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Friday, 14 March 2008 13:08


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The coastline of this predominantly mountainous island with its countless chapels, its olive trees, its vineyards and its limpid air, is adorned with small, attractive coves. Those features combine with the crystal-clear sea, the superb sandy beaches and the good range of amenities to make los a magnet for tourists.



Locally called Nios, this is an island whose history goes back to prehistoric times. According to Herodotus, the "poet of poets", the "god-like" Homer was buried at Plakotos, in the north of the island. Pausanias tells us that there was an inscription at Delphi confirming the poet's interment on Ios, which was the homeland of his mother, Clymene.

Above the pretty harbour of Ormos, where fishing-boats and yachts bob at anchor, stands the capital of Ios or Hora. The town stands on the site of the ancient city of the same name and is a typical Cycladic settlement, with whitewashed houses, narrow alleys and chapels. Among the churches, those of St. Catherine, St. John the Baptist and Sts. Cosmas and Damien stand out.

The whole beautiful image is rounded off with the bulk of the medieval castle and the row of windmills, which top the town.

The sites of Ios include a Hellenistic tower and the remains of an ancient aqueduct at Aghia Theodoti, traces of an ancient temple at Psathi, a ruinous Venetian castle at the spot known as Paleokastro, and the Hellenistic tower at Plakotos, which we have already mentioned. The Archaeological and Folkloric Museum in Hora and the Museuml of Modern Art (Drot-Gaiti) at Kolitsani are also worth a visit.

Lovers of the sea will be enraptured by the superb beaches of los, some of them busy (such as Milopotas, near Hora), and others no less attractive but much quieter (Aghia Theodoti, Psathi, Kalamas, Plakes, Tzamaria, Kolitsani and Manganari). The authentic Cycladic beauty of Ios, in combination with the island's rapid development for tourism, has had the effect of attracting ever-increasing numbers of visitors.

The site of the village is on the hill-top, first so as to make it possible to see the pirates approaching and take evasive action, and second to secure even the smallest piece of land where a crop might be planted. The main residential area is Chora, with her narrow streets, wisely oriented, so as to -protect from the open sea winds, with covered spaces to shelter from the strong sunbeams of summer and the heavy rainfalls of winter. Tiny cube shaped houses like sugar lumps crowded around small squares, whitewashed churches topped with brilliant azure cupolas. The island has 365 churches as many as the days of the year, most of them are Byzantine. Everything is painted white, to resist the merciless heat of greek summer, with blue or green doors and windows to rest the vertical and horizontal lines, softened by gentle curves combining the blue of the aegean sea. ios_port.jpg

Chora - Mylopotas

Exploring Chora means, first of all, walking. Choose a cool morning, wear your most comfortable shoes and get ready to set off. One hour is enough for the ones who just want to have a look at this whitewashed village, perched on the slope of the hill between the port and Mylopotas. The more demanding ones will need the whole morning to discover the hidden beauty of Chora. That's because Chora was built up for the sun and it's the sun that reveals the village to the visitor or hides it from him. From the square of the mills, you can follow the narrow street that goes up to Prophitis Elias. A path of 500m., with magnificent view to Chora and to Mylopotas, leads you to the church of Prophitis Elias. In periods of water shortage, a procession with icons and banners is made along this path towards the church.

According to one tradition, an icon of the Virgin was found among the rocks of Mylopotas' seashore, with a lit candle standing on it. The legend has it that the inhabitants of Crete had thrown the icon in the open sea to protect it from falling to Turkish hands, and that the waves had carried it to that coast. The icon was then taken to the church of the Holy Cross, but only to be found again the following morning on the same steep mountainside. When the islanders tried to build a new church for the icon, but not on the exact spot where it had been found because of its inaccessibility, the foundation stones of the church kept disappearing every day in a miraculous way.

Yialos (Port)

The port, with its own life and market activity, is the apropriate place for enjoyable walks. To the left side, of the port stands St. Irini, a chapel of amazing beauty, built in the 17th century. It's a peculiar structure with two altars, one older than the other, that were supposedly used for the Orthodox and the Catholic cults respectively. The path from St. Irini leads to Valmas and then to Kolitsani, two small, remote sandy beaches.

The next beach after Gialos is Koumbara. From the port also starts the old stone-paved road that leads to Chora, next to the church of St. George, which is half buried in the ground. St. George is cross-shaped with a rounded dome, a unusual rhythm compared with the traditional architectural features of the island. The road goes uphill with vegetation, eucalyptus and drinking fountains on either side. Another pleasant walk from the port leads to Kambos and on to the hill of Skarkos, a site of archaeological interest where excavations from 1984 up to our days have revealed various ancient ruins ios_gialos.jpg

Hommer's Tomn, Plakoto and Ag. Theodoti

Setting off from the port or from Chora, by motorbike or by car, you make your way up to Pano Kambos, a fertile valley rich with vineyards and olive trees, and to Koulida. From there, if you leave the asphalt road and take the path branching off to the left, you'll be heading to the amazing beach of Plakoto. Some metres short of that, there's another path that leads to the ancient ruins dating from the Hellenistic period, where tradition claims that the tomb of the poet Homer lies. On your way back, you can also drive to Aghia Theodoti bay. Limpid waters and a sandy beach, taverns and rented rooms, as well as the occasion to admire the 16th century church of St. Theodoti, the oldest on the island, built in the 16th century.

Pirgos, Paleokastro & Psathi

Before the road starts descending to Aghia Theodoti, you can turn right at the first crossroads and take the road leading to Pirgos. There, on the highest peak of the island (713 m.), stands the 16th century Byzantine church of Aghios Ioannis (St. John), built on the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo.

ios_beach.jpg To yourTaking the same road back, you will soon reach the beautiful winding, stonepaved road to Paleokastro. Its steps lead to the windswept site where the Byzantine castle lies, overlooking the Aegean with panoramic views in all directions. Among the ruins stands the beautiful church of Panagia Paleokastritissa (Our lady of the Old Castle). The same road also leads to Psathi, a long beach with deep blue waters and white sand, one of the breeding places for the Mediterranean sea-turtle. left, tucked away among the rocks, there are some smaller, exquisite, sand-bottomed beaches, and to your right the ruins of another ancient temple. A little before the beach, you can take a detour to Psathi, a small village well-situated on the most fertile spot of the island, with a few taverns and rented rooms.

Klima, Kalamos, Tris Klissies, Maganari

After driving from Chora to Mylopotas, follow the dirtroad at the end of the beach, leading to the south coast of the island. This itinerary will may offer you the most interesting excursion. By passing Mylopotas and turning right at the crossroads, you reach the splendidly isolated beach of Klima. If you enter the main road again, it will take you to the monastery of Kalamos, a very well-preserved 200-year-old building, a special place of worship for the locals.The same road leads straight to Kalamos, a beautiful pebbly beach, or, if you turn left after the monastery, the way to Tris Klissies reveals three beautiful secluded beaches, accessible only on foot.

A short way off lies Manganari. Four of the most beautiful beaches in the Aegean, each one lying next to the other, wait for the visitor to enjoy their peaceful nature. There are many seaside taverns where you can taste fresh fish, as well as good accommodation.

History of Ios island

The finds of the archeological excavation on the hill of Skarkos prove that the island has been inhabited since the early Cycladic period.

Evidence of this lies in the very well preserved walls of buildings and the vessels demonstrating the flourishing of an important community. The remnants of the walls on the west and north entrances to Chora lead us to the conclusion that the castle's hill has been inhabited since the archaid period. There are elements that bear witness to the presence of Careans, Pelasgians, Achaeans and Phoenicians, who gave the island the name "Phoenicia".

The Ionians came and settled to the island in 1050 B.C. A version history.gifios_view.jpg about the origin of the island's name claims that it derives from the name of the Ionians, but this doesn't seem to be valid linguistically, because in such case the name would be "Ionia" or "Ionis". According to another version, the name derives from the Phoenician word "Iion", meaning "a heap of stones". This version doesn't seem valid either, as we know that the Phoenicians had inhabited places that were much rockier than Ios. Finally, according to the prevailing version, Ios took its name from the violets (Greek "ion") that fill its countryside each spring. The island has been related with the death of the poet Homer, creating a myth that in the course of the centuries turned into a tradition.

Inscriptions and coins, but mainly texts of the ancient historians Stravon, Pausanias and Herodotus, give proof of the fact that the great poet died and was buried in Ios, the birthplace of his mother, Klymeni. Travellers in Greece in the 17th-19th century do not omit mentioning the evident delight of the inhabitants of the island in showing the visitors Homer's tomb at the area of Plakoto. During the classical period, Ios joined its forces with the Athenian League to avoid being occupied by the Persians, and thus established a democracy. The inscriptions from that era show that the inhabitants spoke the Ionian dialect and worshipped the ancestral Athenian god Pithius Apollo, as well as the protector of the Ionians, Fytalmius Poseidon. In 338 B.C. after the battle of Cheroneia, Ios came under the rule of Macedonia, and in 315 B.C. regained its independence and became an equal member of the "Islanders' Community". Later on, Ios entered into alliance with Ptolemy Philadelphus (280 B.C.) and the Rhodians (220 B.C.) who had become an important naval power in the Aegean, against the Macedonians.
In the 2th century B.C., the Romans occupied Ios and included it in their "provincia insularum" using it, like the island of Giaros, as a place of exile. During the Byzantine period, the Christians built many churches on the foundations of the pre-existing paganistic temples, using their ancient columns, marbles and inscriptions to give validity to the new religion and to secure the continuity of the religious worship.

Until Ios came under Frankish rule, it suffered a lot from the pirate raids, as its natural harbour was a sheltered anchorage for all ships. At that time, whenever the islanders saw a foreign ship in the port, they would barricade themselves in the castle, sending the oldest women of the island to the port. If they came back, then everything would be all right. If not, then they would have to prepare for battle. In 1204 Ios was occupied by the Crusaders, and up to the 15th century it was ruled by the noble family of Crispi, forming part of the Duchy of Naxos. The Crispi rebuilt the castle on the ruins of the old one to protect the island from the pirates. But in 1537, Hairedin Barbarossa, the Turkish pirate, occupied the Duchy of Naxos, together with Ios. During the following years, Ios was occupied by the Turks and devastated by the pirates, which continued to plague the entire Aegean Sea region. Yet, the island kept its Greek identity, and in 1770 sided with the Russians, who were at war with the Turks, in order to regain its freedom. At that time the island had 1400 inhabitants. In the Greek War of Independence against the Turks, in 1821, Ios took part with 24 equipped ships. During the same period, a war ship was constructed on the island, while Ios also had a school with about 100 children.

The final liberation came with the incorporation of Ios in the modern Greek State, which was founded by the signature of the protocol of London on the 10th of March 1829.

Read 2993 times Last modified on Tuesday, 09 December 2008 12:50

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