If you're planning a Greek island holiday and wish to avoid the crowds, have you considered Serifos?

Located in the Cyclades, just northwest of Paros and Sifnos, it's one of the least-visited Greek islands and has a raw, rugged beauty, with rippled brown mountains plunging to broad ultramarine bays.

Relatively deserted outside of the main port Livadi and the quaint hilltop capital of Hora (sometimes called Chora), the island feels wonderfully wild. Its wide-open expanses are punctuated by occasional remnants of past mining enterprises (rusting tracks, cranes), perfect little beaches and the whoosh of the wind (which can be fierce).

Change, however, is also in the air, with flash holiday homes appearing along the hillsides near the bays. Old Hora even now has a trendy bar or two. In the hills above Platys Gialos beach, Chrysoloras Winery (which offers vineyard tastings) is making some good, organic whites.

Meanwhile, before word of Serifos' delights reaches the masses, get out and explore this still-timeless island. We have some recommendations from our guidebooks on Greece and the Greek Islands that will show you how to make the most of this incredible and unassuming island. 

A viewpoint with a small chapel in the foreground and a vast view down to the small harbor, sea and distant islands
Spy Sifnos island in the distance from the viewpoints in Hora © iStockphoto / Getty Images

When should I travel to Serifos?

Summer is ideal, when the weather is warm and sunny and you can take full advantage of some of Serifos' best assets: its beautiful beaches. It's also relatively easy to arrange day trips to other islands from Serifos in summer when the ferries are operating from regular schedules. Hotels are open, and the family-run tavernas that dot the hilltops and coastal resorts are welcoming visitors for unhurried lunches and dinners. Summer is festival season, particularly August, with live music concerts and folklore celebrations.

Greek Orthodox Easter, which typically happens in April, is another fantastic time to enjoy Serifos as festivities, big and small, take place across the island. Late spring and early autumn are also pleasant times to visit, as you can pick up great offers on accommodation and enjoy relatively cooler temperatures and hiking activities. However, the island mainly shuts down between October and May and some ferry services are paused.

How much time should I spend on Serifos?

Serifos is a small island, but you'd still need at least three to four days to get to know it. That will give you enough time to enjoy long, lazy beach days and explore the hinterland. Life isn't rushed here; it moves at a laid-back pace, particularly in July and August when temperatures soar, so make like the locals do and take your time.

Is it easy to get to and around Serifos?

There are no airports on Serifos but the island is easily accessible from the port of Piraeus in Athens. Book your ferry tickets in advance, as they tend to get snapped up quickly in summer. Serifos has reasonable summer connections on the Piraeus to the Western Cyclades ferry route.

High-season services include:

  • Piraeus (€37.50–63.70, 2 to 4 hrs 30 mins, daily)
  • Kythnos (€7.50–15, 1 hr 15 mins, daily)
  • Sifnos (€7–24.70, 20 mins to 2 hrs 40 mins, daily)
  • Milos (€12–29.70, 1 to 2 hrs, daily)
  • Syros (€7.50, 2 hrs 15 mins, daily)

The island's main road is a convenient loop, which makes touring easy. Generally, a clockwise direction is the way to go, as that puts you in the north later in the day when there are some brilliant sunset vistas and the distance back to Livadi is short.

Buses connect Livadi and Hora; the timetable is posted at the bus stop by the yacht quay. In high season, a circular bus route takes in Panagia, Galani, Kendarhos and Agios Ioannis Beach (up to six daily), with a couple of daily buses to Megalo Livadi and Koutalas. Cyclists will enjoy Serifos for its not-too-busy roads. Bikes can be rented in Livadi, as well as cars, scooters and quads. Try Blue Bird, Poseidon Rent a Car or Serifos Tours.

A scenic 2.5km (1,5-mile) vehicle-free walking path (route 1A) winds down through Hora from Livadi.

Fishing boats by the dock in Livadi village, Serifos island, on a sunny day with a blue sky
The harbor of Livadi has the feel of a chilled-out beach town © Wirestock / Getty Images

Top things to do on Serifos

Linger in laid-back Livadi

Serifos' main port and largest town is popular with touring yachties. If it weren't for regular ferries pulling up to the long stone jetty, though, you'd never know it was a port town as it has feel of a laid-back beach town. There's a waterfront strip of the island's best tavernas and bars, plus low-key pensions overlooking the long, narrow and sandy beach. Nearby beach Livadakia beach is an easy walk from town.

Get lost in the lanes of quaint Hora

This whitewashed village cascades down the summit of a rocky mountain above Livadi, putting it among the most dramatically striking of all the Cyclidic main towns. From the minute main traffic square in the shadow of old windmills, lanes reach into the maze of Hora proper. Follow the narrow alleys and steps dotted with just a few shops southeast and upwards to the ancient acropolis and the scant remnants of the 15th-century Vnetian kastro (castle) and the Church of Agios Konstantinos, offering spectacular views over the island and sea to distant Sifnos.

Enjoy Serifos' best beaches

The island’s most strikingly beautiful beach, Agios Sostis, is a 40-minute walk northeast of Livadi. It occupies a sandy spit terminating in a headland topped with a blue-vaulted church and craggy golden rock formations. On each side are gravelly golden beaches abutting crystal-clear waters, perfectly framing views of distant islands. It’s best reached on foot as the access road is rough and there’s only parking for a handful of cars.

Next up is pretty little Psili Ammos, tucked below the main road, offering good swimming and a couple of tavernas. Reached by a steep side road, Platys Gialos in the north has gravelly sand and a decent seasonal taverna. Sykamia is one of the island’s best beaches, with a dramatic approach along a steep, windy, sealed road through terraced hills. There’s a good taverna set back from its pebble-strewn, grey-brown sands.

Tiny Megalo Livadi, on the southwest coast, is interesting for its crumbling neoclassical buildings (remnants of the mining era) and seaside tavernas, but the beach is a little muddy and rocky. The cave where the Cyclops was said to dwell is near here.

The top beaches on the south coast tend to be broad and sandy, and deserted out of high season. It’s a wild landscape punctuated by derelict machinery. Three of them share a large sheltered bay: Koutalas is a small fishing village with a shady, pebble-strewn beach and one oldtime taverna. Ganema has a tamarisk-fringed beach with golden sand and a beach bar with loungers. Vagia's horseshoe of golden sand is stunning and has drawn a few new holiday homes.

Follow Serifos's hiking trails

The island can be explored via a network of trails – some signposted – of varying lengths and difficulty. For cross-country walks, take food and water, as facilities are few. The ages-old 5km (3-mile) loop trail linking Livadi and Hora is a brilliant introduction to the island. Walk up or down and take a bus the other way.

A path from Hora heads north for about 4.5km (2.8 miles) to the tiny village of Kendarhos (aka Kallitsos), from where you can continue by the windy main road for another 3km (1.9 miles) to the monastery of Moni Taxiarhon. The walk from Hora to the monastery takes about two hours. The steep (in parts) trail from the village of Panagia down to remote Sykamia Beach is another winner.

An empty beach with clear turquoise waters
Psili Ammos beach has good swimming and a handful of tavernas © Constantinos-Iliopoulos / Getty Images

Our favorite thing to do on Serifos

The Monastery of the Taxiarches (a title referring to the archangels Michael and Gabriel), built in 1572 and fortified to protect it from pirates and other raiders, is worth exploring for its impressive 18th-century frescoes and tiny cemetery. It's located in the village of Gilani in the northern part of the island.

Just north of the turn for Megalo Livadi beach in Livadi, the lonely Aspros Pyrghos (White Tower) is a short walk off the main road. In Greek mythology, the Cyclops built this archaeological site, possibly dating to the Hellenistic period.

Serifos Scuba Divers is a scuba operator that takes divers to a dozen sites around the island, including wrecks and more. In July and August, day-long snorkeling trips can be arranged. The company also rents boats and arranges adrenalin-packed fly-board sessions.

How much money do I need for Serifos?

Serifos isn't as expensive as other Cycladic islands like Mykonos and Santorini, but much like everywhere else on the planet, prices have been rising sharply in recent years.

  • Hostel dorm: from €50 in high season
  • Basic room for two: €110
  • Athens to Serifos ferry ticket: €37.50 for 4 hrs 30 min ferry; €63.70 for 2 hr 30 min speedboat
  • Dinner for two: €30–50
  • Casual lunch: €7
  • Coffee: €0.60–2
  • Bus ride from Livadi to Hora/from Livadi to southern beaches/from Livadi to northern beaches: €2/3–4/2
  • Local beer: €2

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