Serifos

Beginning about 20km east of Cape Sounion is a series of 3 Cycladic islands stacked on top of each other- Kea, Kythnos, and Serifos- separated equidistantly north to south, forming a sort of northwestern wall for the Cyclades group. They roughly resemble each other in size and shape, and in that none of them are huge tourist destinations.

For most "discerning" tourists, this is a good thing. The large crowds are absent, as are the sky-high menu prices, hotel room prices, and packed beaches. What you have in each of these islands is a throwback to the Greek islands as they were before tourism took off like a Chinese rocket in the 1960's.

Some people call Serifos the most southerly of the three (pop. 1,400), the  "Iron Island," because this relatively barren place had rich iron ore deposits, which have been mined on and off since antiquity.

In mythology, Serifos was the place where Danae and her baby, Perseus, came ashore after being set adrift in a wooden cask by Acrisius, the king of Argos and Danae's father, in reaction to a prophecy that he would be killed by his own grandson. Perseus grew up to found Mycenae. He was one of 3 pre-Hercules Greek heroes. His most famous feat was the slaying of the hideous, snake-haired gorgon Medusa, who, if gazed upon, turned you to stone. Perseus got around this difficulty by approaching the sleeping gorgon using a polished shield with her reflection as his guide. The image of Perseus posing victoriously, lifting the gorgon's head was a favorite motif of ancient sculptors. (As a side note, Pegasus was supposed to have flown out of Medusa's neck after Perseus separated it from its head. Pegasus was later tamed by Bellerophone, the 2nd of the 3 ancient heroes.)

Mythology also states the Serifos was the home of Cyclops.

Perseus returned to Serifos, where his mother, Danae, was being wooed by Dyktis, the island's king. Perseus, who did not approve of this for some reason, pulled the head of Medusa out of the sack he had been carrying it in, and turned the king to stone on the spot. This legend is used to explain why Serifos is so rocky.

Perseus did eventually kill his grandfather, but only incidentally (and accidentally), when he struck him in the head with a discus while participating at an athletic event is Larissa, whence Acrisius had fled on learning that Perseus had been looking for him.

Ancient coins of Serifos usually bore the image of Perseus on the obverse (or "heads"), with the head of the Medusa on the reverse. Another favorite image was that of a frog. Some coins dating from the 6th century, BC have the frog image. This comes from an old pun about the "Seriphian frog," which referred to someone who refused to speak. Serifos had been famous as the home of a species of frogs which was mute. 

Not a lot is known about the actual history of Serifos other than that she took Athens' side when the Persians invaded in 480BC, participating in the sea battle of Salamis, and was later used as an exile island by the Romans.

Around Serifos

Livadi

Livadi is one of the least pretentious port towns in the Cyclades. There is only one berth for ferry boats, which stop her less frequency than in many of the other islands. The village is a throwback to the 1970's, retaining the character that it has had for generations. There are plenty of places to rent, and prices are quite reasonable.

There is a lot more greenery around Livadi than elsewhere on Serifos, including abundant kalamia, or reeds. The promenade along the harbor and little marina is pleasant, and lined with cafes and fish taverns and traditional restaurants. Livadi is a quiet place, with nice views towards the sea. Behind it a couple kilometers, on the peak of a steep little mountain, perches the main town of Hora.

The only organized beach in Serifos is just to the north of the harbor, and within easy walking distance of wherever you choose to stay. Boat and ship traffic use the bay the beach is on, so if you want a little more peace and quiet, there is the nearby beach of Livadakia (Little Livadi) just to the south of the harbor, which also has a nice campground.  

Hora

Hora, often the name for the port town in the islands of Greece (another way these port towns are named is that they simply take the name of the island- so Hora in this case is also known as "Serifos"), is, architecturally, the most interesting grouping of buildings on Serifos by a huge margin. In a straight line it's 1,200m away from the little port at Livadi, but twice that in actual distance as the road has 8 major switchbacks as it climbs the 200m to the village. Hora clings to the irregularities of the steep mountain, which continues to rise another 300m behind the village, culminating at a peak which is the center of the Wild Animal Refuge of Hora at Saint Kyriaki (Katafygio Agrias Zois Hora- Agios Kyriaki).

The village, which is completely pedestrianised, is sort of draped around  the peak of a rough, rocky small mountain. There's a hundred meter change in elevation within its boundaries, which makes for a lot of interesting, narrow streets, and a lot of up and down climbing. The white, dice-shaped building rise, stacked behind one another, like the staircase of an abstract painter, with the high point of the village being the central square, which, in addition to traditional cafenia and restaurants, is home to the main church of Agios Athanasios, which is the only domed structure,  and a canary yellow, neoclassical Dimarxio or City Hall. The citizens of Hora must be in fantastic shape to be doing all of that climbing every day.

A few houses sit on the spine of naked rock that runs at a higher elevation and behind the village. Perched at the highest point of this spine is the chapel of Agios Konstantinos, a barrel-domed little sanctuary giving you a fantastic view of the village below, of the harbor and beach of Livadi, and the misty blue sea in the distance with its various islands dotting the seascape. While you're up there you can check out the ruins of the 15th century Venetian castle. Hora also has an archeological museum and a folklore museum.

Megalo Livadi is a settlement on the west coast of Serifos, 13km from Hora, at the end of a rectangular-shaped bay which is about 400m long and 200m wide. Only 50 people live there. It was founded as a center for the bauxite mining industry, which was at its height in the late 1800's. Surviving from that time are buildings in disrepair, and some of the mining infrastructure, such as an old railroad loading trestle, sticking out from the coast high over the water like a railroad to nowhere and supported by a solitary stone pier. The beach at Megalo Livadi is its best feature, however. Its clear waters are  bordered by tamarisk trees which provide shade, and the headlands on either side of the bay provide wind protection. There are some tavernas nearby, and other cafes and restaurants.

Other Points of Interest

Koutalas is a small settlement 11km southwest of Hora featuring a nice, sandy beach, but few amenities. The anvil-shaped bay of Koutalas has two other beaches as well, one at Vagia, and one at Ganema. Near the inland village of Panagia there is a church dating from the 10th century, and near Galani is the Taxiarchon monastery, dating from the 1600's, which displays a fresco of Archangels ferried there from Cyprus.

Serifos is a very quiet, under-populated, beautiful little island reachable from Piraeus using ferries which go to Sifnos. It's a great stop for you if you're doing some island hopping in the western Cyclades.