Going to Milos is vacationing in a tiny bit of Mediterranean paradise. But there’s a lot more to the island than meets the eye, just like is the case for all of Greece. The rich history that spans several millennia has left its alluring traces for anyone seeking them out to discover.
One such beautiful and unique place in Milos is its abandoned sulfur mines, right next to a gorgeous beach that you shouldn’t miss out on! A symphony of colors you will find nowhere else awaits you, together with the crystal clear waters of the seaside, and an abandoned complex to explore of a time in Milos’ fairly recent history that isn’t coming back.
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Visiting the Thiorichia (Sulfur Mines) of Milos
Where are the sulfur mines?
The sulfur mines (called ‘Theioryhia’ in Greek) are located on the east coast of the island, in the Paliorema area.
You can get there by car or taxi. Alternatively, you can book one of the many tours that include the sulfur mines and visit there as part of a day trip around Milos.
I recommend the Milos: Geology & Volcano Half-Day Morning Tour that includes a visit to the sulfur mines.
If you choose to go by car, follow the road from Adamas town. Once you get near the sulfur mines, do not attempt to drive to the beach unless you have a jeep or special car that can weather extremely rough dirt roads.
Your best bet is to park the car at the quarry before the road or in a small plateau above the mines and continue on foot for the last few km. The walk is worth it as you will be treated to a gorgeous panoramic view of the mines and seaside. It feels like a window in time has just opened.
If you choose to do the round of the island by boat you will get to see the sulfur mines from the beach. The boat tour we took on our last trip in Milos was this one From Adamas: Full-Day Tour of Milos and Poliegos Islands and we loved it.
A brief history of the sulfur mines of Milos
Mining of sulfur has been an age-old activity in the Cyclades, dating as far back as antiquity. However, the current mines in Paliorema were first founded in 1862 by a state company charged with public works. The Milos sulfur mines were quite lucrative, because the island was volcanically created, just like Santorini, and is rich in the mineral.
During the 1930s, the sulfur mines were under the direction of Victor Melas, who owned the oldest sulfur mining company in Greece. That’s when the current complex was built and machinery was installed for the mining of sulfur using the newest “Svoronos method” which made processing easier.
At the time, the sulfur mines were producing 15,000 tons of sulfur per year. The ships docked in the nearby bay to receive the mineral. Production only stopped in the 1960s where sulfur was acquired through the processing of petroleum in a far cheaper way. That’s when the mines were completely abandoned.
What you will see on the Sulfur Mines of Milos
Milos’ sulfur mines are a tremendously important monument to Greece’s industrial history. The 1930s complex still stands today and the machinery within the buildings has been left there as it was.
Because there have been no actions taken towards preservation, most of the buildings are roofless and the equipment within exposed to the elements. There is no guarding of the premises, so you can enter and explore the complex at your own discretion.
If you take good care and treat the site as it should be – that some danger exists of debris crumbling or walls collapsing- you can explore it fairly safely.
There is a request for visitors not to remove movable bits of equipment or other items lying around, as there are efforts being taken to turn the site into a properly preserved site for everyone’s enjoyment.
Arriving at the sulfur mines’ beach, you will see that it has striking red rocks and yellow pebbles, a result of its sulfuric nature. The waters of the beach are emerald and crystal clear, making the entire site look otherworldly and beautiful as if colored by a child.
Overlooking the beach, you will see the abandoned mines’ complex, a blast from a past long gone but still vivid and powerful.
As you approach the complex, in the various buildings you will see several different pieces of heavy equipment for sulfur extraction, from rail tracks and winches to funnels, kilns, and ore elevators.
Some of that heavy equipment, now rusty and left to the elements, now resemble urban art. Don’t miss out on taking some photos of the sieving and flotation machinery, the diesel generator, or the various hammer-mills and autoclaves.
The buildings themselves are noteworthy stone structures, including works done for the transport of the sulfur such as the stone bridge and the docking facilities.
Part of the complex also included housing for the workers as well as company offices. Exploring that part will make you feel like the people’s daily, domestic life was: several personal items of the workers’ families have been left behind to complement the furniture, fireplaces, hovels, and beds.
Lastly, if you are feeling especially adventurous, you can explore some of the actual mines. It’s not advisable to actually walk in the mining shafts, but you can visit the entrances which are quite striking. Some of the tunnels and shafts are in very good condition thanks to the fortification done for the rails above them, but it’s best not to trust the stability of the structure after so many decades of abandonment.
Complete the experience with a visit to Milos Minining Museum
Either prior to going to the sulfur mines and enjoying your day at one of the most unique beaches you will ever experience, it’s a good idea to pay a visit to the Milos Mining Museum in Adamas town.
Milos’ economy had always revolved around mining a lot more than it has around tourism, so walking among the various exhibits of the museum completes the experience of having seen the sulfur mines: you will learn about the various mining traditions of the island, its geology, and its detailed but largely unknown history.
The museum offers free guided tours and has interesting video displays. Armed with the knowledge from the museum, your experience at the Paliorema sulfur mines is going to be even more powerful and vivid, simply because you will know what you are seeing a lot better!