After work was finished on Santorini, we took a very, very wavy ferry ride to Milos, another island in the Cyclades. We chose to take a few days in Milos primarily for one reason, its beaches. Milos is a geological wonderland surrounded by beautifully clear blue sea. That combination makes for some spectacular beaches. This is going to be a photo-heavy post... Milos is a beautiful place.
We got into Adamas, the main town on the island and the biggest port, in the evening. The ferry ride from Santorini was rough thanks to those strong winds blowing down the Aegean. About half the ferry ended up sick due to the motion, which made for a long ride, even though neither of us were bothered by the waves. Despite this, Milos was worth it. We took the evening lounging on the waterfront in Adamas, which is a hive of activity on any given night and even more so on the weekend. It was a Friday night, and all of the captains or their crews were out on the docks trying to sell places on their boats for tours the next day. Across the small street, all the restaurants and bars were bustling. It was a lively and atmospheric environment... perfect for some good food and drinks. In the morning, we were up early to rent our dune buggy, which served as our main form of transport around the rugged island. Our first stop after a quick breakfast was the beach at Firiplaka.
No, I didn't have to edit out any people from this picture... we actually had this stretch of the beach to ourselves. Behind me were only two other couples spread out over an equally long strand. It was miraculous. The beach and the water were pristine... it was beautiful and relaxing... everything a good beach should be.
The water was a refreshingly perfect temperature for the hot sun, and that beautiful shade of turquiose was just so inviting. Add to that random rocks to jump off of, and I'm a very happy guy.
Looking back at the beach, the backdrop was epic too! All the colors in the rock tell how mineral rich Milos is, which is why the island is better known for its mining industry than for tourism. Hey, if that keeps the larger hordes of tourists away, so be it.
Next stop: my new favorite beach in the world: Tsigrado. It has everything I could want... a relatively remote location with no infrastructure; crystal clear, warm but refreshing water; fun and challenging access, so few people; caves, both underwater and above; and plenty of rocks to jump off of. It is perfect... my perfect beach.
I mean, just look at that water. It was probably about 15 feet or so throughout much of the cove... perfect to just lose yourself in. The beach is sandy too, not rocky like many of the beaches around the island... that nice, light sand gives the water that brilliant color, which is contrasted so wonderfully by the dark, rocky patches.
I mentioned the "fun but challenging" access... well there it is. There is a steep descent down that narrow gully, which ends at the ladder. It really isn't a problem at all once you trust the rope... still, we saw plenty of people turn back at the top or part way down. Whatever... didn't bother me one bit. That just meant more beach and beautiful cove for the rest of us. I took this picture from the rock ledge that I was jumping from. The rock was perfect for scrambling, and since the water was so deep because the cliff continued down into it, the rock was also perfect as a jumping platform. So much fun!
Another day, another beach. Sticking to the southern side of the island, where the seas are calm and there is no wind (since they blow from the north), we spent the better part of an afternoon at Paleochori. This is a much more developed beach, but it is still quite nice. Its main attraction though is the geothermal activity. The taverna that is set up right next to the strand actually uses the heat from the ground to cook some of the food! The metal plate with shovel seen here is actually their oven! There are also several warm spots in the water, where hot gas escapes from the earth beneath.
As with many of the beaches around Milos, the beach itself isn't sand, it is rocky. Unlike many rocky beaches though, the smooth stones offer up a technicolor masterpiece of shades and marbling.
Looking east down the beach. The chairs and umbrellas are offered by a conveniently located bar and club, which offers up cold beers, iced or warm coffee, and snacks. Plus, they have a great sound system, so if you feel like jamming out while enjoying your time on the beach, head here.
If you want more peace and quiet, take a scramble through the tunnel in the cliff to the west of Paleochori (or a nice swim around the rocky point) to another more secluded and quiet little beach. As with many of the other beaches around Milos, many of these rocks served as diving platforms for yours truly. That feature really made so many of Greece's beaches so fun for me.
OK, taking a step back from the beaches for a minute. We took our buggy down to the small fishing village of Klima for sunset. This sleepy little gem is tucked away at the bottom of the hill (a big hill...) from one of the islands major towns, Plaka. Klima is tiny though... it only takes a few minutes to walk along the entire waterfront, which is most of the entire village. It is a fishing village, through and through, and the residents have a touch of flare. They decorate their homes with the brightest colors, which makes for some perfect scenery as those colors light up in the setting sun and cast their shimmering and colorful reflections in the water. This is easily one of my favorite pictures of the trip. This little kid was just having a great time splashing in the water and running from dock to dock. His mom and dad came out shortly after and started joking around with each other... they seemed like a very happy family. Further down the way, some folks were taking an early evening dip in the sea. It was quite an idillic place.
It was sleepy though. We saw only about 10 people or so while we were there, and half of those were people like us that had come down from beyond to watch the sunset.
Being true to form, it was clear that this little fishing village didn't have a lot of money. I didn't get any details about how many people still rely entirely on the sea. One family had set up a neat little gift shop, to try and milk what they could out of tourists (like us) who had heard of Klima's charm. The fishing is apparently still doing well around Milos though, as the seafood I ate there was all local (supposedly) and all fresh and tasty.
I couldn't get enough of these colors. Each house had something painted brightly, and the neat thing was that so many had used entirely different colors. I loved how the orange on these doors was peeling away to reveal the bright blue underneath.
The other end of town.
Next day, first stop was another small fishing village; this time Mandhrakia. This was a neat one since the boathouses on this small, manmade harbor were basically caves built right into the ground, with part of the village sitting right on top of them!
Mandhrakia's telephone booth.
OK, back to the beach. Yep... that's a beach down there. Sarakiniko to be exact. I mean, with beautiful settings like this, it is no wonder that Milos is probably most famous for its statue of Aphrodite (or the "Venus de Milo", as it is better known by its Italian title), the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
This is probably the most impressive beach I've ever seen, and easily another on my top ten list considering the setting. That tongue of sea comes in through only a narrow, ~7 foot (~2 meter) wide channel, which is also deep (~12 feet or 4 meters or so) and gets deeper fast as you head towards the open sea. The landscape is even more interesting than the water though... it is a moonscape of white rock, which has been carved by the elements to make bizarre shapes and waves. It is like something out of the middle of a desert, but there it is, right next to the deep blue Aegean.
Then there are the old mining tunnels. Those aren't caves on the left side of this picture, they're an old mine. They are open to be explored, but they are very dark and very eerie. Inside they connect into a main tunnel that runs parallel to the canyon, but there are tunnels that go deeper. Down those deeper tunnels, the light disappears almost immediately. It is like a black ink just sucks it all up. There is even one tunnel that goes down via a staircase. I have to admit, it was a rush walking around a bit in there, with my imagination conjuring up plenty of scenarios involving angry minotaurs and skulking demons. However, if you do go in, I'd recommend you take a light (I had my headlamp in my backpack, fortunately!), and watch your step. There are a few sections that are obviously used as informal public toilets.
The water is not clear, at all. It is possible to jump into the narrow part since it is so deep, but the majority of the main area (seen here) is only a few feet (less than a meter) deep, so don't jump in there! That is one of the really neat things about this natural pool... it goes from so shallow for so long to so deep in such a short amount of distance. You get out to about where the left edge of this picture is and then all the sudden you're up to your neck in two steps and then treading water with your third. Thanks to the winds from the north (Sarakiniko is on the northern side of the island) and/or the tide while we were there, the current was moving into the pool through the narrow channel from the sea. So, I was quite comfortable swimming out into it quite a distance. However, the threat of strong currents in such a place was definitely on my mind... I can imagine you can get some pretty strong currents pulling water (and swimmers) the other way at times...
There is also a sea arch there...
A close up view of the other-worldly white rocks.
Another sea cave, plus, that is a ship's mast sticking up out of the water in the distance. Yes, there is a shipwreck right there! This beach just does so much to fuel the imagination... the landscape is like something from an alien world... there is an old ship wreck, which could have been pirates or an ancient Greek warship from the Trojan War... and there are those abandoned mining tunnels!
We found the Milos hobbits... they obviously live here. I'd live there... looks pretty awesome to me, and the view out the back must be just epic.
Just a little way down the road from Sarakiniko is yet another incredible beach: Papafragas. This one sits in a cove that is perfectly surrounded on basically all sides by steep cliffs. The water from the sea comes in through a tunnel, the light through which can be seen here. There is a precarious walk/scramble down to the beach, and supposedly on clear, calm days (it was neither when we stopped there), the water turns that perfect shade of turquoise, blue and is very still and clear. Yet another winner on Milos's list.
The end of another day, which means pick a good place and set up there for another sunset. This time, we decided on the town of Plaka. Plaka is actually four communities that are clustered around a main, high point (where I'm standing to take this picture). Plaka is the main town and the official capital of Milos.
Plaka is very pleasant... more bright colors all over the place, contrasting brilliantly with all the whitewashed walls.
Some of the color was natural too...
And back to sunset... it is a good climb up the hill to the "castle" as the signs refer to it (this is thanks to the old Venetian kastro, or fortress that was located on top). The climb goes quicker than you'd think though, and it offers plenty of great views. At the top is a small church (not the one pictured here... that is the big one), which is visible from many other places around the island. Being so high up, it also offers some incredible views of the island, with its massive natural harbor (seen above), and the Aegean and surrounding islands.
Put simply, Milos has nice sunsets too...
Next day, our last on Milos. We started in Adamas, where we were staying. It's not the most photogenic place on the island though, so this is all you get. We stayed there for the morning though and caught an early breakfast before catching our boat. Adamas is a bustling town... being the main port on the island, it is the center of activity. It's nice, and there are some great places to eat, drink, and dance. If you're looking for a place to eat, I'd recommend a taverna called Barco. It is away from the waterfront on the main road toward Plaka. I had a plate of sardines and vegetables that consisted of easily the best and biggest sardines I've ever eaten. Simply delicious and so delicate... perfectly cooked. Down on the waterfront, we really liked a tapas place, where I ate some grilled octopus. The octopus, which you can see hanging up in the sun to dry all over the place, is basted in olive oil and grilled over fire. It is served chopped up with a drizzling of balsamic vinegar. That was also delicious, though I do always feel slightly guilty eating octopus... they are very intelligent animals, especially for invertebrates. Anyway, there are also some lively bars and clubs that go late into the night on the hill/cliff overlooking the waterfront.
We arranged to take a boat ride around the western side of Milos, which is the half of the island that is owned by the mining companies and is off limits to tourists. Other than that, I'll just let the colors in this picture speak for themselves.
After swinging by a massive an aptly named rock formation known as Arkoudes, "the bears," our first actual stop was at Kalorgries for a swim. This little cove is reputed as having the clearest waters around Milos, which is definitely saying something if you've been paying attention to any of this post so far. The water was crystal clear... the bottom was a good 12 feet or more below the boat, but it looked like you could reach right down in and touch it. Our boat had a platform on the back that we could jump from... I don't need to say any more about how I spent most of my time there.
Onward to our main destination. One of the popular stops along the western coast (which we did not make unfortunately) is Sikia. Look carefully at the center of the picture for the round hole in the hillside. That is a massive, circular tube that shoots straight through the hill. Now, what is really neat about it is that the sea comes into it via a small tunnel from the back side, which you can also swim through. Even more awesome is the beach inside the tube. I really wish we'd stopped there...it looks incredible. Well, I guess I'll just have to return to Milos again in the future!
And finally, our main destination: Kleftiko. Kleftiko basically means: the place of thieves (think "kleptomania"). Kleftiko is a system of coves on the southwestern tip of Milos, which is pockmarked with caves and tunnels. It's name derives from the fact that it was used as a pirates den for several hundred years. Supposedly, it was a "safe" zone for pirates, in which they would not attack or try to kill or rob one another. The place was ideal for them since several of the sea caves and smaller coves are large enough to hide a ship in, so they could tuck their ships away and not worry about being spotted by any of the European royal navies. You can still see the docking rings and posts that they carved into the soft sandstone all around the place. This was yet another place where my imagination just went nuts... it was fantastic being able to explore actual pirate coves and caves!
It didn't hurt either that Kleftiko is just stunningly beautiful. The rock formations are massive (check out the boat in the picture above for scale), and the water is clear and ranges from ~15-25 feet deep around most of the coves.
There are several pinnacles that just shoot straight up out of the water.
Many of the caves go the whole way through these large rock formations... we swam through several!
Coming through one of the caves... you can see how deep and clear the water is here. It was just awesome swimming around in this area. The boat had masks and fins for everyone, so it was easy to get around, and to see the spectacular scenery below the surface.
Another very neat feature here was this layer of black rocks. Believe it or not (it is true though...seriously), those rocks are leftover from one of the last major eruptions of the Santorini volcano. Yep, Santorini, the volcanic island that is ~100 km away from Milos, blasted an entire layer of human sized detritus that entire distance across the sea. It is unimaginable to comprehend such an explosion... these rocks would have rained down as fire and brimstone after the eruption... temporarily rendering picture-perfect Milos as an apocalyptic hell. The world is a crazy and incredible place.
Saying farewell to Kleftiko as we sailed away was not easy... it was one of the most incredible places I've ever seen.
Looking north along Milos's rugged and colorful western coastline. We also sailed by the old manganese mines at Vani, which looked neat from the boat but looks even more incredible from pictures online (seriously...google it)
We did a sail-by of Klima again on the way back into Adamas. I can say with certainty that Milos was my favorite place that we visited on this last trip to Greece. It was beautiful beyond reason and it offered me plenty of spectacular beaches, with crystal clear warm water and rocks to jump from. Add to that a relaxed atmosphere with nice people and good food. I will do my best to return.