All the Greek islands have their own flavor and character, and this explains why you can go island hopping summer after summer without ever getting bored. Greece is known for its amazing cuisine and if you are a foodie, Sifnos is the island you don’t want to miss. What sets Sifnos apart from the hundreds of other Greek islands is its food innovation, and all over the island, you’ll find original twists and surprising variations on classic Greek dishes. These roots go deep, and this island is also the birthplace of Nikolaos Tselementes, the “Julia Child” of Greece.
Sifnos (pronounced “s-EE-f-n-O-s”) is part of the Cyclades island grouping along with the marquee islands of Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, and Santorini. The island is about 130 nautical kilometers (81 nautical miles) from Piraeus, the main port in Athens, making it an easy two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from the mainland. With a year-round population of under 3,000 people, Sifnos is heavily reliant on tourism and is best to visit from the start of the tourist season from Greek Orthodox Easter through October.
Here are four things you want to make sure to experience in Sifnos:
1. Explore the Mountain Villages of Apollonia and Artemonas
With villages named Apollonia and Artemonas, you don’t have to search hard to connect with Greek mythology in Sifnos. Apollonia, dedicated to Apollo, the Greek God of Light, is the capital of the island and is set inland between three small hills. From late afternoon until far into the night, the village is lively and charming with a sprawling labyrinth of streets and alleys lined with shops, restaurants, tavernas, and relaxed night clubs. Apollonia is known for its bustling nightlife, and you’ll see crowds of people drinking and taking in music on one of the many rooftop bars or dancing until early in the morning at one of the village’s tiny but vibrant clubs. Argo Bar and Cosi are popular nightlife choices.
An easy 20-minute walk from Apollonia along a paved trail, and you will find yourself in Artemonas, a village dedicated to Apollo’s sister Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt. Along the way, you’ll see neoclassical and Venetian architecture and at the high point of the path, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the island. Artemonas itself is quieter than Apollonia but quaint and stylish with numerous art galleries, restaurants, tavernas, and bars.
Where to Eat
For a great meal and an amazing view in Apollonia, try Drimoni for classic Greek taverna food including signature dishes like fried manoura cheese saganaki, fresh seafood risotto, and grilled oyster mushrooms. If you want something more original, head down the path to Cayenne Restaurant Art Gallery in the center of Apollonia. This restaurant features dishes with refined twists like risotto with capers scented with lemon peels, tuna tartare, and groats salad with octopus carpaccio.
Make sure to leave room for dessert because Loukomades Aggelon, a few doors down, makes the best loukoumades on the island and possibly in all of Greece. For the uninitiated, loukoumades are small Greek donuts served with honey, cinnamon, chocolate, and a variety of other toppings. Freshly fried, steaming hot, crispy, sweet, and mouth-wateringly delicious, this is a dessert experience you don’t want to miss.
In Artemonas, Perivoli Restaurant is a great option with its outdoor garden dining and modern Greek cuisine featuring dishes like crusted tuna and an open-faced spanakopita (spinach pie). If you want traditional Greek cuisine, head to Cafe Mosaic with its classic mezedes (small plates), large space for outdoor dining, and live music.
2. Relax at the Beachside Towns of Platys Gialos and Faros
Unlike its neighbors Mykonos and Milos, Sifnos isn’t famous for its beaches, and much of the Sifnos shoreline is rocky instead of sandy. However, if you want to swim or sunbathe, it does have a few nice beach options including Platys Gialos and Faros.
Platys Gialos is widely considered the best beach area in Sifnos and has sandy seasides with organized beach bars offering sunbeds, beverages, and snacks. Platys Gialos also features the best dining in Sifnos including a string of amazing beachside restaurants like the world-famous Omega3, a favorite restaurant of Tom Hanks.
Where to Eat in Platys Gialos
Omega3 is a tiny seafood restaurant and wine bar set directly on the beach offering innovative and incredibly delicious dishes like shrimp ceviche and crispy calamari with melted Aegean blue cheese dressing along with a great Greek and international wine selection. With limited seating, Omega3 fills up quickly so make sure to book a table in advance.
Maiolica Restaurant, a few doors down, offers another amazing menu featuring dishes like hummus with pumpkin seed tahini and sea bass filet with quinoa crust and kiwi salsa verde.
If organic ingredients are your thing, continue down the beachfront to Nus: Food with a Purpose. This farm-to-table restaurant produces most of its own ingredients and features delicious dishes like baked chickpea revithia (stew) with olives and lemon.
It is extremely easy to have a very good meal in Platys Gialos and this, coupled with the sandy beach and numerous beach bars, is the reason many people make this village their home base for a visit to Sifnos.
Named after its lighthouse, Faros is a small, quaint fishing village lined with tavernas and cafes. More understated and low-key than Platys Gialos, Faros features three connected sandy beaches called Fassolou, Faros, and Glipho. If quiet and relaxed is the vibe you are seeking, Faros is a good choice.
Where to Eat in Faros
Flaros Restaurant is right on the water and offers classic dishes with twists like chickpea balls with mint and cumin, and sea bream ceviche with lime and herbs. At Limanaki Fish Taverna you are more likely to find classic fish dishes featuring the daily catches of sea bream, octopus, and so forth. The menu offers the clean, simple elegant recipes Greece is famous for but make sure to be clear about the price before you order. The fish is charged by the kilogram, versus a set menu price, so it can be confusing to know the cost of your meal until the bill comes.
3. Visit Chrysopigi Church
There are over 300 churches on the island, but Chrysopigi Church is by far the most famous and has come to symbolize the island itself. Located about 2.6 miles from Platis Gialos and less than 1.2 miles from Faros, this church sits on a peninsula that split away from the mainland. It is the most photographed spot in Sifnos and getting there from Platis Gialos or Faros makes a great morning or late afternoon hike. Be sure to take food and water for your hike as there is little along the way in terms of tavernas, cantinas, or rest stops.
4. Make Your Own Ceramics
Sifnos is the pottery capital of the Cyclades, and all over the island, you’ll find ceramic stores with colorful, high-quality plates, cups, bowls, and home decorations. The island’s soil has rich, clay veins and deposits of argil and this, coupled with the sunny weather, creates ideal conditions for ceramics. Don’t think you need to limit your scope to just buying ceramics on Sifnos—you can contact Giannis Apostolidis, a third-generation potter and the proprietor of En Sifno Pottery Workshop to schedule your own pottery lesson. Giannis truly loves his craft, and you’ll leave with a unique souvenir and an unforgettable experience.
While Sifnos relies heavily on tourism, it feels less “touristy” than many Greek islands. This is because many visitors love it so much, they come for weeks or months at a time, creating a sort of “local tourist” community. Maybe you’ll become one of them…