A old hilltop village in pastel hues with views that will take your breath away, Ano Syros is a must-see whilst on the Greek island of Syros.
I had no idea what to expect when I wandered uphill and stumbled upon Ano Syros. But it took my breath away and turned out to be one of the highlights of that trip. You can see its outline from the busy ferry port in Ermoupoli – Ano Syros truly is a gem hidden in plain sight.
What and Where is Ano Syros?
The Greek island of Syros – located at the heart of the Cyclades – is known primarily for the neoclassical grace of its intriguing capital Ermoupoli.
It’s the administrative hub of the Cycladic islands and a popular place to catch connecting ferries. I visited several times in 2020 whilst criss-crossing the Aegean.
As you approach Ermoupoli by ferry, you’ll notice its distinctive skyline with two hilltop churches – one is the Orthodox Church of the Resurrection of Christ, the other is the Catholic Church of Agios Georgios.
Having seen this skyline from the ferry many times (pictured below – Ano Syros is the hill on the left), I was intrigued to take a walk up them when I was finally on the island for long enough. Ermoupoli is a busy town which can feel hot and chaotic in the summer and I was eager to escape to somewhere more my pace.
Ano Syros was the original settlement that developed during the Venetian occupation from 1204 until 1522. It remained the home of the island’s Catholic population in the subsequent centuries.
In the 19th century Ermoupoli rapidly expanded, with refugees fleeing the Greek War of Independence settling down by the harbour. The spread encompassed Ano Syros and now it feels more like the oldest ‘old quarter’ of Ermoupoli than a separate village.
The Catholic Church sits at the centre of the village and at its highest point, with the outer buildings form a sort of fortification allowing the village to protect itself (and the church) from pirate attacks. The labyrinthine alleyways also provide plenty of hidey-holes.
The Church of Agios Georgios is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syros and Milos. It dates back to around 1200 although it has undergone many alterations and reconstructions since then, the most extensive in 1617.
The church may be Venetian but the rest of the village feel more typically Cycladic, with narrow alleyways draped with bougainvillaea and painted in white and the soft pastel colours so typical of Syros.
How to Get to Ano Syros?
It’s a short (but steep!) uphill walk from Ermoupoli, Syros’ capital and main port town.
To reach Ano Syros, look for a road called Andrea Karga at the back of the town and follow it upwards. Eventually you’ll reach a steep staircase which will take you into the village itself.
Alternatively you can take a taxi up to the church.
Due to its proximity to Ermoupouli and amazing views it’s a popular place for an evening drink or dinner.
Maison du Meze
Don’t miss a trip to the Maison du Meze, a little cafe-deli-bar showcasing produce from the island. If you take the main steps up to Ano Syros then you can’t miss it (you’ll probably hear its cool jazz music before you see it).
Maison du Meze is open throughout the day so is perfect if you need a snack or drink after the climb – I recommend the prickly pear juice!
There are a few evening options including a restaurant directly opposite Maison du Meze however you will inevitably end up getting lost in the backstreets and coming across a hidden restaurant or cocktail bar incredible views such as Apanochoritissa or Syrianon (pictured below).
Other Points of Interest
Most visitors will be content with a meander around this atmospheric and charming place, although it’s worth a look in the Markos Vamvakaris Museum if it’s open when you walk past.
Ano Syros is the birthplace of this legendary Greek musician Markos Vamvakaris and this museum is dedicated to his life and music. He’s associated with rebetiko, a type of Greek music known as the ‘Greek blues’.
For fans of history and religion there are a few sites of specific interest:
- Historical Archive of Ano Syros
- Exhibition of Traditional Professions
- Centre for Historical Studies
- Spring of Agios Athanasios
- Church of Agios Nikolaos
- Jesuit and Capuchin monasteries
- Bust of the philosopher Pherecydes
Where to Stay in Ano Syros
Most visitors to Ano Syros are staying down in Ermoupoli or in one of the island’s coastal villages, but if you want to stay in Ano Syros itself check out the guesthouse Wind Tales , stay in Anemomylos Windmill, or have a look on Booking.com for traditional studios.
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Image credits: All images © The Mediterranean Traveller