Tuesday, 12 September 2017

IOS - DISCOVERING NEVERLAND


Ios is an island steeped in stories and legends. The tomb of Homer resides in the north and its historical theatres crumble by the roadsides on the hills meandering into the Hora. While it may be shunned as a place for school leavers looking for cheap drinks and a sunny place to get bronzed and drunk, the island's history and ancient buildings are as prevalent as its current reputation as one of the most vibrant party islands of the Cyclades.  We didn't let the hypnotic lure of five drinks for a euro, or the constant boom of dance music at our hostel stop us from exploring this often underrated island properly.

We'd heard talk of the Neverland Boys, a content creating collective who had been based in Ios and who had christened one of the secret coves 'Never Bay.' It's easy to see how Ios could be associated with the land where people never grow up: a place of ancient immortal Gods, a place constantly rumbling with the throng of the young, a place of cliff jumping and swimming in secret lagoons, a place of adventures into the dark and vast mountains, a place where time is never planned.

Much cheaper than Santorini, we stayed at the infamous Far Out Beach Club, and were picked up by a shuttle bus from our boat and ferried to the resort on Mylopotas Beach on the west of the island. We'd opted to stay in the little glamping huts the beach club has to offer as they were only £10 each for two nights, based on 3 of us sharing. They were pretty basic, but if a simple bed's all you're looking for, they do the job. If you want a little bit more comfort, there are plenty of other options to choose from. Likewise, if you want to stay a little more centrally, try Francesco's in the main village of Ios. It's more of an actual hostel, and provides a bit more of a relaxed vibe that Far Out, where most people are dancing on tables by 5pm.

Read on to find out more about the amazing spots and secret places Ios has to offer. It's not just a place for partying until 5am every night, though this certainly adds to its charm and aura of a place where anything can happen. 


FIND NEVER BAY/ THE BLUE LAGOONS

  Frolicking like mermaids on the Never Bay rocks
 When you wish you were a fish so you could look at this all day, every day 

Approaching the lagoon. Note how blue the water becomes further in to the rocks.



Finding Never Bay almost lives up to its namesake. While sitting on a beach in the south of Ios, watching the sun edge closer and closer to the sea, we dishearteningly wondered whether never ever finding Never Bay was a possibility. It's certainly not easy - we spent hours driving about on quads, looking at hand drawn maps and swimming to land from a little boat whose driver had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. However, he took us around a number of lagoons and dive spots until we spotted some people frolicking on rocks in the distance.

The journey is worth it. The sea is clear straight to the bottom even right out in open water. The further closer to the coves the little boat got, the more the waters changed to deep shimmering turquoise, rocks glimmering like huge opals and diamonds beneath the waves. 

This was my favourite day on our Greek Island trip, and the adventure to get there makes it even more of an experience. Likewise, it's fun to get off the beaten track, to go somewhere breathtaking that isn't yet over saturated by Instagram or plagued by crowds. Talk to some people who live on the island and they might give you some pointers on amazing, secret, turquoise lagoons and dive spots. We managed to chat to and get tips from an Australian diver who'd been exploring the caves and coves of Ios for the past 40 years and still wasn't finished. 

EXPLORE THE MOUNTAINS 

One of Ios's many tiny churches, with overgrown, ancient olive gardens in the background
Another beautiful roadside church at the top of the hills in the heart of Ios

Driving to Manganari Beach from Hora is around a half hour journey. The road cuts right through the heart of Ios, taking you through the mountains that tower in the distance from the port and Mylopotas Beach. The further you get in to the hills, the smaller and smaller you start to feel. We passed no other quads, bikes or cars for a long time, and the only sign of life in this wilderness are the multiple, tiny churches that decorate the hills like little milestones.

Sweeping, winding roads traverse up and down the landscape, and the views down to the bright blue shallow waters of the beaches far below juxtapose the darkness of the arid brown soil of the mountains. Driving back to the Hora on the cusp of sunset through the hills was a spectacular sight, with light beams streaming through the gaps in the peaks, and the horizon line a hazy, deep blue you could get lost in if you weren't being a responsible driver...

IOS MAIN TOWN

Sunset from these old windmills (hidden behind a wall) provide epic, dappled views of the main town

Blue domed churches, nodding towards Ios's neighbouring Santorini, flank the entrance to the bottom of the Hora


Thanks to the aforementioned fact that a lot of Ios's visitors were up to 5am the night before, the roads, farther flung beaches and Hora are extremely peaceful throughout the day. Spend time exploring the bountiful amount of cafes, boutique shops and classic Greek streets. Shops of interest include a clothes boutique where you can paint your own designs on tshirts, and a shop selling awesome customised vintage clothes and hand crafted tshirts, singlets and bags.

If you have more time to explore, you must go to see Homer's tomb in the north of the island. More empty beaches and mountain ranges open up into views of the island of Iraklia to the east and those salty, hypnotic horizons.


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