The island of mines, with 72 beaches and endless trails, is characterized by introversion, raw tourism, a land full of history and has its own distinct Cycladic air. Serifos is made of iron and granite and is the wildest of the Cyclades. Despite its barren character, the way the deep blue Aegean Sea embraces Serifos, has created some of the most beautiful beaches. Its area, compared to the rest of the Cyclades is relatively small. However, the island is offered for hiking – with special marked paths as the routes that you will need to follow to explore the island are bigger than you would imagine. Below is a must-do list by arriving in Serifos in order to sense the most of it!
The central point of Serifos, the chora of Serifos is not only one of the most beautiful in Cyclades but has a unique architecture of two parts Ano Chora – Kato Chora unifying by stairs.
The small settlement of Kastro began to expand systematically outside the “lotzies” (entrances) after the Greek Revolution, creating the district of Ano Chora. The dense construction remains characteristic of residential development and the labyrinthine alleys descend among the whitewashed houses, meeting their way to “Pano Piazza”. The Pano Piatsa is the central, popular point of Ano Chora usually full of life in any time of the day. On the picturesque, paved square the most prominent structures are the neoclassical building of the Town Hall since 1908 and the grandiose church of St. Athanasios, the Metropolis of Serifos.
A little further down is the square of Myloi, with three restored windmills overshadowing ruins of the rest. As you go down from the Windmills square to Livadi, on the first left hairpin of the road, you will find a short, paved path that leads to the whitewashed building with five arches overall Old Plistario (meaning wash house), in the Paspari or Mesa Pigadi area. It is a– three in front and two on the sides, and has its back against the Petrias Mountain in order to make use of the torrent that flows down the slope in the winter.
The wider area of Ano Chora offers a charming scenery and is suitable for strolling and fun. It is bustling with life in the summer months, it has plenty of shops and lots of food and drink options.
The image of the most beautiful village of Serifos is complemented by the settlement of Kato Chora, along the slope, with the church of Evangelistria standing imposingly in the central square.
The small streets are getting wider here and lead to the central path with the big steps, which goes down to the base of Chora and connects with the road that leads to Livadi. Its route passes in front of small chapels, the Memorial of the Fallen and the Folklore Museum and the only theatre of Serifos, which hosts several cultural events during the year.
Castle of Chora
At the highest point of Serifos Country is the Castle, a fortification settlement created by the Venetians in the 1430s to be under control and provide security to the serfs within its walls.
At the highest point of the Castle is the chapel of Agios Konstantinos, with its large courtyard and magnificent unobstructed view, having the churches of Aghia Varvara and Christ below it, and just a little below them is the chapel of St. John the Theologian, wedged in the rock. According to the Greek Myth of Perseus, this exact point is where the head of Medusa was buried, which was brought to Serifos by Perseus, while in the ancient years it was supposed to be a temple of the Goddess Athena.
To get to the top you will need to climb several stairs but the breathtaking view will compensate you. The spectacle of sunrise through the sea, the deep colors of the sunset and the starry sky in the evenings without a moon are just breathless. Pick up the dawn for a special sentiment where a serene sight with the sun rising through the Aegean Sea slowly paints the landscape with touches of light.
A special monument of Serifos: Aspros Pirgos (meaning White Tower) lays on the route from Chora to the villages of Megalo Livadi and Koutalas.
Its construction date is considered to be between the 4th and 3rd century Β.C. It consists of big white marble boulders, rising cyclically for about 12 meters, surrounding the ground floor and the two floors above. Today only a small part of the tower is preserved, with a maximum height of 5 meters.
Its characteristics and the panoramic view of the spot where Aspros Pirgos is placed, prove that it was used as an observatory – probably for the protection of the area’s ancient mines.
The building was destroyed a few centuries later, under unknown circumstances. A big part of it collapsed towards the inside, sealing it, while other stones scattered around it. At the end of the 19th century a small cemetery was created close by, as well as a small church dedicated to St Charalampos and a building that serves as storage.
Throne & the Cyclops’s Cave
An a short distance from the White Tower, towards Mega Livadi, near Megalo Chorio, below Agia Triada church and in front of the Evangelistria Akroteriani Monastery, you will find a small road –easy to access- that leads to the “Cyclops’s Throne”, a place offers great view over the Aegean.
The “Throne”, which is also mentioned as “Psaropirgos”, “Psaros” Tower or “Kanapes” (i.e. couch), is a big construction consisting of oblong slates, almost 8,4 meters long and 4,2 meters wide, while by his masonry is believed to have been built in the late 4th century BC or during the Hellenistic period.
In one of the version of those who tried to depict on a map the mythical journey of Odysseus, the Cyclopes are supposed to have resided in Serifos which this is why it is often referred to as the ‘island of Cyclopes’.
These creatures, children of God Poseidon, monstrous and huge, used to live in the southwest part of the island, between Mega Livadi and Koutalas.
Nearby there are smaller ancient buildings, as well as a gallery entry. This was supposed to be the Cave of the Cyclops Polyphemus.
According to the myth, during his long journey back to Ithaca, Odysseus passed by Serifos and while he was wandering on the land, along with his sailors, he encountered the wildest of the Cyclopes, Polyphemus, who imprisoned all of them in his cave and started eating them one after the other. Odysseus then managed to stab a flaming wooden trunk in Cyclops’s eye in order to escape. In a desperate attempt to stop their escape, the now blind Polyphemus lifted a huge rock, which he threw towards their ship. It is said that the rock became a barren island, the islet “Garbias” (or “Mikronisi”), which can be seen southwest of Kalo Ampeli, by the edge of the bay.
Mining Open – Air “Museum”
By the end of the 19th century, Serifos leads the way in the “fever” of mining activities, with Koutalas first and Mega Livadi later to be the most central points. The left side of the bay could be described as an outdoor mining museum as rubble of shops, residencies and infrastructure buildings , stand along with old machinery and facilities such as rail systems, ore transport wagons, a weighing unit, a loading bridge and ruins of a bygone era, on the island’s slopes.
At the end of the beach stand the old Headquarters, a neoclassical building that was constructed in 1890, in Ernst Ziller’s architectural style, that even full of breaches and debris –including the collapsed roof, its tall palm trees testifying the greatness of the past. It was built when Emile Grohmann arrived and when the mining company was transferred from Koutalas to this sheltered bay. It housed the offices, the warehouses and the labs of the company till the middle of the 20th century, when it ceased its operations.
A few meters further stands the simple marble Memorial, dedicated to the four miners who were killed in the bloody strike of August 21st 1916, as they defended their rights for better and safer working conditions.
Monastery of Taxiarches
The male Monastery of Taxiarches, dedicated to the island’s protectors, the Archangels Gabriel and Michael lies between the junction towards Platis Gialos and the village of Galani, on the north part of Serifos, opposite to the church of Panagia Ζoodochos Pigi
Its construction date is placed around the end of the 16th century, but it is said that a smaller church used to exist on the same spot, since the mid-15th century.
According to tradition, a Cypriot boat that left Cyprus in 1570 when the island was occupied by the Turks, arrived in Platis Gialos that transferred the icon of the Archangel (Michael), which the captain donated to the little church. During the same period, cells started building around it, for the monks that decided to live there. The icon was considered miraculous and made the small church famous around Cyclades and the rest of Greece bringing wealth to the church, thanks to the tributes and donations that the faithful used to send there.
Later on, pirates who pillaged the Aegean began to raid the island more often, targeting the church of Taxiarches. For that reason, the “castle-monastery” of Taxiarches adopted a fortified design with a high surrounding wall, battlements and observatories for the guards, which unfortunately did not survive till today.
The one and only small entry was placed high (almost 4 meters) and a ladder was used for the access, which was removed each time the monastery was attacked. Later the hanging ladder was replaced by a permanent stone staircase. Right over it a crevice was opened, through which the monks could defend themselves, by throwing hot oil to the raiders, as the latter attempted to enter.
Thus the building was repeatedly damaged, till 1959 when it took its present fortress-like form.
Formerly, dozens of monks used to live here, taking care of the Monastery and its lands. By 1950 there were only three, while there is only one left today.
The church of Panagia
Dated in the end of the 10th – beginning of 11th century, the church of Panagia (Virgin Mary), a byzantine style basilica of 950 – 1000 AC, is the oldest church in Serifos. It is placed at the square of the picturesque village of Panagia, on the north part of the island and is of great architectural interest, as it is one of the few churches on the island with a tiled roof.
It started as a small church, expanded as a monastery with cells where the monks used to live and then the first farmhouses started building around it, gradually forming the homonymous settlement. The village expanded during the Greek Revolution and counted up to 1830 locals.
The church is also called “Xylopanagia” as a long time ago, right before its festival took place, the tradition called for the young men of the island to fight for as to who would dance first with his beloved one around the square’s age-long olive tree. The church is celebrated on August 15.
Folklore Museum – Archaeological Collection
The Folklore Museum was founded in 1976 by the Serifians Association, so as to preserve and display the island’s heritage. It is housed in Kato Chora, opposite the church of Agios Antonios.
It hosts plenty of household appliances and everyday objects, as well as various rocks that were found on the island are being displayed here.
The largest part of the exhibits comes from Serifians’ donations and some of them have travelled from around Greece and abroad, because of the great commercial and mining activity on the island that used to attract hundreds of people for work.
A worthwhile visit is also the archaeological collection-museum of Serifos housed in a traditional building in the mills of Serifos with some archaeological finds and a room where statues, amphoras, inscriptions and other objects are found at various sites in Serifos and date back to the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman times.
*Capetania (for early Spring Lovers)
Usually during the spring, the last Sunday of the Carnival, the feast of Capetania takes place, a custom that revived in 2003 and seems to have roots in the 16th century. Until 1821 it was called “lolopanigyro” (feast of craziness), while it changed its name to “Capetania” after the Greek War of Independence, influenced by the Peloponnesian captains who settled on the island.
During this feast, the Serifians split in two teams, each electing a captain who distributed different roles to the other members of the team. The purpose of the two teams was to re-enact a fake war between the Greeks and an -different each time- “national enemy”.
This theatrical clash was taking place outside the Monastery of Taxiarches, in which all of the attendants entered at the end of the feast, to worship.
Nowadays, Serifos becomes full of masqueraders again, while groups of people parade all around the island’s villages and in front of Taxiarches’ Monastery, accompanied by traditional music.