The exceptional aesthetic design of the human structures of the island, characterized by a certain organic conformity to their environment, seems to ensure that they blend harmoniously with the natural landscape. This makes Sifnos a much sought-after destination for its local culture, its architecture, and the nature of its hospitable people that have conserved and preserved the island and its villages so beautifully to the present day.
In Sifnos there are 13 village settlements with a year-round permanent residential population, and most of the buildings are characteristic of Cycladic architecture. The village settlements in the centre of the island have been, since 1962, designated ‘sites of outstanding natural beauty’ and as such are given special protection.
Key features of Sifnian architecture are the white houses, flat roofs (to collect precious rainwater in cisterns), the ‘flaroi’ (clay chimneys on the roofs), the paved courtyards and paths with their mortar-filled joints, the windmills, the dovecotes, the numerous monasteries and churches and of course the dry stone walls (terraces) seen all over the island. Terraces serve both to retain the soil and rain water in the fields, and to define property boundaries. They are a massive legacy, representing the toil of thousands of people over centuries.
The village settlements of the island are characterized by their diversity. The layout in the area of Kastro, for example, inhabited continuously from ancient times to the present, is very different from other areas, because it was originally built in a strictly defensive form. Despite the passage of time, Kastro still maintains its medieval character intact. Nowadays, students from America and Europe come to admire and study the intuitive Cycladic architecture of Sifnos.