Ios # travel notes

on board the Champion Jet, Milos to Ios


Not the Champion Jet (I wish…)

Ios was not in the initial plan. It was added as an afterthought, at the suggestion of my trusted travel agent – who also happens to be my sister – when we had to work around unsuitable connections. Our next stop was supposed be Crete. Looking at the map, the distance seemed right (I reckoned about three hours on a fast ferry) and the two islands are popular tourist destinations, enough to  warrant a direct ferry route.  That’s what I thought. I should have known  better.

I should have remembered that the geographical boundaries identifying the different island groups have been extended to ferry routes. For example, a liner servicing islands of the Cyclades group will not necessarily make a stop at an island in the Dodecanese, even a neighbouring one.

Thus, the journey from Milos to Herakleion would have been a twelve-hour ordeal, involving a change of ferries and a five-hour long break at the port of Santorini. That’s when a good travel agent comes in handy. Her alternative plan was an overnight stay in Ios, a day at the beautiful Manganari beach and departure for Herakleion the next evening. We did exactly that – four days later.

It was dark when we arrived and Chora was glowing. The minute we checked in the hotel we hurried back out on a reconnaissance walk. For the night was young, and so, ahem, were we…
















Travel tip: just because you did a thorough research on-line, do not assume you have deciphered the mysteries of Greek ferries island routes. Do check with a travel agent – well informed ones are in the best position to untangle the coil of possible combinations, timetables and frequencies that fluctuate by season (and may even differ from year to year). An agent will also book your tickets and, if your trip starts at Piraeus, direct you to the right dock and save you some extra sweating when you find yourself at the wrong end and realise that Piraeus is a bloody big port.

Photos (mostly) by Konstantinos Implikian

milos #16 element S

I parked the car when the dirt road began to feel particularly tricky underneath the wheels of my tiny rental car.  It wasn’t visible yet, but I knew we were close because we had almost reached sea level. On foot, we took the last turn and there it was, crawling up into the mountain, in all its eerie glory – the old Sulphur Mine of Milos.


Milos is an amalgam of nature’s opposite forces. Volcanic eruptions may have shaken, resized and reshaped the island, but they were also responsible for its multi layered landscape, rich in minerals and geothermal activity; a topography that ranges from spectacular to purely cinematic. Yet, the most cinematic feature of all in my view, bears the distinctive signature of the Human Hand.




Sulphur was extracted sporadically by the ancient Greeks, who used it for religious purification or as a disinfectant. They also applied it on wool for its softening and bleaching properties.

Industrial-scale sulphur mining started on Milos in the last quarter of the 19th century.  The mine operated intermittently until 1958, when technological advances made the recovery of sulphur from petroleum and natural gas possible, and significantly cheaper. Mining had now become unprofitable and production stopped completely.


When activities ceased, furniture and equipment was left behind. Some objects were removed but those that remain became integral components of a larger tableau, elements of which we have pieced together over the past few days. Remember when we peered through giant inverted binoculars or listened to the silence echoing voices of the past, through windows of decay? When we gazed over rusty surfaces, seeing without touching, afraid to break the spell?  Or when we were absorbed by the desolate beauty of objects – once functional and useful – now laying scattered, abandoned?

We left when the sun was still high. I turned to take a last look. The place seemed tranquil, mysterious, eerie – the scent of sulphur lingering strong. I wondered why sulphur has been associated with demons. If we waited until sunset, would they come out to dance after dusk?





Old sulphur mines, Paliorema

23 June 2015