Milos, Greece lures travelers in many ways: few crowds, a variety of noteworthy attractions, yummy cuisine, and friendly people. This lesser-known volcanic island in the Aegean lies at the southwestern tip of the Cyclades group. It proved one of my great travel discoveries, with its mysterious landscape, incredible beaches, and very sport where a 19th-century farmer unearthed the famous Venus de Milo (s) statue. Somehow the “s” has been lost beyond the shores of its island namesake.
I took the excursion to Milos as offered on the 7-Day Idyllic Aegean cruise by Celestyal Cruises. (I recommend it highly, perhaps the best outing of the cruise.) Upon leaving the ship, I was shuttled off the dock to the harbor town named Adamas on Milos. There, my group met Andreas, an expert guide and a life-long resident of Milos. He offers a true insiders scoop and loves photography, traits I appreciate.
First stop, the Mining Museum. May sound boring, but the short introductory video was brilliant. The documentary featured old-timers reminiscing about their work in the obsidian, perlite and dangerous sulfur mines. Several women also recounted their mining labors; work just as hard as the men. The economy of Milos depended on mining so getting this background proved ideal for the start of an island tour. It also set the stage for the geological wonders that abound here.
Next stop at Papafranga offered a look of the island’s volcanic origins. Peering into a deep ravine with a breathtaking drop revealed kayakers and a few swimmers emerging seemingly from nowhere. As the kayakers took off toward the open sea, we learned that hiking and kayaking are some of the most popular adventure options on the isle.
The landscape of Milos includes rolling hills, terraced plantings, jagged coastlines, and the most unforgettable beach I have ever seen. Lava flow, pearly white, created Sarakiniko Beach. Perlite makes up the smooth crystalline formations that dominate the coastline. You know it as those little beads you find in planting soil from the garden shop.
Over centuries, Mother Nature’s powerful winds have eroded the coastline forming mysterious and marvelous shapes. It’s a lunar-like white/beige landscape or something you might see in a Dr. Seuss book. The wispy mounds make a dreamy contrast to the crystal clear turquoise water. Although, the area looks like sand, it’s as firm as stone underfoot. The beach was so unusual and appealing, I have a great desire to return.
Thankfully, we were given time to venture down toward the water finding sunbathers, swimmers and caves, build by Germans as protection from Allied aircraft during the Second World War. The water seduced me and I really wanted to wade in, but the tour continued on.
Andreas claimed our next stop, Mouratos Bakery, as the island’s best. If he’s wrong, Milos’s bakery chefs are magical. I savored a delectable piece of Baklava as the honey oozed through layers of filo and coated my fingers.
Milos has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age enduring frequent wars. However, during the Hellenistic Age (323BC – 146BC) Milos entered a peaceful period, one that produced a flourishing lifestyle. During this time, Milos minted coins and created great works of art, one of them the treasured statue of Poseidon – the bronze one in the National Archeology Museum in Athens. This era also brought the sculpting of the island’s (and one of the world’s) most famous statues. This Aphrodite later took the Roman name Venus — with de Milos added to tell whence she came.
Still licking my honeyed fingers, we took off for the place where a farmer digging for building materials in 1820, discovered the statue. Legend says he was disappointed to find the useless relic. She was in two pieces, upper and lower body, with both arms missing. Many myths surround the story of her lost limbs, but no one is sure what really happened. A French naval officer bought the two pieces and shipped them to Paris. Eventually, a Marquis presented the statue to French King Louis XVIII. After he became bored with her, the king gave the figure to the Louvre, where she remains one of the museum’s most magnificent treasures.
A short walk from the hillside hiding spot brings an eagles-eye view of another ancient treasure – – this one still in place. An ancient theater, now partially reconstructed, rests down a steep hill. The theater is set against yet another stunning panorama of the coast. We didn’t have time to visit, but nearby are underground catacombs from some of the earliest Greek Christian burials. They are considered the third most important after those in Rome and the Holy Land.
Last stop brought us to a little village of restaurants, shops and local dwellings. Plaka’s narrow streets run at odd angles up and down inclines and provide still another spectacular overlook. At the end of this delightful maze, a short stop for a refreshing local white wine gave time to think back on how a mining museum could set so perfect a stage for such a lovely island.
I could have lingered longer, but we needed to meet the ship’s departure hour. For the moment, Milos remains undiscovered for most Americans, but it is one I am sure you will hear more about and will want to add to the bucket list. If you cruise with Celestyal, don’t miss this exceptional excursion.