Discovering the elusive ‘authentic Greece’ may be easier than you think. The lesser known sister of Santorini, Syros is just as breathtaking but without the relentless hordes of tourists. Surround yourself with Medieval architecture, elegant Venetian mansions and extraordinarily constructed churches and delight in the repose of quaint seaside villages. Beautiful pristine shores offer a relaxing alternative to the umbrella-covered beaches on the more popular islands of the country. In classic Greek fashion, Syros boasts the finest restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy delicious authentic mediterranean cuisine.
Where better to rest your head after a day of soaking in Greek culture than in a breathtaking restored 1830s neoclassical mansion located in the once aristocratic district of Vaporia. Xenon Apollonos is a family run luxury hotel that boasts all the opulence of an exclusive six star hotel while keeping things personal. With only three rooms, it is truly intimate and the best way to explore the island from a local’s perspective. Wake up to views overlooking the sea just minutes from the town square, waltz into the salon where the owner will serve a delicious breakfast of pastries, local cheeses, yogurt, honey and fruit. In the evening, sit on the terrace with a glass of local Tsipouro or watch the night unfold across the water at nearby beach bar Asteria.
A hidden taverna perched atop a mountain overlooking the sea, San Mihali is nearly impossible to find without a fantastic mountain driver and a good eye for hidden local treasures. In customary Greek style, guests are taken care of from the moment they step through the doors. All the dishes are exquisitely mouthwatering – an amalgamation of traditional Greek cuisine, modern cooking innovations, and quite literally, backyard ingredients. Be sure to go early to secure a coveted seat on the veranda for pre-dinner drinks and the best sunset in Greece, and dare we say it, possibly even the world.
Worth every second of the boat ride and every step of the hike it takes to get there, Aghios Stefanos is a chapel built into the rocks within a cove in the Galissas area of the island. The chapel was built by a fisherman who, story has it, was saved from the tentacles of a large octopus after praying to Saint Stefanos for help. Often completely deserted, it is one of the most picturesque but private places on the island for a hike, a dip, or to dock a boat for the afternoon and dive for fresh sea urchins. Make sure to check the weather before you go, as on especially windy days the water can get dangerously choppy on this end of the island.