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SIFNOS

Siphnos, being less barren than its neighbours, is probably the most beautiful of the western Cyclades. The island is small -- only 82 square kilometres but it has a population of 20,000 and a number of beautiful Cycladic villages.

In antiquity Sifnos was famous for its gold and silver mines which were a mixed blessing for the islanders, bringing them both wealth and trouble. After the fall of Constantinople, Sifnos was grantedto the Gozzadini family by the Duke of Naxos, Marco I Sanudo. In 1307 the Catalans conquered the island. In 1456 an heiress of this family married into the Gozzadini family, uniting the two aristocratic families on the island. By paying an annual tribute, the Gozzadinis were able to keep Sifnos while all the islands around were being occupied by the Turks but in 1617 it was their turn to hand over power to the Ottomans.

Throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman periods the island was famous for its School of Siphnos, an institution of higher education. It provided the church with a number of its senior figures and its most famous head teacher took all the boys capable of bearing arms to the Peloponnese to fight in the Greek War of Independence.

The port is at Kamares on the north-west coast and is nothing special. The capital of the island, Apollonia, is six kilometres inland from the port. The village, which is really three villages that have grown into one, takes its name from Apollo. A number of churches and a Folk Museum are all worth visiting. Here you will also find a bank, post office, OTE and tourist police, based in or around the central square.

Fifteen minutes' walk from Apollonia brings you to Artemonas, named after Artemis. Here, again, the churches are well worth visiting and the neo-classical buildings make this one of the more attractive villages on the island.

Kastro is possibly the most picturesque village on the island and it stands on the site of the ancient and medieval towns of Siphnos. Defensive walls, built by the Catalan rulers of the time, still surround part of the village and Latin coats of arms -- Venetian and Calatan -- can still be seen on some of the houses. There is also a small archaeological museum.

Map of Sifnos

Click to enlarge

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