With easy access to Athens, these are the Aegean’s most precious jewelry. Ancient Greek geographers gave this rare complex of islands the name Cyclades because they saw that they created a circle (kyklos) of sorts around the holy island of Delos. According to myth, the islands were the ruins that remained after a battle between giants. In fact, they were the result of colossal geological events like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Their colors are blue and white like the Greek flag. The islands come in a variety of sizes and, though the elements are the same – bright light, transparent water, heavenly beaches, dazzling white buildings and bare rock, each one has its own unique and different character. The group’s leaders, Mykonos and Santorini, need no introduction but the less known islands, big or small, are equally rewarding. For beginners, try elegant Syros, cosmopolitan Paros, the sculptors’ paradise of Tinos, lavish Naxos, exotic Milos and historical Delos, not to mention the ‘hidden gems’ that embrace the Aegean, such as Tzia/Kea, Kythnos, Sifnos, Serifos, Amorgos, Sikinos, Anafi and Folegandros. Whether you’re travelling with your family, friends or sweetheart, you will undoubtedly find your summer paradise in the sun in the Cyclades.
Beaches of incredible beauty in the Cyclades
What’s your idea of the absolute beach? Green-light blue water and white sand? Beach bars and water sports? Surrounded by rocks for snorkelling and scuba diving? A secret bay of the Aegean Sea accessible only on foot or by boat? No matter what your ideal is, you’ll find it in the Cyclades. First stop: Mykonos with its endless golden sand, turquoise water and 5-star facilities. Paradise, Super Paradise, Psarou and Elia, all are ranked among the top 10 beaches worldwide. Interested on a luxurious 17-bedroom property located between the famous beaches of Paradise and Super Paradise? The Paradise Estate is the one for you.
Next comes volcanic Milos, with the widest variety of colours and rock formations, such as at Sarakiniko and Kleftiko, and Santorini’s black and red beaches like Kamari, Perissa and Perivolo that disclose the wild beauty of the Cyclades. Small Serifos is surrounded by beaches, while rough Amorgos can claim the ‘Big Blue’ at Agia Anna beach, where Luc Besson shot his seminal film about testing the limits of man. Andros’ ‘secret’ sandy beaches, like Ahla and Grias to Pidima, win praise comments for being extra photogenic, as does Tinos for the round shaped boulders at Livada and the juge dune at Pachia Ammos (Fat Sand). For getting away from it all, both liliputian Polyaigos, between Kimolos and Milos, and the Lesser Cyclades, near Naxos, offer unexplored destinations of wild beauty, for those who come by yacht.
Time for a painless history lesson
Thousands of years of culture evolved here in the Cyclades, much of it visible in local archaeological sites and museums. You’ll see its mystique throughout the whole island of Delos and within Santorini’s Akrotiri, the Minoan Pompei. It is also makes a sensible presence in the two colossal horizontal statues lying on Naxos and in Kea’s ancient Karthaia. In substance every island has at least one ancient ruin. While beautiful, typically Cycladic churches exist on every island, the most visited are the 19th century Panagia on Tinos, the early Byzantine Ekatontapyliani on Paros, and the 11th century Hozoviotissa monastery on Amorgos. The must-see museums are Santorini’s Prehistoric Thera Museum; Andros’ Contemporary Art and Archaeology Museum; the Industrial Museum at Syros’ Ermoupoli; Amorgos’ Archaeology Museum; Milos’ museums of Mining and Archaeology, with a copy of the famous Venus de Milo; Tinos’ Museum of Marble Crafts at Pyrgos and the Archaeology and Venetian museums on Naxos.
Action against a Cycladic backdrop
Known for the classic blues and whites of their villages and their amazing beaches, the Cycladic islands also deserve a global reputation for what their crystalline waters and rigid shores offer to sailors and sea lovers. Are you looking for action on the water? From the private coves of the Lesser Cyclades, to wind and kite-surfing on Paros, and fun-filled watersports, there are choices for everyone. On land, discover the well-known paths that exist on all the islands, especially Naxos, Tinos, Amorgos, Syros and Andros. They cross rugged landscapes that have become even more charming by their castles, chapels, ruined towers and temples surrounded by the mysteries of the ages.
Gourmet treats and superior wines
Every island specializes in a local treat with the discrete taste of the Aegean. Santorini’s volcanic soil produces excellent wines and extra delicious small tomatoes, capers, white aubergines, grown without watering them. On the other islands, look for wonderful cheeses like aromatic kopanisti and xinotyro on Mykonos, arseniko on Naxos, San Michali on Tinos, Paros and Syros. The rich omelette called froutalia on Tinos and Andros, sausages and cured pork fillet (louza) on Mykonos and Tinos, clay-pot chickpeas on Sifnos, and sweets like pastelli (sesame bars) and amygdalota (crushed almond shortbread) on every island. All the islands also distill their own versions of firewater but Tinos’ raki is thought to be more delicate and lighter, while on Amorgos they drink rakomelo, raki mixed with honey.
The most important attractions in the Cyclades
- Santorini: Santorini’s Fira and Oia at sunset and the majesty of the caldera.
- Mykonos: Cosmopolitan Mykonos, with its windmills and corrugated Little Venice
- Syros: Stately Ermoupoli on Syros, one of the most royal settlements in the Cyclades.
- Andros: The shipowners’ neoclassical Andros town.
- Serifos: The sharp cubist Hora of Serifos.
- Milos: Milos’ Plaka with its castle and old churches.
- Tinos: The Volax plateau on Tinos with its enormous granite boulders.
- Amorgos: The virgin villages of Tholaria and Langada on Amorgos.
- Paros: The little port of Naoussa on Paros and the island’s mountain villages like Lefkes, Marpissa and Prodromos.