Whilst Syros is not as well known as its more famous neighbours (Mykonos, Paros, Naxos or Santorini), it is the capital and administrative centre of this group of Greek islands, the Cyclades (aka in Greek as Kyklades). It is not a popular tourist destination – but that is in itself a particularly compelling reason to visit.
The island’s history, particularly the main town of Ermoupoli (aka Hermoupoli) is the capital of the Cyclades. With its cobbled streets and glorious neoclassical and Venetian architecture is much more interesting and culturally diverse than most of the other Cycladic islands combined. (The group comprises 56 islands, 24 of which are inhabited).
Beyond the town, there’s an astonishing landscaped that begs to be explored.
Drive to Fish Hook
From my home on the midwest side of the island, I look north up the coast and can see the “Fish Hook” top end, approx 10 kms away. I had thus always wonderlusted about this very remote uninhabited, rugged and rocky top-end – Syros/Syra means rock. I had rounded this mysterious and alluring point many times on the ferry but never ventured so far by foot.
So when my adventurous, intrepid English mate (I am an Aussie) and experienced hiker (Gordon) said he knew the way, I jumped at the chance. We set out on a warm and sunny May spring day.
From our village of Kini we needed to drive to the northernmost accessible road’s end of the island, being the rural area of Kambos. The half-hour drive up, up, up, is fascinating in itself, taking you past the famous archaeological site of Chalandriani.
It is from here that Cycladic artefacts (carbon-dated at around 2,500 BC) were discovered and are now on display at the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London, and other museums.
This northern half is the most elevated part of the island, which, together with its rugged remoteness, offers a truly otherworldly experience. Think lunar landscapes and the like especially around Grammata Bay. The sense of isolation here is all-pervading.
2-hour trek from Kambos to the top
At Kambos, we abandoned the car and commenced the 2-hour hike towards the islands top end, along a narrow track frequented more by wild feral goats than curious humans.
The path is in most parts undulating and rocky, so care is needed in how to go and where to place your feet. All the way along the central ridge that the path follows, the views are amazing, looking out on the nearby islands of Andros, Tinos and Mykonos to the east, and Yaros, Kea and Kythnos in the west.
Venomous Vipers in these parts are very poisonous and can lead to death
Being springtime, we were conscious of not disturbing snakes and goannas coming out of their winter hibernation, with our shuffling feet on the narrow track.
The venomous Vipers in these parts are very poisonous and can lead to death if a bite is not treated quickly. This would not be possible in such a remote location. Being an Australian, one is always wary of such possibilities.
The harsh and barren topography and flora are capable of surviving the sweltering dry, windy summers. The area was still in bloom, with some low height resilient ground cover and shrubs being springtime. Sage and Thyme are a natural native here, and their wonderful scent adds to the stark beauty.
We could see herds of half a dozen or more wild goats roaming the mountainside, enjoying the warm sunshine and abundance of ground cover. After the cold and windy winters, this must be their most enjoyable time of the year.
They are a unique species apparently, larger and furrier than the goats seen in most other parts. This very remote location offers them safety from natural predators, so this is their domain.
We reached our destination of the fish hook land’s end the late afternoon, with the sun heading for a western sunset. It was an unusually windless day, and with the sea below us so calm and tranquil, it was a surreal setting. A passing ferry about one kilometre away was the only reminder of civilisation and our intrusion on this sublime place.
From this spot, I could look back in a southerly direction down the coast and make out the faint outline of my home, from whence, we came several hours earlier.
The long trek back
With “mission accomplished” (and having another box ticked on exploring this wonderful island), we commenced the long and tricky trek back. It was dusk when we arrived back at the welcome sight of our waiting car.
Physically fatigued but in high spirits from the adventure, we drove to a local Taverna at the nearby village of Sa Michalis. There we joined our other less adventurous friends, for a well earnt authentic traditional Greek supper, of mountain cuisine.
A wonderful and exhilarating day on sunny Syros. They sometimes say it is not the destination that counts, but the journey. On this occasion, it was both.