Peace, hiking and fine food in the Cyclades

Sifnos is a ‘tiny rocky world’ with ‘godly’ views – and fewer tourists than other Greek hotspots

A paved path overlooking a blue domed church by the sea in Sifnos
Sifnos is much quieter than some of Greece’s other tourist hotspots
(Image credit: photo_stella / Getty Images)

Known for their “honeyed” light, their whitewashed towns and the harsh beauty of their mountainous interiors, the Cyclades islands contain some of Greece’s hottest tourist spots.

But Sifnos, in the west of the archipelago, is a quiet place, says Lydia Bell in Condé Nast Traveller – a “tiny, rocky world” where life still follows an older rhythm. Ancient terraces of fig, almond and olive groves grace its hillsides, and wild verbena, mint, sage and thyme scent its air.

Perched high on the island’s spine are tiny, domed churches and “mazy” villages that command “godly” views of the cerulean sea. It lacks the flashy hotels of Mykonos and the dazzling beaches of Milos, and it doesn’t have an airport; visitors come for “discretion, isolation, hiking” – and some of the region’s best food.

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It was a Sifnian, Nikolaos Tselementes, who wrote the nation’s first recipe book, in 1910 – a work so celebrated that his surname became a Greek word for cookbook. But locals say the island’s true cuisine is lighter than that found elsewhere in Greece, with rosemary flowers favoured over rosemary leaves, parsley over coriander, dill over fennel, black pepper over chilli, and so on. You could take a cookery class with George Narlis, whose farm supplies some of the island’s best restaurants.

Sifnos was also famed a century and more ago as a potter’s island, its shore studded with wood-burning kilns. Recently, there’s been a revival of the craft, with at least 16 ceramics studios operating today. A tour should include Sifnos Stoneware, known for its “delicately pretty” dishes.

But perhaps the surest way of tapping into the island’s soul is to attend a saint’s day celebration at one of its remote churches, where you’ll find food shared among all-comers at long, “monastic” tables, and much singing and dancing to the music of the lute and violin.

Accommodation options include Nós ( and villas such as Sifnos Pav and Sifnos Pad (

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