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Why Should I Visit Iraklia?

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Iraklia at a glance

A place of pristine beauty between Ios, Naxos and Amorgos, tiny Iraklia is the westernmost of the Small Eastern Cyclades.

A favourite destination of nature lovers, groups of friends, and romantic couples looking for a different kind of holiday, Iraklia island offers a unique version of the simplicity and charm of a Cycladic landscape. It is an island that awakens the senses and encourages endless exploration: in the exotic waters around its crenelated coastline or on its mountain paths with stunning views of the Aegean. A miniature paradise where visitors engage in reflection and recharge their batteries beneath the dazzling Aegean sun, it is perfect for those who love authenticity with a small dose of mystery.

5 Reasons to visit Iraklia
  1. To wander the twisting cobbled alleys of Panagia, the Cycladic capital of white cube-like houses with blue shutters, flower-filled courtyards, and chimneys topped with clay pots.
  2. To discover Merichas Bay, an impressive landscape of rugged natural beauty surrounded by 100-metre-high cliffs where rare species of birds such as wild pigeons and vultures nest. The enchanting setting is completed by two pebble beaches.
  3. To swim in the crystal-clear waters of Alimia Bay, where you will see the famous wreck of a German World War II seaplane. The sunken craft is visible with a mask from the surface, as the sea is only 7 metres deep, although the more daring will want to dive down to photograph it. Access to the bay is by boat or via a path to the Cave of John the Baptist.
  4. To explore the Cave of John the Baptist, the largest in the Cyclades and one of the most impressive geological monuments in the Aegean. Its rich display of stalagmites, stalactites, moonmilk and natural columns, together with a small pool, make it a fascinating experience. The location also offers magnificent sea views as a reward for the sometimes challenging 45-minute hike from Panagia. On the saint’s feast day (28th August), an evening service is held in the first chamber of the cave. Attended by hundreds of pilgrims holding candles, it makes for a spectacular sight.
  5. To visit Livadi Castle, an impressive Hellenistic fortress with tall square towers. You can also see the remains of dwellings, threshing floors, and two temples dedicated to the god Zeus and the goddess Tyche. The location offers stunning views of Mourtos Bay.
The top 5 beaches

Livadi: The largest and busiest beach of Iraklia has golden yellow sand, tamarisk trees providing natural shade, and shallow crystal-clear waters. It faces the tiny island of Venetiko and has views of Schoinousa. Ideal for young children, who can swim and play in the water, it is 20 minutes from the port.

Tourkopigado: One of the island’s most exotic beaches, with white pebbles and blue-green waters in a fjord-like bay. Access is by road or a 30-minute hike along a trail (2.3 km from Panagia). The goats on the slopes of the surrounding hills make for a picturesque detail and the location is ideal for lovers of peace and seclusion.

St George: A large sandy beach next to the port, with clear turquoise waters and tamarisk trees providing natural shade. The eateries here offer a range of food and snack options.

Vourkaria: A small cove that stands out for its crystal-clear green waters and pebbled beach. Although access is difficult (it is a 90-minute hike along the trail that leads to John the Baptist’s Cave), the landscape and the cooling sea are ample reward.

Karvounolakos: The incredible colour of the sea at this small beach between Merichas Bay and Alimia Bay will make you want to dive in as soon as you get here. Access is only by private boat or water taxi.

Don’t leave Iraklia without…
  • Climbing up to the small church of the Prophet Elijah, at the top of Mount Papas (420 m), to admire the panoramic view of the coastline of Irakleia and the surrounding islands (Naxos, Ios, Santorini, Schinoussa, Amorgos, Paros, Anafi and Koufonisia).
  • Exploring the ghost village of Saint Athanasius, an excellent example of folk architecture with stone houses.
  • Taking a water taxi for a day trip to the south-east coast and dazzling beaches such as Alimia and Karvounolakos.
  • Watching the sunset from the rocky beaches of Xylombatis and Trimbounas on the north-west side of the island as it paints the sea with shades of purple and creates a magical spectacle.
  • Organising a boat trip to the rocky Avelonisia islets and the tiny island of Venetiko and spending the day swimming in their exotic waters. According to legend, the two Avelonisia were formed by the rocks hurled at Odysseus by the Cyclops from his cave (opposite the Cave of John the Baptist).
Tasty experiences
  • Taste the excellent local fava (split-pea puree) with its characteristic velvety texture.
  • Enjoy local goat stuffed with rice and baked in a clay pot or braised.
  • Try local cheeses such as spicy kopanisti, sour xinomizithra, and hard sklirotiri.
  • Sample pitaridia (homemade noodles) and aranista (lentils cooked with fermented wheat).
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with melitinia (sweet mizithra cheese pies with cinnamon).
  • Don’t miss the island’s fresh fish and seafood, from lobster linguine to chowder.
  • Iraklia produces excellent thyme honey. Taste it in traditional xerotigana (deep-fried strips of sweet dough) or the local pasteli (sesame bar).

On Iraklia, a series of petroglyphs (rocks with incised spirals or concentric circles) found between the port of St George and St Athanasius have long intrigued experts and non-experts alike. Locals call them “compasses” or “pointers”, suggesting that they might have been carved by ancient inhabitants of the island for orientation purposes. Other theories are that they are record of astronomical knowledge from ancient Cycladic civilisations or marks made by pirates. Whatever the truth, they remain an unsolved mystery.

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