One of the most popular beaches, and with good reason, is Paliochori (sometimes also known as Paleochori) which is in fact made up of three separate sections grouped around an elongated bay.

You first reach the main middle beach via a well-built asphalt road. This has a comprehensive infrastructure and is therefore one of the most heavily developed beaches on Milos. In high season in particular, it gets very busy here and then frequent buses ensure easy accessibility. Besides numerous guesthouses, two restaurants have been set up here and in high summer, the Artemis Rooms beach bar and, further east, another improvised beach bar are open. By contrast, in the early and late season it is really peaceful, even in Paleochori. Although you won’t be alone, visitors are well spread out along the extensive beaches.

From left to right: Restaurant Scirocco. Artemis Deluxe Rooms with their associated beach bar, which provides the music for that summer beach mood. Restaurant Pelagos. And the anonymous beach bar.

To reach the eastern or western beach, you walk a little way along the shore or through the water and between boulders. The western beach was once a refuge for nudists and by the veins of sulphur running through the colourfully shimmering steep walls you could occasionally see groups of naked people rubbing yellow rock flour all over themselves, which is said to be good for the skin. These days there is alternative access to the western beach via a flight of steps from above and in the summer it is almost covered with deckchairs and parasols.

When the surf is strong or the tide is high, it is impossible to reach the western section of the beach from the main beach. Otherwise you go through a rock arch, wade a little way through the water, climb over a few boulders and thus find an alternative to the flight of steps. To be able to do this, you would have to start by driving quite a way further up to the right as soon as you reach Paliochori.

Hot springs, steaming fumaroles and the smell of sulphur

The active volcanism on the island of Milos is to be found in many places. One noticeable feature on all the sections of the beaches at Paliochori is, for instance, the hot springs that show up here and there, especially in the shallows near the waterline. The transition from comfortably warm to astonishingly hot is blurred and leads to many a surprise when you are bobbing up and down in the shallow surf. The same springs also heat the sand at depth in such a way that, for the one outside the Restaurant Scirocco is used for cooking special dishes, which impresses the public. In season there is “volcanic food” here, for example lamb stew and the like, which can be cooked at a low heat for sufficient time.

The secret of the high tide

High tide in Paliochori
High tide

As already described in the introduction, winter storms, sometimes with their big surf, occasionally change the appearance of some beaches seasonally. In many years, the washing away or deposition of sand can significantly displace the waterline. So sometimes the beach is wider, sometimes narrower.

But in Paliochori, the waterline sometimes changes drastically within a brief period. Anyone who comes to the beach only once for a few days a year may interpret the situation encountered as a result of the “winter wave”. In reality, though, these changes occur comparatively quickly, within one or two weeks. And it’s not the sand that changes but the water level. But since the tides are negligible, what’s the reason for this?

Since the owners of Restaurant Scirocco are quite evidently the most affected by this phenomenon, I asked them. And, you see, their explanation is simple but still impressive: If a strong wind blows for a long time, the water can be forced into the Bay of Paliochori to such an extent that the water level rises by more than a metre. Here what is important is the wind direction since it is only when the wind blows constantly from the southwest that the mass of water gradually builds up in the bay. Other wind directions, even south or southeast, have no effect. The reason for this is the geography of the bay and in particular the shape of Cape Spathi, the tongue of land on the other side of the eastern section of the beach. Here the strength of the wind is less crucial than its constancy and precise direction.

So it can happen, as for instance in the top photo, that the water appears completely calm but still comes up almost to the restaurant. No heavy storm, no surf – a constant wind is enough to make the water keep on rising in an almost eerie way.