If you’re going to Santorini, be sure to bring some elbow grease because you’ll be rubbing up against scores of thousands of people flocking there to see the iconic cliffside, the sunken volcano called the Caldera just across the harbor, and the sunsets that are a magical lure.
You can get all that and more, however, on Milos, about 95 miles away and a 4 ½ hour boat ride that’s worth it because you’ll be leaving behind the hordes and heading for a place of sweet serenity in comparison and just as much beauty.
It’s the southernmost of the sun-washed Cyclades islands and has a volcanic oasis and all the postcard-perfect whitewashed Greek village homes you’d ever want to see. It is formed around a central caldera that looks like it’s made of moon rocks and has the most beaches of any of the islands in the group, minus most of the tourists who don’t go off the beaten path.
In a feature for The New York Times, Michaela Trimble wrote of why people should go there, one reason being that, “it’s delightfully untrodden compared to its more famous neighbors, Santorini and Mykonos.”
Like most of the Greek islands in ancient times it was an important spot for mineral trade and during the Neolithic period, the ancient Minoans exported Milos’s obsidian to the neighboring Aegean island of Crete, whose residents used the volcanic glass to make weapons.
For the history buffs, Milos is also where the famous statue of Aphrodite, also known as Venus de Milo, was discovered in 1820 by amateur archaeologist Olivier Voutier. It was taken to the Louvre in Paris, where museum officials have kept the stolen treasure that for some reason Greece hasn’t demanded back.
These days most people who go to Milos are looking for, well, sometimes nothing, that being no crowds, no cars, no noise, just as much quiet and sun as they can soak up, to swim where you won’t bump into someone in the water and then back on your blanket on the sand, to eat at a family restaurant that doesn’t have numbers on the table and you can’t hear yourself talk over the din.
Take your pick of quiet fishing villages, secluded caves, countless beaches – some reachable only boat which insures you won’t have too many people near you – and quaint, authentic restaurants offering fresh catch and regional Greek wines.
“This tranquil island is quickly gaining appeal for travelers who want Aegean charm without the crowds,” which pretty much means it’s on the way to being just as overrun as Santorini or Mykonos so go before someone else does.
There’s plenty of accommodations to choose from but several were singled out in the piece, leading off with Skinopi, a minimalist boutique hotel is set above the small fishing village of Skinopi on a rocky ridge overlooking the Aegean Sea.
Its nine pristine acres are carpeted in wild sage, lavender, and thyme and planted with olive trees that produce the hotel’s own extra-virgin olive oil. Designed by the Athens-based architecture firm Kokkinou-Kourkoulas and the landscape artist Elli Pagalou, known for her work on the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in the capital, the property features three stone glass-sided villas inspired by traditional fishermen’s houses.
Other recommendations included the Melian Boutique Hotel & Spa, overlooking the village of Pollonia on the northwestern part of the island, on the protected bay of Pelekouda, another luxury unit of 15 whitewashed suites.
Salt Suites, a white 10-room refuge also in Pollonia is in the traditional Cycladic style with wooden floors painted in white and pebbled walkways leading to the Aegean and the suites, When you’re hungry, Medusa, in the quiet fishing village of Mandrakia, serves traditional dishes like smoked eel and fava beans, salted mastelo cheese with local honey, and grilled octopus procured daily from the village’s fishermen
O! Hamos! Tavern is a butcher-shop-turned-tavern at Papikinos Beach in Adamas that offers outdoor dining and direct access to the sea. Dishes are based on recipes handed down by the owner Irene Psatha’s grandmother and produced with fresh ingredients sourced from her family farm in the island’s verdant Halakas Mountains.
Armenaki, overlooking the Aegean in Pollonia, offers fish inspired by Dionysus – the Olympian god of wine and pleasures and is a trendy spot for wine lovers, but the real draw is the menu with seafood meze, Greek-style tapas, and specialties like baked scorpion fish spiced with sage, octopus marinated in tangy vinegar, and karpouzopita, sweet watermelon pie.