Milos, the southernmost of the sun-baked Cyclades islands off mainland Greece, is a volcanic oasis home to picturesque whitewashed villages and hidden cliff-ringed coves. Formed around a central caldera and characterized by lunar-like rock formations, it has the highest concentration of beaches in the entire island group — and yet, it’s delightfully untrodden compared to its more famous neighbours, Santorini and Mykonos. It was once a critical location for the mineral trade — during the Neolithic period, the ancient Minoans exported Milos’s obsidian to the neighbouring Aegean island of Crete, whose residents used the volcanic glass to make weapons — but the island is best known because of an event from more recent history. It was while digging near the Roman amphitheatre in Klima, in 1820, that the amateur archaeologist Olivier Voutier discovered the marble statue known as the “Venus de Milo.” The celebrated work now lives at the Louvre in Paris, but Milos’s mystique remains intact. Thanks to its serene fishing villages, secluded caves, innumerable swimming beaches (many accessible only by boat) and an abundance of locally run restaurants offering fresh catch and regional Greek wines, this tranquil island is quickly gaining appeal for travellers who want Aegean charm without the crowds.
This minimalist boutique hotel is set above the small fishing village of Skinopi on a rocky ridge overlooking the Aegean Sea. Its nine pristine acres are carpeted in wild sage, lavender and thyme and planted with olive trees that produce the hotel’s own extra-virgin olive oil. Designed by the Athens-based architecture firm Kokkinou-Kourkoulas and the landscape artist Elli Pagalou, known for her work on the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in the capital, the property features three stone glass-sided villas inspired by traditional fishermen’s houses. Each has an indoor-outdoor shower, an open-air kitchen and sliding glass doors through which guests can access an expansive sea-view terrace. By the summer of 2020, the property will open four additional villas that will accommodate up to 20 more guests. skinopi.com
Melian Boutique Hotel & Spa
Overlooking the village of Pollonia in northwestern Milos, this waterfront hotel and spa opened in 2008 on the protected bay of Pelekouda. The 15 whitewashed suites blend traditional Cycladic design with modern touches, including works by contemporary Greek artists such as Leda Luss Luyken and Ingbert Brunk. Each room provides a panoramic view of the Aegean Sea, and some are split across multiple floors and feature private terraces equipped with loungers and hot tubs. At the property’s wellness centre, guests can unwind in a blue-tiled hammam before enjoying holistic treatments such as a massage with heated Aegean seashells that is said to enhance blood flow and expel toxins. melian.gr
This white-walled 10-room refuge in Pollonia was built in the traditional Cycladic style: The suites’ wooden floors are lacquered in eco-friendly white paint and some first-floor rooms have an outdoor wooden pergola from which a pebbled walkway leads to the shore of the Aegean. The suites — named after the most beloved beaches of Milos — vary in size and layout but all include outdoor terraces, sun loungers and hot tubs. Each morning, guests are also treated to a breakfast basket filled with local delicacies including Greek jams accompanied by fresh-baked brioche and savoury spinach pie made with flaky phyllo dough and briny feta cheese. salt-milos.com
Compass & Twine
Left: Octopus at Medusa. Right: Dishes at O! Hamos! Tavern.
Situated in the quiet fishing village of Madrakia, this family-run seaside restaurant is run by the chef Kourmoulaki Kaliopi, who serves traditional dishes like smoked eel and fava beans, salted mastelo cheese with local honey and grilled octopus procured daily from the village’s fishermen. Diners sit on the waterfront patio, on rustic blue or white painted wooden chairs, and can begin with starters like sxizakia — slices of bread slathered with tomato sauce — washed down with an array of Greek libations, from ouzo to locally produced wines like the citrusy Malagousia white from the Ktima Gerovassiliou vineyard. medusamilos.gr
O! Hamos! Tavern
This butcher-shop-turned-tavern at Papikinos Beach in Adamas offers outdoor dining and direct access to the sea. Dishes are based on recipes handed down by the owner Irene Psatha’s grandmother and produced with fresh ingredients sourced from her family farm in the island’s verdant Halakas Mountains. Diners can swim and sunbathe between savoring regional favorites like slow-baked lamb spiced with dill, wild goat baked for five hours beneath ash and charcoal and grilled manouri goat cheese seasoned with fresh pepper and thyme. 011-30-2287-021672
Overlooking the Aegean in Pollonia, this fish-focused tavern is inspired by Dionysus — the Olympian god of wine and pleasures — and is the island’s foremost outpost for savoring regional Greek wines. The daily menu features a range of seafood meze, Greek-style tapas, and specialties like baked scorpion fish spiced with sage, octopus marinated in tangy vinegar and karpouzopita, the sweet watermelon pie that is the island’s pre-eminent summer delicacy. Each dish comes with a recommended wine pairing of varietals grown mostly in Central Greece. armenaki.gr
The local artists Natalia-Kalliope Koutra and David Cifuentes design and sell minimalist ceramics at this experimental workshop next to the Archaeological Museum of Milos in Plaka. Made with white and red clay, the pair’s pieces are inspired by the area’s Neolithic past and are stone burnished with ancient pit firing techniques. Their offerings also include pottery for everyday use, from mugs adorned with blue glaze inspired by the Aegean Sea to simple half-dipped black-and-white plates. ceramica-kymbe.com
Set on the northern shore of the island near the village of Agia, this otherworldly swimming beach is known for its white volcanic diatomite and pumice cliffs, which have been carved into pillars and ravines by centuries of waves whipped up by the northerly Meltemi winds. Visitors can sunbathe on the undulating formations and take refreshing dips in rock pools and the bay’s narrow canal. The bravest head for the highest cliffs to take turns plunging into the cerulean waters of the Aegean below. According to local lore, pirates once sought refuge on the beach and hid their treasure in tunnels hand-carved at the base of the rocks.
Sykia and Kleftiko Caves
The best way to see the coastline of Milos is by sailboat, as some of the island’s most impressive natural areas in its southern and western reaches are inaccessible by car or foot. Most sailing expeditions around the island depart from Adamas, Milos’s main port, and cruise along the coast near Klima. Additional stops may include Sykia cave in the west, where a partially collapsed roof allows sun rays to reach its sequestered beach, and Kleftiko cave in the south, a former pirate hideaway now popular with snorkelers, kayakers and swimmers thanks to its emerald inlets and cool white-and-grey caves.
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