The Cyclades: An Eclectic Family Of Greek Islands
Fact: Greece has approximately 6,000 islands. Now that’s a lot of islands. Each of the 227 inhabited ones has its own unique personality. And the Cyclades group of islands is no exception.
This archipelago, set amid the sparkling blue Aegean Sea, encompasses everything from authentic Greek villages to party resorts to romantic getaways. You’re sure to find an island here that’ll tick all your summer holiday boxes and exceed your expectations too. But if you just can’t decide between all the fabulous options, no need to worry. You can easily jump on a ferry and, within a couple of hours, find yourself exploring a new island. We’d like to introduce you to a few of our favourites. Let the adventure begin!
Bianca Ohannessian is a travel and fashion writer and social media expert. When she’s not writing for various websites and for her own travel blog Rockskippers, she’s out exploring the globe.
Banner Image Credit: iStock.com/paulshark
Mykonos: The Socialite
This cosmopolitan party island is a favourite with the jetset crowd. Chic cocktail bars and luxurious restaurants are dotted around the pretty white-washed town. You’ll find cafes lining the harbour too, with views of colourful fishing boats and superyachts in the distance. The beaches here offer something for everyone. Make your way to the southern bays, like Super Paradise and Paraga, for upbeat beach parties. The action moves on to open-air after-hours clubs around the Paradise bay area, where you can dance through to sunrise and beyond to the sounds of superstar DJs. But there’s also a calmer side to Mykonos too, especially outside the busy mid-summer weeks. Hire a car and discover the beautiful beaches and chilled-out tavernas which are sprinkled around the coastline. Kalafatis and Ornos are the beaches to head to for watersports like windsurfing and kitesurfing. Or you could join a tour with Mykonos Kayak where you’ll stop off at secluded coves as you explore this stunning island by sea.
Image Credit: iStock.com/tepic
Paros: The All-rounder
Paros has got a bit of everything when it comes to your typical Greek Island getaway. Its picturesque old town and cobbled streets are packed with boutiques, bars and cafes. Restaurants line the port and serve up little plates of authentic meze such as tzatziki and taramsalata. It’s got a mixed bag of lively beaches and more tranquil sweeps of golden sand too. Take a water taxi across the harbour to Marcello beach, a family friendly stretch with views of the white-washed town. Punda is the buzzing party beach of Paros, with beach bars, watersports and even bungee jumping. Unique granite rock formations give Kolymbithres beach an otherworldly feel. It’s easy to get to from the fishing village of Naoussa in the north. You’ll also find a great selection of sandy beaches on this side of the island, sitting alongside azure waters and traditional tavernas to eat your way through.
Image Credit: iStock.com/Natalia Bratslavsky
Naxos: The History Buff
Home to some of Greece’s top beaches, this large island also has a historical side to discover. You can see the iconic Portara at the Temple of Apollo ruins as you approach the island by sea, perched on the edge of the cliff. The site is just a short walk from the town centre. Go at sunset when you’ll see the striking stone doorway against a backdrop of pinks and oranges as the colours from the sky are reflected in the sea. As well as ancient history, there are also Venetian and Byzantine influences here, with several museums such as the Archaeology Museum. If you’re after some sun, sea and sand, then try the four kilometre Plaka beach which is backed by sand dunes and attracts a mixed crowd of all ages (including nude sunbathers towards the southern end). Or visit the coves of Aliko, surrounded by shady cedar trees. Take a drive around the island and you’ll also find olive groves and charming villages, such as Halki and Apiranthos, around Mount Zeus.
Image Credit: iStock.com/andras_csontos
Santorini: The Romantic Dreamer
Spectacular sunset views and sugar cube cliff-top villages make Santorini instantly recognisable. This enchanting island is a popular spot for romantic getaways and relaxing retreats. Visit the capital, Thira, where you can sit back and enjoy tucking into food and drinks with spectacular panoramic views across the bright blue sea. With a rugged volcanic landscape, there’s plenty to do and see around the island. Take a donkey ride or wiz down to the port on a cable car. From here you can join a boat tour, which could include hiking the extinct volcanic crater or taking a dip in some hot springs. The beaches offer a unique mixture of black, red and white sand and shingle beaches to choose from. Try the dark sands of Perissa beach, where the magnificent Mesa Vouno Mountain emerges majestically from the water and appears to glow as the sun goes down.
Image Credit: iStock.com/Maui01
Tinos: The Traditionalist
This island offers a little taste of authentic Greece. Several Greek Orthodox pilgrims visit the famous hilltop church every year, Panagia Evangelistria. The 15th of August is one of the busiest calendar days, when people flock to the island to celebrate this feast day that’s dedicated to the Virgin Mary. At other times of the year, Tinos is a lot more laid-back with an array of low-key villages and secluded bays to discover. You’ll find plenty of traditional Greek tavernas serving up deliciously fresh local produce, such as big juicy tomato-filled salads with homemade feta cheese and a sprinkling of wild oregano on top. Tinos is also known for its skilled sculptors and marble quarries in the north. Head over to the artistic village of Pyrgos, where you can visit the Museum of Marble Crafts and shop for beautiful marble souvenirs.
Image Credit: iStock.com/Klaus Hollitzer
Milos: The Nature-lover
A laid-back island escape with a tranquil atmosphere, Milos is a great place to relax and unwind. It’s got the most beaches out of all the Cyclades islands so you’ll be sure to find your own little patch of paradise here. The volcanic landscape is naturally rich in minerals, with perlite and bentonite still being mined here. You can learn more with a visit to the Milos Mining Museum and Archaeological Museum. These unusual geological properties also help gives Milos its striking scenery. Discover beaches surrounded by a moonscape of unusual rock formations, such as at the dazzlingly bright Sarakiniko beach. The crystal clear Aegean waters make it a great place for snorkelling and exploring the rocky coastline, where you can get a closer look at the colourful marine life from below the surface of the sea.
Image Credit: iStock.com/RAndrey