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Off-season in Ios, Greece: Visiting in spring and autumn

Discovering the peaceful side of Ios, Greece, in spring and autumn. Ios is famous for its summer parties, but discover what happens when the crowds have gone with this guide to visiting Ios off-season.

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Off-season in Ios, Greece: Visiting in spring and autumn

Set in the Aegean Sea, Ios is one of the 220 Greek islands which make up the Cyclades. It’s just 40 minutes by ferry from nearby Santorini, but where Santorini is full of cruise ship passengers and honeymooners, Ios attracts a whole different crowd.

Ios’ nightlife is legendary and in the summer it’s a hedonistic haunt for 18–30s backpackers island-hopping around Greece, partying by night and sleeping it off on the beach by day.

Ios’ main town Chora has something like 30 tiny bars and clubs, where you can down shots for a free t-shirt and dance until the sun comes up. But you can have a a whole different type of Ios holiday if you visit outside the busy summer months.

The party season in Ios is actually pretty short, running from mid-June until mid-August. But in the spring and autumn months, the island has a much more peaceful, relaxed feel and makes a great Greek island escape. So here’s my guide to visiting Ios off-season.

Mylopotas Beach in Ios, Greece in autumn
Autumn beach days

Visiting Ios in low season

By the time we arrived in Ios in October the crowds had long moved on and our ferry from Santorini dropped off just a handful of people before heading on its way north to Athens. Visitors to Ios off-season are a mix of couples, families and groups of friends, with a distinctly older age range than you’d have seen disembarking in the summer.

We spent our week in Ios staying in a villa with a pool, set on the brow of a hill overlooking the port in one direction and across to Santonini in the other. It was an unbelievably peaceful place, where all you could hear was the bells of grazing goats.

Ios is an easy place to relax and spend a week reading, swimming and lazing on a sunlounger. But there are plenty of places to explore, from hilltop churches and historic windmills to sandy beaches and secluded coves – see my picks below. And visiting in low season means you never have to battle crowds and can find your own empty beach.

Sunset over the town of Chora in Ios, Greece
Looking down onto the town of Chora

What’s the weather like off-season in Ios?

Ios has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, sunny summers. In July and August maximum temperatures average 30°C (87°F). It can get a lot hotter, but the Meltemi winds make it moe comfortable, though it can get blustery in the afternoons and evenings.

Spring and autumn weather in Ios is warm in the daytime, with average highs of 18–24°C (64–76°F). It cools down in the evenings though so you might need a jacket, particularly as it’s often still windy. The island sees the most rain from November to March, but on average there are less than five wet days a month in the spring and autumn.

Autumn is great for swimming as sea temperatures stay up around 22°C/72°F into October. Though if you’re visiting Ios in spring, the water temperature is only around 16°C/61°F by April so it might be a bit chilly for a dip. The warm days make it a good time for hiking and exploring the island though, with beautiful wildflowers in spring.

Sunset over the island of Sikinos from Ios in Greece
The sunset behind neighbouring Sikinos

Things to do in Ios off-season

Explore Chora’s old town

The biggest town in Ios is Chora, though that’s more a description than its name – the word Chora means ‘main town’ and you’ll find them all over the Greek islands. Ios’ Chora has a line of shops set along a main road, and behind them the old town stretches up onto the hillside, a mass of whitewashed buildings with blue doors and domes.

Get up close and you can spot the narrow gaps which take you into a twisting and turning maze of cobbled passageways, dotted with shops, bars and restaurants. Everything in Ios closes down from 2pm to 5pm, so as we wandered through the streets of old town the only signs of life were the island’s many cats grabbing a siesta in the shade.

At 5pm the town started to wake up again, with shops opening up their shutters and café owners laying out chairs for the evening. Several shops and restaurants stay open in spring and autumn, but you’re more likely to see locals than tourists there out of season.

Colourful Chora

Admire an island church

Ios has 365 churches – one for each day of the year – despite having only 2000 permanent residents. Churches are looked after by local families who make sure they don’t fall into disrepair. One of the most impressive is the Cathedral of Ios in Chora. And the waterside church of Agia Irini is one of the first things you see as you arrive into Ios’ port.

Take a walk to the top of Chora and you’ll find four tiny white churches overlooking the town. The highest church is Ios’ top sunset spot, where you can look down onto the town’s rooftops and tiny boats in the port. The sunlight makes the churches glow gold before it dips down out of view behind the neighbouring island of Sikinos.

Churches at sunset on the hillside above Chora in Ios, Greece
Sunset in Chora

Visit the windmills and amphitheatre

Walk east through Chora onto the hillside and you’ll find Ios’ 12 windmills. They were built to use the Meltemi winds to grind grain for bread and most have fallen into disrepair, but a couple have been restored and make a good photo opportunity against the blue sea.

Carry on past the windmills and you’ll reach the Odysseas Elytis open-air theatre. Looking like a very well-preserved Ancient Greek theatre, it was actually built in 1997 but uses the same stone and marble design as Greece’s historic amphitheatres.

In the summer there are concerts and plays at the theatre, but even if there’s nothing showing it’s still worth a visit for the panoramic views down to Mylopotas Beach.

Windmill in Ios, Greece
Ios windmill

Hit the beach

Around 30 minutes’ walk from Chora, Mylopotas Beach is a 1.5km-long stretch of golden sand and clear water that’s Ios’ most visited beach. During summer, Mylopotas is buzzing with beach clubs and row of sunbeds, but in October the beach was almost empty.

Many of the beach clubs are only open in the summer months but there are a few which stay open where you can get lunch, sunset drinks or hire a sunbed.

The bay is really sheltered so it’s great for watersports, and even off season you can hire a paddleboard, kayak or rent a boat and explore the secluded coves along the coast. There’s also a half-day speedboat tour* from Mylopotas which visits seven different beaches.

Also within easy reach of Chora are the sandy beaches at Gyalos (next to the port), Valmas, Kolistani and Koumbara. And if you have transport you can also visit beaches further afield like Manganari (17km from Chora) and Agia Theodoti (10km).

The golden sands of Mylopotas Beach off-season in Ios
Mylopotas Beach

Go back in time

If you want to learn more about Ios’ history, there are a few interesting sites to visit. Oldest is the early Bronze Age settlement of Skarkos, on the edge of Chora.

This hilltop prehistoric site is over 1000 years older than Akrotiri on Santorini. It’s built in a circular shape and had two-storey buildings, paved floors and an early drainage system. You can see some of the finds from the site at the Archaeological Museum of Chora.

Or in the north of the island, 13km from Chora (you’ll need a car, ATV or scooter to reach it) is Homer’s Tomb. Supposedly the burial place of the famous Greek poet – though no one knows for sure – it has a beautiful setting with marble plaques inscribed with his words.

The Bronze Age settlement of Skarkos in Ios, Greece
Prehistoric Skarkos

Should you visit Ios off-season?

After getting used to almost having the island to ourselves, it was hard to picture what Ios would be like in the middle of summer. When the streets of Chora pound to the beat of music pumping out of the bars and streets are packed with a mass of travellers. When the sandy beaches are covered in sunbathers and the water full of boats and windsurfers.

I loved our peaceful version of off-season Ios, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to see the other side of the island in summer – with beach bar sunsets and dancing until dawn. So is off-season Ios right for you, or would peak season suit you better?

Boats in the port at Ios
Boats and beaches in Ios’ harbour

Visit Ios off-season: if you want a peaceful, relaxing trip and you don’t like crowds, you want more interaction with locals, you want to save money on accommodation and travel, you don’t mind self-catering or eating out at a limited selection of restaurants.

Don’t: if you want to party all night and meet lots of international travellers, you want to eat out for every meal at a variety of places, you want guaranteed sunshine and to spend every day on the beach, or you want a big range of activities to keep you occupied.

Valmas Beach on Ios in the Cyclades islands, Greece
Valmas Beach

The details

How to get to Ios, Greece

There’s no airport in Ios, so you’ll need to catch a ferry to reach the island. The nearest airport is in Santorini, then it’s around 40 minutes by ferry from Santorini’s Athinios port to Ios. Or you can fly to Athens where ferries run from Piraeus and Rafina ports to Ios, taking around seven hours on the regular service or four hours on high-speed ferries.

If you’re planning a Greek island-hopping trip there are also also ferries from Ios from Naxos (40 minutes), Paros (1 hour), Mykonos (1.5 hours) and Crete (2.5 hours).

Book your travel to Ios*

Boats in the harbour in Ios at sunset
Boats in Ios’ harbour

How to get around Ios

Local buses connect Ios’ port, Chora and Mylopotas Beach. They cost €1.80 one way, however far you’re going, and you can buy tickets on the bus. Timings vary by season so check latest timetables. It’s also possible to walk between them – the port to Chora is 15 minutes uphill via the donkey path steps, then it’s 30 minutes to Mylopotas Beach.

If you want to explore the rest of the island, there are buses to Maganari and Agia Theodoti beaches. You can alos hire a car, quad bike or scooter in the port or in Chora.

Following the coast path to Ios harbour, Greece
Following the coast path to Ios harbour

Where to stay in Ios

On the Rocks have three properties in a beautiful peaceful location near Valmos Beach outside Chora – the five-bedroom Main Villa with infinity pool, the Two Rocks Villas with pool which sleep 12, and the cosy one-bedroom Retreat. They have self-catering facilities but also daily housekeeping service and have been designed to be eco-friendly.

If you prefer to be in the heart of things, Lofos Village* hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from Chora’s central square. It’s built in traditional Cycladic style, with views across the town and a swimming pool. Or for a beach break, the Ios Palace Hotel & Spa* overlooks Mylopotas Beach. It has a mix of rooms and suites, some with sea-view balconies and private pools. There are also three shared pools, a spa, restaurant and pool bar.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Ios?*

On the Rocks villa, one of the places to stay in Ios Greece
Villa at On the Rocks

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Discovering the peaceful side of Ios, Greece, in spring and autumn. Ios is famous for its summer parties, but discover what happens when the crowds have gone with this guide to visiting Ios off-season | Things to do in Ios Greece | Ios in autumn | Ios in spring | Greek islands off season | Cyclades islandsDiscovering the peaceful side of Ios, Greece, in spring and autumn. Ios is famous for its summer parties, but discover what happens when the crowds have gone with this guide to visiting Ios off-season | Things to do in Ios Greece | Ios in autumn | Ios in spring | Greek islands off season | Cyclades island

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Ann Guttridge

Thursday 12th of November 2020

Great article thank you I returned in september 2020 to ios after first visiting in 1983 when we had a room for equivalent of £2.50 a night and 1984 when we stayed in the port. Loved chora couldnt get our bearings as to the batrs we used then as has changed so much over the years now lots of shops in chora .

In 1983 the far out shack was at the start of the beach and there was a guy spraying sun tan lotion from a paint sprayer.

It has become very upmarket and of course was covid quiet. It is still beautiful and the food is amazing especially Nest and the mills. we had a jeep and visited every beach and homers tomb which we didnt even think of doing in 83 or 84. We climbed to the highest church for the amazing view and sunbathe every day- love it and will be back. Thanks again

Andy Mackay

Sunday 12th of July 2020

Hi Lucy I stayed on Ios in the summer of '82. Truly a party island! I worked a few months at the Satisfaction Bar up in the Chora. Worked/partied til the wee small hours and then slept in a glorified cave until rising at midday. I think all the alcohol I consumed at the time has blunted my memories but I do recall the bar was run by Terry and Sean from London and I think the owner was called Yanni... Lots of Rolling Stones music - hence the bar's name. There was also a bar at one end of the port called Skippers, run by an eccentric chap called Alex. Then again he wasn't out of place on Ios! Met some great people and had the time of my life and I'm planning on returning while I'm still able.

Lucy Dodsworth

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Sounds like a fabulous experience – hope you get to revisit soon!

Paula

Monday 20th of April 2020

I was there also in 70s. No cars. We rented a house ftom a farmer gor $8 a month. no elecric, no plumbing. Well water with bucket thar was shared by the farmer with his donkey, who would drink out of same wooden bucket we got our water from! Farmer made feta cheese, over wood fire outside, stirring with a twig. it was delucious We stayed 3 months, Jan- March

Lucy

Sunday 26th of April 2020

Sounds fabulous – so great that lots of people have such good memories of the island!

Jan Rufeea

Friday 30th of August 2019

I too discovered Ios in the 70's and returned last year for nostagia's sake! I think my husband wondered where I had taken him, wearily disembarking from the ferry (as we were island hopping and this was the 4th) and seeing....not much. There's me saying 'the town is hidden up there on the hill somewhere' trying to convince myself as well as him and hoping there would still be some nightlife of some sort as we are very young at heart late 50's! It didn't disappoint, we soon found the donkey steps (although I was convinced there were on the other side of the port to where they are!) and took in as much as we could in the 2 nights we were there. I don't know what it is about this place but it holds a piece of my heart and I have convinced him to return for another 3 nights this year as I am determined to find some goats this time, I missed the sound of those bells! Great article, thanks for the read.

Lucy

Monday 2nd of September 2019

Glad to bring back some good memories – it seems to be one of those places people really fall in love with – hope you have a great trip back!

suzanne adams

Saturday 27th of April 2019

Hi Lucy. Just came across your site via one of those irritating ads - BUT as I am planning to return to the island of my youth this September (2019) I was immediately drawn in... And delighted I was. First went in 1979 - camping on a kind of a site behind the big bar/café on Mylopotas Beach - possibly called 'Far Out? A pint bottle of Retsina was about 30p (can't remember the Dracma equivalent) and was only drinkable if diluted with a can of Fanta, Lilt or Coke! You could only get to the (shared) loos via puddles of urine - in your flip flops - and the ad,hoc cabaret show was Russian transsexuals - an amazing sight for a naïve Irish girl. We were bitten to death by mossies, stung by jellyfish, stumbled home along dangerous cliff paths by torchlight, ate dodgy gyros & drunk water from rusty taps. It was just FABULOUS. So much so that I went back twice a year until 1985 - eventually upgrading to a small hotel on Myloptas beach (the first on Ios with a swimming pool if my memory serves me right). AND SO - 35 years later I plan to have my 60th birthday celebrations there....X

Lucy

Tuesday 14th of May 2019

So glad to bring back some good memories – and sounds like you had an amazing time on the island. Hope the return trip is just as wild!