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A cat crouches in the sunlight speckled under a trellis of bougainvillea, watching me a sip of Greek coffee and observing my baklava.

This traditional Kafeneion (cafeteria) is behind the cathedral of Chora, the main (and only) city on the island of Ios. It is a labyrinth of narrow streets that meander steeply towards the church of Panaghia Gremniotissa, on the edge of the cliff, to enjoy fantastic views of the sunset.

In the late-season lazy midday, it's hard to attribute Ios's reputation as a central part of the party since its hippy heyday in the sixties and seventies.

Small, mountainous and dazzling, Ios is a Greek island with blue domes, whitewashed buildings and old windmills.

Small, mountainous and dazzling, Ios is a Greek island with blue domes, whitewashed buildings and old windmills.

Small, mountainous and dazzling, Ios is an anomaly: an island of Cyclades with blue domes, whitewashed buildings and old windmills that have escaped the exploitation of their neighbors.

Where Santorini receives some 2.5 million tourists a year, and Mykonos ómber chic palpitates to more than 2 million visitors, the ferry to Ios deposits only 125,000 souls, mostly young backpacks.

The unspoiled landscape seems to have changed little since the 5,000-year-old Skarkos settlement, older than the archaeological site of Akrotiri in Santorini, and discovered near the port of Ios in 1984.

The lack of an airport and the absence of cruises has proved to be the salvation of the island; that and its arid and mountainous topography, with dirt tracks that descend to small coves that contain the 40 beaches of Ios, of which only five offer facilities such as hammocks or restaurants.

Most are deserts and accessible only by sea. It is worth making the effort to explore.

A speedboat (can be rented at the port) runs along the coast, passing through coves after clear waters, stopping at beaches full of shining quartz and mica pebbles.

The ferry to the island of Ios, in the photo, deposits barely 125,000 souls, mostly young backpackers.

The ferry to the island of Ios, in the photo, deposits barely 125,000 souls, mostly young backpackers.

On the beach of Trypiti, we only have one wild goat per company. There is hardly a building in sight.

If Angelos Michalopoulos, owner of the Luxurios tourism and conservation project, has his way, this will not change. Together with his wife, Vasso Petridou, he acquired 25% of the island and is building small hotels, restaurants and ecological rooms to serve a more sophisticated clientele.

"We will only develop 1 percent of our land," he assures me, "because we want to preserve the authenticity of Ios and save it from overdevelopment."

I visit Papas beach where, in July, Calilo will be inaugurated without expenses of Michalopoulos with 25 suites. Designed by the owner and built with local stone and Greek marble, it is camouflaged in gardens with ancient olive trees rescued from the mainland, where they had been destined for the chimneys of Athens. It is the most exclusive resort on the island.

I am staying at Agalia Luxury Suites, also part of the luxury portfolio of Michalopoulos, my secluded room on the pool terrace overlooking one of the safest ports in the Cyclades.

Try tavern: Dry octopus in the sun of Ios. Most of the beaches of Ios are deserted and accessible only by sea.

Try tavern: Dry octopus in the sun of Ios. Most of the beaches of Ios are deserted and accessible only by sea.

It is perfectly located between the port and the city, where most of the action takes place, and the crystal clear waters of the beach of Koumbara, with its typical psarotaverna (fish restaurant) and the fresh Erego Beach Club and Restaurant, which serves Typical Greek dishes with something unusual. Flair – fava, wild greens, lamb glaze.

Without end more, it is tempting to remain still. "Most people simply transfer between the city and Mylopotas beach, with its vibrant tourist infrastructure," says Michalopoulos. "But there is much more on the island."

The glove was thrown. And so, I raise sticks and explore. While seven islands compete for Homer's birthplace, only Ios claims the mortal remains of the poet. According to Herodotus, the poet died here on the way to Athens, and why ruin a good story?

I make the pilgrimage to his grave, on a promontory that dominates his famous "dark wine", the Aegean. It is the most magical place, in the middle of the wind swept nowhere, marked with small cairns and a marble plate.

We continue advancing, through fragrant mountains with wild thyme, and strung with rows of hives.

The stone houses that are distributed around the island. The lack of an airport and the absence of cruises has proven to be the salvation of the island for unspoiled landscapes

The stone houses that are distributed around the island. The lack of an airport and the absence of cruises has proven to be the salvation of the island for unspoiled landscapes

Finally, a sign points to our destination, Paleokastro (Old Castle), and we begin to walk vertiginously 20 minutes to the ruins of a 14th century castle, our path dotted with lilies and wild onion.

Within the walls of the castle is a silent church, in the shade of the olive trees. There is nothing in sight but mountains, sea, the island of Iraklia in the distance and the wild and steep Psathi beach below.

Sheep and goats are the only traffic along our route. We passed by a shepherd's house and, feeling hungry, we collected homemade skotiri cheese, delicious with ouzo and chewed octopus in a small tavern on Manganari beach, before our return home.

Later, about the cocktails at Pathos, Michalopoulos talks about his vision for Ios.

"Our challenge is to offer something to young people, and not put a price on them."

Pathos is one of those offerings. A sensational lounge on the cliff terrace with a large pool, DJ, sunsets to make Santorini cry and the whole atmosphere of a Nikki beach. The difference? Only £ 8.50 ensures both entry and a drink.

It remains to be seen if a man can mold and preserve the identity of an island. But the gentle beauty of Ios remains its best defender.

As Lawrence Durrell pointed out in his book The Greek Islands, Ios is "the most poetic and beautiful island of its size in this part of the Aegean."

TRAVEL FACTS

EasyJet (easyjet.com) London to Santorini from £ 205. Ferry from 45 minutes from Santorini to Ios with Seajets (seajets.gr) from £ 150. Rooms at Agalia Luxury Suites from £ 130 (agaliahotel.com). B & B suites in Calilo (calilo.com) from £ 290. For more information, visit visitgreece.gr.