A cat crouches within the dappled daylight beneath a trellis of bougainvillea, watching me sip Greek espresso and eyeing my baklava.
This conventional Kafeneion (espresso store) is behind the cathedral of Chora — the principle (and solely) city on the island of Ios. It’s a warren of slender lanes that wind steeply to the cliff-edge church of Panaghia Gremniotissa for incredible sundown views.
Within the lazy, end-of-season midday, it’s exhausting to credit score Ios’s repute as party-central since its hippy heyday within the Sixties and Seventies.
Tiny, hilly and ravishing, Ios is a Greek island of blue domes, whitewashed buildings and previous windmills
Tiny, hilly and ravishing, Ios is an anomaly — a Cyclades island of blue domes, whitewashed buildings and previous windmills that has escaped the exploitation of her neighbours.
The place Santorini receives some 2.5 million vacationers a yr, and über-chic Mykonos throbs to greater than 2 million guests, the ferry to Ios deposits a mere 125,000 souls — principally youthful back-packers.
The unspoiled panorama appears little modified because the flowering of the 5,000-year-old settlement of Skarkos — older than the archaeological website of Akrotiri on Santorini — and found close to Ios harbour in 1984.
The shortage of an airport and the absence of cruise ships has proved the island’s saving grace; that and its arid and mountainous topography, with filth tracks descending to small coves that comprise Ios’s 40-odd seashores — of which solely 5 present services resembling sunbeds or eating places.
Most are abandoned and accessible solely by sea. It’s price making the hassle to discover.
A speedboat (you may rent them within the port) whizzes me around the coast, previous cove after cove of limpid waters — stopping at seashores strewn with pebbles of glistening quartz and mica.
The ferry to the island of Ios, pictured, deposits a mere 125,000 souls — principally youthful back-packers
On Trypiti seaside, we’ve got solely a wild goat for firm. There’s barely a constructing in sight.
If Angelos Michalopoulos, proprietor of the LuxurIos tourism and conservation challenge, has his means, this is not going to change. Collectively together with his spouse, Vasso Petridou, he has acquired 25 per cent of the island, and is constructing small, environmentally-aware resorts, eating places and lounges to cater for a extra subtle clientele.
‘We are going to solely develop 1 per cent of our land,’ he assures me, ‘as a result of we need to protect the authenticity of Ios and put it aside from over-development.’
I go to Papas seaside the place, in July, Michalopoulos’s no-expense-spared Calilo is because of open with 25 suites. Designed by the proprietor and constructed from native stone and Greek marble, it lies camouflaged in gardens planted with historical olive timber rescued from the mainland, the place they’d been destined for the fireplaces of Athens. It’s set to be the island’s most unique resort.
I’m staying within the Agalia Luxurious Suites, additionally a part of the Michalopoulos’s LuxurIos portfolio, my secluded pool-terrace room overlooking one of many most secure harbours within the Cyclades.
Taverna deal with: Octopuses dry within the Ios sunshine. Most seashores on Ios are abandoned and accessible solely by sea
It’s completely situated between the port and city, the place a lot of the motion takes place, and the crystalline waters of Koumbara seaside, with its typical psarotaverna [fish restaurant] and the cool Erego Seaside Membership and Restaurant, which serves acquainted Greek dishes with uncustomary aptitude — fava, wild greens, glazed lamb.
Endlessly moreish, it’s tempting to remain put. ‘Most individuals merely shuttle between city and Mylopotas seaside, with its buzzing vacationer infrastructure,’ says Michalopoulos. ‘However there’s a lot extra to the island.’
The gauntlet has been thrown down. And so, I up sticks and discover. Whereas seven islands contend for Homer’s birthplace, solely Ios claims the poet’s mortal stays. In line with Herodotus, the poet died right here on his method to Athens — and why spoil a great story?
I make the pilgrimage to his grave, on a headland overlooking his famed ‘wine-dark’ Aegean. It’s the most magical spot, in the midst of wind-swept nowhere, marked with small cairns and a marble plaque.
We drive on, via mountains aromatic with wild thyme, and strung with rows of beehives.
The stone homes which are dotted across the island. The shortage of an airport and the absence of cruise ships has proved the island’s saving grace for unspoiled landscapes
Ultimately, an indication factors to our vacation spot — Paleokastro (Previous Fortress) — and we start a dizzying 20-minute stroll as much as the ruins of a 14th-century fort, our path peppered with lilac lilies and wild onion.
Inside the fort partitions sits a silent church, shaded by olive timber. There’s nothing in sight however mountains, sea, the island of Iraklia within the distance and the wild, rugged seaside of Psathi beneath.
Sheep and goats are the one visitors alongside our route. We go a shepherd’s home and, feeling peckish, gather home-made skotiri cheese — scrumptious with ouzo and octopus nibbled at a bit taverna on Manganari seaside — earlier than our drive house.
Later, over cocktails at Pathos, Michalopoulos talks of his imaginative and prescient for Ios.
‘Our problem is to supply one thing to younger individuals, and never worth them out.’
Pathos is one such providing. A sensational cliff-terrace lounge with huge pool, DJ, sunsets to make Santorini weep, and all of the vibe of a Nikki Seaside. The distinction? Simply £8.50 secures each entry and a drink.
Whether or not one man can form and protect the identification of an island stays to be seen. However the mild loveliness of Ios stays its personal greatest advocate.
As Lawrence Durrell put it in his ebook The Greek Islands, Ios is ‘probably the most poetical and delightful island of its measurement on this a part of the Aegean’.