The Greek islands have long been a favorite with swanky jet-setters and sunshine seekers from around the globe. And when looking at pictures of perfectly stylized fashionistas in the whitewashed seaside villages on Santorini and Mykonos, it’s easy to see why they’re so popular.
But there are two thing those pictures don’t often show: the hoards of tourists and the hefty price tag.
Luckily, there is a way to experience all the beauty and charm of the Cyclades without the crowds and for a fraction of the price.
Enter Sifnos, one of Greece’s most underrated islands. In fact, it is such an under-the-radar destination that even our friends who live in Greece had never heard of it.
But with it’s amazing hiking tails, beautiful beaches, and low-key vibe, it’s the perfect destination for anyone who’s looking for a relaxing Greek holiday. I fell so hard for Sifnos during our three-day vacation that Sam basically had to pry me out of my deck chair to catch the ferry back to Athens.
Here is everything you need to know before visiting Sifnos, Greece.
A First-Timer’s Guide to Sifnos
Why Visit Sifnos?
You may be wondering, “Why should I visit Sifnos?” With so many gorgeous Greek islands to choose from, it can be hard to determine which ones to visit. But unless you’re a Kardashian with a fat checkbook and endless leisure time (both of which Sam and I lack!), you are definitely going to have to narrow down your options.
When planning our anniversary trip to Greece last year, we decided to visit Sifnos for a few reasons.
Less Crowded. One of the main reasons to visit Sifnos is that it has fewer crowds than more popular islands like Santorini or Mykonos. There is no airport on the island, so the only way to reach it is by ferry (which takes about 5.5 hours from Athens). So, basically, you don’t stumble upon it by accident. But it is worth the extra travel time. If you visit during the shoulder season or off-season, you will likely be one of only a handful of other tourists on the island.
Cheaper. Though Greece as a whole is a surprisingly good value, a trip to the islands can drain your bank account in a hurry. Luckily, because Sifnos is a less popular destination, we found that the prices were fairly reasonable. Except for sunscreen, which basically cost more than our college education and mortgage combined. Be sure to include sunscreen on your packing list for Greece!
Great hiking. Sam and I try to stay active while traveling, so one of the reasons we were excited to visit Sifnos was to try out some of the great, well-marked hiking trails that cut across the island. The scenery is so beautiful that even the exercise-averse will enjoy a leisurely afternoon stroll.
Food. Let’s be honest. One of the main reasons to visit Greece is for the food. Even hardcore history buffs whose basal body temperature rises at the mere thought of visiting a thousands-of-years-old archeological site are also keen to try the food. And for good reason. It’s downright delicious. Though I have a hard time believing that anywhere in Greece has bad food, Sifnos is known for its exceptional cuisine.
It’s beautiful. Of course, the actual main reason to visit Sifnos is because it’s mind-bogglingly beautiful. The deep blue Aegean Sea, the whitewashed villages, and the rocky coastline were enough to give me heart palpitations (or maybe that was just the after-effects of the 6 gyros I ate in Athens. Regardless, it’s a sensory delight).
When to Visit Sifnos
The best time to visit Sifnos depends somewhat on your interests and planned itinerary.
Traveling during this time will result in the fewest crowds and cheapest prices. Just bear in mind that some hotels and restaurants will be closed, and the weather might be chilly. So unless you’re a particularly hearty Scandinavian, it’s probably not the best time for a swimming holiday.
Shoulder Season (March-May; September-October)
We visited during the shoulder season (early April), and enjoyed pleasant whether with lower prices and fewer crowds. In our opinion, this is the best time to visit Sifnos, especially if you’re interested in hiking.
Peak Season (June-August)
If you are dreaming of plopping yourself in a beach chair and not moving until your ferry is about to pull out of the port, you may want to travel during the warmer months. Of course, summer travel will likely be significantly more crowded and expensive. But you will leave with a gorgeous tan, so there are definitely worse things than visiting Greece during peak season. Like being anywhere that’s not Greece. It’s really all about priorities.
How to Get to Sifnos
Sifnos is harder to reach than some of the more popular Greek islands. There is no airport on the island, which means it is only accessible by ferry (or chartered yacht if you happen to be Beyoncé or a Chinese billionaire).
The easiest way to get to Sifnos is to fly into Athens and then catch the ferry from there, which takes about five-and-a-half hours.
Here are a few things to know if you plan to take the ferry from Athens to Sifnos:
- The Athens port is called Piraeus, and it’s on the opposite end of the city from the airport. Athens is a big, sprawling city. On our return, we took the bus from the port to the airport and the transit time was close to one hour…at ten o’clock at night. A taxi would have probably been faster, but also more expensive. Be sure to factor travel time into your plans.
- You can purchase ferry tickets online in advance. Though it’s possible to book tickets once you arrive, we purchased ours online ahead of time to save us the hassle. If you’re traveling during peak season, we definitely recommend booking your ferry ticket in advance. You can purchase Sifnos ferry tickets here.
- Be punctual. The ferries don’t dock for long, so be sure you are ready to climb aboard as soon as the ramp opens. I know you want to grab one last gyro for the road, but is it worth getting stranded on the island for an extra day? Yes, it is. Bad example.
- Limited food on the ferry. Speaking of food, the food and drink options on the ferry are limited. We recommend purchasing a sandwich or pastries at one of the restaurants near the port so you don’t end up hangry two hours into the journey.
How to Get around on Sifnos
Sifnos is a small island, so getting from place to place doesn’t typically take long. These are your primary transportation options on Sifnos.
Sifnos is serviced by 10 taxis. Yes, exactly ten. When you arrive at the port, several of them will likely be waiting to offer rides to ferry passengers. We took one from the port in Kamares to our hotel in Kastro on the other end of the island. The drive was roughly ten minutes and cost 12 Euros.
The benefit of taking taxis is that they don’t operate on a fixed timetable and can drop you off directly at your hotel—a nice relief after spending five hours on a ferry.
The drawback is the cost and limited availability, especially during peak season.
Sifnos has a good public bus system. And these aren’t the wheezing, refurbished school buses that might spring to mind. They are large, airconditioned coach buses that seem more fitting for transporting aging rock stars. And when we visited in April, they were nearly empty.
You can find the full bus timetable here.
If you plan to cover a lot of ground, it might we worth renting a car. There are a few rental car places located right near the port in Kamares.
We spent the last day-and-a-half of our trip zipping around the island in a teeny little Fiat Panda, which we rented from Proto Moto in Kamares.
Sifnos is a great destination to explore on foot, with hikes ranging from easy strolls to full-day treks. We spent several of our mornings on Sifnos walking to neighboring villages. It took us much longer to reach our destination on foot than in a vehicle, but the experience was so much nicer!
What to do on Sifnos
Sifnos is the type of place where visitors can recharge and catch their breath. While there are plenty of things to do on the island, it isn’t a destination that requires a complicated itinerary involving a dozen “must-see” sights. Rather, the best way to enjoy the island is simply to slow down and enjoy your surroundings.
Here are some of the best activities on Sifnos.
As I mentioned before, Sifnos has some fantastic hiking trails. We based ourselves in Kastro on the east side and spent each morning exploring a different trail. We walked for hours through wildflower-covered fields, along the coast, through small villages, and up winding hills. The best part was that, aside from the odd goat or donkey, we had the trails almost completely to ourselves.
You can find some great information about the hiking trails on Sifnos here.
The Greek islands are well known for their beautiful beaches. No visit to Sifnos would be complete without taking a dip in the sea.
When we visited in April, the water was fairly cold. We were the only people in the water and we had the beach completely to ourselves. But even though my feet went numb, I’m glad to have had the experience.
(If you visit in the summer, you will probably have a more pleasant time!)
It’s no secret that Greece has some of the best food in the world. I mean, it’s pretty hard to top gyros, feta cheese, and Greek yogurt. The food on Sifnos doesn’t disappoint. We especially enjoyed trying the soft local cheese and Revitha, a traditional chickpea soup that tastes a lot better than it looks or sounds.
Take a Scenic Drive.
Renting a car and driving around the island is a great way to explore Sifnos.
On our last day on the island, we drove our rental car from one end of the island to the other. Our favorite stop was at the Profiti Ilias Monastery, the highest point on Sifnos. From there we had fantastic views of the harbor. (It is also possible to hike to the top if you’re up for more of a challenge.)
Where to Stay on Sifnos
There are plenty of accommodation options on Sifnos. A popular choice is to stay in the port town of Kamares. It is certainly the most convenient location, since it is where the ferry docks, and it is well connected to the rest of the island by bus. It also has some nice beaches and plenty of seaside restaurants.
Another option is Apollonia, the island’s capital. Though it is located more inland than Kamares, it has the largest variety of restaurants (and nightlife if that’s your thing. We don’t usually stay out past 9, so that wasn’t a deciding factor for us). It is also the transportation hub for the island. Most bus routes will take you through Apollonia.
A third option, and the one we suggest, is to stay in Kastro, a quaint, cliffside village on the eastern coast. Though it is slightly harder to reach than Kamares and Apollonia, Kastro has fewer tourists, is absolutely stunning, and is a great base for day hikes.
We stayed at Agnanti (affiliate link) and had a great experience. The proprietor gave us a platter of fresh cheese to enjoy on our balcony when we arrived, and the complimentary breakfast each morning was fantastic. Not to mention, the views were pretty fantastic.
We’ve visited quite a few places through the years, but Sifnos is easily our favorite. We are already plotting a return trip!