Amid the pristine landscape of Iraklia, taverns serve up delectable island cuisine. Dine on local meat dishes and velvety fava (split pea) dip in places like To Steki Tis Annios, run by chef Giannis Gavalas.
Iraklia beckons during summer’s peak, with impeccable weather and bustling ferries. But it’s also perfectly suited to a quieter, more authentic island-hopping itinerary.
1. To Steki Tis Annios
The central taverna of Iraklia is To Steki Tis Annios (Google rating 4.3), which serves small-portioned dishes like xinomyzithra cheese and stuffed goat. It’s open year-round, but if you’re planning a visit in peak season, call ahead to reserve a table.
The taverna sits above the traditional grocery store of To Steki, and offers an amazing view over Koufonisi and Schoinoussa. The food is good and the atmosphere is very warm, and it’s a must-visit when in Iraklia.
Among the other highlights of Iraklia is its beautiful beaches. Although there aren’t many, there are some nice beaches that offer a variety of options for those who love to swim. Livadi beach is a must-visit, as is the picturesque Alimnia and Vorini Spilia. The beaches of Iraklia are also known for their crystal clear turquoise water.
There are also some great hiking trails on the island. The most popular is the trail to Agios Athanasios, which offers a spectacular view of the island. There are some other great hikes on the island, including a trail that goes to the abandoned village of Iraklia. Another great activity on the island is to look for Speiras, which are spirals that have been carved into rocks and other surfaces.
One of the best things to do in Iraklia is to spend time with the locals. The island has a very warm community that is eager to help visitors enjoy their stay on the island. There are a few locals that you should definitely try to meet, including Antonis Kouikl, who is always willing to give you a ride in his truck if he sees you at the ferry terminal. Another great local to meet is Maro, who has created a social media account called People of Iraklia, which showcases the island’s residents.
Another interesting thing to do is to take a boat ride around the island. There are a few different boat companies on the island that can offer you a nice trip. The boats are very affordable, and the scenery is breathtaking. The island is also home to some great diving spots. You can even get a chance to swim with dolphins on the island!
On the eastern side of the island lies Akathi, a secluded beach where you can enjoy some of the best Greek food on the island. The food here is quite authentic compared to other restaurants on Iraklia, with succulent goat meat in red wine sauce being a popular dish. In terms of drinks, the bar is always open and serves a range of different beers and wines. The music playing is quite varied as well, with reggae, rock, indie and punk tunes being played regularly.
The beach itself is also a good place to relax and unwind, with its soft sands and shallow waters making it ideal for families. There are a few sunbeds and umbrellas available for rent if you do decide to get one, and some water sport activities are also offered. The best thing about this beach though is that you won’t have to fight for a spot, unlike on other beaches on Iraklia, where it can be quite difficult to find a sunbed during peak season.
This is one of the most beautiful and peaceful beaches on the island, with its clear turquoise waters contrasting beautifully with the white-washed settlements. It’s also a great place for snorkelling, as the waters here are rich in marine life.
Another of the must-visit places on Iraklia is the Castle of Heraklia, which sits proudly above Livadi beach. It was once used as a defense fortress but is now mostly in ruins, though you can still admire it from the top of the hill.
If you’re looking for something a bit more lively, there are a few bars and tavernas in Iraklia to choose from, although nightlife on the island is pretty low-key. Those visiting Iraklia mainly go for relaxation, spending time with their friends and family, reading books or simply swimming and sunbathing.
Whether you’re staying on Iraklia for a couple of nights or longer, this remarkable island is bound to leave an indelible mark on your soul. Explore its hidden beaches, marvel at its incredible trails and dive into the mysteries of its caves. To make the most of your trip, check out our comprehensive guides to Iraklia, as well as to the other Small Cyclades islands of Donoussa, Schoinoussa and Koufonisi. And don’t forget to book your ferry tickets online with Ferryhopper!
3. En Lefko
Iraklia is the largest island in the Small Cyclades but when it comes to things to do on Iraklia, “small is beautiful”. The authentic Greek island is perfect for a summer of relaxing and decentralizing. During your stay on Iraklia you can swim in pristine beaches, taste local dishes and feel connected with nature.
If you’re planning a vacation to Iraklia, it’s best to have a car to explore the island at your own pace and to reach more remote spots of the island easily. However, public transport is available as well throughout the year, connecting Iraklia to other Small Cyclades islands, including Schoinoussa, Koufonissia and Donoussa.
The island’s quaint capital, Panagia, is home to a handful of tavernas where you can savour traditional Iraklian dishes in a cozy atmosphere. The taverna To Steki Tis Annios is one of the best places to eat in Iraklia and offers a wide selection of seafood pasta dishes. It’s also a good option to try the homemade rakomelo (raki with honey).
There are three easily accessible beaches on Iraklia, each surrounded by towering tamarisk trees and offering a blissful setting for soaking up the sun and unwinding. Located alongside Iraklia’s charming port, the most popular beach on Iraklia is Agios Georgios. Its golden sand and crystal waters are the perfect place to relax.
Nearby, the taverna O Pefkos offers a great choice of meat and fish dishes such as moussaka, pastitio and briam. Whether you’re in a mood for seafood or a hearty meal of locally sourced meats, the taverna’s simple and cosy design is sure to satisfy.
A visit to Iraklia isn’t complete without trying the famous local cheeses. A must-try are the xynomyzithra and ladotyri, two cheeses that are creamy and tangy in texture. You can also indulge in pitaridia, fava split pea dip and aranista, the island’s traditional lentil dish that has been harmoniously cooked with fermented wheat. For dessert, try the sweet mizithra cheese pies with cinnamon and the renowned thyme honey.
4. Surfin Bird
Located in the bay of Livadi beach, this popular restaurant is one of the best on the island. Expect to enjoy a great range of local Greek dishes and homemade sweets such as portokalopita, karidopita, etc. Their seafood risotto and shrimp spaghetti are especially tasty. The staff is friendly and the ambiance is very downtempo and relaxed. They have a great view of the sea and their own private beach. The most interesting thing about this place though is that it’s known as the best spot on Iraklia for observing Caretta caretta sea turtles in their natural habitat!
Unlike more famous islands such as Naxos and Ios, Iraklia manages to keep its traditional feel even in peak season. Its main village is a charming village of white-washed houses, churches and tavernas. There are also a few mini markets and scattered rooms to let.
The secluded isle is connected by ferry with the rest of the Small Cyclades (Ano Koufonisi, Kato Koufonisi, Schoinoussa and Donousa). The best time to visit Iraklia is between early spring and late fall when the climate is lovely without the summer crowds.
Agios Georgios is the main settlement and also the island’s only port. It is easily accessible by ferries operating from Naxos and Athens. Most people choose to spend just two nights in Iraklia, which is enough to unveil its charms and get a sense of the local life. However, it is a wonderful addition to any larger Cyclades island-hopping trip and can also be easily integrated as a rewarding day trip from nearby islands such as Naxos, Paros or Koufonisi.
What Iraklia lacks in size it makes up for in rich history, scenic beaches and authenticity; allowing you to switch off from the fast-paced world around you and truly unwind on a Greek island. You can explore the island on foot, or take a bus or taxi itineraries during the day. Alternatively, you can rent a bike, scooter or motorcycle to get around. It’s highly recommended to bring a hat, sun cream and mosquito repellent to protect you from the intense sun and insects.