Ios was a one-time party capital of the Med and it still enjoys a reputation as one of the best clubbing destinations in the Greek islands. Ios is located in the southern part of the central Cyclades group and has an almost schizophrenic character. Around the capital Chora Ios is a hedonist paradise. Beyond the booze-happy capital lies a classic Greek island of spectacular beaches and traditional hill villages.
A popular Greek holiday island for clubbers, Ios looks set to go ahead with a multi-million euro tourism complex. The go-ahead has been given for a luxury coastal tourist resort near Koumbara. Plans are said to include the building of a small port to connect Cape Diakofto to the mainland, man-made breakwaters, artificial beaches in coastal bays of Maniata and Koumbara bays and a desalination unit to provide fresh water for the complex. Greek-American millionaire Angelos Michalopoulos, a former Wall Street futures trader, is behind the scheme which is expected to cost around € 1.54 million. According to reports, the Greek-American investor has been buying land for the project since 2003 and has already planted more than 60,000 trees across his land in anticipation of the green light. The tourism complex will cover 18,000 square metres and include a five-star hotel and tourist villas with a total 249 beds, with a completion date for 2017. The villas will be available to rent or buy and the whole project could turn the island into a major Greek tourist destination for thousands of annual visitors. The island of Ios lies in the southern area of the central Cyclades group of islands to the south of Naxos and Paros. It is already a top destination to young clubbers thanks to the reputation of the main hilltop village and the sandy beach at Mylopotas. Although branded a party island, the clubs, bars and discos are confined to the island capital port, Chora village and Mylopotas. Beyond the capital lies a classic Greek island with some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean, especially on the wild east coast. The Ios project is only one of a number planned for a number of Greek islands as developers bid to cash in on the growing tourist boom. More than 25 million visitors are expected to have visited Greece this year, the third in a row when tourism records have been broken. Schemes totalling €5 billion are already in the pipeline that could help transform the country into a luxury tourist destination. Major resorts are already planned in the Ionian, Aegean, Crete, the Peloponnese and Halkidiki. They include new hotel and golf facilities at resorts on the Greek mainland and the island of Corfu The Rothschild family plans to build luxury villas on Meganissi and there are plans for the nearby island of Kithros. An international group is set to develop the Iliad resort on the island of Ithaka with a scheme that includes six hotels, a golf course and marina. On the island of Milos, a development company is about to build a luxury five-star 216-bed hotel while Dolphin Capital plans to invest in a five-star tourist resort and scuba diving centre on the island of Kea. The growth in luxury spa hotels, golf courses, conference centres, marinas, villas and other tourism facilities look to change the face of Greece for good.
Santorini has always been on people's wish-lists for a place to visit if you happen to be charting in the Cyclades, but the local authorities have now made Ios a definite little bit of heaven to visit. However, the pilot and nautical books do not do the place justice. When we sailed into Ios after a very bumpy, cold and wet crossing from Kos, it was a lovely surprise. In fact, so much so that our three-day stay has brought us back to Ios for our third summer. Ios has a way of getting into people's hearts and brought a big increase in repeat visitors of the floating type. I suspect we see even more now that visa restrictions have been tightened for sailing in Turkey. So it's now a case of getting the word out that Ios is a safe, beautiful place to visit. The town quay has been updated to include proper lazy lines (fixed mooring lines) to the shore so the need for anchoring on the main quay has now been removed – a good job as a massive heavy chain across the harbour was just the place to catch most anchors. The quay now also has both power and water accessed via an electronic key system. The system is reliable, the water is drinkable and because the instructions on the meter are in multiple languages, they do take some working out – but stand around looking puzzled for long enough and a local with come and help. The keys are available from all the local restaurants in the immediate port area – a very clever move as it means you can still pick up a key late at night, with a nice cold beer to go with it. The only real negative is that the town quay suffers from a lot of water movement when the ferries come in and out. This can be up to nine times a day in peak season. The water movement can be up to two metres and so you need to ensure planks are lifted and, where possible, to pull the boat far further off the quay than normal. If not, you risk hull damage. It's not dangerous – more of an inconvenience that catches people out. Wireless Internet is also available for purchase locally. Simply see what wi-fi you can pick up, and then look around for the name of the business. But restaurants all have free wi-fi and are happy for the boat people to have the codes if you buy a coffee or something. The town quay is clean and tidy with good rubbish collection and the water in the visitors' quay area is clean and well cared for . Early in the morning one of the local municipality staff is out with a net removing plastic bottles and cans . If you have a large bag of rubbish, there are two trash compactors for disposal – one behind the police station and the other just past the mini roundabout leading away from the harbour. The fees for a night vary depending on time of year and the size of the boat. On arrival to Ios you must report to the marine police, remembering to take your boat documents and cruising logs. As this is Ios, and the police are extremely friendly. In the past we have all been a little lazy on getting formalities done on the smaller Greek islands but our recent travels show the authorities checking up a little more. My advice is get checked in and out of Ios – its easy and painless and keeps you on the right side of the law. As with all town quays in Greece, emptying grey or black water tanks is illegal. If you did decide to empty your tanks you are likely to be reported and fined as any discharge hangs about. Anyway, with such clean water in the port that its nice to keep it this way. There is a basic public toilet – an excellent place to empty portable black waste tanks. The toilet is opposite the health centre car park. To find it, head towards the ferry terminal, then head towards the nice-looking beach and you'll come across it. Ios port also has a supermarket right on the quay so there is no need to carry the bottles of wine too far! The supermarket has an excellent fresh meat counter, a good selection of frozen fish and the bags of ice for your gin and tonics. The port area also has a lovely little bakery that in the summer months is pretty much open 24 hours, so early morning fresh bread is easily accessible. As we found, Ios is great for provisioning. For those who want to take a quick swim a lovely beach is in walking distance with some nice bars and restaurants. It's a great stretch of beach if you have kids on board to tire out before dinner. Sandy and clean, you can off-load the kids or guests for an hour while you sort out the boat or have a sneaky five-minute break. Having settled into the port area, it's very easy to stay put. Indeed, after a hard days sailing a lot of visitors simply fall into a local restaurant and then enjoy an evening on the yachts. Even in the middle of summer with more than 20 visiting charters it never seems rowdy or noisy. But to stay in the port is to miss out! Chora is a short, if steep, walk up the hill, or buses run all day and late into the nights and go everywhere. The the village has a reputation as the party place and clubbing kicks off at about 11pm and rarely stops before dawn. But there is another grown up side of Chora. There are some lovely little bars, cafe and small restaurants that serve excellent food and drink, many of which welcome yachties. In addition the narrow streets are crammed with little shops, so if you need gifts to take home this is a very good place to go. Some of the shops are open till 2am. Over the hill from Chora is Mylopotas Beach. Now, Ios has lots of excellent beaches, but Mylopotas is my favourite. It is golden, beautiful and has great watersports, coffee shops and places to eat. Mylopotas is also a great place to anchor the boats in all but windy meltemi conditions. Stay well away from the buoy lines and also be aware of frequent speedboats with skiers and tube rides going past. You can comfortably anchor in five metres of water on sandy bottomed areas. There are some rocks but keeping a good lookout will avoid problems. The watersports companies provide transfers to shore if you want to do watersports or diving. Finally moped, quad-bike and car hire is easy if you want to explore further. Ios is also an excellent place to leave your yacht and take a day trip to Santorini. You can also arrange for fuel to be delivered to the quay, cooking gas is available in the port and there is a small yacht chandler/DIY shop in walking distance. At least two laundry firms collect from the boats so soaking wet and salt-ridden clothes turned round in a matter of hours. A good sail repair guy works on the island over the summer months and the work is of an excellent standard. For major repairs, parts can be sent from Athens – normally taking two days to arrive. The main thing about Ios is that everyone is very helpful. Simply ask for what you need and, if the person you ask does not know, they will normally phone or point you to someone who can help. Finishing on a few points of safety: be aware the ferries come in and out through the entrance very quickly, and will not get out of the way of yachts, even those under sail. The swell from the ferries can be very dramatic and can creep up on you. At the entrance there is a lighthouse to assist with night arrivals. Do not cut the corner when entering, or you may fall foul of shallow hazards. It is illegal to anchor anywhere inside the approach to the port area and this is clearly marked on the charts. Inside the harbour, anchor with care if you want to avoid getting tangled up. The harbour depth is 4.5 metres so, if bringing in a vessel over 20 metres its best to contact the port police who will advise you where you can moor. The port area is bumpy in strong south west winds and many of anchorages around the island become untenable in south winds. If you decide to visit Ios please call by and say hello to us! We are on the old-fashioned, black hull, gaff-rigged ketch that can be seen in the harbour or moored off Mylopotas Beach – complete with the husky dog called Deifer and two very bossy cats called Dice and Biscuit – all rescue animals from our travels. You will be most welcome aboard S/Y Crystal Stream and if we can help you fall in love with Ios, the way we have, please just ask. Fair winds and safe passage.
Disabled dive in on an Ios holiday. Living with a disability is not easy and a Greek island diving holiday may not be the first place to look for help with coping. But a scuba diving company on the Greek island of Ios hopes to change all that. On Ios there is now a beach-front diving school, Camp Phoenix, that offers scuba diving holidays for anyone aged 8 to 80 – from beginners right through to professional qualifications. Most importantly, the Ios scuba diving school has been set up by a small team of people who have all worked in a professional capacity with special needs. These include autism, blindness, deafness (they have a BSL signer on staff) , spinal injury, ADHD, learning difficulties, genetic conditions, mental illness and sadly, more recently, with injured military personnel, many of them wheelchair users. Now the Ios scuba diving centre takes around 20 wheelchair users, and many others with special needs, on the experience of a lifetime, scuba diving in the seas around Ios. Scuba diving has always been hugely popular on Greek Island holidays and, of course, it needs a reasonable level of fitness to enoy it to the full. Being underwater, virtually weightless and surrounded by marine life can feel like heaven. And if you are disabled, that feeling could mean so much more. All too often, disabled people, or those with mental health problems, rule themselves out of such an exciting activity with hardly a thought. The aim of the Ios scuba diving school is to help combat 'political correctness' and cotton-wool attitudes often associated with adaptive sports. Too many businesses cite risk assessments, insurance considerations and adopt the "sorry we are not able to do that" as a reason why disabled customers are unable to participate. But disabled divers are treated no differently at Camp Phoenix. They dive with able-bodied divers off the same boat at the same time (something that is not so common as most dive schools split out the disabled groups). Camp Phoenix will provide a personal dive buddy, if needed, at no extra charge, and Ios has a super local doctor who can advise on any diving related medical issues. The Greek island of Ios offers a number of different types of dive sites, both shore-based and by boat, with depths ranging from 6 metres to 30 metre. Favourite dive sites around Ios include a local fishing boat that was ship-wrecked in a storm near the port entrance, a second-world-war aeroplane and some fascinating cavern dives. Dolphins can occasionally be spotted from the dive boat and lucky divers may even see the odd sea turtle. Night divers regularly see octopus gardens, moray eels and large shoals of fish. The waters of Ios island are crystal clear and most days you will find over 25 metres of visibility. The Camp Phenix dive boat operates twice a day and there are dives from the shore at least four times – so there is always a dive to suit everyone's schedule. The Camp Phenix diving school also has a turtle sponsorship program – giving €1 for every beginner that dives and €5 for every qualification course to ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece. Customers can also take part in conservation work while on holiday on Ios. A word of warning – Ios island is really not the most adaptive-friendly place because, like many Greek islands, there are lots of steps in the little village. The idea of better wheelchair access is still in the early stages, but that should not stop anyone in a wheelchair, or with restricted movement, enjoying the island of Ios. If customers can't get into a shop (some of which are no bigger than a broom cupboard!) the owners are more than happy to bring goods outside. If steps stop people getting into a bar or restaurant then it's not unheard of to see four people pick up a chair and lift it in. It may not be ideal but everyone tries to help and Ios really does have a 'can-do' attitude. Ios makes up for any shortfalls with a huge smile and a helpful hand! There are a number of hotels on Ios that have adaptive rooms and a great many more which are suitable for chair use, even if they are not recognised 'officially' as disabled-friendly. The Ios swimming pools used by Camp Pheonix for scuba dive training all have steps suitable for easy access and have on-site showers and changing rooms that are easy to access. If you are interested in scuba diving on the Greek holiday island of Ios – able-bodied or not – please get in touch via the website at www.campphoenix.co.uk. Here you will find all the details about scuba diving on Ios as well as plenty of general information about a holiday on Ios.