Why is it always about the jumps?
We travel halfway around the world to experience the ancient amazingness of Greece and all our kids want to do is jump off higher and higher rocks.
I felt a bit better after hanging out with Sophia, the Greek mom of two super smart, straight-laced teenage girls from Athens who agreed: “It’s the same when I take them to Karpathos to visit with family. They spend the whole time looking for new spots to jump from.”
I guess some things are universal… And truth be told, my husband Don and I couldn’t get enough of jumping into the sea either. It was completely irresistible.
After much research and weeks of traveling, we had arrived in Milos – and it was perfect. It had exactly what we were looking for in a Greek Island experience for our family:
1. Lots of Aegean Sea – We didn’t just want to look at the water, we wanted to be in the water. Milos’ coastline is long and varied and therefore let’s you swim in every color of water possible – from super-light green to midnight blue and every shade in between.
There are 70+ beaches and boat trips that help you maximize your Aegean time. We took one to Kleftiko and its caverns, which were honest-to-goodness pirate hideouts – as recently as the 1700s and as far back as Minoan times.
2. Gorgeous Beaches – I’m sort of a beach freak and I’ll say confidently that Milos has some of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever seen. White sand and multi-color cliffs and crystal clear water – oh, and rocks: You can float around them, or jump off them or swim through them or laze on top of them.
One beach was only accessible by ladder, another after a rocky scramble, another by a long hike, and another was steps from our pension where large flat rocks formed a natural lagoon that was perfect for late night swims and – you guessed it – jumps.
3. A Seaside Village – We stayed in Pollonia and loved the smallness of the village, the friendliness of the people, the beauty of the location and the deliciousness of the waterfront restaurants. Yes, this is a tourist spot and not exactly an authentic village anymore. But it is not blown out or overrun with tour buses by any means.
Pollonia’s a place you could base your family for a week, rent a car, take a boat trip, and laze by the shore for the rest of the time. It’s the kind of village where your kids can walk around on their own, get ice cream, splash at the beach or play in the large seaside playground while you enjoy a book in the shade.
4. Greek –ness They found the Venus de Milo on Milos for gosh sakes. The third largest catacombs in the world are near Plaka. There is an ancient Roman amphitheater (under renovation) and a classic Greek hilltop town with twisty alleyways and domed churches. There are farms and vineyards and goatherds and picturesque fishing villages with dogs sleeping and octopi drying on racks.
Locals relax in cafes on summer nights as their kids squeal and run along the docks looking for fish. Cats lurk under the tables waiting for a handout. There is dreamy yogurt for breakfast and rose-colored wine with dinner – and even an ouzo or mastika nightcap before strolling home.
It is tough to choose from the dozens of fantastic Greek islands to visit – especially when you are sitting in front of your computer in the dead of winter a couple thousand miles away. Some islands are tough to get to. Some are over/under developed. And some cater to a specific crowd – backpackers, honeymooners, families, aristocrats, LGBTs, cruisers, yachters, Scandinavians, Britons, Russians, Greeks, and so on.
Based on advice from a friend who is an expert on Greece (thanks Larry!) and travel logistics, we narrowed our search to the Cyclades, the islands littering the Aegean to the east and south of Athens. While the chain is home to such hot spots as Santorini, Ios and Mykonos, Naxos and Paros were often cited as the best islands for families. But after looking closer at each one, no island was was jumping out at us.
That’s when Milos came into focus. Situated a ferry ride west of Santorini and ferry ride south of Athens, Milos is the most southern island in the Cyclades before you hit Crete. It’s not tiny or undiscovered but it is less touristed and more sparsely populated than some of its more popular neighbors. Milos ticked all the right boxes for our family: It had just enough to keep us all entertained but not so much to make us feel like we had to do much of anything except soak in the atmosphere. We “jumped” at the chance 😉
The ROAM Report : Milos, Greece
Travelers : Maryann, Don, West (14) & Pearl (12)
Date : July 2015
Itinerary : 5 nights in Pollonia, Milos as part of a 2 week trip to Greece
Budget : Approximately $1,200 for room, food, car rentals and boat trip
The Good Stuff
Beach Safari Rent a car for the day in Pollonia or Adamas, pack it with snacks/drinks, and head out on a beach safari. We started in the south and visited a half dozen beaches in one day. Milos has quite a variety of beaches so it pays to look at a few before settling in so that you can find the perfect one – or three, as the case was for our family.
Tsigrado Beach The first of our favorite beaches was Tsigrado. You park on a bluff and hike down 50 feet through a narrow chasm on a ladder, your stuff in one hand and the rope in the other.
There’s only a slip of beach here – especially at high tide – but we spent the whole time in the water. There is a narrow tunnel to swim through on the left side of the cove. Follow that around to the left and there are cliffs to climb and jump off and another cove with sea caverns to explore. We actually returned here another day it was so much fun.
Firiplaka Beach Firiplaka was one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen. Ever since ancient times, Milos’s mineral deposits were a tremendous natural resource for trading and today, the brightly colored white, orange, pink and red layers of rock create quite a backdrop for Firiplaka. (See top feature photo.) To get here, you pass a massive mining operation (which you can tour, if you are interested), park on a dirt road and walk down to the beach. We never made it to the actual beach, stopping instead to jump off of the rocks into the crystal clear sea and floating for hundreds of meters. There is a seasonal hut renting chaises and selling drinks and food, so sunbathers line the water. However, our kids deemed the jumps here “boring” so we moved on.
Sarakiniko Beach Known for its moon-like landscape, this northern beach is the most popular on the island. We went in the early evening and I’d recommend it, wholeheartedly. Most of the visitors had cleared out and we just about had the entire place to ourselves for sunset. You walk through a series of strange white sandstone formations, past a long shallow inlet to a bluff overlooking a massive sea cavern.
When we arrived, a Norwegian teen was doing backflips off the face of the cavern and our kids immediately joined in. They started leaping from some lower spots and gradually moved up its face, jumping the whole way. Later, locals arrived and showed off with their stunt jumps. It was one of those mothering moments that you don’t let yourself think about how far away the emergency room is or all the things that could go wrong. And it was absolutely one of the best times of our lives.
Boat Safaris Many boat trips leave from the port of Adamas to visit the pirate lair of Kleftiko and the many stunning sites along the way. Our trip went around the top of the island and down its west side, though depending on the weather, some trips go from Pollonia down the east coast and across the south to get there. Our route was more typical and we ran into several other boats. I preferred our route because you can drive to see the south coast but the west coast spots aren’t accessible by land. We booked through the “Travel Me to Milos” agency in Pollonia, near the main car park. Their staff was very knowledgeable about the different boats, captains and routes available.
One of the highlights was seeing the sun set on the fishing village of Klima.
We sailed with Excellent Yachting and their trip was good but the boat was packed to capacity. It was a long day – we left around 9am and got back about 2 hours later than planned, around 8pm. The guys who ran it were very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the history and sights. The captain bought the kids ice cream back in port.
From Pollonia, I wanted to do Andreas’ cruise to Poliego on a traditional Kaiki which was very well-reviewed on Trip Advisor but it was full. And we didn’t have time to do a kayak trip anywhere but had heard good things about those trips as well.
Ammos and Pollonia Dining There are many well-reviewed dining options in Pollonia but we tended towards the spots right on the water because 1) they were right on the water and 2) the tables at the others needed to be booked in advance which we never managed to do. We ended up loving Ammos and ate there every night.
The brother and sister who ran it were fun and accommodating, saving us a portside table every night, and the food was delicious.
We spent evenings lingering over food and cards and wine while the kids ran around. We never missed a Greek salad, an octopus dish or an extra carafe of the house “red.”
Fishing Villages We sailed by Klima on our trip to Kleftiko so didn’t hike down on foot to this picturesque-if-touristy village. We did drive to Firopotamos on the north coast. The setting is stunning. We would have loved to eat in the restaurant which overlooks the sea there, or stayed in one of the fishing houses.
Ancient Milos A walk through the streets of Plaka and across the hillside to the theater and catacombs feels like a must-do. But only a few rooms of catacombs can be seen and the theatre is only visible from the distance, so don’t feel guilty if you only leave a couple hours for the ancient stuff.
Watermelon Pie Sounds bizarre right? But this Milos specialty is worth trying – a lot more like a Fig Newton than a slice of apple pie.
Soultana & Apollon – By the time we decided to visit Milos, we were too late to get any of the waterfront spots in Pollonia (see “Book Early” below.) However we were lucky that Mrs. Soultana had expanded her little accommodation empire by adding Soultana Rooms & Studios, just across the path from her Apollon waterfront property and a short walk to town. Her family room – like all places we stayed in Greece – was spotless and comfortable (120 euro/night) with a small poolside patio for breakfasts and a bougainvilla-shaded picnic table where she held court most of the day. Breakfast is not included so we just had yogurt and juice on our patio that we’d bought the night before in town. But Apollon offered a gorgeous-if-pricey morning spread to enjoy on their patio overlooking the sea. Swimming (and jumping) happens right out front of Apollon in the rock-rimmed lagoons on Milos’ northeast tip and in the bay at Apollonia Beach. It’s a very quiet yet well-situated corner of town.
The Not So Good
Lay of the Island Milos is shaped like a smushed, chubby “U.” The left side of the “U” is largely uninhabited and its beaches are officially inaccessible from land (though some visitors hike there.) The main port town, Adamas, is on the inside of the “U” on the right side while Pollonia is on the outer, top right side. The south coast has many different beaches, each unique in some way and cut off from the other by cliffs. The farthest drive you can make from bottom to top is only about 45 minutes.
Weather Matters When we arrived on Milos, the wind was really blowing. It made many of the south- and west-facing places – Pollonia included – very windy and the water very choppy. Luckily, the wind died down the day after we arrived and we were able to enjoy the clear lagoon and bay water near the village. We also had calm water at Sarakiniko when we visited which was lucky because another visitor told us they had come the day before and the waves were so huge that no one could safely jump off the cliffs. We also experienced wildly different conditions at Tsigrando Beach on two separate days – one with clear calm water and one with choppy waves. The good news, however, is that Milos is ringed with beaches – even on the inner bay – so if conditions on one side are poor, you can always head to the other.
Cars by the Day – Driving is easy on Milos (except in the old town of Plaka – yikes! – best to park and walk in) but taxis are also reasonably priced and easy to find. We rented a car from Milos Rent in Pollonia for the couple days that we wanted one (about 40 euros/day). For the days we took boat trips, we were grateful to not have to find parking. Milos Rent had an office in Adamas as well, which made it easy to drop off/pick up at the ferry. We would recommend booking cars ahead during high season. Many places were sold out during our visit in July.
Good Family Trip?
Milos offers families a place to settle in and soak up the natural beauty of the Cyclades and Greek island life. With just the right amount of things to see and do, you can explore, relax or jump to your family’s hearts’ content.
by Maryann Jones Thompson, February 2016
© ROAM Family Travel 2016 – All rights reserved
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