Located in the Cycladic Islands, Ios has the wildest nightlife out of all the Greek islands. It is the summer party island where days are spent hungover on the beach and nights spent eating cheap food and drinking until the comes up.
Backpacking through Ios is a right of passage for the travelers of Europe during the summer. 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 is 22). If you don’t want to do that but still want to see Ios, it’s best to go to the eastern part of the island where it’s quieter and more relaxed.
That said, don’t let Ios’ party reputation deter you from visiting – it’s a beautiful island and only busy 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.
This travel guide to Ios will give you the low down on everything you need to know to plan your visit!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Ios
1. Hang out on Mylopotas Beach
3. Find privacy at Maganari Beach
4. Take an ATV to 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 you’ll find ancient artifacts unearthed from Skarkos and the main town, including pottery, artwork, coins, and jewelry. It’s €4 ($4.45 USD) 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 will also have stops at the Koumbara caves and Sikinos island and include drinks and a BBQ lunch. A three-hour trip costs from €30 ($33 USD). A tour with Meltemi Water Sports (including snorkeling and a lunch) costs €38 ($42 USD).
3. Hang out on the harbor
The main port in Ios has lots of little cafes and restaurants to relax and enjoy all the activities around the ferries coming and going. You can grab a quick cocktail or a plate of delicious fresh seafood, and take it all in. Hanging out by the port also affords you stunning sunset views every evening!
4. Shop in Chora
The main town is a great place to do some shopping. You can find a good selection of clothes and gifts that are a lot cheaper than on Santorini and Mykonos, and popping into the tiny family-owned shops between the narrow alleyways looping around the hill is a pleasure in itself.
5. 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 Cycladic 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 Chora. It takes less than 20 minutes, and it’s €4 ($4.45 USD) to visit.
6. Go diving
Diving has become increasingly popular in Ios due to its crystal clear waters and relatively calm waves, making it an ideal place for beginners. Mylopotas Watersports has shore dives from Mylopotas Beach, as well as boat tours to dive locations where you can observe shipwrecks and colorful coral. A shore dive is just €40 ($44.50 USD), while a two boat dive is €90 ($100 USD).
7. See the Church of Agia Irini
From the port, a short walk will lead you to the church of Agia Irini (Saint Irene). It was built in the 17th century. If you keep walking the path past the church, you’ll reach one of the island’s most secluded beaches, only accessible by foot (or boat)!
8. Go hiking
Ios has a handful of scenic hiking trails that loop around the coast and sometimes into the mountains (the latter tends to have more difficult routes). Five trails start in Chora, with the longest being more than 4.35 miles (7 kilometers). You’ll see signage around town. Keep in mind that most of Ios is exposed to the elements so, if it’s a hot day, bring lots of water and sunscreen!
For more information on specific destinations in Greece, check out these guides:
Ios Travel Costs
Hostel prices – A bed in a four to six bed dorm will cost about €14 ($16 USD) per night during low season. During peak season, a dorm bed will cost between €20-33 ($22-37 USD) per night.
A basic twin private room with an ensuite bathroom costs about €31.50 ($35 USD) per night for one person. A standard double private room with an ensuite bathroom is about €40.50 ($45 USD) for two people. In peak season, a single room starts from €50 ($55 USD) for one person while a double private room starts from €66 ($73 USD) for two people.
If you’re camping, a two-person tent at Far Out Camping is about €8 ($9 USD), while a single tent is €16 ($18 USD) per night.
Budget hotel prices – Nightly rates for a budget two-star hotel room with a private ensuite bathroom start at about €45 ($50 USD). You’ll 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 €23 ($26 USD) per night. A full apartment averages about €90 ($100 USD) per night.
Average cost of food – You can find gyros at tiny, fast food spots in Chora for about €5 ($5.60 USD), while a chicken or sausage pita is between €2-3 ($2.20-3.30 USD). Western food like burgers cost about €4 ($4.45 USD), but a big nourishing bowl of Greek salad will cost about €5 ($5.50 USD).
At a mid-range Greek restaurant, you’ll find a meal like a pizza or a big plate of calamari or shrimp for between €10-14 ($11-15.50 USD), and a beer to go with it will cost about €4 ($4.40 USD). Higher-end restaurants will have entrees like glazed lamb starting from €18 ($20 USD), while the catch-of-the-day starts from about €24 ($27 USD) with a side salad or similar. For the freshest seafood, head to the restaurants on the port.
If you cook for yourself, you can spend as little as €40 ($44 USD) on groceries per week, which would include some meat, bread, eggs, cheese, some veggies, and fruit.
Backpacking Ios Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Ios, expect to spend about €52 ($57 USD) per day. This budget will cover a hostel dorm, a few bus rides each day, cheap local eats, and free activities. If you’re traveling during the shoulder season, you can reduce this budget to about €46 ($51 USD) per day. If you’re here to party, add at least an extra €20 ($22 USD) or more per day.
A mid-range budget of about €120 ($133 USD) will cover staying in a private hostel or budget hotel room, eating out for all of your meals, all the attractions you want, a few tours, and some drinks. During the shoulder season, you can budget for about €103 ($115 USD) each day.
On a luxury budget of about €263 ($292 USD) or more per day, you can get a nice four-star hotel with a pool, any meal you want, drinks, tours, and a scooter rental. 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’ll spend more, some days you’ll 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 USD.
Ios Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Although Ios is one of the most popular Greek islands, it’s way more budget friendly in comparison to places like Santorini and Mykonos since it caters to younger travelers and backpackers. Prices get pretty high peak season when the island is bursting with tourists but it’s still cheap by comparision. As long as you can find a budget place to stay and don’t drink too much, you’re all set. 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’ll have an incredible time in Ios just taking advantage of all the free activities and attractions.
- 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 will save you lots of money.
- Couchsurf – If you plan ahead, you can usually find really nice Couchsurfing hosts. This way, you not only have a place to stay, but you’ll have a local host that can tell you the best places to go and things to see.
- 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 ($1.10 USD) shot bars. Otherwise, you could find yourself spending close to €45 ($50 USD) per night!
- Book overnight ferries – Greece’s inter-island ferries can get quite expensive if you are visiting a lot of them. Taking the overnight ferries can save you up to half off the normal price plus save you a night of accommodation.
- Book ferries early – If you book the ferries around two months in advance, you can save up to 25% off the cost of your ticket. (Score!)
Where To Stay in Ios
You basically have two main areas to stay on Ios: in Chora, or on Mylopotas Beach. The Far Out properties on Mylopotas Beach are definitely party places. On the other hand, Francesco’s in Chora is one of my favorite hostels in the world and a shorter walk to the bars. 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 ($2.22 USD) 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 ($22 USD) per day in the high-season, and €15 ($17 USD) per day in the high season. An ATV rental in the high season will cost €40 ($44.50 USD) for two people, or €30 ($33 USD) per day 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 ($5.60 USD) from the port to Hora and €5 ($5.60 USD) from Hora to Mylopotas. Have your hotel/hostel call Ios Taxi Service.
When to Go to Ios
Ios is at its best in the summer months between June to 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 accomodation becomes hard to find (book in advance).
However, the shoulder seasons (fall and spring) will 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 shuts 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 up during this time.
How to Stay Safe in Ios
Ios is an incredibly safe island. Even the risk of petty crime like pick pocketing is very low here. That being said, leave your valuables at your hotel or hostel, and don’t leave your items unattended at the beach.
If you’re driving a scooter or ATV, always wear a helmet and drive with caution. Ios’s roads are winding, and drivers can be unpredictable.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Remember: always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
And be sure to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect 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.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- 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 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’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- Bla Bla Car – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- 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.
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 BC. 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 now 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 Zorba to Crete where they work together in a mine. But it’s also about the “struggle of men to find their souls and purpose in life.” The best part about this book is Zorba – a memorable character who makes the most out of life, whether it’s work in the mines or hanging out with monks in a mountain monastery. It’s like pure poetry.
Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens, by Sofka Zinovieff
Sofka Zinovieff became enamoured with Greece when she studied there as a student, but 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 baker’s. It’ll definitely spark your desire to hang out in Athens for awhile.
It’s All Greek to Me, by John Mole
This is the self-deprecating, humorous true story of John Mole – a man whose ideals of Greek paradise lead him to buying a shambled home in the countryside with no water, no electricity, no doors, no windows…you get the point. Mole drags his family along to this rural escape, where they spend some 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 book.
The Summer of My Greek Taverna: A Memoir, by Tom Stone
One summer Tom Stone went to Greece to write a novel, and 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. Not long after, his friend offered him a summer partnership at his beach taverna back on Patmos, and Stone decided to go for it – although his wife warned against it. Ultimately she was right: Stone ended up learning the hard lessons about doing business in Greece, and that the partnership was really a “Trojan horse.” Here is his account of that time – about life as an American struggling to make his dreams a reality in a foreign place.
Ios Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Greece travel and continue planning your trip: