Located in the Cyclades Islands, Ios has some the wildest nightlife out of all the Greek islands. It is the summer party hub where days are spent hungover on the beach and nights spent eating cheap food and drinking until the sun comes up.
During the summer, backpacking through Ios is a rite of passage for young travelers exploring Europe. While there’s a lot to do on the island, it always seems like 95% of people come here to party (and the average age of visitors seems to be 22).
That said, don’t let Ios’ party reputation deter you from visiting – it’s a beautiful island and only busy between June-August. Outside those months, it’s a quiet island perfect for relaxing. Go swimming, explore ruins, eat seafood, hike, and lay on the beach. There’s lots to enjoy.
I’ve been to Ios three times and, even with my party days behind me, it’s still a fun and relaxing place to visit
This travel guide to Ios will give you the low down on everything you need to know to plan a budget-friendly trip!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Ios
1. Hang out on Mylopotas Beach
3. Lounge at Maganari Beach
4. See Homer’s Tomb
5. Explore Paleokastro
Other Things to See and Do in Ios
1. Visit the Archeological Museum
This itty-bitty museum is so small that you might have to actually ask around to see whether or not it’s open. Inside are ancient artifacts unearthed from Skarkos and Chora, including pottery, artwork, coins, and jewelry. It’s just 2 EUR to visit.
2. Take a boat tour
A boat tour is one of the best ways to see Ios, especially as some of the beaches around the island are only accessible by water. Most tours also have stops at the Koumbara caves and Sikinos Island and include drinks and a BBQ lunch. A 4-hour tour with Meltemi Water Sports (including snorkeling and lunch) costs 38 EUR.
3. Eat in the harbor
The main port in Ios has lots of little cafes and restaurants where you can relax and take in all the activity as the ferries come and go. You can grab a quick cocktail or a plate of delicious fresh seafood and watch the day go by. Hanging out by the port also affords you stunning sunset views every evening!
4. Explore Skarkos
This early Bronze Age settlement is pretty much the only archaeological site on the island. The walled terraces guide you through the ruins of several historic buildings. There is also a collection of old utensils made from stone, metal, and bone to see, as well as some old pottery and tools. To get there, you can walk the stone footpath from the back of the main town. It takes less than 20 minutes and it’s 2 EUR to visit.
5. Go diving
Diving has become increasingly popular in Ios due to its crystal-clear waters and relatively calm waves. It’s an ideal place for beginners. Mylopotas Watersports has shore dives from Mylopotas Beach, as well as boat tours to dive locations where you can see shipwrecks and colorful coral. A shore dive is just 40 EUR, while a two-tank dive on a boat is 90 EUR.
6. See the Church of Agia Irini
From the port, a short walk leads you to the 17th-century Church of Agia Irini (Church of Saint Irene). If you keep walking the path past the church, you’ll get to one of the island’s most secluded beaches, only accessible by foot (or boat)! It is said that there are 365 churches on Ios, one for each day of the year. I didn’t count them all but there were a lot of them!
7. Go hiking
Ios has a handful of scenic hiking trails that loop around the coast and occasionally into the mountains (the latter tend to have more difficult routes). Five trails start in Chora, with the longest stretching over 4 miles (7km). There is signage around town but keep in mind that most of Ios is exposed to the elements so bring lots of water and sunscreen!
8. See the windmills
Windmills are an iconic feature in the Cyclades and Ios has 12 of them overlooking Chora. Three of the windmills have been nicely restored and are worth a visit if you are in Chora. Just walk east out of the village and you can admire the views of the Aegean Sea while you’re there. If you go a bit further, you get to Odysseas Elytis Theatre, an open-air theatre looking out over the sea. It was built in 1997 to represent the style of an ancient Greek theatre.
9. Hit the beach
Ios’ beaches aren’t the best in Greece but they’re still pretty good. While many are only accessible by boat, there are a few popular ones that you can get to by road. Mylopoatas Beach (mentioned above) is close to Chora and most of the restaurants have sun loungers and umbrellas for rent. Lorentzena Beach is more basic — you need to take your own food and drinks — but being on the west coast of Ios, it offers some spectacular sunsets. Manganari Beach is the most popular beach because it is clean and well-maintained. It is actually 5 smaller beaches and there are several restaurants there too. Manganari Beach is around 20km away from Chora but there are regular buses that can get you there.
For more information on other destinations in Greece, check out these guides:
Ios Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Hostels in Ios aren’t as cheap as in other areas of Greece. A bed in a 4-6-bed dorm costs about 25 EUR per night during peak season. Most hostels close for the off-season but you can find some very reasonable rooms in pensions and bed and breakfasts for around 20 EUR.
A basic twin or double private room with an en suite bathroom costs about 45 EUR per night in peak season.
If you’re camping, a site at FarOut Camping is about 24 EUR in peak season and drops to 10 EUR in the shoulder season. FarOut also offers rooms, huts, and glamping tents.
Budget hotel prices – Budget two-star hotels start at 55 EUR per night in peak season and 30 EUR in the low season. You get a lot of value for this price, including properties with pools.
Most of the Airbnb accommodations on Ios are actually hotels. There are no shared rooms, but for a private room, expect to pay from 35 EUR per night in the low and shoulder seasons and 65 EUR during peak season. A full apartment averages about 70 EUR per night.
Average cost of food – Traditional Greek cuisine is very healthy with a lot of fresh vegetables, olive oil, lamb, fish, pork, cheeses (especially feta), and yogurts are also super common. Filo pastries stuffed with meat or spinach and cheese are a local favorite as are souvlaki and gyros.
You can find gyros at tiny fast-food spots in the main town for about 5 EUR or fries for around 3.80 EUR. A burger with fries costs around 8 EUR.
Greek dishes like moussaka and souvlaki cost between 9-14 EUR while lamp chops cost around 12 EUR. Fresh seafood dishes start around 17 EUR. For the freshest seafood, head to the restaurants in the port.
A beer or glass of wine will set you back around 4 EUR. A cappuccino costs between 3-4 EUR.
My two favorite places to eat are The Nest and Moonlight Cafe.
If you cook for yourself, you can spend as little as 40 EUR on groceries per week, which would include basic staples like pasta, bread, cheese, veggies, and some meat or seafood.
Backpacking Ios Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Ios, expect to spend about 50 EUR per day. This budget covers a hostel dorm, a few bus rides each day, cooking your meals and having a few cheap local eats, and free activities like hiking and lounging on the beach. If you’re here to party, add another 20 EUR or more per day for drinks.
A mid-range budget of 110 EUR covers staying in a private room at a hostel or Airbnb, eating out for all your meals at cheap food stalls, having a few drinks, taking the occasional taxi to get around, and doing paid activities like boat tours and visiting some museums.
On a “luxury” budget of about 220 EUR or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat any meal you want, drink and party as much as you want, rent a scooter or car to get around, and do more activities like scuba diving. A luxury budget in Ios gets you a lot, even in peak season!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you spend more, some days you spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in EUR.
Ios Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Although Ios is one of the most popular Greek islands, it’s way more budget-friendly than places like Santorini and Mykonos since it caters to younger travelers and backpackers. As long as you can find a budget place to stay and don’t drink too much, you’re set. But it never hurts to save more! Here are some suggested ways to save money in Ios:
- Take advantage of all the free stuff – Beaches, ruins, and Homer’s Tomb — they’re all free. You can have an incredible time in Ios just taking advantage of all the free activities and attractions.
- Eat super cheap – Gyros (and other street snacks) usually only cost a few euros. They are quick and easy and can keep you full for less than 10 EUR per day!
- Travel in the shoulder season – Accommodations and even scooter/ATV rentals are cheaper in the shoulder season. If you’re not here to party, the shoulder season can save you lots of money.
- Stay with a local – If you plan ahead, you can usually find a Couchsurfing hosts. This way, you not only have a free place to stay but you get a local host that can share the best places to go and things to see and do.
- Buy your own alcohol – Ios is a place where people drink. You can end up spending a lot of money if you aren’t careful. Drink your own alcohol before heading out and then stick to the 1 EUR shot bars. Otherwise, you could find yourself spending close to 45 EUR per night!
- Book overnight ferries – Greece’s inter-island ferries can get quite expensive if you are visiting a lot of them. Taking overnight ferries can save you up to half off the normal price plus save you a night of accommodation.
- Get a ferry pass – Eurail/Interrail has a ferry pass that has 4- and 6-trip options. The only caveat is that you can only take Blue Star and Hellenic Seaways ferries. Those tend to be the larger, slower ferries and, depending on the islands, might require you to connect somewhere. You’ll need to research routes in advance to see if the pass is worth it. I would search routes on FerryHopper to see if it works for you. You can purchase your pass on Eurail (non-EU residents) or Interrail (EU residents).
- Use the Greek salad/bread rule – To see if a restaurant is cheap or expensive, use this rule: if the bread cover is .50 EUR or a Greek salad is less than 7 EUR, the restaurant is cheap. If the cover is around 1 EUR and a salad is 7-8.50 EUR, the prices are average. Anything more than that, the place is expensive.
- Rent a car – Car rentals can be incredibly cheap in Ios. Prices start at just 22 EUR per day for a multi-day rental when booked in advance. Drivers need to be at least 21 and have had their license for one year. An International Driving Permit is also required.
- Use points if you can – If you’re a travel hacker and have points that can be used for cash, using them to book accommodation will be better if you’re staying at cheaper properties (anything less than 100 EUR). For only a few thousand points per night, you can save a ton of money.
- Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
Where to Stay in Ios
You basically have two main areas to stay on Ios: in Chora (the main town), or on Mylopotas Beach. Here are some of my suggested places to stay in Ios:
How to Get Around Ios
Bus – In the summer months, buses run between Chora, Ormos, and Mylopotas Beach every 20 minutes or so. All fares are 2 EUR each way. (Note: the buses get CROWDED!) There are also buses from Chora to Koubara and infrequent buses to beaches like Manganari and Agia Theodoti.
Scooter/ATV Rentals – Renting a scooter or ATV is one of the best ways to enjoy the island at your own pace. You can get a scooter for 20 EUR per day in the high season, and 15 EUR per day in the low-season. An ATV rental in the high season costs 35 EUR per day for two people and 25 EUR in the low season. Vangelis Rentals is the best company to go with for consistent prices and excellent service.
Taxi – Taxis have set fares of 5 EUR from the port to Chora and 5 EUR from Chora to Mylopotas. Prices can add up if you use them to get around though so skip them if you can.
Car rental – Cars can be rented for as little as 22 EUR per day here. Drivers must be at least 21 years and must have had their license for at least 1 year. An International Driving Permit (IDP) is required.
When to Go to Ios
Ios is at its best in the summer between June and September. July is the hottest month, with temperatures averaging about 81°F (27°C) each day.
Summer is definitely the best time to be here if you want to soak up the sun and hang out with all the other backpackers. Prices are highest then too and accommodation becomes hard to find so book in advance.
However, the shoulder seasons (fall and spring) offer cheaper prices, fewer crowds, and just as much fun. Temperatures are still warm, with the average high being 75°F (24°C) in September and 64°F (18°C) in April.
I think May, early June, and September right before the season ends are the best time to visit.
Ios is very much a seasonal place, and the island pretty much shuts down in the winter months — most restaurants and accommodations close during this time so I’d avoid coming in the winter.
How to Stay Safe in Ios
Ios is an incredibly safe island. Even the risk of petty crime like pick-pocketing is low here. No one is going to scam you here either. The island is very small and everyone knows each other.
If you’re driving a scooter or ATV, always wear a helmet and drive with caution. The roads are winding and drivers can be unpredictable. Most accidents here happen around scooters or people doing something stupid when they get drunk so try not to do that.
If you go hiking, wear a hat, bring water, and wear sunscreen.
When out at the bar, always keep an eye on your drink. Incidents are rare, but it never hurts to play it safe.
Always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night, be aware of your surroundings at all times, and make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
Remember: if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it in Ios!
And be sure to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Greece Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Greece. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or in their spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B in the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, and boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home-cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price), but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- FerryHopper – This is the best website for finding and booking ferries in Greece. They list routes, times, and prices so you can book directly with them. It’s super easy and there are no hidden fees.
Ios Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Ios Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
The Iliad, by Homer
A story of men and gods, Homer’s epic poem conveys the horror and heroism of the Trojan War before moving into its heart-wrenching, tragic conclusion. The translated version by classicist Robert Fagles is a beautiful rendition of this story. Just take a second to appreciate the fact that this poem has been around since the 9th century BCE. It’s a wonderful glimpse into life at that time. (Follow it up with The Odyssey!)
Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis
This book was first published in 1946 and is considered a Greek classic. It’s the story of a Greek working man named Zorba, a great lover of life, and the unnamed narrator who accompanies him to Crete where they work together in a mine. The book is about the “struggle of men to find their souls and purpose in life.” Zorba is a lively, memorable character, and the writing the absolutely poetic. This is a must-read.
Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens, by Sofka Zinovieff
Sofka Zinovieff became enamored with Greece when she studied there as a student. Years later she moved back with her Greek husband and two young daughters. This book is about her first year in Athens and all the trials and (hilarious) tribulations that come with learning how to be Athenian. There are a lot of great insights into everyday Athenian life here, including how to catch a taxi, the importance of cigarettes, and how to get a pig cooked at the bakers. It will definitely spark your desire to hang out in Athens for a while!
It’s All Greek to Me, by John Mole
This is the self-deprecating, humorous true story of John Mole, a man whose dreams of a Greek paradise lead him to buy a broken-down home in the countryside. The house has no water, no electricity, no doors, and no windows. Mole drags his family along for the journey. Together, they spend time cleaning out 20 years of goat poop and getting to know the friendly neighbors (like Elpida, who cures back pain with raw eggs). This is a seriously funny, charming book!
The Summer of My Greek Taverna: A Memoir, by Tom Stone
One summer, Tom Stone went to Greece to write a novel. He ended up staying 22 years. On the island of Patmos, he fell in love with a French painter named Danielle, and seven years later they moved to Crete. This book is about life as an American struggling to make his dreams a reality in a foreign place and all the joys and sorrows that accompany that.
Ios Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Greece travel and continue planning your trip: