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Schinoussa: A small paradise in the Cyclades

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Schinoussa: A small paradise in the Cyclades

This tiny heavenly island found south of Naxos, is another precious jewel in the crown of the Small Cyclades. The quietest of all other islands of this complex, Schinoussa is gifted with areas of unique natural beauty, holding a prominent place in the NATURA 2000 network. This is a land of unparallel gastronomic identity and an authentic spirit of hospitality.

With its name coming from the Venetian lord Schinoza and the bushy shrub called “schinos” that abounds in its soil, Schinoussa captures the essence of Greek summer. Simplicity, a sense of freedom, slow-living, endless hikes on dirt roads and dives in exotic beaches with magnificent turquoise waters, make up the ultimate destination for genuine nature lovers and keen hikers.

Routes & Attractions

Small and atmospheric, Chora or Panagia is a mesmerizing complex of whitewashed houses, cobbled walkways with bougainvilleas and wonderful vistas of the Aegean Sea. Visit the beautiful Folklore Museum to discover the daily life of the people of Schinoussa. Pass by the church of Panagia Akathi to admire its famous icon depicting Christ standing next to the Virgin Mary. Relax with refreshing cocktails in the cozy bars of Chora with panoramic views of the surrounding islands.

Walking down towards the port of Mersini, you will come across the legendary cave of Maniatis. It is built on rocks and named after a pirate from Mani who, according to legend, got killed when he fell into the cave in his attempt to escape with the stolen icon of Panagia Akathi.

Take the path that passes through the mountainous Messaria, the second and only settlement of the island with great history. Its trademark is the old stone windmills, excellent examples of folk architecture (there are similar ones in Vargies and Tsigouri). Don’t miss the small chapel of Evangelismos tis Theotokou (Annunciation of Virgin Mary) with its colorful altar (1909) built on a rock with stunning views of Ios, Santorini, Iraklia and Amorgos.

Beaches & Activities

Despite its small size (just 9.5 square kilometers), Schinoussa is surrounded by some of the most amazing beaches in the Aegean. The most cosmopolitan beach of the island is Tsigouri, with excellent views of the islet of Venetiko and Iraklia.

The vast, golden shore, the trees and good food facilities are a pole of attraction for families. In the South, just 10 minutes from Chora, Livadi promises golden sand and shallow waters on its sheltered coast protected from the summer winds. Here you will find tavernas and tourist shops.

Near the settlement of Messaria, the exotic Psili Ammos resembles an untouched paradise with crystal clear turquoise waters, surrounded by sand dunes and rocks. The twin beach of Almyros is particularly popular among wind surfers for its strong northeastern winds. Its long golden sandy beach gathers families with children.  Lioliou beach is a small realm of tranquility, isolation and relaxation in the natural shade of trees. The beach of Gerolimnionas is quiet but not easily accessible. However, the large white sandy beach with its turquoise waters shall compensate the visitors.

In Schinoussa you can enjoy almost all water sports. If you circumnavigate the island you will discover hidden exotic beaches in the shadow of rocks and enchanting natural caves. The nearby islets of Aspronisi, Argilos and Ofidousa are ideal for diving and underwater fishing. Windsurfing enthusiasts, head to the northern beaches of the island that offer ideal sailing conditions.

Schinoussa is perfect for hiking. The mild uphill relief as well as the island’s small size allow you to walk from one side to the other in just 90 minutes. All trails start from Chora and are mostly dirt paths. Do not miss the Chora- Vargies- Gerolimnionas trail as well as the Chora- Mesaria- Kampos- Psili Ammos trail), along which you’ll find many windmills, vineyards and abandoned farmhouses. It is also worth crossing the gorge of Harakas in Halepes. The location is part of an impressive limestone formation and climbing park that starts from Chora and reaches the port of Mersini. The view to Tsigouri and Fidou beaches is magnificent.

Tastes of the island

Schinoussa is famous for its fava beans (also known as katsouni), an agricultural product that has won many awards and quality distinctions. You should definitely try it, along with other famous appetizers of the local cuisine such as ampelofasoula, snails with garlic and tomato sauce, patatato (meat with potatoes and herbs in a pot), octopus giouvetsi (orzo), fine cheeses (ladotyri, xinomyzithra and kopanisti). For demanding fish-eaters, all roads lead to the port of Mersini and its fish tavernas for the freshest catch from the sea of Small Cyclades.

In the island’s cozy family tavernas of the island you will taste the local comfort food with excellent homemade dishes such as green beans stew and gemista (stuffed tomatoes and peppers) or oven-cooked goat with potatoes, and pastitsio. If you find yourself on the island during Easter, try the traditional lamb in the wood-fired oven (stuffed with rice and herbs).

Schinoussa has many authentic traditional pastry recipes to offer, the most famous of which are the xerotigana (the local version of diples, with thin sheet-like dough) and meletinia (cheese pies with mizithra cheese, honey, mastic and cinnamon). The local aromatic rakomelo is also a must-try drink.

Traditions & Events

Rich in traditions, Schinoussa welcomes its visitors with a full cultural agenda. The festivals on the island are a unique experience with traditional music with violins and lutes, singing, dancing, delicious food as well as plenty of rakomelo. The biggest festival is that of Panagia Akathi (in Chora), which takes place on the Saturday of the Acathist Hymn.  August 15th is celebrated with a two-day festival accompanied by music and dancing as well as photography and pottery exhibitions.

June is the month of the Fava Festival, a two-day feast dedicated to the harvest of local Fava. The celebration takes place in the school courtyard in Chora with free entrance and many visitors from neighboring Naxos. The feast includes live music, local singers, dancing and of course treats of fava beans, while wine and raki flow in abundance. Cultural August, held in the first two weeks of the month, is a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the rich music and dance tradition of the people of Schinoussa, through concerts with well-known folk musicians and dance groups. The parallel program of events includes a crafts bazaar, film screenings, concerts, and photography exhibitions.

Don’t miss...

Walk to the top of Vargies, the highest point of the island (133 m) to marvel at the stunning views of the Aegean Sea against the backdrop of the old stone windmill.

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