“Never visit Ios. It’s full of drugged-up kids partying all night. It’s awful. Never go there.”
This piece of advice – from my well-travelled Greek-French dive instructor – remain ingrained in my brain. And I duly avoided the Cycladic isle for the past 14 years, since I received these orders.
Meanwhile, a close Greek-American friend and colleague – who only visits destinations in Greece that are wild and untamed, like Sfakia in Crete – raved to me about the magnificent beaches of Ios, saying that the island is worth visiting for these alone.
“Ios has beaches that are totally isolated and just incredible,” she said to me several years back, likely before asphalt was laid, making access to them a great deal more difficult. My friend Maria is the type of beach bum who prefers to drive as far as her 4×4 takes her, then park and trudge the rest of the way along a dirt track to umbrella-free and preferably people-free beaches.
Still, I avoided Ios and ventured to the greens and blues of my beloved Ionian, also a favourite of my photographer husband.
This year, after a hectic start to one of my busiest professional roles, I frantically searched for a destination and island literally two weeks ahead of my leave. This being a record year for Greece’s tourism industry, most of the decent—looking hotels and studios were either fully booked or a little more expensive that I expected. Then I came upon a dreamy image of a hotel high up above a stunning beach. It was Ios.
Availability check. Decent price check. The deal was sealed.
Worried that I had made the mistake of choosing the wild party island, when all that my husband and I needed was some R&R on beach after quiet beach, I then started checking around with my colleagues and friends, speaking to no less than five of them.
One friend who has lived many a summer on isolated Skyros, staying in the family holiday home, said he chanced upon Ios during a cruise, and was just taken aback by the crystal clear waters of the island’s beaches.
One bubbly colleague’s brown eyes lit up when I mentioned Ios. “Oh, I loooooove that island. I’m in love with it. GO GO!”
She said a friend roped her in on a holiday there a few years back, when she was 32 years old and found herself free. I went along not knowing what to expect and it was just the most incredible experience. Ios is bohemian.
Go there, without any preconceptions. Just go there chill. Don’t expect anything and you’ll have an amazing time. There’s little bars where you’ll happen upon impromptu live sessions. Everyone becomes one big parea.
This is the authentic Greek experience I was craving.
Another colleague – who visited when he was in his early 20s – chimed in something about wet t-shirt contests. Oh no. He just shattered all of my illusions of laying back in an aiora looking out over Mylopotas beach.
Though I’m the type of traveler – and travel writer – who generally avoids reading up too much on a destination I’m visiting on vacation, I found myself checking websites to see if the mood on Ios has changed at all.
My friend Maria said she believed it had. I asked her, being the expert, before anyone else. Will I hate Ios? Definitely not, she assured me.