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Sifnos
Σίφνος
Chapel below Kastro
Chapel below Kastro
Geography
GR Sifnos.PNG
Coordinates: 36°59′N 24°40′E / 36.983°N 24.667°E / 36.983; 24.667
Island Chain: Cyclades
Area: 73.942 km² (29 sq.mi.)
Government
Greece Greece
Periphery: South Aegean
Prefecture: Cyclades
Capital: Apollonia
Statistics
Population: 2,442 (as of 2001)
Density: 33 /km² (86 /sq.mi.)
Postal Code: 840 03
Area Code: 22840
License Code: ΕΜ
Website
www.sifnos.gr

Sifnos (Greek: Σίφνος; the spelling Siphnos is obsolete in English but still by convention often used to refer to the island in ancient times) is an island municipality in the Cyclades island group in Greece. The main town, near the center, is known as Apollonia (pop. 942) home of the island's folklore museum and library. The village's name is thought to come from an ancient temple of Apollo on the site of the church of Panayia Yeraniofora. The second-largest town is Artemonas (744), thought to be named after an ancient temple of Apollo's sister-goddess Artemis, located at the site of the church of Panayia Kokhi. The village of Kastro (101), built on top of a high cliff on the island's northwestern shore on the site of the ancient city of Siphnos, today has extensive medieval remains and is the location of the island's archeological museum. The port settlement, on the west coast of the island is known as Kamares (188).[1]

Contents

Geography

Sifnos lies in the Cyclades between Serifos and Milos, west of Delos and Paros, about 130 km (80 nautical miles) from Piraeus (Athens' port). It has an area of 74 km² and is 15 km long and 7.5 km wide. and a shoreline of 70 km, with a permanent population of 2442. The island is reached on the ferries which run on the Piraeus- Kythnos- Serifos- Sifnos- Milos- Kimolos line. There are also infrequent sailings to other islands in the Cyclades.

History

Sifnos was inhabited by human beings from at least 4000 BCE.[2] Archeological evidence indicates the island was within the mainstream of Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Cycladic civilization. The island was very wealthy in ancient times, thanks to its gold, silver, and lead, which were being mined there as early as the 3rd millennium BCE.[3] Proof of this is the treasury which the Siphnians built at Delphi in the 6th century BCE to house their offerings. According to Pausanias, these mines were obliterated by floods in ancient times, a disaster which some attributed to the people of the island suspending their tribute out of greed.[4][5] Modern scholars suggest that some of the mines flooded because they had eventually been dug to a depth below sea level[6], while the majority of them, situated far from the sea, went probably exhausted[7]. Remains of ancient mines, some dating back to prehistoric times, are still to be seen on the island, most notably at Ay. Sostis, and remains of ancient fortifications, dating from the third millennium to the sixth century BCE, have been found at Ay. Andreas, Ay. Nikitas, and Kastro[8]. Another indication of Sifnos's wealth is the fact that it was one of the first places in Greece to mint coins, beginning around 600 BCE.[9]

During the extensive Greek migrations which occurred beginning probably in the 12th century BCE, Sifnos was mostly populated by Ionian Greeks from Athens. The island appears only rarely in the subsequent ancient history of Greece. In the sixth century BCE it was invaded by pirates from Samos. In the fifth century BCE, Sifnos was an official member of the Greek defensive alliance formed to fight the Persian Wars. In the next century the island was briefly taken over by the Persians but liberated by a fleet sent by Alexander the Great.[10]

Little is known of Sifnos during the Roman and Byzantine eras, though three Roman sarcophagi remaining in the streets of Kastro and a collection of 80 Byzantine coins in the Museum there testify to substantial continued population during those times. In the early 14th century Sifnos came under the power of the Italian or Spanish Hospitaller Januli da Corogna, who proclaimed the island independent from the Sanudi dynasty which then ruled most of the Cyclades area. The Corognas ruled Sifnos for over a hundred years; around 1440 as a result of a dynastic marriage power over the island passed to a Bolognese family, the Gozzadini, who ruled until 1617. Though both these dynasties became thoroughly Hellenized, they retained their Roman Catholic religion.[11]

Little is also known of Sifnos during the Ottoman rule of the Cyclades from 1537 on. It seems likely that, as in most of the Cyclades, Ottoman rule on Sifnos was fairly loose, consisting mainly of the collection of taxes, with the islanders largely administering their own affairs. By the early 17th century Sifnos was a significant commercial center, and from 1821 the island played an important role in the Greek national revolution.[12]

Notable figures from Sifnos in modern times include the educator and revolutionary leader Nikolaos Chrysogelos (1780-1858), who served as Greece's Minister of Education, and the chef Nikolaos Tselementes (1878 - 1958), who wrote a classic cookery book still used in Greece today.[13] The island's rich clay veins, sunny weather and temperature have made Sifnos a capital of pottery in the Aegean, with unique jars and pots that are a kind of "trademark" of the island. They are frequent the Sifnian everyday life, such as ashtrays, cooking and food vessels, "masteles", "foufoudes" (kind of chimneys) etc. Locally, 'Sifnios' was a variant word for potter. Initially the oldest potteries were found in central regions such as Artemon and Ano Petali to avoid pirate attacks.

Historical population

Year Communal population Change Island population Change
1981 - - - -
1991 - 103 1,960 -
2001 - - 2,442 +482/+24.59%

Communities

  • Apollonia
  • Artemonas
  • Faros
  • Kastro
  • Platys Gialos
  • Sifnos, also Kamares Sifnou
  • Vathy
  • Herronisos

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ Barber, Robin, Blue Guide Greece. 6th ed., London, A & C Black, 1995, p. 665
  2. ^ Maranti, Anna Siphnos: The Brillance of Apollo. Athens, Toubis, 2002, p. 18
  3. ^ Fitton, J. Lesley, Cycladic Art, London, British Museum, 1989, p. 13, 57.
  4. ^ Herodotus III.57
  5. ^ Pausanias X.11
  6. ^ Bury, J. D. and Meiggs, Russell, A History of Greece to the Death of Alexander the Great. 4th ed., New York, St. Martin's Press, 1978, p. 135
  7. ^ Some Aspects of Lead and Silver Mining in the Aegean, VII
  8. ^ Barber pp. 665-666.
  9. ^ Maranti p. 20.
  10. ^ Hammond, N. G. L., A History of Greece to 322 bc, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1967, pp. 82, 88, 199, 226, 608.
  11. ^ Hetherington, Paul, The Greek Islands: Guide to the Byzantine and Medieval Buildings and their Art. London, Quiller, 2001, pp. 301-302
  12. ^ Maranti pp. 27-28
  13. ^ Maranti p. 34, 42.

External links

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Understand

Sifnos [1] is a small island of about 35 sq. miles with a population of about 2,200, located within the Western Cyclades. Inhabited since very early times, Sifnos's main claim to fame in ancient the ancient world was for its gold and silver mines, some remains of which still exist, as a result of which the island became known by the 6th cent. BCE as one of the most prosperous places in Greece. This wealth was reflected in the Treasury of the Siphnians at Delphi, which was reputed to be one of the most opulent buildings at that shrine; its foundations may still be seen there today. The Greek historian Pausanias records that the island's gold mines were destroyed in an earthquake caused by Apollo after the islanders, out of greed, sent as tribute to Delphi a gold-gilded egg instead of the solid gold one which they had traditionally sent before. By Hellenistic times, the island's golden age had passed, and its subsequent history is subsumed in the general history of the Cyclades.

In its geography and climate Sifnos falls naturally into two halves, the western part, where most ferries land, being bare and rugged, while the eastern part, which most visitors find more amenable, has somewhat more gentle terrain and is greener. Despite increasing tourism it retains much of its traditional atmosphere.

Get in

By boat

Daily or almost daily fast boats and steamship ferries connect Sifnos with Piraeus during high season (the ride takes about five hours by steamship, about half that by fast catamaran). On summer weekends and holidays some of the fast boats can sell out, so if you're going at these times you may want to buy a ticket in advance. In summer there are buses every hour or two from Kamares to most other points on the island. There are usually also taxis waiting when ferries arrive, but sometimes these can fill up. Some hotels offer transfers from the port at rates that can be anything from free to more than a taxi; if interested, ask your hotel when you reserve.

All ferry and high speed companies : schedules, connections, availability and prices, between Sifnos, other Greek islands & Piraeus port (Athens) is here [2]

By plane

Sifnos does not have an airport of its own. If you want to travel by plane, go to nearby Milos and take the ferry to Sifnos from there.

Get around

Sifnos is one of the easier Greek islands to get around with or without a car. Roads are generally good. The conveniently frequent and reliable bus system goes most places the visitor would want, and taxis are easily available with affordable fixed rates between towns. Sifnos is small enough so that walking will often get you where you want to go, provided you can handle the hills, though in summer you should take water and avoid the heat of the day, since as in most Cycladic islands there is little shade.

  • The island capital of Apollonia is actually part of a complex of clustered villages spread along a hillside which merge into one another. It's where most shops and services are, including banks, the post office, and a number of tourist-oriented shops and bars. There is a mini-"scene" there on summer evenings with locals and tourists going among the tavernas, cafes, and other establishments. There's an interesting Folk Art Museum (open daily April to October tel +30 22840 33730) in the main square. The other major village of the cluster, farther up the hill, is Artemonas, less lively but more atmospheric with cubistic Cycladic architecture than Apollonia. The walk between the two is steep but only takes about twenty minutes, and offers many beautiful view points.
  • Though Sifnos lacks any major antiquities, there are some minor ancient sites which may interest some visitors. The remains of some of the ancient mines are marked on some maps, and there is an island walking tour offered in summer (information at the Aegean Thesaurus Travel Agency office in Apollonia) which takes in some of them. The ruins of a Mycenean Citadel can be seen on the hill of Aghios Andreas (named for the church built on the same site,) reached by a steep climb on a path (signposted) leading off to the west of the main road to Vathi, about two km south of central Apollonia. The ruins consist mostly of a wall and just traces of buildings, but they give a good idea of how extensive the site was, and the views are worth the climb. A similar citadel, harder to find, is at Aghios Nikitas, about 5 km NW of Apollonia, north of the road to Cheronisos.
  • Bay of Vathi Many consider this the best beach on the island: though its strip of fine sand is narrow in parts, it's very long and on a beautiful enclosed bay which keeps the water calm. In the past it's been one of the least crowded of the major Cyclades beaches, but recently this is changing with new development. The several beachside tavernas there tend to be good.
  • The cloister of Aghios Simeon, north of Kamares, with a spectacular view on the Bay of Kamares
  • Kastro is the medieval island capital and is worth seeing as an almost perfectly preserved medieval Cycladic town, beautiful and unspoiled. It's on a rocky hilltop right on the sea. You can hike along the coast, or to a tiny beach with restaurant, or to a swimming "place" (rocks, not a beach), or through the fields up into the hills. There's a bus between Kastro and Apollonia/Artemonas. It's also possible to walk the approximately three kilometer path from Kastro to Appolonia, part of it hilly. A longer, twistier path leads from Artemonas down to Panaghia Poulati monastery and from there in a rough track along the sea to Kastro, offering spectacular views. Neither path has much shade. Kastro has a small Archaeological Museum (open Tuesday-Sunday, 08:30-15:00, tel +30 22840 31022) with a few excellent classical pieces. The town's lanes include some Roman sarcophagi as well ancient columns built into some houses, and if you look around you can find (poorly signmarked) a well preserved section of impressively built Classical wall.
  • Cheronisos: fishing village in the barren north part of the island with a very small beach, a few nice tavernas and a traditional pottery place, where the craftsman specializes in "trick" pots, for instance, fill one up with wine, pour the wine out of the spout till it seems empty, set the pitcher down for a moment, then pick it up and start pouring again -- and more wine comes out!
  • Chrisopigi: a small church on a small peninsula at the east of Sifnos, with some beaches nearby
  • Kamares is the island's main port and where almost all arrivals by boat are. Kamares has a Blue Flag beach [3] and an array of restaurants, shops, hotels, and other services, along with a certain amount of night life. There's not really much there to tempt the visitor to linger, though, and most will prefer to stay up in Apollonia/Artemonas, in rooms in Kastro, or at one of the beach settlements in the southern part of the island.
  • Faros (Sifnos): The beach might be a bit windy, but the octopus at the taverna overviewing the bay is a must
  • Plati Ghialos, a Blue Flag beach, [4] is reputed to be the longest beach in the Cyclades, very built up and crowded in season, and popular with families.
  • Lazarus Beach: a bit further south than Plati Ghialos.

Buy

Sifnos offers little for the avid shopper; even the usual tourist souvenir shops are few. There is however quite a good though pricey jewelry shop in Kastro on the road overlooking the sea. In Apollonia there is a shop on the path leading to Petali that sells interesting old prints, and the Gerontopoulos sweet shop (22840 32207) on the ground floor of the Hotel Anthousa sells local sweet preserves and other foods which may survive a trip home. This hotel/sweet shop also runs a nearby shop on the main shopping lane which sells local foods, including the very good local capers (pickled along with their leaves, and much more pungent and flavorful than typical bottled capers) and the simple but interesting Sifnos wine. Sifnos is also known for its pottery, and shops in Apollonia and Kamares sell attractive goods in a wide range of prices. Perhaps the most worthwhile souvenir would be a pot (quite affordable) from the potter in Cheronisos, described above.

The Book Shop (To Vivliopoleio), with a store in Apollonia (down the street from the post office) and another in Kamares (at the other end of town from the ferry quay) has books about Sifnos and general books in English and other European languages. It's also the place to go for English (and other European language) magazines and newspapers.

There is a drop-off laundry in the Hotel Anthousa/Gerontopoulos sweet shop building in Apollonia, open most hours.

Eat

Sifnos has long had a reputation in Greece for excellent cuisine; but unfortunately, it rarely lives up to it these days of mass tourism, and of imported ingredients and chefs. Good restaurants on the island include Liotrivi in Artemonas: Open year round and offering the most extensive menu on the island, it is a sure bet. The restaurants in Restaurant Row, in Kamares harbor, are also reliably good, and offer variety in style: from fast food, to good local fare, to international (excellent Italian.) On the other side of Kamares Bay, by Aghia Marina, is arguably the most romantic by night Argyris, reputed also, for high quality and service. To Astro and Leonidas in Kastro offer great views and are great places for lunch. The restaurants in Seralia (by Kastro), offer reliably fresh seafood, but they are very seasonal. Good seafood places can also be found in the fishing villages of Faros (for most of the year), and Heronissos (seasonal). Near beaches, the many restaurants at Plati Yialos offer good, family type atmosphere and cuisine; the restaurants at Vathy beach are also good, with traditional menus and good (quiet) ambiance. Off the bus route, if you drive, try the very traditional tavernas in Apokofto bay near Chrisopygi, and in Fasolou beach near Faros. In Kastro, To Konaki cafe/creperie and sweet shop by the bus terminal, has a balcony with good views and traditional sweets; the ekmek, a Greek dessert of Turkish origin, is good here, though very rich. A similar, equally good, and more accessible sweet shop is Gerontopoulos in Apollonia, also by the bus stop. In Artemonas, on the plateia (square), is also the cafe/restaurant Margarita, where you can put together a meal from small plates; the traditional Sifnos chickpea soup, usually made only for Sundays, can be good here. If you are in Apollonia, there are several tavernas, and even funky, nouveau restaurants in the steno to catch a quick lunch or even a leisurely (albeit noisy) dinner during high season. Also in Apollonia, coffee shops, souvlaki stands, and easy breakfast stops abound. Several hotels on the island run full restaurants for guests. Ivariably, these are also open to the public; the quality is usually high, and the views can be breathtaking (look for them in Kamares, Petali, Plati Yialos, etc.)

Kamares, Apollonia, and Artemonas all have grocers and bakeries. Most of the beach resorts and small villages, have at least one small shop which sells a limited range of food items and notions. The two pharmacies of the island are both in Apollonia; you will find them next to, or very near the island's three Banks.

Drink

In Kamares, the ferry port, there's a pretty stylish pub and feet-in-the-sand bar, with cocktails, lounge music, yacht crowds, and the young and hip. It is located at the farthest point of the bay, walking down from the ferry dock all the way, to where the beach begins.

Aside from Kamares, most cafe/bars are in Apollonia. There are a few on the main road that goes past the National Bank, which have balconies or terraces with good views; and more on Apollonia's main street (known as the Steno), a couple of which are of the boomboom-music-dim-lights variety. A more civilized option on that street is Argo, which has pleasant outdoor seating and well chosen recorded jazz and classical music. In Kastro Dolci, by the bus terminal, is a high end bar/creperie shop with international feel, easy music, and great views.

For the gorgeous, the young, and the energetic, there is the all day, and all night beach club at Lazarou. There, you can also experience a heavenly swim off a rocky, but gently descending beach. You can reach it by a short walk, over the hill, past the bus terminal at Plati Yialo; or you can drive to it over a winding, narrow, scary but paved road, starting at the farthest end of the Plati Yialo main drag.

Sleep

The Petali Village Hotel [5] Ano Petali, Sifnos, Greece tel: +30 22840 33024 fax: +30 22840 33391 email: petali@par.forthnet.gr or petali@vernicos.gr. The hotel is perhaps the highest-class hotel on the island, with rooms, suites, and one self-catering apartment set on a hillside with a terrific view on the footpath halfway between Apollonia and Artemonas. (There's also access by car via a roundabout road that ends up in a parking lot behind the hotel.) It has a restaurant, open only in high season, and a pool. Rates are high for Sifnos but so is the hotel's quality, and they sometimes offer significant discounts out of season.

Vathy, considered the best beach on the island, is a growing resort with modest studio hotels and an extensive new fancy resort complex, the Elies. Plati Yialos, the most built up beach, has numerous places to stay.

There are a number of hotels in Kamares, but it's not the best place to stay on the island unless you have an early boat to catch, or you arrive too late to get anywhere else.

There are several places to rent rooms outside of Kastro. Some have patios and shared kitchens.

There are pay camp sites at Kamares (Camping Makis) and Plati Yialos (Camping Plati Yialos.)

  • Sifnos Hotels [6]

Get out

Almost all boats leave from Kamares, going in summer daily or almost daily back to Piraeus or onward to Milos, with less frequent boats to other islands in the Cyclades group. There are several travel agents selling boat tickets in Apollonia and in Kamares.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

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