Is Ios, Greece, worth visiting? Why yes, yes it is! Ios reigns as one of the most attractive islands in the whole of the Aegean Sea. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock its way every year. They’ve been coming since tourism first hit Greek shores, with the pioneers being party-hungry hippies in the 1970s.
Today, Ios stays true to those roots by offering some of the most happening nightlife of anywhere in the country – no, the whole Med. But it’s also much more than that. Glorious beaches where hardly another soul goes string down the east coast, while tavernas tout sunset dinners by the shoreline in the west. You’ll also find intriguing history sites, not least of all the tomb of the mythic poet, Homer!
Tempted? Of course you are! This guide will answer is Ios, Greece, worth visiting with seven succinct pointers. From the renowned nightlife scene to the lesser-known cultural side, it’ll case out the top reasons why we think anyone heading to the Cyclades should consider a pitstop on the island. Let’s go…
The nightlife is epic
It’s no secret that Ios makes the headlines because of its nightlife. This is unquestionably one of the liveliest islands in the whole of the Greek archipelago. It’s been drawing hedonists since at least the 1970s, when the first bunch of hippies is said to have hopped over from Crete and just, sort of, stayed.
Fast forward to the 21st century and you get an island that’s positively brimming with after-dark action. It’s not the same as other Greek party spots like Kavos or Malia in that there’s no full-on strip. The bulk of the clubs await in the handsome old town center of Chora. They take a little of Mykonos’s chic boho style and a touch of the 18-30s energy of Faliraki and fuse it together in a hazy hit of house tunes, EDM, and chart.
The best venues that you simply have to know about if you head to Ios for the sole reason of partying would be:
- Disco 69 – A longtime staple of the nightlife on Ios, Disco 69 has been offering cutting-edge DJ dance parties for over four decades!
- Sweet Irish Dream – A fusion of Irish pub and rollicking EDM club, this one’s known for its flaming shots.
- Slammer – Pretty much ALL partygoers on Ios hit Slammer Bar to sample the iconic Slammer Shot. We won’t ruin the surprise by explaining but suffice to say that you’ll need to wear a helmet!
The beaches are beautiful
Ios might not be famed for its sandy stretches and idyllic coves like other members of the Cyclades islands – think Paros or Milos. But that’s not because it’s not got them. It most certainly does. It’s probably just down to the fact that not too many travelers make it to the coastlines away from Chora. You know, hangovers and all that.
We’d wholeheartedly recommend that you do make the effort. There are some seriously gorgeous bays and beaches on the menu here. Generally speaking, the west coast around the main port is the most built up. That’s the area to tread if you’re hunting for sand-side tavernas and banana-boat rides. The east coast is very undeveloped. You might need a hardy quad bike to explore its bays, but the reward can sometimes be total seclusion, even in the peak of the high season!
The best beaches on Ios include:
- Mylopotas – Close to Chora and dotted with lovely sea-view hotels, Mylopotas has some nightlife, loads of watersports, and plenty of tavernas.
- Kalamos – Often totally deserted, Kalamos is a glorious beach that sweeps up the east coast in a run of perfect golden powder.
- Agia Theodoti – Another east-coast option that’s backed by high scrub mountains, Agia Theodoti can be reached on a winding road across the heart of the island.
- Manganari – Clear waters and relaxed taverna-inns make this the undisputed family resort of Ios.
While most of the action on Ios takes place on dry land (there aren’t any clubs in the sea, are there?), there’s still loads of scope to get wet here. After all, the island sits smack dab in the heart of the Cyclades chain. That puts it in the beating middle of the Aegean Sea, which is one downright mecca for water sports aficionados if there ever was one.
Sure enough, everything from boat trips to jet ski rides is in the offing. Head down to Mylopotas to get stuck in. That’s the home of Meltemi Boat Tours Watersports & Diving, arguably the most acclaimed outfitter on the isle. They have banana boats, SUPs, water skis, wakeboarding packages – the list goes on.
Then there’s the diving. Ios has actually risen to become one of the favored dive locations in the country in recent years. That’s mainly down to the fact that it enjoys good protection from the dominant NW swells and winds that cut across the Aegean in summer. The upshot? Good visibility, which should let you see plenty at the shipwreck near the main harbor and the underwater lava fields – just two of Ios’s coolest dive sites.
The history and culture
Ios does a good job of balancing out its hedonistic reputation with a hit of history and culture. Granted, not too many of the folk who come this way will be doing it for the mythical ancient sites and the churches. But they are there if you want them, and they are darn fascinating to boot.
For us, the most striking of the whole lot is the Bronze Age settlement of Skarkos. It drapes over a rotund hill directly north of Chora and the port. It’s hailed by archaeologists as one of the most important ancient sites in the Aegean, offering remains of tombs and houses that are thought to date back a whopping 4,500 years! There’s also an associated museum in the main town that displays just a few of the relics that were found there over the years.
Next up has to be Homer’s Tomb. Clutching the cliffs of Plakoto at the far northern tip of the island, we’re talking the resting place of arguably the most famous poet whoever walked the planet; author of The Iliad and The Odyssey. On the way there, also drop down to the east coast to check out the glorious Church of Agia Theodoti, a leftover of the Byzantine era.
Chora – the main town is stunning
There’s no getting around it – Chora, Ios’s main town and marina, is simply stunning. That might seem a little strange to veterans of Greece’s other major party destinations. They can often be dominated by tacky frontispieces and kebab outlets. Not here. This is a bona fide Cycladic village. It sports narrow cobbled alleys and tight-knit lanes, and all the whitewashed cubist architecture you could possibly want.
Between bouts of ouzo shotting and shindigging on the R&B dancefloors, be sure to set aside some time to get lost in the town. You’ll duck under creaking windmills that are hundreds of years old. You’ll pass by blooms of bougainvillea draped over tavernas. And you’ll encounter pretty plazas where locals clink aromatic Greek coffees in the morning.
The main sights of the Chora include the Archeological Museum of Ios, which has finds from the aforementioned dig site at Skarkos, and the uber-romantic Church Panagia Gremiotissa, topped by a lovely sea-blue dome. You can also scale the hill above town to watch the sunset from the Odyseas Elytis theatre – we think the views from there are unbeatable.
The awesome islands you can visit nearby
Trips to one Greek island can often be the start of something bigger. Much bigger. We’re talking full-on odysseys through the Aegean Sea a la Homer’s Odysseus. Alternatively, we’re talking chilled excursions for a day or two. It’s totally up to you.
The good news is that Ios is perfectly situated to launch expeditions through what’s considered one of Greece’s premier island-hopping regions: The Cyclades. It hardly matters if you head north, south, east, or west – pretty much every compass direction hides a special treat.
Some of the top places you can reach from Ios by regular public ferry in the high-season months are:
- Santorini (0.5-1.5 hours, depending on whether you go for the fast ferry) – Surely this one needs no intro? Santorini is Greece’s top honeymoon spot and home to uber-dramatic coastal scenery.
- Naxos (Just over an hour) – Family friendly and romantic, Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades and should be very easy to reach. We especially like the west-coast beaches here.
- Mykonos (1.5 hours) – More parties in uber-chic sunset bars await in the jet-setter choice of the Aegean.
- Sikinos (30 minutes) – The closest island to Ios, Sikinos is rustic Greece to the max, with deserted medieval church complexes, just a single small fishing town, and a mountaintop monastery. Come here to recharge after the parties.
Is Ios, Greece, worth visiting just because you can find some lovely places to stay? There’s an old adage that you shouldn’t pick the destination because of the accommodation. However, we might just make an exception here. Charming Greek B&Bs meet uber-lux resort hotels with private spas to offer something pretty special. Most of the best picks can be found clustering around Mylopotas Beach and the main Chora, which puts you right in the thick of the action, too.
These won’t be the cheapest stays you’ll find in Greece, but boy are they nice. Check out:
- Kritikakis Village Hotel ($$) – A true Greek bed and breakfast with stone-built cottages that have small kitchenettes. We mainly love it because it’s 550 yards from the nightlife!
- Far Out Hotel & Spa ($$) – A charmer of a boutique B&B with contemporary rooms that open onto balconies over the beach, this one offers a stunning rooftop solarium and a sauna.
- Dionysos Seaside Resort Ios ($$$) – Treat yourself to a bout of pure pampering by choosing this resort on Mylopotas beachfront. Pulls include a stunning pool, boho-chic interiors, and a slick cocktail lounge.
So, is Ios, Greece, worth visiting?
Is Ios, Greece, worth visiting? We certainly think so.
Naturally, this island really excels on the nightlife front. It’s a pumping party capital at heart and has been since the 1970s. You can hit some very lively clubs that basically don’t stop throbbing with EDM tunes from May to September. But that’s not all Ios is.
Secluded beaches (and some of the finest in the Cyclades in our humble opinion) await out east and down south. There are also some top-notch family resorts outside of Chora, backed up by some fascinating cultural sites like the tomb of Homer. Oh, and Ios is arguably the perfect pitstop on a cross-Aegean boat journey, letting you get to Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos, and others with ease.