Greek Island Guide: Serifos (Western Cyclades)

In this special Greek island guide, we will show you the sights of Serifos, a Greek island in the Western Cyclades, 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.

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Arriving at the island of Serifos by ferry from Piraeus. ©Paliparan
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Arriving at the island of Serifos by ferry from Piraeus. ©Paliparan
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Arriving at the port of Livadi, with the island capital of Hora being visible on the hilltop. ©Paliparan

Livadi

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.

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A view over Livadi and its wide bay ©Paliparan
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A view over Livadi and its wide bay. ©Paliparan
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The town of Livadi with the hilltop island capital of Hora Serifos seen in the background. ©Paliparan
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The town of Livadi with the hilltop island capital of Hora Serifos seen in the background. ©Paliparan
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Fishing boats and yachts in Livadi. ©Paliparan
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Local fisherman in Livadi. ©Paliparan
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A view over Livadi and its beach. ©Paliparan
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Livadi street scene. ©Paliparan
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There are dozens of taverns and bars on Livadi’s narrow beach. ©Paliparan
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Livadi’s taverns make for some scenic al fresco dining. ©Paliparan
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Yours truly eating some lamb at a Livadi tavern. ©Paliparan
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Greek cats were already doing social distancing on the beach before it became cool. ©Paliparan

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.

Agios Sostis

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.

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The beach and church of Agios Sostis. ©Paliparan
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Agios Sostis. ©Paliparan
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Agios Sostis. ©Paliparan
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Agios Sostis beach. ©Paliparan

Psili Ammos

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!

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Looking down on Psili Ammos beach from the main coastal road. ©Paliparan
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If you visit in springtime, there are wildflowers everywhere, creating an oh so distinct fragrance all over the island. ©Paliparan
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Psili Ammos beach has the advantage that you can grab some shade under the tamarisk trees. ©Paliparan
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Lovely Psili Ammos beach. ©Paliparan
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Stefanakos is a classic Greek tavern located right on Psili Ammos beach. ©Paliparan
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Typical Greek taverna food at Stefanakos. ©Paliparan
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A last look over Psili Ammos beach. ©Paliparan

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.

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Agios Ioannis beach. ©Paliparan

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!

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Driving through the small town of Kentarchos on the west side of Serifos. ©Paliparan
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The lovely Cycladic-style church of Panagia Skopiani is located on the north-western side of Serifos just outside Kentarchos. ©Paliparan
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The path towards the church of Panagia Skopiani with the small island (more of a rock) of Piperi Kythnos being visible in the background. ©Paliparan
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Panagia Skopiani church. The small (uninhabited) island in the background is Serifopoula. ©Paliparan
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Panagia Skopiani church. ©Paliparan
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The blue dome of Panagia Skopiani church. ©Paliparan
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If you visit Serifos in spring, you have the additional benefit of seeing beautiful wildflowers in bloom and lots of butterflies. Just keep your eyes open when walking around! ©Paliparan

Platis Gialos

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.

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Platis Gialos is a small settlement on the northern shore of Serifos. ©Paliparan
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There are numerous lovely small coves at Platis Gialos. ©Paliparan

Sikamia beach

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.

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Looking down from the main road towards Sikamia. ©Paliparan
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The road to Sikamia makes for a highly picturesque drive. ©Paliparan
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View from the road to Sikamia. ©Paliparan
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View from the road to Sikamia. ©Paliparan
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View from the road to Sikamia. ©Paliparan
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Approaching Sikamia beach. ©Paliparan
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Sikamia beach is not the most attractive beach on Serifos in my opinion. ©Paliparan

Hora Serifos

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.

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Approaching Hora Serifos from the north, with the port and bay of Livadi seen in the background. ©Paliparan
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Hora Serifos has to be one of the most spectacularly located island capitals of all the Greek islands. ©Paliparan
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Hora Serifos. ©Paliparan
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At the northern edge of Hora, you can find some typical Cycladic windmills. ©Paliparan
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A look down the hill from Hora Serifos. ©Paliparan

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.

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Walking through the narrow streets of Hora Serifos. ©Paliparan
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The neoclassical town hall of Hora Serifos. ©Paliparan
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The town square of Hora Serifos. ©Paliparan
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The main square is lined with taverns and cafes. ©Paliparan
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The cafes on the main squares of Hora are popular with tourists and locals alike. ©Paliparan
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The main square of Hora Serifos at dusk. ©Paliparan

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.

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Walking through the maze-like streets of Hora Serifos. ©Paliparan
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Hora Serifos. ©Paliparan
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Hora Serifos. ©Paliparan
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On the way to the top of the town the streets even pass right under houses. ©Paliparan
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Just before reaching the top, you will pass this smaller church. ©Paliparan
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On your way up there are plenty of good vistas over the town and surrounding countryside. ©Paliparan
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Agios Konstantinos church is the highest point of the village of Hora. ©Paliparan
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Looking down over the town of Hora from Agios Konstantinos church. ©Paliparan
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From the church of Agios Konstantinos there are sweeping views over Serifos and some surrounding islands. ©Paliparan
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Sunset view from Hora’s Agios Konstantinos church over Livadi and the bay. ©Paliparan
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Walking down again through the streets of Hora Serifos after sunset. ©Paliparan

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.

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Spot the little kitten! ©Paliparan
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Two cute kittens! ©Paliparan
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A third fluffy little kitten! ©Paliparan
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Mother cat coming out to have a look as well. ©Paliparan
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Found the location of the secret kitten hiding place! ©Paliparan
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Another cute kitten coming out to have a look around. ©Paliparan
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Cuddling and playing a bit with the local kittens of Hora Serifos. ©Paliparan
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Two almost identical kittens falling asleep on my lap. ©Paliparan

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.

Ampeli beach

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.

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The road to Kalo Ampeli on the rugged southern shore of Serifos. ©Paliparan
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Although the road comes close to the actual shoreline, you still have to walk for some 20 to 30 minutes downhill on a footpath towards Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan
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Kalo Ampeli. ©Paliparan
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Walking towards Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan
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At one point, you reach Sotiros Church – the Church of our Saviour. ©Paliparan
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Lovely Sotiros Church. ©Paliparan
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At the other side of the gated church complex, you can find the path to Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan
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Hiking towards Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan
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Approaching Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan
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Approaching Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan
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Kalo Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan
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Kalo Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan

Guide dog

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!

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At one point, a cute dog suddenly turned up and joined for the entire walk to the beach. ©Paliparan
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The dog waiting at the church. ©Paliparan
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Each time, the dog would walk a few feet ahead to show the way to the beach. ©Paliparan
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The dog swimming in the sea at Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan
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The dog fooling around in the waves. ©Paliparan
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Playing with the dog at Ampeli beach. ©Paliparan
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The dog resting a bit in the shade. ©Paliparan
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On the way back up, the smart dog also showed the way by walking a few feet in front. ©Paliparan
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Taking a break with my new canine friend at the church. ©Paliparan
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Shortly before reaching the main road, the dog disappeared into the yard of one of the houses. ©Paliparan

Koutala Bay

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.

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Koutala Bay. ©Paliparan
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Koutala Bay. ©Paliparan
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Koutala Bay has a long and wide beach which makes for a nice, sheltered swim. ©Paliparan
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You will find plenty of tavernas around Koutala Bay for a meal or frappé break – all with quite a view! ©Paliparan
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When visiting in springtime, there are some gorgeous wildflowers and lots of butterflies in the Koutala Bay area. ©Paliparan
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A look over Koutala Bay from higher up the hill. ©Paliparan

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.

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The Speedrunner III of Aegean Speed Lines is one of the more faster conventional ships linking Piraeus with Serifos, taking 2 hours and 20 minutes for the journey. ©Paliparan
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One thing I loved about the Aegean Speed Lines’ ship the Speedrunner III is that the ferry is both fast and has an open deck towards the back, allowing you to take in some fresh air and sea views. ©Paliparan
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Especially when you visit a Greek island for the first time, I just love to stand on deck and to soak up the views upon arrival. ©Paliparan
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Waiting on the dock of Livadi on Serifos for the ferry back to Piraeus. ©Paliparan
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I travelled back to Piraeus on the Superjet of Seatjets, which came all the way from Santorini. Although the journey was fast taking just two hours, you are kinda boxed into your seat on this fast but small catamaran. ©Paliparan

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.

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The terrace of my room at the Maistrali hotel in Livadi. ©Paliparan

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.

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Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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