyable occasions to go to the island.

On Good Friday, three big processions set off from the church buildings of Agios Nikolaos, Kimisi tis Theotokou, and Metamorphosi tou Sotiros, adopted by crowds of revelers carrying lit candles, robes, sponges, and dice (the latter three held aloft on tall poles to symbolize the Passion of Christ). The three processions converge on Miaouli Square, in entrance of Ermoupoli Town Hall, for raucous hymn-singing accompanied by an enormous marching band.

Observe that Easter celebrations on Syros take place on Orthodox Easter, which usually falls every week later than other Christian churches.

7. There are many lovely beaches with crystal-clear water.

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Kini, a friendly village occupying a large bay on the island’s west coast, has two thin strips of sandy seashore which might be partly sheltered from the crashing waves of the Aegean by the harbor partitions built to shield its flotilla of tiny fishing boats.

Galissas, the most popular seashore on Syros, is all the time teeming on sunny days. Lie back on considered one of the palm-topped sunloungers and luxuriate in views of the towering mountains that curve alongside the bay.

Wherever you’re on the island, the superbly clear sea will entice. Even in Ermoupolis, with its hulking shipyard, locals collect at Asteria Seashore — actually only a tiny harborside with swimming pool-style steps leading into the water — to cool off and sunbathe on scorching days.

eight. Touring the island is quick, straightforward, and rewarding.

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Those that make the effort to rent a automotive and explore its again roads gained’t regret it.

Pullover on Episkopio — the major street operating from east to west across the mountainous middle of Syros — to take pleasure in unparalleled views over Ermoupoli, with the shipyard, the huge sea protection, and the white-walled, red-roofed buildings stretching out beneath you. A circuit taking in the island’s southern part, calling at the villages of Kini, Vari, Megas Gialos, and Episkopio takes no more than 5 hours.

To get somewhat additional off the crushed monitor, head for the rugged, sparsely populated northern coast. The village of Kampos lies at the end of the winding, single-track street from the capital; when you’re feeling brave, depart the automotive here and make the lower than two-mile trek to the secluded Americanou Seashore. Only reachable on foot or by boat, and hidden from view by a low fringe of palms and pine timber, it’s as tranquil because it gets — just keep in mind to deliver loads of water, because you gained’t find any outlets.

9. You’ll get rather more in your money.

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In the event you’re touring on a price range, Santorini shouldn’t be an incredible choice. With its many swanky resorts, you’ll wrestle to find a lodge room for less than $120 a night in excessive season. Consuming and consuming don’t come low cost both, thanks to the island’s high-end bars and eating places.

You’ll take pleasure in a lot more bang in your buck on Syros. Whether or not it’s dining out, going for drinks or reserving accommodation, anticipate things to value as little as half what you’d pay on more well-known islands like Mykonos or Santorini.