Date: June 10, 2015
Current location: Greece, specifically en route to iOS from the Santorini
Current tunes: OMI, “Cheerleader”
Who can guess what language this is?
“Hey mate, reckon we should chuck a couple stubbies in the eski, pop it in the ute, bring a plate and we’ll head out this arvo with some mates for a barbie out bush.”
Ok so it’s English, but apparently that’s Aussie for:
“Hey friend, we should throw a couple beers in the cooler, put it in the pickup, grab some food and then head out this afternoon with some friends for a BBQ in the outback.”
Many of the people Jaz and I have become friends with on our tour are Aussies. Coincidentally, Ios has a huge Australian community with half of the hotel and business owners hailing from Oz. Between our tour and the people on this island I feel like I have entered “Gree-stralia” (which I’ve been told is a very controversial issue with major tension between the Greek and Aussie business owners). The island only has about 1,500 residents, but during the summer months, this number swells to about 16,000 as it is a sought after paradise and party destination by young travelers around the world. I was surprised by this because I had never even heard of Ios until this tour. But what I have found to be my most favorite part of the island is it’s relaxed vibe and incredibly friendly locals. Kinda reminds me of a Greek Hawaii.
While Santorini is known for its epic sunsets, Ios is known for watching the sunrise. Except not in the wake up early and watch it all huddled and cute with your family kind of way. Think more like dancing the night away early into the morning and somehow managing to scramble up a mountain while inebriated kind of way. While Jaz and I didn’t take on that challenge, we did end up hitting the town for an organized pub crawl with our tour mates and lasted until about 230am when we opted to tap out for some ice cream and a warm bed! We are officially the grandma girls of our group haha. But I must say Ios really does ensure an epic night out and we had a blast dancing and checking out the unique bars (I was incredibly sore the next morning…I think I gave myself whiplash because I was loving whipping my hair back and forth just a little too much).
The next morning, while our tour mates were resting up from their big night, Jasmine and I decided to head up the hill for a morning hike. Chora is the main town in Ios, with a main square and a large church at the base of the hill, most of it’s main shops/food/bars all perched along the slope, and three tiny churches at its peak. Jasmine is a yogi (she is officially teaching a yoga class at the Fresno State Rec Center this year- so proud!) so she led us in a mini yoga session to stretch out my sore muscles after getting my Beyonce on last night. Honestly, I don’t think I go out enough back home to know if I always am this sore after dancing or if this is just what getting old feels like (Maybe it’s partly due to all the walking, Jasmine has been tracking it on her phone and we walked up 100 flights of stairs in one day here)! But the views from up there are spectacular and because so much of the island stays up all night, the mornings here are incredibly calm and peaceful. After our hike we did some morning shopping and bought some grub from this delicious bakery at the base of the hill. I swear their chicken pie hot pocket thing puts Costco’s Chicken Bake to shame. Soooo delish.
The rest of the day was spent lounging on Ios’ main beach, Mylopotas. The sand here is like cornmeal and the water is just like the water I have seen on every island in Greece so far- crystal clear and fiercely blue. I think we spent four hours on that beach lounging, swimming, and playing in the sand. We found a leftover sand shovel and an old cup, which we used to make a Greek flag sandcastle. I am completely convinced that sand and surf are just good for the soul and you are never to old to take a dip in the sea and build a sandcastle.
There is no Yelp set up in Greece yet so I highlighted some of the best or most popular bars and restaurants to check out if you are ever in Ios:
- Harmony: This restaurant is on the cliffs of Myoplatos Beach and is really a gem. We ate here with our group before the pub-crawl and everyone who comes in just falls in love with relaxing atmosphere of Harmony. There is all type of seating with couches and day beds, pillows, hammocks, and even blankets for when the sea wind starts to make you cold. The sangria here is killer and their happy hour has a 2 for 1 beers deal. They also serve decent Mexican food (not truly authentic but more gourmet style, like lamb/pomegranite/goat cheese tostada and tequila lime nachos) which Jasmine was stoked about because let’s be honest, Californians start to get a little loco if they have been without a burrito for 3 weeks. Oh and to top it all off, there is the dreamiest of live guitar singers for you to swoon over while you eat. Winning.
- The Nest: Jasmine and I ate here by ourselves on our second night in Ios. The owner George met us earlier in the day and recommended we come for dinner. This is true homestyle Greek food and is so well priced! We spent less than 20 euro for 2 people and had plenty leftover. Get the “Nest Salad” and the chickpea balls and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
- Ios Bakery: At the base of the hill to the right of the square you’ll find a cheap and delicious lunch or breakfast. Carbo load with their amazing spread of breads as well as sweet and savory pastries. This is where I bought that scrumptious chicken pie!
- Fun Pub: There’s lots of games here like life size Jenga, beer pong, foosball, and pool. You can also eat here as it runs as a restaurant during most of the day and part of the evening.
- Slammer Bar: They have you wear a massive helmet and smack you over the head with a hammer or fire extinguisher after you take a drink. Every nurse fiber in me says nooooooo and I cringed as I watched my mates do it.
- Circus: Awesome live music and entertaining bartenders that can juggle fire!
- Traffic: Good dancing and music
- Far Out Beach Club: On Mylopotas Beach complete with a pool, beach bar, and sun beds.
- Alternate Bar: Fun and unique shots found here. I tried the “Campfire” in which you roast a marshmallow on a strip of fire they light right on the bar top and eat it as a chaser. They also have a cinnamon “Harry Potter” shot that has fire in the glass.
I also wanted to introduce my temporary family while I am in Greece. Everyone, meet Med Experience’s first Greek Island hopping tour group of the season:
Sarah, Australia: Our sporty and fearless leader. After playing net ball and studying sports science in college, Sarah’s love for travel (and Greece) made her switch gears and enter into the travel and tour industry.This is her second year as a guide for MedExperience and we are just 1 of 12 tours she will lead this summer.
Kelli, USA: Originally from Ohio and a wild child by night, this girl loves to travel and melts at the sight of any baby. She currently works as an au pair in Amsterdam. I sometimes regret not taking a gap year and working as a nanny overseas! If you have ever considered it, let me know and I’m sure I can get you Kelli’s contact info for questions.
Tina, USA: She’s a sunny and spunky one who is always down for a good time and is often making our group burst into laughter. Tina just finished a study abroad semester in Barcelona and is Kelli’s younger sister.
Nigel, Australia: Nigel is an Aussie-Kiwi hybrid since he was born and partly raised in New Zealand and then moved to Australia in his pre-teens. His quick wit and sarcasm makes him the guy you hate to love and you can’t help but laugh at his dry humor. He is currently on a several month trip across Europe.
Simon, Ireland: Ever watch Harry Potter? If so, imagine a ginger Seamus Finnigan. This guy just makes you feel good about life because he’s always laughing. He’s a carpenter back home and his thick Irish accent is lovable but sometimes makes it hard for me to understand him!
Oisin, Ireland: Oisin is Simon’s best mate from high school and while he is from Ireland, he currently is living in London finishing an internship for school. Oisin is really easy going and while he is probably one of the more quiet travelers of the group he is always ready to party. The two Irish are just doing a quick holiday in Greece and then heading back home.
Bronty, Australia: Bronty is a first time traveler and has such enthusiasm for every new experience. Her fierce blue eyes and beautiful smile remind make her look a lot like Melissa George. I swear it’s her doppleganger. Bronty is starting an associates type degree accelerated nursing program in July after this trip.
Ruby, Australia: Ruby is a free spirit, has a heart of gold, and was the first person I really got to know on this trip. At 19 years old, I often forget she is the baby of the group as she seems to be older and is currently on week eight of a three month solo travel trip across Europe. She is a joy to be around and has these quirky catchphrases that Jasmine and I have started to pick up. Oh and she too is pursuing nursing when she finishes up her European tour in July.
That’s our Med Experience group in a nutshell. It only took a bit for us to get to know each other and we are loving the small size of our tour group. Two islands down, two to go. All aboard the ferry to Paros!
Cheers and keep on wishin’,
PS Happy to report our accommodation, Hotel Sunrise, on this island was MUCH better with free towels, sheets, the most helpful staff, and a balcony with an incredible view!