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Is Serifos the Perfect Greek Island?

Is Serifos the Perfect Greek Island?

“I have analysis paralysis,” said my friend Maite, an Argentine who lives in Madrid. Maite is a world traveler but has always been stymied when it comes to Greece. “There are too many islands. How do you decide?”

There are more than 6,000 Greek islands, so it was a fair question — and one that many potential visitors probably ask themselves. Since I had plans to go to Greece, it was also one I wanted an answer to myself.

I started with a process of elimination: Rule out anything with an airport (too crowded) or uninhabited (too empty). Then add ferry access (I don’t have a yacht), lots of beaches, good local restaurants and nice hotels. Plus, a rich history, a welcoming local population, and proximity to other islands (for day trips). Throw in the mythical cave of the Cyclops, and we have a winner. Six thousand became one: Serifos.

Serifos is in the western Cyclades. If you’re looking at a map of the Greek islands, it’s pretty much dead center, lying between Syros, Paros and Milos — but it doesn’t have the name recognition of its neighbors. It’s not enormous, only about 29 square miles — but it has 70 beaches. It was settled in the 7th century B.C., which makes it one of the younger spots in the archipelago. And I’d been told by a Greek friend that it is the perfect, just-discovered-enough place to spend a week. The Platonic ideal of a Greek island.

That’s how I found myself (with my husband and our two children) at the counter of a car rental company in Livadi Port in Serifos, a few steps from where the ferry spat us out.

The gentleman behind the counter handed me a map of the island, which I expected. What I didn’t expect was that as I turned to leave, he stopped me and with a thick black marker, began crossing out roads on the southern and western parts of the island.

“You cannot drive here. It would be a big problem,” he said, wagging a finger at the map.

A big problem because the roads are impassable or a big problem because the roads were perilously close to the mythical throne of the Cyclops, he didn’t specify. So we left the port and, heeding his warning, drove north, into the hills and the island’s main town, Chora.

Calling Chora the capital of Serifos, though true, is misleading. It’s more like a cluster of square, whitewashed houses clinging to the top of a small mountain overlooking the sea. The town is made up of sun-dappled cafes, local bakeries, a few churches, zero streets that can accommodate a car, a…

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