Visiting the windmills is one of the top things to do on Ios

Top 15 Things To Do On Ios Island Greece

The gorgeous little Greek island of Ios, southeast of Athens and north of Santorini, is known as a party island. Some say it’s an inexpensive version of Mykonos. It’s very popular with people in their 20’s, who start to party late and keep going until morning. But there’s more to this island than it’s wild nightlife and options for people of all ages. I’m well beyond my 20’s and adored Ios! It has fantastic sandy beaches, a charming Chora complete with whitewashed buildings and winding pedestrian streets, ancient windmills, breathtaking views from its peaks near the sea, and stunning sunsets. This post covers the top things to do on Ios. Enjoy!

Watching the sunset over the sea is one of the top things to do on Ios
Ios Sunset

Top 15 Things To Do On Ios Island

Party

So I’m going to start with the main attraction for most people visiting this island, partying. Ios has been notorious for being a party island for decades.

There are many nightclubs and disco bars which spill into the Main Street of the Chora, with people moving from club to club until early morning. Some of the more famous bars include Disco 69, Sweet Irish Dream, The Far Out Beach Club, Scorpion, Slammer, and more. Most have some sort of shot challenge, a special concoction, or drink challenge for you to try. Some try them all. As an example, one bar, Slammer, gives you a helmet when you order a shot, then hits you over the head while you’re drinking it! A double whammy.

The partying generally starts on Mylopotas Beach (below) at the Far Out Beach Club. Then it moves over to the Chora, where it goes all night. Not sure where to start? Try an Ios Bar Crawl.

With all this partying, you might think this island would be trashy, worn down, or not right for non-partiers. But no. Part of the magic of Ios is that young people come here to work in the bars for the summer, so the people working here not only want to be here, they’re happy and smiling. And because of this, most locals are happy. It’s all good vibes and not trashy at all. And in such a beautiful setting!

Explore The Chora

The Chora, or main town of Ios is a winding maze of pedestrian paths leading up and around the hill by the port. It’s full of cute cafes, little coffee shops, great restaurants, bars (of course), and lots of shops. Most of them with that iconic Greek-looking whitewash walls and colorful doors.

It’s fun to explore and find a great place to eat or drink. As you get higher up the hill, you’ll find places with gorgeous views, like the little cafe by my room below. I had breakfast here twice!

Eating at a cafe with a view is one of the top things to do on Ios
Chora Cafe

And although there are plenty of traditional Greek tavernas, there are international food options too, like Mexican, Thai, and more.

The walk from the port to the Chora is about a 30 minutes (there is no airport here), depending on where you’re going. There’s also a bus if you don’t want to carry your luggage up all the steps and along the bumpy cobblestone paths. See the Ios bus schedule for details.

Visit The Ancient Windmills

Take a walk up to the old windmills that overlook the Chora and the sea. Once used to grind grain, they now stand as nostalgic monuments to Greece’s agricultural past. Some are in better shape than others, but they’re all beautiful in their own way.

An afternoon exploring this part of Ios is a lovely way to spend a few hours. Especially if you go in the late afternoon. This gives you time to find the best spot to watch an incredible sunset (below).

To find the windmills, it’s about a 10-minute walk up through the Chora, then over to the east. If you prefer, rent an ATV to drive there (as the hill is a little steep). If you download the map of Ios on maps.me (which is great to use offline for navigation) and type in ‘windmills’, you can navigate towards the, offline. Just make sure to download it this in advance when you have strong wifi.

Watch The Sunset From The Windmills

Up beyond the windmills look for the best place to watch the sun sink beyond the sea. There are several amazing spots. It really is magical!

I was a little surprised that no one else was up here when I was there, just a few ATV’s rolling by and some locals, which made it super special.

Visiting the windmills is one of the top things to do on Ios
Chora Hilltop

Watch The Sunset From Gremniotissa

Another one of the top things to do on Ios is to climb to Panagia Gremniotissa to watch the sunset. The name, Panagia Gremniotissa, means Virgin Mary of the Steep Cliff. And it is a steep walk from the upper part of Chora to get to this church. It’s well worth it though!

Unlike the windmill sunset above, where I was the only one there, this area usually gets a lot of people. There are usually many happy, young people up here for the sunset, making it a bit of a social event. Most dressed for the night out or a perfect selfie.

This area remains stunning long after the sun sets, past dusk, and when the lights of the Chora start to twinkle in the dark. If you plan to stay to dark, maybe bring a beverage or a snack.

There are actually several churches up here, so you can decide which view you like best. Or try them all! The image below shows Panagia Gremniotissa, but you can also climb higher to Agios Eleftherios or Agios Nikolaos.

Watching the sun set behind panagia gremniotissa is one of the top things to do on Ios
View From Panagia Gremniotissa

Visit Odysseus Elytis Theater

Another stunning view from an island peak is Odysseus Elytis Theater. It’s at the top of the hill beyond the windmills. The name, Odysseus Elytis, is given in honor of a Nobel-winning Greek poet.

The theater was built in 1997 in the ancient greek style, with marble seats.

It’s used for cultural events and performances, but is also quite spectacular empty. See the beach you see in the distance below? It’s Mylopotas beach (below).

One of the most important festivals at this theater is the Festival of Homeria, in honor of Homer, who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey back in the 8th or 7th century BC. His mother lived on this island and Homer is reportedly buried on the northern tip of Ios (see below).

A visit to odysseus elytis theater is one of the top things to do on Ios
Odysseus Elytis Theater

Relax At Mylopotas Beach

Mylopotas is the most popular beach on Ios. It’s located southeast of the port, about a 20-minute walk from the Chora. It can get hot walking in the summer, so take advantage of the shuttle bus, which runs frequently in peak season. Check the Ios bus schedule for details.

The beach stretches for about a 1/2 mile (1 km) with thick, plush, golden beige sand and gentle waves. There are beach bars that rent sunbeds and umbrellas, which means service at your sun bed (at some). Plus there are water sport rentals here like windsurfing, kayaking, scuba diving and more.

The beach area closest to the Chora is the most popular, especially with younger visitors. If you want a quieter beach area, just walk farther along the coast.

A day at Mylopotas Beach is one of the top things to do on Ios.
Mylopotas Beach

There are two well known bars on Mylopotas, which is where the evening party usually starts on Ios before moving up to the bars in the Chora. The most renowned is Far Out Beach Club, which also has accommodation, a pool, restaurant, and a cinema, in addition to its renowned party bar. Because of this, many people decide to stay here instead of the Chora. It’s popular, so make sure to book in advance if you want a room here. Free Beach Bar is also a very popular party place, with a beautiful pool and restaurant.

Visit Koumbara Beach

Koumbara beach is about a 30-minute walk northwest of Ios port (50 minutes from the Chora). There’s a nice beach club and restaurant here, as well as sun beds and umbrellas for rent. This beach is also popular with the young crowd.

Check the Ios bus schedule for details to get here by bus.

Visit Manganari Beach

If you want a quieter beach, check out Manganari. This is another beautiful beach, but located a bit farther out. It’s on the southern end of the island, about 40-minute drive. Taverns also offer sun beds and umbrellas for rent, so although it’s quieter, it still has amenities.

You can drive, take a boat, or take the bus here. The bus only has a few departures daily. Check the Ios bus schedule for details. With fewer departures, understand that you may need to spend most of the day at the beach. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection. Also keep in mind that there are limited sun beds, so those with cars will have the advantage of arriving earlier to get them.

Visit Psathi Beach

Psathi is a very secluded beach on the east coast of Ios. It’s on the opposite side of the island from Chora, about 10 miles (17 km) away. Although there are a few sun beds and umbrellas for rent, and a tavern by the road, it’s mainly a natural beach. This means this beach is perfect if you want to escape the crowds. It also means you need bring plenty of water, snacks, sun protection, and whatever else you need for the day.

You can drive or take the bus, see the Ios bus schedule for details.

Explore Prehistoric Skarkos

Skarkos, one of the most important prehistoric sites on the Cyclades archipelago, is another one of the top things to do on Ios. At least if you’re into ancient history.

This prehistoric site dates to the 3rd millennium BC, located near a natural harbor and one of the most fertile areas of the island. It was once home to 200-300 people. It’s composed of large building complexes, wide streets, and a drainage system.

Exploring the ancient site of Skarkos is one of the top things to do on Ios
Skarkos

Most of the houses here had two floors, some with courtyards surrounded by high walls. There is even evidence of cupboards and benches built into the walls and stone paved floors. In additional to this, some homes were larger than others, signifying hierarchy. All of which is pretty amazing for 4,500 years ago!

Researchers believe this settlement was abandoned in 2300 BC, possibly after an earthquake.

Visiting Skarkos is one of the top things to do ion Ios
Skarkos

The pottery, tools and utensils from daily life found here are in the Chora Archeological Museum (below).

There is no public transportation to Skarkos, although there is a 1.1 mile (1.77 km) trail from Chora to the site. If you use AllTrails, search for ‘Ios Chora to Skarkos’ for the map. The walk takes about 45-minutes. If you do this in the height of summer, it’s best to walk early morning to avoid the heat.

Skarkos is open daily (except Tuesdays) from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM. It costs 4€ to enter. cash only.

Visit The Chora Archeological Museum

The Archeological Museum of Ios is in the Chora. It’s small, but an interesting stop. In addition to the artifacts from Skarkos, there are also historical inscribed stones that provide insight into Hellenistic life here, statues, figurines, and more.

This museum is open 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM every day except Tuesday (and Wednesday in off season).

Walk To Agia Irini

This 17th century Greek Orthodox Church of Agia Irini is one of the first things you’ll see when you arrive (by boat). It’s located on the south side of the port, perched on the edge of the bay.

The walk from the port is about 10-minutes. The church is lovely, although the views of the sea are amazing.

Homer’s Tomb

Homer, the ancient Greek poet that wrote the famous epics the Iliad and the Odyssey, is reported buried on the northern tip of Ios. There is a small monument at the top of a hill here, with an inscription that reads “Here the earth covers the sacred head of men and heroes Homer the divine poet.”

All this said, no one is really sure if this is his tomb or not. It very well could be, however, as his mother reportedly lived on Ios. There is also a mid-3rd century BC coin from Ios with his image on the face.

There’s really not a lot here, except the monument, which is made of rocks, and a great view from the cliff top, but it’s a great diversion if you’re tired of the beach. Especially at sunset.

Unfortunately, there is no public bus to Homer’s Tomb, so you need to drive. It’s located about 8 miles (13 km) northeast of the Chora. There is a beach near the Tomb, Plakotos beach, but it’s very wild, and reportedly not in the best condition.

Ios

Visit The Paleokastro

Paleokastro, which means “old castle”, is a 15th century fortification, built by the Venetians during their rule here. It sits on a hill with dramatic views of the sea and neighboring islands. Although much of the kastro is in ruins, there is a now a Byzantine church, Panagia Paleokastritsa, within its old walls. Most people visit simply for the amazing views anyway.

Make sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection as it can be hot here and there is nothing around this area.

It’s located on the eastern side of the island, on the road to Psathi. I did not do this, but have read that you can take the bus to Psathi and ask to be let off at the sign on the road that says Paleokastro. The kastro is about a 15-20 minute walk up the path to the ruins. If driving, consider pairing this with Homer’s Tomb, which is about a 30 minute drive north of the kastro.

Want More Of Greece?

Greece is such an amazing country with so much to see! In addition to the incredible history and monuments on the mainland there are over 200 inhabited islands to explore.

Here are a few of my favorites, along with some great stories from Greece.

Mainland Greece

Corfu Island

Crete Island

Ios Island

Kefalonia

Milos Island

Naxos Island

Paros Island

Santorini Island

Zakynthos Island

Other

For an overview of all the best places in Greece, as well as how to get around, safety, tips, and more, see my Greece Travel Guide.

Safe Travels!

Julie

Want to learn more about me? See my About Me page to learn why I love traveling so much and my philosophies on travel.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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