When holiday-makers think of the Greek Islands, they tend to think of white-washed houses lining narrow, sloping, cobbled streets; blue-domed churches, rocky headlands and sandy beaches on islands rising from a calm, cobalt sea.

The Cyclades conform closest to this stereotype, and for this reason draw more tourists than any other island chain.

The Cyclades chain of 18 islands is located halfway between Greece and Turkey in the heart of the blue Aegean Sea, making it perfect for relaxed island-hopping.

They were captured by the Venetians after the 4th Crusade, and the architectural legacy left behind is one of elegance and charm.

Andros: The northernmost island in the Cyclades has just one major resort at Batsi, with a fine beach and a waterfront strip lined with hotels, bars and tavernas.

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  • Good for: Families with teenagers.
  • Best Beaches: For water sports, bars and music head for the Green Beach Club at Prasini Ammo Beach. To get away from it all, hire a car/moped and explore the deserted pebble beaches on the other side of the island.
  • Don’t miss: The ruins of Paleopolis and the Bay of Korthion nearby, which also has wonderful swimming.

Ios: Ios (a.k.a. Ireland Over Seas), is the beer-swilling party island of Greece. More than 100 bars line the narrow streets of the Old Town, Ios Village, where unadulterated bad behaviour is not just tolerated but downright expected!

  • Good for: Party animals, with the weight on animal rather than party!
  • Best Beaches: The main beach of Mylopotas has water sports, a bar and lots of music. To get away from it all, head to nudist Manganari Bay or quiet Kolitsani Bay.
  • Don’t miss: There’s no risk of cultural overload here and no ruins to drag yourself round either, so get on with sleeping all day and revelling all night.

Milos: Volcanic Milos has bizarre-shaped rock formations. The port town of Adamas is the main resort.

  • Good for: Families, lovers.
  • Best Beaches: Palaechori and the secluded Plathiena on the southeast coast.
  • Don’t miss: A visit to the tiny neighbouring island of Kimolos, reached by boat from Pollonia. And be sure to take a boat trip around the caves, which were used as hideouts by Aegean pirates.

Mykonos: The most popular island in the most popular part of Greece, Mykonos draws 800,000 tourists a year, most of them in July and August. Its long, blonde beaches, thriving gay scene, stunning Venetian architecture and vine-canopied, labyrinthine streets make Mykonos Town a big draw.

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Chic cocktail bars overlooking the pretty harbour, buzzing nightclubs such as the Skandinavian Bar, and Pierro’s (the first gay bar in Greece) lure the party animals and the vibe is hedonistic fun.

  • Good for: Chic party animals, families.
  • Best Beaches: Megali Ammos and the nudist beaches of Paradise Beach, Super Paradise Beach (!) and Elia.
  • Don’t miss: A day trip to the island of Delos, where Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis, to see the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, the spiritual centre of the Cyclades and the reason for their name (‘circling round’ Delos). Spare at least three to view the sculpted lions, Roman houses, mosaics, ancient theatres and columns in the ruin complex. `

Naxos: The largest, most fertile and, some say, the most beautiful of the Cycladian islands, Naxos is the island where Theseus (slayer of the Minotaur) is supposed to have abandoned King Minos’s daughter, Ariadne, who had fled from her home in Crete to be with her lover. Look out for the Portara, a marble archway above Naxos Town — visible as the boats anchor — where Ariadne was supposedly abandoned.

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The main resort in Naxos is Naxos Town, which consists of a beautiful Old Town and a less nice newer part. Nightlife exists — there are a couple of clubs and plenty of bars along the waterfront — but it’s less hectic than Mykonos and certainly less so than Ios.

  • Good for: Families with teenagers.
  • Best Beaches: The un-crowded beaches and clearest waters are those furthest from Naxos Town at Mikri Vigla, Kastraki, Aliko and Pyrgaki on the south east side of the island.
  • Don’t miss: Exploring Naxos’s orchard-filled interior and walking the Tragea, acres of olive groves between Chalki and Filoti villages. A good day trip is to visit the fishing village of Apollonas which has a lovely beach and good swimming.

Paros: Renowned in the Ancient World for the quality of its marble, which was even used for Napoleon’s mausoleum in Paris, Paros is also one of the most popular Cycladian Islands with tourists, thanks to its buzzing nightlife and magnificent beaches.

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There are two main resorts on the island: Paros Town, with its club complexes and many bars, and Naoussa, which has fantastic sandy beaches. Just next door to Paros is the island of Antiparos (literally ‘opposite Paros’) which is very un-touristy with good beaches and amazing caves bristling with stalactites.

  • Good for: Families with teenagers, party animals.
  • Best Beaches: Agios Georgios on Antiparos, Chrysi Akti on Paros.
  • Don’t miss: The idyllic village of Lefkes in the heart of the island, and the charming Valley of the Butterflies where millions of scarlet-winged tiger moths come to mate every June.

Santorini: Also known by its ancient name of Thira, chic and expensive Santorini is lined with black beaches. The dramatic pumice fields of the interior were formed when the entire island blew apart in 1628 BC, burying the island in lava and causing tidal waves that drowned the Minoan civilisation of Crete over 160 kilometres away.

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Thira Town, the main resort on the island, has a lovely old district called the ‘caldera’, with cobblestoned streets and cliff-top views looking west to the sunset. Thira Town is also packed with lively bars and clubs.

Another resort on Santorini is the quieter and even more upmarket Oia in the northern part of the island. With guest houses built into the soft volcanic rock, Oia is fun to visit for a meal if you’re staying in Thira Town.

  • Good for: Families with teenagers, party animals.
  • Best Beaches: Perissa Beach is popular with backpackers, while Kamari Beach is more upmarket.
  • Don’t miss: The village of Pyrgos with its 25 blue- and green-domed churches, or Akrotiri, Santorini’s very own Pompeii, which has fine ancient wall paintings. You can also enjoy a trip to the Santorini volcano and swim in its hot springs.

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Serifos:
Perseus turned the island’s king and his servants into stone by showing them the Medusa’s head which apparently explains the barren stillness of the little island. Livadi is the port and main resort on the island.

  • Good for: Families, lovers.
  • Best Beaches: A 45-minute walk from Livadi is the delightful Psili Ammos Beach.
  • Don’t miss: A visit up the hill from Livadi to Chora, Serifos’ capital which is an archetypal Cycladian hilltop town.

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Syros: Syros was once the most important shipping centre in the Aegean, until it was overtaken by Piraeus near Athens. Hermoupolis (city of Hermes, God of Commerce) is a city of 15,000 people. The main tourist resort is Galissa.

  • Good for: Families.
  • Best Beaches: Armeos Beach, a beautiful, tiny nudist beach away from the crowds on Galissa Beach.
  • Don’t miss: The El Greco painting in the Church of the Assumption (Kimiris Theotokou) in Hermoupolis.

Read more – Greece & Its Islands: 

Greece & Its Islands – Travel Guide

Athens – Greece & Its Islands – Travel Guide

Argo-Saronic Islands – Greece & Its Islands – Travel Guide

Crete – Greece & Its Islands – Travel Guide

The Cyclades – Greece & Its Islands – Travel Guide

The Dodecanese Islands – Greece & Its Islands – Travel Guide

Ionian Islands – Greece & Its Islands – Travel Guide

Northeast Aegean Islands – Greece & Its Islands – Travel Guide

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About matteo

I’m Matteo (Matt in English) But Italians naturally throw in an ‘0’ where ever possible, especially in the bedroom. When embarking on a new trip, I worry when opening my backpack, in case my mother has climbed in. Want to know more? Click Here

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