We could see the island of Syros from the front door of the windmill. Each day it beckoned on the horizon, and one afternoon we finally boarded a ferry for a quick visit to meet our tantalizing neighbor. Indeed, as soon as we arrived, it became clear that we should have budgeted more than just one afternoon for Syros.
The island of Syros is home to Ermoupoli, the capital town of the Cyclades. Ermoupoli stretches over two hilltop regions that seem to be locked in a minor historical competition best symbolized by the large Roman Catholic Church topping one hill (Ano Syros) and the large Greek Orthodox Church capping the other.
The hills themselves are an incredible maze of staircases, bougainvilleas, and beautiful views. Without any map or plan, we walked up both hills, exploring the many tiny walkways and vistas.
The modern bustling city towards the water’s edge is large enough to feel like a proper Mediterranean town, complete with marble squares, neoclassical architecture, and an abundance of shopping, restaurants, and activities. The city is known as a home of commerce, even surpassing Athens for a period in the 19th century. It is also one of the few places in the region that experienced the Renaissance, as is reflected in the design and beauty of the city itself.
We saw very few other tourists the entire time we explored Ermoupoli. Unfortunately, with only an afternoon and limited ferry schedules, we could not linger as long as we wanted. If I were to go again, I would try to time a visit to coincide with one of the island’s summer music festivals, and I would linger longer to experience its traditional food, art and culture.
The town has a special feel, more cosmopolitan than the other cities of the archipelago. If you are looking for a distinctly non-touristy destination with a profoundly Mediterranean atmosphere, Syros and its city of Ermoupoli is well worth the stop.