Syros – a divine travel choice

I have never heard of Syros Island before and frankly, have never planned to visit it. My 2021 summer holiday intentions were circling around the most famous of the Southern Cyclades – Mykonos and eventually, Paros, another piece of land in the Greek Aegean Sea, popular among the tourists. But being heavily influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, I made all travel arrangements at the last moment and found myself on Syros Island, where a group of friends had arrived earlier and liked it so much that prepared themselves to stay the entire summer

Syros from the ferry

It’s needless to say, I was charmed upon arrival. By embarking at Ermoupoli, the main city of Syros, I already felt eager to explore, discover and learn more about this mysterious spot that was supposed to be my sanctuary out of the endless COVID-19 madness and to help me sense again the freedom of the old times when going to Greece was a guarantee for a great vacation and unforgettable memories. So here I am, determined to design my stellar July 2021 memories. 

Landing at Syros

No, I didn’t land at Syros. There is an airport on the island, but it’s only for domestic flights within Greece. For example, the flight from Syros Island to the Greek capital Athens takes only 25 minutes.

The nearest international airport is located on Mykonos Island, which is only about half an hour away from Syros by a speed ferry. It’s super easy, cheap, and comfortable to move from Mykonos International Airport to the port where the regular ferries disembark. The best way to do it is by Mykonos public busIn this Mykonos link, you can check the bus schedule and plan your trip according to your own flight details. 

Dancing at Syros promenade

There is almost a direct bus line from the airport to the ferry station (New Port). So, check the bus route called Airport – New Port, with a single stop at Fabrika (the downtown of Mykonos). The bus leaves every 30 minutes from the airport. The single ticket to the New Port costs 2.50 Euro. Be prepared to stand the entire ride on foot if you are not lucky enough to take a seat. During the high season (May to October) the bus is overcrowded. If even the standing lane is already occupied, the driver shuts the door in front of your nose and advises you to wait for the next bus. 

The fully packed public bus from the New Port in July 2021

The masks are mandatory at the airport and on the bus. I recommend you following the local COVID-19 measures. Firstly, because both, the airport and the bus, are crowded, and you can find yourself squeezed or glued toward another passenger. Secondly, the fines in Greece are pretty high and vary above 500 Euro for not complying with the COVID-19 government regulations. 

Also, bus timing on the Greek islands is something optional. Everything is “Siga, Siga” or “Ligo, Ligo” that means “Slowly, Slowly”. No one is in a hurry. For instance, if the bus is scheduled to leave at 13:00 it could happen 5/10/15 minutes later. Or another story – you ask the driver when the next bus is coming, the answer usually is “In 15 minutes”, which means at least half an hour. Be patient and have fun 🙂

First glimpse Syros coastline

The Ferry Ride

There are several ferry companies that provide sea transfers between Mykonos and Syros. The cheapest and the most popular one is Blue Star Paros ferry. It runs daily and a single ticket with no vehicle included is 12 Euro. The ride with Blue Star Paros from Mykonos to Syros takes about one hour and 15 minutes and is the longest one.

Boarding the speed ferry

If you prefer to shorten the travelling time, I recommend hopping on Minoan Lines by their ferry named Santorini Palace. It costs 15 Euro per person (no vehicle included) and the ride takes about 35 minutes only. But it doesn’t run daily. There are more options, more expensive ones. The entire ferry trip could be checked, planned, and booked on the following link: 

https://www.ferryhopper.com/en/

I bought the ticket directly on the website and completed the online check-in there. The online process is quick, hustle free and secure. No need to print out the ticket, it’s fully acceptable displayed on the mobile screen. 

A bit stressed but ready for the speed ferry ride

It was also announced that prior to ferry boarding the passengers should complete and present a COVID-19 declaration, as well as a negative antigen test in case of no vaccination certificate available. I arranged all the required above, but no one cared to ask or check my papers. Same on the way back (Syros – Mykonos). I just displayed my ticket and was welcomed aboard.  The masks are mandatory on the ferryboat. There is plenty of space, no crowd, no rush, no threat. Always super windy, especially while leaving Mykonos, so have it in mind should you prefer to sit outside on the deck and no mingle with the other passengers. 

Moving through Syros Island

It’s not a big island. The entire Syros is about 83 km2 (32 sq mi). The roads are a bit narrow with sharp turns, so if you wish to rent a car, I would recommend a cosy small car for coping with the local traffic and the simple infrastructure. The capital of Syros and the South Cyclades is Ermoupoli, a really lovely city, full of historical sites. This is the place where the ferries embark, the nightlife is boiling, the shopping rocks and most of the encounters happen. 

Ermoupoli

I was based in Possidonia (you can spot it also written Poseidonia), about a 20-minute drive from Ermoupoli. After the second day, I instantly found the best, quickest, and cheapest way to move through the island is by public bus. There is a company called KTEL that provides the buses running through Syros and linking the villages. Those buses are in fairly good condition, chilled, clean, and usually +/- 3 to 5 minutes off the schedule. 

Poseidonia house

The bus starts always from Ermoupoli, in fact, makes a big circle route through the main villages on the island and finally ends in Ermoupoli again.  If you are up going to Galissas, Foinikas, Pagos, Manna, Kini Megas Gialos, Vari, Azolimnos or Poseidonia, the KTEL bus is your perfect choice. It costs 1.70 Euro per single ticket from Poseidonia to Ermoupoli. The first bus is at 9:45 am from Poseidonia and arrives in Ermoupoli at 10:15 am. 

Here you can find the complete bus schedule for Syros summer 2021. 

Ermoupoli

I loved that city. Small, cosy, super clean and very cute, its buildings look thrown like white pearls over the hill overlooking the port. It’s quite a new city, founded in 1820 by Greek refugees trying to escape the consequences of the revolution. In the 19th century, Ermoupoli used to be the most important and significant Greek port but was gradually surpassed by Piraeus.

While walking the streets, I bumped into unexpected and very interesting buildings like the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of Ermoupoli. It’s huge and extremely well-preserved. When I saw it for the first time, I thought it’s an opera house or a theatre, such gigantic and magnificent construction is. It was quite unusual to later find that the structure is actually an Orthodox church. 

The Cathedral night front view
The Cathedral night back view
The Cathedral on the top – view from the shore

The other quite impressive building is the City Hall on Miaoulis Square. It’s in the very heart of the city, and you can’t miss it. Most of the cafés, restaurants and bars are located right on the promenade that encircles the bay of Ermoupoli. The vast majority of tourists could be seen here while wandering the streets, having a sip of local white wines, or ordering their seafood meals. This is the place to enjoy grilled octopus, fried calamari, shrimp saganaki or any kind of Mediterranean fish. Around sunset, the sea breeze starts gently fanning and with all the yachts lights around, the promenade of Ermoupoli turns into an enchanting scene

Another place worth visiting is Ano Syros, the old town, that precedes the foundation of the new capital. It reminds me very much with its narrow streets, round concrete tiles, craft workshops, tiny outlets, colourful boutiques, and blossoming purple bougainvillaea to the fairytale Mykonos spirit, popular from the postcards. Same feeling, same atmosphere, same crowd but much cheaper than Mykonos. 

Syros Beaches

The beaches, as you can imagine, are plenty and there is a huge choice for each taste. Starting with the concrete-built beaches of Ermoupoli, going through a bit rocky seaside along the panoramic roads on the way to the West Coast of Syros and reaching out to the calm beautifully shaped sandy beaches of Galissas (I am biased, it’s my favourite one).

There is no entry fee for the beaches on Syros. On the contrary, early morning (up to 8:30 am/9:00 am) free of charge umbrellas could even be found. They are provided by the municipality but are a limited number, so the early bird gets the worm. 

Syros is full of Greek tourists and not so many foreigners. I heard a few times French speech and once Russian, that’s all. Most of the vacationers are local, coming from the mainland. I am not sure if it’s the trend for this island, but summer 2021 was definitely locally crowded. Which is fantastic news for us (the foreign visitors) because the Greeks never spend the entire day on the beach and the chance to get vacant umbrellas is high. There are beach sectors with a set of two sunbeds and an umbrella. The cheapest one starts from 10 euro per set per day and could reach 30 euro on the first sea line with the set high quality.

Everywhere around the beaches is full of small restaurants, cafés, or bars, so the supplies for the sunbathing time are guaranteed. The prices vary from 2 euro per espresso to 4 euro for a double cappuccino. Salads from 8 to 14-euro, main courses from 12 to 26 euro, depending on how specific the order is. Beware the local culture of Ligo, LIgo and Siga Siga I mentioned above. From taking the order till getting the dish could take some time, so again, be patient and have fun 🙂

Leaving Syros Island

I absolutely fell in love with Syros Island and my holiday time on it. No doubt, it’s a divine travel choice, if I should compare it with the packed, artificial, and overrated Mykonos.  With the next article, I am going to share my Mykonos experience. But for now, I should confidently summarize that I had a great time and enjoyed very much Syros Island – the Cyclades secret gem. 

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