Syros is one of the Greek Cyclades Islands located in the Aegean Sea 114 kilometres south east of the mainland port of Piraeus. It's the administrative capital of the archipelago and is home to half of the entire population of the Cyclades. Its cosmopolitan capital city Ermopoulis was the main port of Greece until the 20th century. Many international visitors only stay on the island long enough to change ferries to more glamorous destinations. But linger here long enough and you'll find some fine beaches, excellent walking trails and a bustling city offering chic boutiques, a lively nightlife and first class restaurants.
You can fly to the island via Olympic Airways from Athens and there are daily ferry services to and from Piraeus (four hours). There are also daily ferries to and from the mainland port of Rafina (nearly six hours) and the islands of Paros, Naxos, Andros, Tinos and Crete. Less frequent ferries connect Syros with most of the other main Cycladic islands. A Flying Dolphin fast boat will get you to Piraeus in two and a half hours or to the nearby party island of Mykonos in just 30 minutes. If you're coming here by boat you'll arrive at the island's impressive capital on the east coast. Ermopoulis is named after Hermes, the god of trade and commerce, and is awash with grandiose neoclassical mansions which stand as reminders of a more glorious era.
Once an important Phoenician seaport, Syros went on to become the trading centre of the Cyclades under the Venetians in the 13th century. It heyday came to an end with the advent of steam power and the rise in importance of Piraeus. It's worth spending at least a night or two here to take in the city's main sights, absorb its thriving cultural scene and visit the two charming hill top settlements which overlook the port below. The town's archaeological museum will give you a flavour of the island's rich history which spans nearly 5,000 years. Excavations have revealed evidence of Cycladic settlements on Syros as far back as 2,800 BC.
The archeological site of Kastri in the north is one of the oldest in the Cyclades and whilst there's not a great deal left to see here it's a wonderful area to explore on foot. From here you can reach some idyllic, unspoilt beaches only accessible on foot or by boat. You'll find beautiful but busier resort beaches on the island's west coast accessible by road from Ermopoulis. If you're visiting in August, expect to be joined by hordes of Greek tourists who far outnumber the international variety. The fact that the island retains its essentially Greek character and has not been over-taken by mass tourism is all part of its special charm.