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For its size, Ios was once one of the least populated of the Cycladic islands. The scale and wildness of its mountainous interior beyond the two fertile valleys behind the main city, hindered its development. The construction of roads and a boom in tourism in recent years have altered that, inevitably compromising to some degree the island’s solitary beauty and grandeur. Ios has a picturesque Cycladic chora and a number of the finest beaches in the Aegean; these have attracted a very visible and sometimes dissonant kind of tourism to the island whose impact, concentrated in Chora and around the two beautiful bays of Ormos and Milopotas on the west coast, has ballooned in the last decade. Outside this area, however, the island has retained much of its former character: the rural, fer tile valley of Epano Kambos, where the existence of the remains of a Hellenistic farm-building indicate the area’s agricultural significance to the ancient city; the deserted north of the island, where Homer—according to tradition—was supposed to have been shipwrecked and bur ied; the deep, eastern bays overlooked by the remnants of a castle high on the promontory of Palaiokastro; and the volcanic, boulder-strewn landscape of the south, which ends in the magnificent sweep of Manganari Bay looking south to Santorini. New roads have also made more accessible two of the remotest monasteries of the Cyclades: the ancient and superbly panoramic monastery of Aghios Ioannis Prodromos, just below the island’s 714m peak, and Aghios Giorgios of Kalamos, buried in a landscape reminiscent of that of the hermitages of the Desert Fathers in Egypt. At every turn, Ios surprises with the variety of its landscape.
In Antiquity there were important settlements on Ios : the first was a flourishing and sophisticated prehistoric urban centre at Skarkos, just behind Ormos Bay, dating from the 3rd millennium bc, where ongoing excavations are uncovering the walls of two-storey buildings, well planned streets and squares; the second, Ancient Ios , was on the strategic site of the modern town. It must have been a large city, given the size and circumference of its remaining fortification walls. The finds from both these sites are collected together in a new museum on the ground floor of the island’s Town Hall.
Modern Ios provides important lessons in the socio logical and environmental impact of tourism on a small Mediterranean island. A vulnerable but stable local economy, based on agricultural production (fruit and cotton) and a variety of small family enterprises which had sustained the island throughout recent centuries, has been swept away almost overnight by the demands made by tourism for buildings, modes of transportation, employees and imported goods which have little or nothing to do with Ios , its traditions and its landscape. Recent changes in the local administration suggest that there is a will to redress some of the worst imbalances; but the damage to the island’s traditional social structure is already done. None of this, however, is a reason for not visiting what is still a beautiful and interesting island. Ios can be unexpectedly delightful in the quieter months.
Ios Island is part of the Cyclades Island group