Return to Sifnos

Something I’ve learned about living abroad is that the one thing you really cannot get has of way of becoming what you long for most. That living-in-a-hotel-with-my-colleagues lifestyle in Yemen made me long to be in crowded streets with people so much that the one day we spent in Geneva after flying out of Sana’a was such a thrill that I’ll never forget the almost sick-to-my-stomach excitement of drinking cold white wine and cheese fondue on a busy cobblestone street. Here in Algeria the thing I’m missing the most is going on long walks and hikes. So on our recent trip to Sifnos, we did a long hike every day and wow did it satisfy my craving.

As I previously mentioned, we loved Sifnos so much on our Greek islands trip in 2021 that we jumped at the chance to go back. And it was just as good as we remembered! Our Dutch friends and some of their family were there, and our friend who lives in Paris also joined us. Getting to Greece from Algeria was a fairly smooth process, although COVID tests in Algiers and arriving to the Athens airport hotel at 1:30 am only to find I had booked us the wrong day and the hotel was full was not fun. Lucky for us, the Athens airport hotel had one room that reeked of cigarette smoke so badly that they weren’t going to rent it. Did we want that room? I was so pooped at that point after a full day of travel (Algiers to Paris, a long layover in Paris, then on to Athens) that if they had said “A murder just happened in that room, do you want it?” I’d have been like “How many hours ago was murder?” Anyways we slept in the smoke-filled room and made our way to the ferry the next afternoon. A spinach pie at the port, and a pretty lovely two-and-a-half hour ferry and we’d arrived in Sifnos!

The sun was just starting to set as we arrived and the soft light and chill vibe felt wonderful.

The following morning, we knew what our first hike would be: The one we got so, so lost on the previous year! We started walking through the streets on the adorable village of Apollonia (we stayed nearby to Apollonia) and then up into the mountains. On very clearly marked paths. So either were were oblivious dummies in 2020, or the island of Sifnos invested in better marking their many trails in the previous year. I like to think the head of the Sifnos tourism board read my blog post and got to work. The hike was a pure delight. The freedom of getting exercise in the open air and having no Algerian police tailing us! We arrived to Vathay Beach, our destination. The hike ended literally on a boardwalk right on the beach. And the beach was small, scenic, serene, and had a spattering of tavernas. We chose one called To Tisikali and we positively rejoiced in ice cold beers, refreshing tzatziki, zucchini balls, and grilled squid. Then, we swam.

The following day, it was time for another freedom-embracing hike!!! This one we walked from our hotel in Apollonia to Chrisopigi beach. We went through old agricultural areas, past lots of stone fences, past a music school where kids were playing the guitar, up into rolling hills where we saw horses, cows, and donkeys and where the stunning mountaintop village of Kastro was visible in the distance. The end of this hike is truly spectacular, because you walk from the town of Faros, on a (short) manmade trail up a mountain to connect to Chrisopigi beach. The view is wonderful, from atop the cliff, looking down at the bay. After this hike, we met our friends at Apokofto Tavern, one of the best tavernas on the island.

That evening our friend Sarah arrived from Paris and she joined our hiking club. (And slept in a bed next to us in our hotel room, but it was cozy). The following day, we hiked from Apollonia to Platis Gialos, which is one of the more happening spots on the island, and the town where THE island hot spot, the restaurant Omega 3, is located. We hoped we could just saunter up to Omega 3 post-hike and procure a table for the three of us hikers, and the six-person Dutch contingency. The hike was awesome, but the Omega 3 folks informed us that they were booked solid for lunch and dinner through October and we had no chance. Of course when I told this to our Dutch friend Daniel, who has FOMO and is very persuasive, he marched back over and somehow secured us a dinner reservation for nine people for our last night on Sifnos. Anyways, we ate a still very delicious lunch at less famous restaurant and it was just fine. More than fine, really. Even though the menus on Sifnos aren’t large – grilled squid, shrimp, meatballs, dips, cheese, zucchini balls, salads — they are SO GOOD. (I could do a whole other post on how the thing I miss the most is big good salads. But I’ve already picked the hiking thing, so I’m sticking with it).

And for the most challenging hike of the trip, the three of us hiked a hillier, rockier part of the island that ended at the Panagia Poulati monastery, which is only accessible by foot. I did nearly 28,000 steps that day! So we certainly earned the fried cheese, tzatziki, zucchini balls, and beers we tucked in to at Maragarita in Artemonas afterward. (Unlike the previous days, this taverna is in an adorable town square, rather than on beach).

While this trip was more about perfect days of hikes, beach, and food), we did have some fun in the evenings, as well. Lovely dinners at places like O Drakakis and Cafe Mosaic. One night Adam, Sarah and I were just about to give up finding Havana, a communist bar whose quirky owner we’d heard lots about when I glanced into an open doorway and saw about 200 empty Havana Club rum bottles piled up like a bad art project. We had found it! We had some very strong and delicious mojitos. Oh, and not to forget the final night’s group dinner at Omega 3. The crunchy shrimp tacos, smoked fava bean spread, and scallops were just as good as I’d remembered. Really, everything from Sifnos is just so good. I said it last time, and I’ll say it again: We’ll be back!

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