In this special Greek island guide, we will show you the sights of Serifos, an island in the Western Cyclades archipelago of Greece, and provide you with insider tips and information.
Low-key Cycladic destination
If you are in search of a beautiful Cycladic island which has both culture and sheer natural beauty but isn’t overrun by mass tourism, then look no further than Serifos. In Greek mythology, this island is said to be the ancient home of the Cyclops and was the place were Perseus grew up.
Located in the Western Cyclades, Serifos is easy to reach from Athens (or well, its port of Piraeus to be precise) and is often skipped by foreign tourists heading out to the more famous Greek islands.
As someone who considers himself a Hellenophile, I think it is always a good sign if the hundreds of Asian and American tourists remain on board the ferry to its final destination while only a handful of locals and in-the-know travellers get out with you at the intermediate stop. The same was the case in this situation, with only a handful of people getting out at Serifos while the bulk of passengers stayed on board for the final stop of Santorini.
Arriving on the island
When you stand on the deck of the ferry and see the view on arrival you will certainly be impressed and hit yourself on the head if you are travelling to destinations further afield and will not be able to get off here.
The low-key port of Livadi is the commercial hub of the island and the place where most shops and hotels are located. It is however the old hilltop island capital of Hora which is the clear eye-catcher, rising high above the town of Livadi in the distance.
If it is your first time visiting Serifos, you will certainly be awed by the sight.
Serifos is an island without an airport, so unless you are travelling on your own yacht chances are big that the first place you set foot in is the island’s port of Livadi.
Livadi isn’t a pretty town as such, but it’s an agreeable, low-key town where the bulk of the island’s hotels are located. Even if you stay elsewhere on the island, chances are that you find yourself visiting the town a few times as most supermarkets, banks and other facilities are located here.
The town is basically stretched along a beautiful, large bay. The single dock is located at the far southern edge of Livadi, from where it is a short walk to the town’s centre. Livadi has a narrow beach which in my opinion isn’t really attractive for sunbathing nor swimming – you are better of looking elsewhere on the island!
There are however lots of attractive beachside taverns and you can’t really go wrong with most of them for some authentic Greek fare, a coffee or a beer.
Getting around the island
Like it is the case on most Greek islands, public transport is limited on Serifos, especially when you visit the island outside of the summer high season.
Throughout the year, an hourly bus links Livadi with the hilltop capital of Hora. Only in summer some additional services are run across the circular island road, although even then those might only run once every two hours at most. A couple of taxis are stationed in Livadi if you only need a one-way drive somewhere on the island.
If you want to explore the island outside of Livadi and Hora, a rental car or scooter is a must, although you might not need it for the entire time you spend on the island. Personally, I was happy to have a rental car for two full days as I thought this was the bare minimum you need to see the entire island at a leisurely pace. Any additional day you can then spend at leisure in Livadi or Hora around your accommodation.
I had a great experience renting a car with Kartsonakis, and I can highly recommend their services, although there are plenty more rental outlets with good ratings on Serifos.
If you drive counterclockwise on the main road along the island, the first notable sight you will hit is the small church of Agios Sostis and the beach of the same name.
The beach is located on a narrow peninsula and features a shoreline on both sides, although the sheltered bay on the right is much better for swimming. The Agios Sostis church is located on a rock at the far end of the peninsular beach.
The area is quite bare as there are just four or so trees on the beach. Although in the low or shoulder season you might be able to grab a place in the shadow of one of the trees, it is best to bring an umbrella in summer.
One thing you can find in abundance here are shrubs which especially in spring make for a lovely yellow, purple and green mosaic.
Serifos’ most beautiful beach is arguably lovely Psili Ammos on the island’s eastern coast. The beach is located on a lovely, calm bay and is ringed by Tamarisk trees providing for some shade. When visiting in the spring season, you will also note the countless wildflowers on the beach access road down from the main road high above the bay.
There are two classical Greek taverns at the beach, Stefanakos and Manolis. After my swim, I enjoyed an authentic taverna meal of meatballs, chips and a Greek salad at Stefanakos, which seemed to be popular choice with locals as well.
If you have time to only visit one beach on Serifos, Psili Ammos would definitely be my personal choice!
Agios Ioannis beach
Right next to Psili Ammos across a small hill you can find a second beach at the eastern side of Serifos, Agios Ioannis. You can easily combine this beach with Psilli Ammos as they are just a few hundred feet apart, basically.
Panagia Skopiani church
One of the most gorgeous churches on the island of Serifos is Panagia Skopiani (Παναγιά Σκοπιανή – Virgin Mary of Skopiani). If you are looking for a typical Cycladic church with its whitewashed walls and deep blue dome, then this picturesque little church is by far the best you can find.
Even though it is a 10-minute walk from the main road down towards the church, you are constantly rewarded with lovely sea views. If you are making a loop of the island in a rental car, this place is definitely a must-stop on your road trip!
The north side of the island around Platis Gialos is more bare, although you can find a series of beautiful small coves here. If you visit in the low or shoulder season, chances are big that you have these small beaches all for yourself!
With Nikoulias, this area has a well-rated tavern too, although unfortunately it was preparing a big wedding or baptism banquet at the time I passed by, so I could not review it myself.
One of the most scenic drives on the island of Serifos is the road down to the town of Sikamia and the beach of the same name, located on the northern part of the island.
Although I don’t think Sikamia beach itself is anything special, the drive down the mountain road to the beach is absolutely stunning as there are some great panoramic views over the bare mountains, wildflowers and whitewashed Cycladic settlements.
Hora, also spelled Chora, basically means the main town or capital of the island. Hora Serifos is located high on a hilltop smack in the middle of the island overlooking the port of Livadi. Besides being the main town of Serifos, Hora is also by a mile the most picturesque town of the entire island with its ensemble of whitewashed houses on top of a craggy rock.
You can approach Hora from the south by driving the road uphill from Livadi, or from the north. Both approach roads are highly scenic. From the Livadid-Hora road there are some great views down the hill towards Livadi, while the northern approach road has the best views of Hora itself.
When approaching Hora from the north, you will also spot some typical Cycladic windmills just at the edge of the town.
A walk through Hora Serifos
Along the main road there are plenty of places where you can park your car for free. This is needed, as the town of Hora exists out of narrow alleyways which lead higher and higher onto the rock and can thus only be accessed on foot.
About halfway up you will find the main square of Hora with its blue-domed church and neoclassical town hall. Like every Greek town square, there are quite a few tavernas to be found in the surrounding buildings, all putting their chairs and tables out on the square for some proper al fresco dining or a coffee or drink on what certainly is one of the most beautiful squares of all of the Cyclades.
Climbing to the top
From the main square, it is a 10 to 15 minute climb up to the highest point of Hora, on which the small church of Agios Konstantinos is built. Although the streets of Hora might seem like a maze, the way to the highest point is actually well-signposted by signs on the walls and directional signs painted on the ground.
From Agios Konstantinos, there are some sweeping views not only over Hora itself but the entire island of Serifos and beyond. It makes an especially scenic place to visit at sunrise or – to a lesser extent – at sunset.
Cats of Greece
It might be a little bit irrelevant to this Serifos guide, but one of my personal highlights was an encounter with a unbelievably cute litter of kittens.
One of the aspects I always like most about a trip to Greece are the dozen of cute cats roaming the streets and taverns and this was not different at all on the island of Serifos. If I see a kitten or a cat I just can’t help myself but to stop with whatever I’m doing and to play with the cute little moggies for a while.
The southern shore of Serifos
Those who prefer dogs above cats should not despair by all of the above cat pictures as on the second day on Serifos I would make a great new canine friend in some highly unusual circumstances, so do read on! Having done a loop of the right side of the island the day before, on this day I planned to drive along the western and southern shore of Serifos.
Historically, the south-western part of the island (around the town of Megalo Livadi) was an important mining centre. Already since the age of Hellenic antiquity ores were mined here, bringing richness to the island.
The period from the end of the 19th Century up to the early 20th Century saw iron ore mining at its industrial peak as modern techniques were introduced to mine the valuable ore at even larger quantities.
Nowadays, the mines are no longer functional although you can still see the open pits and industrial remains of those times. If you are interested in this era, there is a small mining museum in Megalo Livadi.
Although the old mines did create quite a few scars in the landscape of south-western Serifos, it didn’t affect the entire southern coast and you can still find plenty of unspoiled spots here.
One of the more beautiful spots of Serifos – in a rugged and wild way – is Ampeli beach (Kalo Ampeli). What makes this beach great is that it requires a strenuous 20 to 30-minute hike to reach it. The path should be straightforward enough to follow, especially if you use Google Maps and your phone’s GPS signal as a guide.
The road basically first leads to a small but gorgeous whitewashed church (Εκκλησία Σωτήρος – Sotiros Church, or Church of the Saviour) from where there are lovely views over the entire area. At the other side of the church complex, a path leads further down to Ampeli beach.
What made the walk to Ampeli beach so great was the fact that at some point a cute dog suddenly ran across and halted a few feet up away. Each time when approaching the dog, he would run further away along the path, slowly guiding me towards Ampeli beach.
Once we reached the beach, the playful dog immediately jumped into the sea to swim a bit, only to come back on land to play in the sand.
When hiking back up towards the main road, the dog would again take the lead and walk a few feet in front to show the road back. Shortly before I reached the main road and the parked car, the dog walked off again towards a nearby house.
It seemed that the collared dog resides in the house by the road and just loves to tag along with strangers who pass by, showing them the way to the beach in order to play a bit along with his new pals in the sand and sea! It was such a sweet and unforgettable moment. What a cute and smart dog!
Koutala Bay, which is rather more of an inlet, is another highly scenic point on the southern shore of Serifos. The three small villages of Vagia, Ganema and Koutalas straddle the shoreline of this inlet.
There is a long, wide beach, as well as some tavernas with some great views overlooking the bay which make for a great pit-stop on any road trip along the southern and western coast of Serifos.
In spring, you will find an abundance of wildflowers here. If you just open the window of your car a few inches you will already smell the fragrances.
How to reach Serifos?
As an island without an airport, taking the ferry will be your only option – unless you might have your own yacht of course! There are multiple departures a day from Piraeus to Serifos, making flying to Athens first the best way to reach Serifos.
Depending on the type of ship and the amount of intermediate stops on the ferry’s route, travelling between Piraeus and Serifos can take between two and five hours.
Generally, the faster ferries are the more expensive ones, although the slower ones can offer the most comfort. On the smaller catamarans you are basically tied indoors to your own reserved seat, making the experience much more like an aeroplane.
On the other hand, some of the larger catamarans and all the conventional boats have open decks, allowing you to admire the views and to smell the sea with a ‘freddo espresso’ from the ship’s bar in your hand.
Serifos also has some good ferry links with other (Cycladic) islands such as Andros, Ios, Kythnos, Milos, Paros, Syros, Sifnos and Santorini. For other islands, you might well have to change ferries at some of the larger island hubs such as Syros. Personally, I’m a big fan of the ferry booking tool of Viva.gr.
The Viva ferry booking tool is in English and can scan all available ferry routes and companies, thus saving you from the hassle of looking through all individual ferry operators. I’ve personally used the services of Viva numerous times and always found prices at Viva to be the exact same as those quoted on the website of the ferry operator.
Depending on the ferry company you’ll either receive an e-ticket or reservation number which you have to exchange for a proper ticket at the company’s port office.
Where to stay on Serifos?
There are lots of accommodation options on the island of Serifos, ranging from basic domatia (Greek-style bed and breakfast) to self-service apartments to luxurious boutique hotels. Most of them are found in the port and main hub of Livadi, although the island’s capital of Hora also has a wide choice.
I stayed at the Hotel Maistrali in Livadi. Although the hotel was fairly basic and lacked a bit of character it being your typical low-key Greek hotel, it had extremely friendly and helpful staff and a great panoramic view over Livadi from the balcony terrace of my sea-view room. I certainly would consider staying there again as overall I enjoyed my stay.
When to visit Serifos?
For those who haven’t noticed it already by what I wrote in the guide, I would definitely say spring. I visited Serifos in mid-May and absolutely loved all the wildflowers and their pleasant scent throughout the island. The sea was also just warm enough to swim in at this time of the year!
That said, you can’t go wrong visiting in high summer season or autumn either. Sure, temperatures in the midst of summer will be soaring hot, but the island will be at its liveliest. As one of the more unknown destinations in the Cyclades, Serifos will be busy but not overcrowded like for example islands like Santorini, Mykonos or big parts of Crete can be.
Autumn is great too, which has the advantage over spring that the sea water tends to remain warm late into the season. Although you can visit Serifos as well in winter, many of the island’s hotels, cafes and tavernas will be closed this time of the year.
Read about other destinations!
In our trip report section, we have written multiple diary accounts of holidays across the world which can serve as an inspiration for your next trip. These trip reports include destination guides such as this article, as well as reviews of hotels, airlines and other modes of transport.