Ios is a darling Cycladic island in the Aegean Sea. It is a small island, not the most well-known, and perhaps misunderstood! But believe me, there are so many things to do in Ios, it is WELL WORTH visiting. (In fact, I kind of don’t want to tell anyone about it…)
Ios has a reputation as a party island; the lesser-known, more affordable Mykonos. While this may be true, it is ALSO incredibly serene, stunning, and quintessentially Greek.
It really has something for everyone and I dream of going back just to lounge on the EMPTY beaches and stare out into the abyss that is the Aegean Sea.
NOTE: Ios is a seasonal island. It shuts down in the wintertime (about late September through April). During the winter months, only around 1500 locals inhabit the island. And during the summer, around 10,000 tourists are on the island every day.
Reasons to Visit Ios, Greece
First and foremost, it’s stunning. The island is speckled with Cycladic cubic whitewashed buildings and churches. Bougainvillea dons the alleyways and sides of buildings. Olive trees blanket the barren and mountainous terrain.
It’s less popular than some of the other more well-known islands in the Cyclades, so it does not feel touristy. Some parts of the island feel untouched even.
It’s really close to a lot of other islands in the Cyclades so it’s easy to get to (or at least it’s quick). It’s also one of the more affordable Greek Islands.
The beaches! The beaches on the Greek islands really vary from island to island. For example, Santorini is a volcano so the very few beaches it does have are really rough and rocky. But Ios has some of the best beaches.
Last but not least, the people and the history. All of the locals are incredibly nice and welcoming. Ios kind of has a small-town feel. It’s more laid back and you can really get to know and have fun with the people who live there. There’s also some fascinating history to the island and lots of cultural sites and museums to see.
How to Get to Ios
By ferry! Ios does not have an airport, so you must arrive and depart by ferry. You can ferry straight from the mainland (Piraeus Port), or from the neighboring islands. Ios is a smaller island so some ferries do not travel to and from Ios on a daily basis. I use both Ferryscanner and Ferryhopper to check the schedules and plan accordingly.
Two of the closest islands to Ios are Sikinos and Santorini. You can get to either in about 35 minutes (if you schedule a high-speed ferry). Paros, Naxos, Folegrandos, and Amorgos are also nearby. If you plan on visiting any island in the Cyclades, be sure to stop by Ios.
Getting Around Ios
When you arrive by ferry you will be dropped at the port of Ios. It is located about 2km from the main village, Chora. While you could walk, it is a bit of a climb up to Chora so most people opt to take the bus or a taxi. The buses run frequently between the Port, Chora, and Mylopotas. Click here for the timetables.
Taxis are usually waiting to transfer tourists around the island when the ferries arrive.
Once you reach your accommodations, you have some more options. You can walk! Depending on where you are staying and what you plan on doing you might not need to leave the area.
One of the more popular ways to get around the island is an ATV. You can rent one for the day or for multiple days and use it as your main mode of transportation. We rented one for one day and explored the island that way.
Or, you can stick to the buses and taxis. The bus system is super easy and extremely affordable, and the buses are super nice (like nicer than any public bus I’ve taken in the US).
Where to Stay in Ios
When you go and where you stay will help shape your trip. If you are going to party, you’ll want to be on Mylopotas Beach or in Chora. Mylopotas is the main beach. There are a number of hotels and beach clubs along the promenade. This area typically attracts a younger crowd.
If you’re going to relax, you have many options. You can stay on the hill between Chora and Mylopotas, which has a number of beautiful boutique hotels. This is a nice option if you want to be within close distance of the main village (Chora). There are lots of restaurants to eat at and beautiful alleyways to explore. We stayed in this area, at Levantes Boutique Hotel, and it was ideal for us. We LOVED it. Highly recommend.
You can also choose to stay on the eastern side of the island. This is the serene side of the island. Think rolling hills, private beaches, and sparkling water. Some of the local’s favorite beaches are on this side of the island because the tourists don’t often venture over (even though it’s not that far from the main village).
27 Magical Things To Do in Ios, Greece
For such a small island there is so much to do! Plan on spending at least three full days exploring Ios, and up to two weeks.
1. Rent an ATV
A MUST! Riding around Ios, through the hills, up on the ridgelines, is one of my FAVORITE memories of all of my Greece memories. It’s a very *pinch-me* experience. At times you will be the only one on the road, with no people or houses in sight. Only olive trees, 360 sea views, and the occasional donkey.
You can easily rent ATVs in Chora and in Mylopotas. We rented ours from Costa’s Motor Club in Mylopotas and they were great.
TIP: Make sure to get the most powerful ATV (450cc) because there are a lot of hills on the island that the 150cc will struggle on. And, if you go during the busy season book your ATV/scooter a few days ahead!
2. Visit Homer’s Tomb
Homer, one of ancient Greece’s most famous poets, is believed to have died on the island between 1100 and 900 B.C. His tomb is located at the most northern point of the island in Plakato. There is a lot of lore about how exactly Homer died on Ios. Read about it before heading to the tomb!
3. Visit Diaseli Traditional Cheesery
This traditional working cheesery is located at the highest point on Ios, right next to the family-run farm. You can book a tour on their website, or you can just show up. Although, I recommend booking ahead during the busy season. At the end of the tour, you’ll taste a number of their cheeses made on-site, along with local honey, out on their picturesque patio. A really lovely activity!
4. Explore Chora (by day and night)
Chora is the largest village on the island. Despite its bustling nightlife, the typical Cycladic habitation has maintained its traditional character. It’s quaint, colorful, and in close proximity to so many of the things to do in Ios.
Roam its alleyways during the day when the shops are open, the locals are out, and the restaurants are not crowded. Come back at night for a completely different atmosphere. Chora becomes the island’s epicenter for nightlife. The bars are open all night (like several of them don’t even open until midnight) and you will meet so many people from every corner of the world. It is a very fun vibe.
Alert the party people!! Dancing the night away at Pathos is definitely one of the best things to do in Ios. Pathos is the most incredible club I have ever been to. Fully outdoors, with amphitheater-style lounges and seating, a huge pool, art installations, and a deep house DJ. All with a mind-blowing view. We could not believe this place existed on a tiny, quiet, unassuming island.
6. Sunset at Ios Club
Ios Club is located in Chora. It’s a legendary location to watch the sunset. Go early to get a good seat. They have small bites and a full cocktail menu.
7. See the Windmills
When these were functioning, they were used to produce energy to grind grain. They contributed greatly to the island’s agricultural economy and food requirements. Now, they are repurposed as homes. There are 12 windmills on the hill in Chora, 3 of which have been restored and turned into homes. The rest sit, unused. They are quite beautiful and a rich part of Cycladic history.
8. Odysseus Elytis Theater
Located behind the windmills you will find Odysseus Theater. This is an outdoor amphitheater that hosts concerts and plays over the summer. An absolutely incredible venue if you get the opportunity to see something here. They don’t run shows regularly though so if this is something you’d like to do be sure to check before you book your trip.
9. Day Trip to Neighboring Cycladic Islands
As I mentioned earlier, Ios is really close to a number of Cycladic islands. You could easily make Ios your home base and take day trips to see neighboring islands. If you are on a budget this is a great way to see Santorini without having to pay for the high-priced accommodations. If you decide to stay in Santorini longer, check out this comprehensive 4-day itinerary.
10. Museum of Modern Art in Kolitsani
This museum is within walking distance from Chora. It holds the works of Jean-Marie Drot (a French writer and cinematographer) and features exhibitions throughout the summer. The museum itself is quite beautiful, sitting above Kolitsani Bay.
11. Archeological Museum
The archeological museum is located in the center of Chora in a 20th-century building. It features archeological findings excavated on Ios from several different time periods. Here you can see a lot of prehistoric tools, marble statues, and other items from earlier settlements, including Skarkos.
12. Spend the Day at Mylopotas Beach
Mylopotas is your destination if you are visiting Ios to party. Lined with restaurants, hotels, watersport rental shops, and beach bars, there is plenty to do. It usually doesn’t fill up with party-goers until the afternoon, so you can enjoy its tranquility in the morning.
The beach is very large, the sand is soft, and the water is perfectly turquoise and typically pretty calm.
Manganari Beach is located on the south side of the island, about 23 km from Chora. This is about a 40 min drive or bus ride. It is one of the best beaches on the island. It is actually a series of beaches one after the other that creates a lagoon. The sand is soft and white like Mylopotas but it’s much quieter given the distance from the city center. there are still plenty of hotels and restaurants around if you choose to stay on the southern side of the island.
14. Agia Theodoti
Just WOW! This beach has a special place in my heart. It’s one of the most peaceful beaches on the island and the ideal beach for anyone looking for quiet and serenity. It’s located 14 km from Chora. We took an ATV over the hills and down to the beach. It’s quite a large beach with hardly anyone there. I dream of this place.
15. Eat at Drakos Taverna
If you’re a seafood person you can’t miss Drakos. It’s a taverna on the south end of Mylopotas Beach and is known for its sun-dried octopus and fava. Some would say it’s the best restaurant on the island – it’s been around for decades and is very loved.
16. Take a Boat Tour
For an idyllic day, take a boat tour or rent a boat for the day. There are endless options to explore the coastline. Meltemi Boat Tours is one of the more popular and reputable companies. They offer leisurely tours to private beach coves, speedboat tours, and even a tour to a winery on the neighboring island of Sikinos.
17. Seek Out Sculptures
While you are zooming around on your ATV or scooter, keep an eye out for fun sculptures on the side of the road.. hehe.
18. See the Churches
There are 365 churches on the island (at least that’s what they say – I didn’t count). But either way, there are A LOT for a tiny island and you see them everywhere, speckled about the barren hills. Some of them are larger and some of them are super tiny! One of our taxi drivers told us that most of the tiny ones are privately owned or owned by a few families. You can’t go in them but you can hike to a lot of them.
19. Check Out Skarkos
Skarkos is one of the most significant prehistoric archeological sites in the Cyclades. It is a Bronze Age (3300 BC to 1200 BC) settlement on Ios. The excavation revealed important information about how societies were organized. It is well worth the visit! You can also see some of the excavated pieces in the archeological museum in Chora.
20. Take a Hike!
If you are visiting Ios during the high season, going on a hike is a great way to escape the hoards of people on Mylopotas Beach. There are about 6 options for trails, here are some good ones.
Mylopotas Beach to Klima Bay is a beautiful 5-mile hike that runs parallel to the coastline and ends at a secluded bay. The scenery is phenomenal, plus you’ll likely run into goats! There is very little shade – so bring plenty of water.
For a moderate 1.7-mile hike (with a bit of elevation), hike from the windmills above Chora to the chapel of Profitis Ilias. It is a fairly quiet route since summer-goers are typically more interested in beach activities and this hike goes quite inland.
For a more leisurely secluded hike, walk the 2.7-mile path from Manganari Beach to Tripiti Beach. This is not a busy hike – it’s likely you won’t see anyone.
21. Take a Yoga Class at Harmony
I LOVE taking yoga classes when I’m traveling and Ios has a fun yoga opportunity twice a week at Harmony. Harmony is actually a restaurant, but they host yoga classes on their huge deck overlooking the sea every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30 am. Afterward, grab a smoothie or acai bowl to replenish yourself before spending the rest of the day in the sun and the rest of your night dancing.
22. Paddleboard, Kayak, or Windsurf
Mylopotas is the perfect beach for watersports. You can easily get paddleboards in and out and the water is typically pretty calm. There are a bunch of rental places right on the beach. Mylopotas Watersports is one of the bigger ones.
23. Venture to Tripiti Beach
Tripiti Beach is out of a dream. It’s a small cove that looks untouched and near nothing. The sand is white and the water is crystal clear. The best part…. it’s often empty because it’s hard to get to. You have to hike a couple of miles or arrive by boat. Whichever way you choose it’s worth it.
Harmony, yes the same restaurant/yoga studio, also throws huge events throughout the summer. Three times each summer they host Floatopia. Just beneath the restaurant there are jumping cliffs and a perfect area for partying on floaties. Grab drinks at the restaurant, pick up a floaty and head down for an afternoon/evening of live music and floating in the Aegean Sea. (honestly a dream day).
25. Look for Goats!
As you drive around the island, or even if you are just lounging by your villa pool, listen for bells. There are herds of goats that roam the island. Some of them belong to families and some to the cheese factories on the island (since they all make their cheeses from the milk of free-range animals). You could literally see the goats that produced the cheese you eat at some of the restaurants on the island.
26. Psathi Beach
Another jaw-dropping beach on Ios. This one is on the quiet side so if you’re looking for tranquility head this way. After you are done soaking up the sun and the sea, grab food at the famous Alonistra Tavern just up the hill (you can see it from the beach).
27. Have a Spa Day
Of course, Well and Good Travel couldn’t put together a list of things to do in Ios without including some pampering. To achieve total relaxation, book a spa treatment (or two to three) at the spa at Ios Palace in Mylopotas. In addition to their huge service menu, they have a Hammam and a sauna.
If you are staying on the quieter side of the island, visit the spa at Calilo – a luxury resort on the southern point of the island (near Manganari Beach). Calilo has a large service menu including thalassotherapy massages, lymphatic drainage, and even cryotherapy.
Honeymooning in Greece? Check out the perfect 14-Day Greece Honeymoon Itinerary
FAQs About Ios
Minimum, 3. To really see all Ios has to offer or to just absolutely zen out, stay a full week (or more!)
Depends. Mykonos is larger, has more clubs, more restaurants, more everything. It also is WAY more expensive. It attracts a different crowd too. Think LA, celebrities, and really wealthy young people. In contrast, Ios is more laid back and affordable (but just as fun…or more fun).
35 minutes by highspeed ferry.
Very. But always keep your wits about yourself no matter where you are.
Yes, but if you aren’t interested in partying it’s easy to avoid. Just don’t stay in Mylopotas or in Chora
There is only 1 direct ferry a week that goes between Ios and Amorgos. You can take e an indirect ferry (one that stops at other islands where you will have to switch ferries) but this will take significantly longer. Make sure to look at the ferry schedule while planning your trip if you plan on going to Amorgos from Ios.
Final Note on Things To Do in Ios, Greece
Well there you have it, 27 awesome things to do in Ios that will keep you busy for a week (at least!) Hopefully, this post has convinced you to consider making Ios a destination next time you are in Greece. It is a truly magical island. If you do visit, please treat the island and the locals with love and respect. This place deserves to be preserved.
Greece Travel Planning Guide
🚑 Should I buy travel insurance?
100% Yes! – Always buy travel insurance when traveling internationally. I recommend SafetyWing. It has great coverage, is affordable, and will just bring you peace of mind.
💧Can you drink the water in Greece?
It is perfectly safe to drink tap water on the mainland, but less so on the islands. To be safe, drink bottled water on the islands (cheap and readily available).
🚙 Is it safe to rent a car in Greece?
Yes — Renting a car is one of the best ways to see Greece! I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks both international companies and local Greek companies, so you get the best rates.
📲 Will my phone work in Greece?
Maybe – It depends on where you are coming from and what plan you have, so check with your provider. If you won’t have service in Greece, I recommend getting an eSIM card. Airalo All you do is download the SIM – you don’t have to go anywhere or change out your regular SIM card. I know… how far we’ve come!
⛴️ What is the best site to book Greek ferries?
Ferryhopper and Ferryscanner are both reliable sites to view ferry schedules and book tickets. Some people prefer one over the other for various reasons including loyalty but I have used both and had the same experience. I wouldn’t use anything besides Ferryhopper or Ferryscanner though.
🏩 What’s the best way to book my Greece accommodations?
From my personal experience, Booking.com is the best site to book Greece accommodations.
✈️ What’s the best site to buy Greece flights?
To find and compare flights I recommend Skyscanner
🎫 Do I need a visa for Greece?
Currently, citizens from the EU/EEA countries and Switzerland, the USA, and the Schengen Zone do not need a visa to travel to Greece. Read the visa policy for Greece and familiarize yourself with the requirements for your nationality here.