Volcanic MÍLOS is a geologically diverse island with weird rock formations, hot springs and odd outcrops off the coast. Minoan settlers were attracted by obsidian; this and other products of its volcanic soil made it one of the most important of the Cyclades in the ancient world. Today, the quarrying of many rare minerals has left huge scars on the landscape but has given the island a relative prosperity which today translates into several gourmet restaurants with better wine lists than many of its neighbours. With some 75-odd beaches and sensational views Mílos hasn’t had to tart itself up to court tourism – indeed, the wealthy mining companies that employ a quarter of the population are happy to see tourism stay at low levels. It helps that the western half of Mílos, as well the other islands around it, including Kímolos, is a nature reserve protecting three endemic species: the extremely rare Mediterranean seal, the Mílos viper and the one you are most likely to encounter, the long, crocodile-shaped Mílos wall lizard. Note that the importance of the archeological finds, museums and sites here is only surpassed by Delos and Santoríni.
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The main road to SOUTHERN MÍLOS splits at Kánava junction, near the large power station. The sea there contains underwater hot vents resulting in fizzy hotspots that locals use for jacuzzi-like baths. The eastern fork leads to Zefyría, which was briefly the capital until an eighteenth-century earthquake (and subsequent plague) drove out the population. There is little to see in the old town, but a magnificent seventeenth-century church with beautifully painted walls and ceilings. The original iconostasis was transferred to the church of the Dormition in Adhámas, while the icons are displayed in the Ecclesiastical museum.
South of Zefyría, it’s a further 8km down a winding, surfaced road to the coarse sand of Paleohóri, one of the island’s best beaches, warmed by underground volcanism. A little rock tunnel leads west to a second beach, which is backed by extraordinarily coloured cliffs and where steam vents heat the shallow water. Ayía Kyriakí, further to the west of Paleohóri, is a pebble beach under imposing sulphurous and red oxide cliffs.