Ormos bay & Skarkos Hill
Ios had no mineral, and only meagre agricultural, wealth: its two assets in earlier times were its plentiful timber and its sheltered and deeply indented port of Ormos Bay (2km). Later, however, the harbour became a liability for the island when it was adopted by pirates as a safe and invisible refuge. It is still today one of the most attractive and protected inlets in the Cyclades, lined with beaches and framed by hills which partially hide the island’s chora from view. On the east side of the inlet, visible from the arriving ferry, is the 17th century church of Aghia Irini, one of the island’s grandest buildings, with two striking domes and belfries. The oldest church in the area, Aghios Giorgios, lies in a small open area about 250m inland of the harbour to the right of the road to Chora, sunk down into the ground which with time has risen all around it. The pillars of a former
narthex or loggia in front of the west door still stand, but the roof they supported is gone. The church itself is a beautiful piece of 13th or 14th century architecture, with a generous dome which covers the entire area of its square floor-plan. From the bend in the road just beyond the church, the old, stepped kalderimi leads from the port—which today is called simply Yialos, or ‘shore’—up to Chora. The partly shaded climb only takes 15 minutes and is the most enjoyable way of reach the old town from the port.
One of the most interesting prehistoric sites in the Cyclades lies a little over a kilometre inland of the main beach of Ormos, grouped around the low discrete hill called * Skarkos (2.5km), to the northeast side of the valley behind. The site is of particular interest for the re markable state of preservation of its meticulously constructed buildings and streets, as well as for the copious finds which have come to light during excavations. (No official opening times as yet, as excavations continue. The site is reached by taking either one of the two rough-stone tracks which head north from opposite the filling station be hind Yialos.)
The densely-built settlement being uncovered on the north west side of the hill dates from the mid-3rd millennium bc (Early Cycladic II period) and covers an area in excess of a hectare. The sea probably reached as far as the foot of the hill at the time it was first settled, leaving fertile land for cultivation to the north and west of the site. The notable quality of construction of the houses is clear even to the non specialist eye. The carefully built stone walls stand 2–3m high, and bear remarkable refinements: in places there is a ‘string-course’ of protruding schists, which may have served to separate plastered from un-rendered areas of the wall; the threshold blocks have been carefully selected and set; and at some points the thickness of the wall accommodates storage recesses. At many points flights of stairs led up to a second floor. The buildings were sturdily built and of a tight-knit urban texture. The network of narrow streets and alleys, connecting small ‘squares’, suggests a notable degree of organisation and an uncanny similarity of plan to a typical modern Cycladic town.
The movable finds—mostly in the museum in Chora— which are of remarkable quality, include clay storage vases over 1m in height with moulded decorations, conical drink cups, cooking vessels, and seals. The imported materials and objects in metal and obsidian indicate commercial links with Crete, the nearby smaller islands, and the mainlands of Greece and Asia Minor.
Kos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group
Ormos bay & Skarkos Hill.