Celebrating carnival in the Greek islands is a joyous time of the year. Think costumes and parties. The kapetania of Serifos is a unique local tradition, a costume parade that has more meaning than meets the eye.
Kapetania of Serifos
Carnival in the Greek islands and more…
It started out as a day of repetitive traditions that go along with celebrating carnival in the Greek islands. Greeks call this time apokries, what we’d call Mardi Gras in the U.S.
In costume, Serifians marched together from village to village, jolly and happy. Smiling. At each stop they dancde around a set of flag bearers, arms outstretched to form a dance circle in traditional Greek fashion. Food and wine was offered. Then off to the next village.
Kapetania of Serifos Music
Local musicians played traditional music. They were smiling group of troubadours clutching snare drums, wooden flutes, a bouzouki (Greek mandolin) and a violin. A singer among them belted out the tunes just fine without a microphone.
A Different Kind of Costume
I later realized many of the Serifians were actually dressed in traditional Greek clothing and not carnival costumes.
Although tied in during the apokries season, the kapetania of Serifos truly pays homage to those who fought against the Ottomans during the Greek War of Independence in the first half of the 1800s.
After the Greeks gained their independence, a civil war presumed and the leaders of the opposing Greek sides were called the kapetenous.
Complete with its parade, the kapetania was a kind of re-enactment of how the opposing Greek parties fought for control over the young nation.
Kapetania in Upper Chora
Moving on with the Parade
My experience at carnival in the Greek islands continued on with the last stop of the kapetania of Serifos. We were ahead of the group and took some shots of the sweet little village called Panagia.
Carnival in the Greek Islands: Kapetania’s Last Stop
Carnival in the Greek Islands: Kapetania Gunshots
While the festivities were well underway, a dark bearded Serifian perched on a church roof put his hunting rifle to good use. He stiffly rang out a series of ceremonial gunshots as the sun began to set.
As the shots pierced through the air, folks cheered and dancing resumed. More of the amber colored island wine, homemade savory pies, village cheese and sweets passed through the crowd.
The Carnival Crowd’s Attention
Suddenly, a big tussle grabbed the crowd’s attention. The flag bearers were at each other’s throats! It was a fight. Instead of anyone taking sides around me, I quickly learned that it was a re-enactment, depicting how the kapetanous fought during the civil war. Each side ceremoniously took down the opposing side’s flag to put up their own and claim victory.
More on the Kapetania
The kapetania of Serifos takes place on Sunday, the day before the national Greek holiday and religious holiday called Kathera Deftera (Clean Monday). The day marks the beginning of Lent a time when those of the Greek Orthodox faith begin fasting before Easter.
The kapetania of Serifos is just one of many different unique traditions tied in with carnival in the Greek islands.
How to Get to Serifos
To get to the Greek islands, many international travelers arrive by air, usually with a change in Athens or another major city. There are some direct seasonal flights to certain island destinations too. You can find the best flight deals with Vayama.
The only way to travel to Serifos is by ferry or private boat/yacht from the port of Piraeus in Athens. The island does not have an airport.
The frequency of ferries depends on the season. Ferries leave from the port of Piraeus in Athens. The trip lasts anywhere from 2.5 to 5.5 hours, depending on if you book a seat on a fast or slow ferry. For updated ferry schedules check www.openseas.gr. I usually take the SpeedRunner which is about a 2.5 hour journey (45-50 Euro each way).
There are regular connections to the other west Cyclades, including Milos, Kythnos and Sifnos.
Where to Stay in Serifos
Boutique: Rizes Hotel is a four-star hotel with a beautiful pool, individual plunge pools, a great view, excellent buffet breakfast and a beautiful view to the Chora and the Aegean Sea. From €100 a night, depending on the season. Coco-Mat, the luxury Greek brand, also has a small boutique hotel right on Vagia beach.
Mid-Range: The Livadi is ideal for a convenient stay, especially for those without a car. You’d be within walking distance to everything: beaches, eateries, nightlife and the ferries. For an atmospheric apartment stay with lovely amenities, I recommend Indigo. From €80 a night, depending on the season.
Basic: For a basic clean rooms, no frills, I recommend Ms. Lambrini’s Cavo d’Oro (+30 2281 051160). From €50 a night, depending on the season.
Where to Eat on Serifos
For a rundown of the eateries in Serifos, check out my post the Best Restaurants in Serifos.
What to Do on Serifos
Serifos is a nature lovers dream. There are many beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a fantastic main town to explore. I have tons of posts about everything Serifos on this blog.
Have you ever been to carnival in the Greek islands?