Part of the dazzling Cyclades, Ios island is known as a popular retreat for visitors, especially youth seeking a quaint island setting surrounded by some of Greece’s most sparkling waters. But Ios is not a crazy party island like Mykonos is famed to be…in fact, a visit here makes for a pretty relaxing getaway and here’s partially why:
A traditional characteristic of Ios is its amazing number of churches. They are everywhere, around every corner, some right net to each other. In fact, if you visit just one a day it will take you an entire year to visit all the island’s churches as there are 365, traditionally, and even more than that today, though most locals like to stick to the original count.
Built with a traditional dome, the churches and chapels of Ios are each special in their own way, and most of them are open to the public for visits. Many of the churches also host feasts and celebrations commemorating their saints throughout the year.
From the port, you’ll climb some 125 stairs up to the Chora (depending which path you take) where you can explore the very winding paths full of little shops featuring handmade jewelry, artwork, clothing, and local delicacies. Built in the shape of an amphitheater on a hill overlooking the harbor, the Chora area offers a quiet, romantic, and unique setting…filled with ekklisies (churches).
Overlooking Ios at the top of Chora you will find the 18th century Panagia Gremiotissa standing out amidst large boulders, green shrubs, and a couple palm trees to perfect this dreamy island view. Reflecting traditional Cycladic architecture featuring whitewashed walls, a bell tower and bright blue accents, Panagia Gremiotissa is one of the island’s most popular churches.
At Chora, you will also find the Cathedral of Ios, an imposing structure containing a number of beautiful icons, and Agia Ekaterini, a completely whitewashed church that was actually built on the site where an ancient temple of Apollo once stood.
You may be wondering what the deal behind these churches is…who built them, when they were built, and why there are so many! But don’t ask us…figure it out for yourself with a visit. When in Ios, take a walk around the island and explore. See how many churches you can discover on your own and ask the locals about the myth behind the numerous churches of Ios. Some claim there are 364, just shy of a year’s days, while others have said “there are over 365, but we like to count the original 365,” with a wink.