Serifos Island: A Throw of the Autumn Dice, Part 1

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I know Mykonos like the back of my hand, and many other destinations in Greece well, both on the mainland and throughout the islands, but Serifos, in all her bright, stony splendor, remains for me a cipher. Both her geography—rocky, precipitous, sliced into by deep ravines, and largely un-signposted for foreign visitors—and her people, who are still, for the most part, involved in work unrelated to seasonal tourism, keep a visitor at a long arm’s length. These islanders are not unfriendly, but they are dignified and standoffish and private. Their churches are padlocked shut; their museums are rarely, if ever, open; their resorts have yet to be built; and, for the life of them, they don’t understand why you’ve come to live among them for a month.”—Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Hapax Legomenon

By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Pebble beach sculpture, Vroulia Beach. (Photo: Elizabeth Boleman-Herring.)
Pebble beach sculpture I composed on Vroulia Beach. (All Photos, Unless Noted: Elizabeth Boleman-Herring.)

“Serifos, surrounded by the ocean’s salty flow.”―Euripides, “Diktys”

“And there is Serifos, the scene of the mythical story of Diktys, who with his net drew to land the chest in which were enclosed Perseus and his mother Danae, who had been sunk in the sea by Acrisius the father of Danae; for Perseus was reared there, it is said, and when he brought the Gorgon’s head there, he showed it to the Seriphians and turned them all into stone.”―Strabo, “Geographica”

“Serifos is one of the few islands that refused submission to Xerxes I, king of Persia. However, ancient writers almost always mention Serifos with contempt on account of its poverty and insignificance; and it was for this reason used by the Roman emperors as a place of exile. In antiquity, the island was proverbial for the alleged muteness of its frogs.”―Denis Roubien, Sifnos-Serifos: Havens of Authenticity in the Greek Islands

2019 Boleman-Herring Weekly Hubris

PENDLETON South Carolina—(Hubris)—November 2023—My intention, this past September, was to make of my annual pilgrimage to Greece (my “other patritha,” or homeland), an oxymoronic “return to a place I had never been.” After six decades of living in and visiting Greece, it is difficult for me to find a destination where I have never set foot, but Serifos was just such a place. Before we disembarked this fall, I had “called in there” on the Western Cycladic ferry run from Piraeus, en route to other islands such as KythnosSifnosMilosKimolosFolegandrosSikinos, Ios, and Santorini. In fact, I had not stayed on any of the West Cyclades but Santorini, though I had observed the islands from the decks of ferries on numerous occasions, always regretting that I had no time to tarry.

After studying the map all this past summer, I narrowed my choice down to Sifnos and Serifos. I had many contacts on Sifnos—friends and friends of friends who habitually summered there. I had only one “virtual acquaintance” on Serifos, Aliki Barnstone, the poet-daughter of Willis Barnstone, a writer well known to me from my publishing days in Athens. But Aliki was most familiar with Hora, Serifos’s precipitously located capital village, and our stays on the island would not overlap. For the most part, I would be on my own, in a Greek terra incognita.

This was just what I wanted.

Serifos has no airport, though it is amply served (much more so in summer) by traditional ferries and more-or-less-high-speed craft and catamarans originating in the mainland ports of Piraeus and Lavrion. Every year, making the long, challenging, and exhausting trip from South Carolina to wherever in the Greek back of beyond I have chosen to spend a precious autumn month, I think to myself, “This year, I’m going to make this odyssey simpler and less arduous.” And, every year, new obstacles rear up, and unimagined complications arise. This year, my family added into the mix a stop in Manhattan to rehearse a big band and an unexpectedly long “layover” in a Piraeus café where we awaited the ferry out to the island.

And . . . we will, some of us, always take along too much luggage, which makes boarding any Greek ferry an ordeal. There is too, of course, these last three years, a small dog to contend with, and her specific needs and desires: we do not travel light, though, every year, we try, try, try to do better. If I have one piece of advice to give visitors to Greece, of any kind, in any season, it is this: take along only one piece of carry-on luggage, and budget to acquire anything else you may need in Greece. (I shall tattoo this admonition on my right hand prior to the autumn of 2024!)

So, we flew, the dog and her three human companions, from Greenville, South Carolina to New Jersey; and, then, from New York to Athens; where we used my friend Matt Barrett’s essential taxi service to travel from Athens’ airport to the port of Piraeus. (We would call upon George, The Famous Taxi Driver of Athens twice more in the course of our travels: to go from Piraeus to our Airbnb in Plaka, and from Plaka back to the airport.)

As Odysseus can attest, getting there, and getting away from there, are twin adventures about which I will say very little here. I will say though, that at my advanced age, I do not travel cheaply in Greece—I always book First or Business Class ferry tickets, as well as Business Class tickets with Aegean when traveling to Greek destinations with airports. I have decades of deck-class Greek travel under my belt but, at around 60, I no longer felt roughing it was a badge of honor. But even First Class passengers must stampede aboard Greek ferries and hoist luggage onto high shelves in the noisome hold: boarding is not easy for the faint of heart, the lame, or for those bringing along a soft trumpet case and a small dog in a backpack.

Nor was Serifos going to give up any of her held-close-to-the-chest secrets readily. I spent over three weeks there, and feel I just scratched a small, timid fingernail over the island’s flinty, gleaming surface. As I said to Robin this morning, the island reminds me of a Greek dowager of great age, dignity, and endless reserve; someone unwilling to divulge anything to a callow foreign stranger who unwilling to spend years in her anteroom awaiting a meaningful audience.

Serifos is a place of stunning surface beauty, and deep reserves of ancient and modern history and tradition. But it is not an easy place to know, and its people are inscrutable, even to a Greek-speaker (albeit one with the green eyes of a Northern European).

I know Mykonos like the back of my hand, and many other destinations in Greece well, both on the mainland and throughout the islands, but Serifos, in all her bright, stony splendor, remains for me a cipher. Both her geography—rocky, precipitous, sliced into by deep ravines, and largely un-signposted for foreign visitors—and her people, who are still, for the most part, involved in work unrelated to seasonal tourism, keep a visitor at a long arm’s length. These islanders are not unfriendly, but they are dignified and standoffish and private. Their churches are padlocked shut; their museums are rarely, if ever, open; their resorts have yet to be built; and, for the life of them, they don’t understand why you’ve come to live among them for a month. Nor are they curious about you. But I would bide my time . . . .

Signpost above Serifos’s wetlands.
Signpost above Serifos’s wetlands, a sea of reeds and waterfowl located in Tslipakis Bay.
3 High-speed ferry arriving at Livadi
High-speed ferry arriving at Serifos’s main port, Livadi.
4 The yellow villa, Tsilipaki
Our Airbnb villa, set high above tiny Vroulia beach in Tsilipaki. (Photo: Courtesy Serenity Beach Villa.)
5 Vroulia, our private beach
Vroulia, our private beach, with its steep access path to and from the villa at Tsilipaki.
6 Scout, on Vroulia Beach
Scout, our Chihuahua-Rat Terrier-mix, on Vroulia Beach.
7 Garden gate, yellow villa
Garden gate, the yellow villa, Tsilipaki.
8 View from the villa's garden
View from the villa’s garden down towards Avlomonas Beach and up towards Hora.
9 View from our terrace
View from our terrace after the first autumn rain.
10 Beach glass
Beach glass, which, along with shells (abandoned as well as still inhabited), is plentiful on Serifos’s beaches.
11 Hora, Serifos
Hora, Serifos, under otherworldly light.
12 View from Hora towards Avlomonas Beach and Livadi
View from Hora towards Avlomonas Beach and Livadi.
13 Ascent to the Kastro
Ascent to the main town square in Hora.
14 Steep stairs up to main square, Hora
Steep stairs up to main square, Hora.
15 Hora, doorway
Hora doorway.
16 Doors of Hora
Doors and windows of Hora, often on multiple levels in a single dwelling.
17 Doorway, Hora
Ungentrified doorway, Hora.
18 Neoclassical Town Hall, Hora
Neoclassical Town Hall, Hora.
19 Folklore Museum, Kato Hora
Folklore Museum, Kato Hora, a collection rarely open to the public.
20 High School, Kato Hora
High School, Kato Hora.
Bougainvillea tree, Hora, with an admonition from the owner to water it by opening (briefly) the tap above it.
September Bougainvillea blossom, fallen and blown into beautiful patterns in Hora.
Patterns of whitewash and blossom, Hora.
Church of John, The Forerunner, Plakanos, Hora.
Church of John, The Forerunner, Plakanos, Kato Hora.
25 Entryways, Hora
Adjoining entryways, Hora.
26 Arched pathway up to the Kastro, Hora
Arched pathway up to the Kastro, Ano Hora.


Hora under an autumn sun.
Hora under fierce autumn sun.
28 Mr. Panayotis Alexakis, Takis Restaurant, Livadi
Mr. Panayotis Alexakis, Takis Restaurant, Livadi.
29 September lunch at Takis
September lunch at Takis.
30 First autumn lambchops, Takis
First autumn lambchops at Takis, Livadi.
31 Kafeneion Stou Stratou, Hora
Kafeneion Stou Stratou, Main Square, Hora.
32 Orange Cake in Livadi
Portokalopitta, or Orange Cake, in Livadi.
33 Meli Cafe, Livadi
Meli Café, Livadi.
34 Manolis Taverna, Psili Ammos Beach
Manolis Taverna, Psili Ammos Beach.
35 Menu at a Psili Ammos Taverna
Menu at a Psili Ammos Taverna.
36 Nautical alcove
Nautical alcove.


Turquoise fishing nets, Livadi.
Turquoise fishing nets, Livadi.
38 Fishing nets, untangled, mended, and drying
Fishing nets, untangled, mended, and drying, Livadi.
39 Yellow fishing nets, Livadi, Serifos
Yellow fishing nets, Livadi, Serifos.



Partial Bibliography

Acts of Faith: The Curches of Serifos, Ioannis Varlas, Transl. Antonios Vitalis, Kanthia Press, 1997. (ISBN: 0-473-04348-3)

Sifnos-Serifos, Havens of Authenticity in the Greek Islands, Denis Roubien, 2021 (ISBN: 979-873-002-840-1)

Serifos, Loris Triantafyllidis, Technokataskevi SA, June 2012 (ISBN: 978-618-80065-0-8)

Serifos Above, Panagiotis Filippopoulos/Windy Pixels, 2022

Seriphos: The White Tower, Ministry of Culture and Sport, General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, 21st Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, Athens, Greece, 2014. (ISBN: 978-960-386-123-2)

The Magic of Serifos, Robert A. McCabe, Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades/Perseus Archaeological Museum, Serifos, July 2023

Practical Information Regarding Serifos

We recommend using Airbnb to find lodging on the island. With the COVID pandemic still a reality (and Paxlovid challenging for foreign visitors who fall ill to procure, even in Athens), we still believe masking on flights and ferries advisable and booking accommodation not shared by other visitors the best option on Serifos, which has no airport. We stayed at the Serenity Beach Villa, in Tsilipaki, and cannot more highly recommend it.

We also rented a large, powerful car for the duration of our stay, and advise those whose desire is to see Serifos in its rugged entirety to book, in advance, a four-wheel-drive vehicle through Mr. Vangelis Galanos, at Coralli Car Rental (;; Tel. 30.22810.51488).

Contact Ms. Maria Grigoriadou, of This Is My Crazy Dream, to rent boats/boat tours of Serifos and nearby islands (; Tel. 30.6980.423.331).

In September, when we visited, we found the most reliable places to eat, both lunch and dinner, were the following: Takis: Authentic Greek Cuisine & Seafood, Livadi, Serifos, Tel. 30 22810.51159; Alexandros Cuisine & Coffee Bar, Alexandros Resort, Livadakia Beach, Serifos, www.AlexandrosResort. com; Tel. 6909397774; Porto Vecchio, Livadi, Serifos, Tel. 30.2281.052532; and Stamatis, Avlomonas Beach/Livadi, Serifos; Tel. 30. 2281.051309.

For shopping, we highly recommend, for local and Sifniote fine ceramics, KN Ceramics, Kato Hora,, Tel. 30.22810.51669,; for unique, finely-produced souvenirs, books, Greek clothing, and jewelry, Theta (Think of Serifos) Concept Store, Livadi/Marina,  Tel. 30. 22810.51781,,; for stylish European fashions, Calle 31 (Clothing Boutique), Livadi, Tel. 30.693.859.0386; and, for unique artisanal gifts, 100% Greek: Limited Art Editions, Hora, Serifos, Tel. 30.6944.444.225. KN Ceramics is run by Ms. Natassa Kalogeropoulou and a group of highly skilled and creative ceramicists who will ship all over the world. 100% Greek is the creation of Ms. Silvia Kraemer: be sure to purchase her own  frameable, annotated map of the island and see textiles and clothing she fashions using antique Greek fabrics.

The beaches of Serifos—well over 50—are too numerous even to mention by name here, but I found them (except Avlomenas, which is really an extension of the port of Livadi, and Ganema, Koutalas, and Megalo Livadi, which feature humble tavernas in high season) to be much like the beaches of Mykonos in the 1970s: difficult of access, uncluttered by beach umbrellas and bars, and uncrowded, especially in September, by which time many of the establishments catering solely to tourists have closed. Livadakia, in September, was also an exception, in that the excellent Alexandros Taverna & Coffee Bar was still open, and the little attached resort was still full of European, short-stay tourists. But even Livadakia is difficult to reach by car and has little parking. Forgive me if I do not mention my favorite Serifos beaches here: as a longtime Greek travel writer, I know what damage I and my confrères have done advertising-to-death Greece’s most pristine destinations.

To be continued in December 2023.

To order Elizabeth Boleman-Herring’s memoir and/or her erotic novel, click on the book covers below:

Elizabeth Boleman, Greek Unorthdox: Bande a Part & a Farewell to Ikaros

Elizabeth Boleman Herring, The Visitors’ Book (or Silva Rerum): An Erotic Fable


Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, Publishing-Editor of “Weekly Hubris,” considers herself an Outsider Artist (of Ink). The most recent of her 15-odd books is The Visitors’ Book (or Silva Rerum): An Erotic Fable, now available in a third edition on Kindle. Thirty years an academic, she has also worked steadily as a founding-editor of journals, magazines, and newspapers in her two homelands, Greece, and America. Three other hats Boleman-Herring has at times worn are those of a Traditional Usui Reiki Master, an Iyengar-Style Yoga teacher, a HuffPost columnist and, as “Bebe Herring,” a jazz lyricist for the likes of Thelonious Monk, Kenny Dorham, and Bill Evans. (Her online Greek travel guide is still accessible at, and her memoir, Greek Unorthodox: Bande a Part & A Farewell To Ikaros, is available through Boleman-Herring makes her home with the Rev. Robin White; jazz trumpeter Dean Pratt (leader of the eponymous Dean Pratt Big Band); Calliope; and Scout . . . in her beloved Up-Country South Carolina, the state James Louis Petigru opined was “too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” (Author Photos by Robin White. Author Head Shot Augment: René Laanen.)


  • Anita Sullivan

    Thank you, Elizabeth, for the richness of your photos, in quantity and quality! I love that you are going to Greece
    every year, what a wise decision; I know the world will be a better place for such a decision (and I am not joking).

    love, Anita

    • Eguru B-H

      Agapitemou Anita,
      Thank you, thank you, thank you, always. Serifos cracked open my visual heart, and left its sandy prints everywhere.
      How can one not return to Greece, while one is able?
      Love, ever, e

  • Michael

    Fabulously evocative photos. Serifos was my first Greek island, visited in the early 80s. Thank you for reminding me how I fell in love with Greece.

  • Eguru B-H

    Dearest Michael,
    I had no idea you’d been there, and in the 80s! Rest assured, it’s largely unchanged! The developers must just come there, and throw up their greedy hands in despair! May they continue to despair, and leave these flinty Cycladic islanders to their own remarkable devices.

  • Sophia Coyle

    ohhh i absolutely loed this and the photos – one i have not visited and is on my list.. thank you!

    • Eguru B-H

      Sophiamou, your “photographer’s love” comprises high praise for me. My goal, going forward, is simply to bear witness. Polla filia, Bebe

  • Silvia

    What a lovely travel diary! If you come here once, twice or a thousand times, it’s magic wild, calm, heavy, light and has so much energy! Always :-) Hope to see you all next year again! xxx

    • Eguru B-H

      Agapitemou Silvia, thank you! Look for Installment 2 of this travelogue next month, for Xmas. Let me know when you’re back on Serifos. Love, Elizabeth