Ios has been inhabitied for millennia. Archeological excavations have uncovered evidence of life on the island since the early Cycladic period. The hill where Chora is located has been inhabited since the archaid period.
The origin of the name of Ios is under debate. One version says the name comes from the Ionians, who settled on the island about 1050 B.C. Linguistically that doesn’t seem valid because then the island would be called “Ionia” or “Ionis”. Another version says the island was named for the Phoenician word “Iion”, which means “rocky”. That doesn’t seem logical either because the Phoenicians inhabited many areas more rocky than Ios. The most accepted version is that Ios took its name from the Greek word “ion” in honor of the violets that dot its countryside each spring.
Inscriptions, coins, and texts of the ancient historians Stravon, Pausanias, and Herodotus give proof to the fact that the great epic poet, Homer, was born and buried in Ios. His grave is a popular destination of tourists.
There are two major festivals celebrated in Ios. The feast of St. John Prodromos at the monastery of Pyrgos is celebrated on the June 24th and August 2nd. On August 29th, St. John’s Festival is celebrated in two parts of the island, in Kalamos and Psathi. The night before the feasts, lots of wine and fire-cooked meat are offered to all. All visitors are invited to join in the celebrations, which include dancing.
The most important cultural event celebrated in Ios are the Omiria, celebrated in Homer’s honor. The Omiria began in 1991 and occurs the first two weekends in May. Events include sporting events, lectures about Homer, school theatre contests, art exhibitions, folk dances, concerts, and other musical activities, folk art and creative workshops, feasts, and presentation of essays by local schools.
There are lots of things to do in Ios. There is one village on the island. Located on the western side of the island, Chora, is the center of activity on Ios. Miles of beaches dot the seashore, the most popular of which is Mylopotas.
There are other things to do as well. Another popular tourist destination is Panagia Gremiotissa. This church is considered the “trademark” of Ios. Also popular are the windmills at the top of the hill above Chora. They are no longer in use, but have been restored and are samples of traditional Cycladic architecture.
The small island of Ios has something for everyone from beaches to festivals to cultural landmarks.