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Beaches

Sifnos has several really good beaches. You can reach many of them by caique shuttle services from Kamares; Aegean Thesarus Travel in Apollonia or Kamares can let you know the schedules. Not surprisingly, Plati Yialos, the island's longest sand beach, is easy to reach by taxi or public transportation. There are plenty of tavernas and cafes along the crescent sand beach where you can have a bite. (You can also hike from Platis Yialos to the Panagia tou Vounou monastery). Not surprisingly, Plati Yialos -- which boasts that it is the longest beach in the Cyclades -- can be crowded in summer. If you have time, you may want to explore some of the island's other beaches. Here are some suggestions.

From Platis Yialos, it's a half-hour walk east through the olive groves and intoxicating oregano and thyme patches over the hill to Panagia Chrissopiyi, a double-vaulted whitewashed church on a tiny island. There's good swimming at Apokofto, a cove with a long sand beach and several shade trees just beyond the monastery, where rocky headlands protect swimmers from rough water. Pharos and Fasolou, two other east-coast beaches (reachable from Platis Yialos on foot by the resolute), are easier to get to by taking the bus from Apollonia. The excellent Dimitris taverna (tel. 22840/71-493) is by the sea at Fasolou.

Until 1997, the beach at Vathi -- one of the best on the island -- was accessible only on foot or by boat, but there's now a road and regular bus service. Sifnos's first posh resort, Elies, opened here in 2005. The beach does not have the dense development of the port of Kamares and Platis Yialos, but there's every sign that it may yet. Of the several tavernas here, my friends with houses on Sifnos praise To Livada (tel. 22840/71-123). I couldn't agree more: great salads, grills, stews and a pleasantly cool spot to sit, just off the beach, surrounded by trees. The beach at Cheronisso, at the island's northern end, is a spectacular spot to watch the sun go down.

Walking

More and more asphalt roads are appearing on Sifnos to accommodate wheeled vehicles, but you'll still be able to do lots of your walking on the island's distinctive flagstone and marble paths. You'll probably see village women whitewashing the edges of the paving stones, transforming the monochrome paths into elaborate abstract patterns. Throughout the island, you'll find dovecotes, windmills, and small white chapels in amazingly remote spots.

One wonderful walk on the island leads west from Apollonia to Profitis Elias, passing through a valley of extraordinary beauty to the summit of the island's highest mountain (wraparound amazing views). A short detour lets you also take in the church and ruined monastery at Skafis. Pick up a walking map at one of the local travel agencies. The 12th-century walled monastery of Profitis Elias is a formidable citadel, its interior courtyard lined with the monks' cells. The chapel has a fine marble iconostasis. Continue straight where the summit path branches right and walk through the next intersection. You'll soon reach the church of Skafis, within the ruins of an old monastery and overlooking a valley shaded by olive trees. Look for the remains of paintings on the walls of the monastery, in what must have been a chapel. Allow about 4 hours for the round-trip to Profitis Elias, with a half-hour for the detour to Skafis.

From Plati Yialos, you can hike to the Panagia tou Vounou by following a paved road that leads off the main road to Plati Yialos; although the monastery (which has fine views) is signposted, it is best to have a good island map. The church here is usually unlocked in the morning, locked in the afternoons.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.