The first time I came to the arid Greek island of Ios last year, our transfer driver informed us that people only come to Ios for 3 reasons; to drink, to party, and to have sex. Although we were certainly ticking boxes with a ‘party, gyros, sleep, sunbake, repeat’ routine last year, this year I took a more well-rounded approach to the island, and found there’s actually a lot more to Ios than initially meets the eye… well maybe not a lot more… but definitely more than the 100m radius we stayed within which catered for our nightlife, gyros and baking loop last year. With more Melbournians on the island than actually back in Melbourne, it was a wonderful few days of meeting up with old friends, enjoying food you had to consume with a knife and fork, and sipping sweet summer cocktails whilst watching the sun set over a magnificent view of the Aegean. Here are my tips on how to make the most of all the best bits of Ios.
The Best Sunsets
Obviously, you’re in Greece, on an island; as long as you are above sea level, your chances of seeing an incredible sunset are pretty high. One of our favourite spots was what the locals called ‘Top Church’. Set high up on the hill overlooking the port, this charming old church big enough to only fit 8 chairs is the perfect spot where locals and tourists alike come to take in Ios’s nightly sunset show. A word of warning – steer clear if you are not wearing any knickers; save that show for after the sun goes down. We brought along a few drinks and loved the chill vibes of this magical spot.
Standing at the entrance of the Church overlooking this magical view
Our second fave was Ios Club where despite having to backtrack up the massive cliff-face after missing the turn off, we enjoyed beautiful cocktails in a positively Zen setting. The background music was hauntingly beautiful in a church-like way, and although it was mentioned that it felt like we were waiting for the arrival of Christ, it was pretty magical when the ethereal music reached a climax just as the sun set before changing to more of a lounge vibe. This was the perfect backdrop for an impromptu photoshoot and as always, the Grecian sunset did not disappoint.
The Best Day Parties
My favourite place to chill out by the pool in the arvo is Hermes Bar. Halfway between town and Far Out Beach Club, you can be sure to find DJs playing summer tunes, a massive cocktail selection and one of the best views on the island. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a Monday, head down for one of their infamous BBQ’s where you can feed your face on fresh salads, vegan treats and BBQ meats by the poolside. Their frozen daiquiri range is as varied as Elton John’s specs selection with my ultimate winners being Elderflower and Lychee. They’ll even whip up a cucumber and mint daiquiri if you want to lull your innards into a false sense of security…Check out Hermes’ Facey Page here.
Once you’ve soaked up the rays at Hermes and made lots of fun new friends, you can continue your walk down to Far Out Beach Club where depending on what DJ is playing, the party kicks off from late afternoon. Most events don’t have a cover charge and as the night escalates, you can expect to hear your favourite bangers pumping over the speakers with a back drop of beautiful bikini clad humans, the beach, and aesthetically pleasing pools which may or may not contain questionable floaties as the day progresses and the party goers get more wild (Let’s just say, I wasn’t brave enough to go in for a dip)… The Long Island Iced Teas are lethal… But day drinking can just be so fun!
A Long Island Iced Tea or two in at Far Out Beach Club on their 4th July party
The Best Food and Drinks
You’re in Greece – so the two gyros a day rule still applies; one when you wake up, and one on your stumble home. For around 2.50 Euro each, you can’t go past these tasty chicken or pork treats. Our favourite gyros stops on Ios were Yummy on the main road, and Golden Pita, in the old town square… And don’t be a flog and go without the garlic sauce because you’re planning on getting some action – everyone has garlic breath from the gyros… You’re definitely going to wake up next to someone who does have garlic breath. Guaranteed. It’s just worth it.
Our new fave place for food that you have to eat with a knife and fork was the Hellenic Social. Just off the main road of Ios, you’ll find this beautifully decked out eatery bursting with fresh food and made to order juices and smoothies. The poached eggs, avo, spinach and mushies was so on point, I could have sworn I was back home on Gertrude St. If you’ve been on the road for a while and craving a Melbourne-style brunch, you can’t go past Hellenic Social. We even popped in to try the Moussaka which was just as amazing… ticking boxes in both Greek and Aussie cuisines… impressive, no?
Enjoying an iced chocolate in the beautiful outdoor area at Hellenic Social
Safe to say we made our way through many a drinks menu on the island, but… this is the best of… so I have to give a mention to Astra Cocktail Bar with their incredible Watermelon Splash cocktail that was made from kiwi syrup, freshly smashed watermelon and… vodka. To say that it went down too easy would be an understatement… Heaven through a straw.
The Best of the Nightlife
Ios is a party island. With a ridiculous amount of bars and clubs, there is something to suit everyone’s taste… and I mean everyone – from getting smashed across the head with a skateboard at Slammer to having a crack at the shot challenge for a sexy singlet at Pash… you’re sure to find whatever makes your soul sing in Ios.
If you’re looking for a way to ease your way into the night, Steps is tucked away in the more ‘residential’ part of the neighbourhood. Away from the other bars and clubs, and decked out with cushions and candles that took me back to my time in Morocco, this bar is the most adorable place to catch up over drinks and actually hear what your friends are saying to you… and they make a killer strawberry Daiquiri. Koko, the bar tender that is so authentically quirky he may actually be from another galaxy, has mad photography skills and is eager to please, right down to the teeny tiny bowl of nuts we got served along with our cocktails. Perfection.
Stepping it up slightly and Astra is the perfect pre drinking venue. With DJs pumping out all your favourite sing alongs and enough emoji cushions to rival any photo booth, I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be, sipping on my Watermelon Splash, getting geared up for a night on the town.
One of the classic pillows at astra *note the Watermelon Splash to the right*
It would be rude not to highlight Shush Bar for the second year in a row as one of our favourite bars on the island. For a very cheap entry fee you get a set of headphones for the silent disco, and a shot, then it’s a game of who can find the best jam on which station. Plenty of laughs, great staff and crazy fun atmosphere. Also awarded ultimate singlets on the island with their acutely accurate slogan – We’re all mad here.
Enjoying a rare moment all on the same station at Shush Silent Disco
Now that you’re in the zone, Escobar will keep raising you up with their classic remix anthems like Drops of Jupiter, Angel and Paper Planes. The dim dungeon is the perfect venue to hide the messy state you’re now in, and to sweat out the gyros from your system…
Special mentions go to Circus Bar and Coo, as well as the Shot Bar where we had a flaming Harry Potter that nearly took out my eyebrows but was well worth it…
I can’t say with certainty if I’ll ever return to Ios. You know my theory about returning to a destination – especially with a place like Ios; there’s so much to live up to… will it ever be as good a third time round!?