50+1 Reasons to Visit the Cycladic Islands

The Cycladic islands, Greece's most popular island group, are renowned for their heavenly beaches, whitewashed houses, and sapphire blue seas.


AMORGOS

By foot or by boat

Megali Vlychada Beach is about an hour and a half away from Tholaria on foot, through a relatively steep trail, but you can also get there by small boat. The bay is surrounded by sheer rocks, it has sand, pebbles, and crystal-clear turquoise waters.

Rare flavors

Very few delicacies of Amorgos are processed and go beyond the borders of the island. They are extremely limited in production, and you need to know where to ask for them, or whom to order from. Such is the PDO fava from Amorgos (Kellari, Aegiali Bay, Tel. (+30) 22850.732.19) and the goat and sheep dairy products, such as arseniko and melipasto cheese, sheep milk graviera, and xinomizithra cheese (Bembis, Aegiali Bay, Tel. (+30) 22850.730.90).

Prekas has it all

 

A café, taverna, and shipping agency all in one. At Prekas (Katapola, Tel. (+30) 22850-71256) in the port, we buy our return ferry tickets, nibble on Amorgian xinomizithra cheese, kopanisti, and melipasto, and drink rakomelo. They also have other delicious meze, such as reggosalata (smoked herring roe dip), octopus, and meatballs, but here, in this cult establishment that has been operating since 1965, you can have the most delightful moussaka, a treat in itself.

ANDROS

From the watermills to Kossis

Starting from Ano Gavrio, which most people pass by on their way to the famous beaches of Zorgos and Vitali, begins the easy Andros Routes hiking trail 14, 2.7 km in length, leading to the village of Frousei. It passes through the valley with the old watermills, where wheat was once ground to produce high-quality flour. Combine the walk with a meal at Kossis (Tel. (+30) 697.200.2975), known for their own meats and a family atmosphere.

Weaving and looms

Last winter, a group of women from the active Mainites Association restored an old loom and invited Lena Gerothanasi of the Pokari Project in Epirus to teach them how to weave.  After learning how to pass the yarn through the heddle and the combs, they started creating their own woven products, developing their craft with the purchase of five tabletop looms and taking weaving lessons from an experienced teacher. Visit the association to meet them. For information, call (+30) 693.852.7458.

ANAFI

What did they know in the 11th century? 

Inside the Church of Panagia Zoodochos Pigi, the major pilgrimage site in Anafi that coexists with the ancient Temple of Apollo Aiglitis, look for the 11th-century icon on the iconostasis depicting Zoodochos Pigi with people around her, awaiting healing. In the lower right corner, a man pours water from a cup onto the chest of his wife, from which a crab (cancer) emerges.

The sarcophagus of the Virgin Mary

Walk for 10 minutes along the path that leads to Kasteli, and you will arrive at the beautiful chapel of Panagia in Dokari. Next to it you will find an impressive marble sarcophagus with relief depictions of Griffins, Cupids, the Siren, Bellerophon, and Pegasus – it is considered part of a large funerary complex, just like the northern wall of Panagia.

ANTIPAROS

Sunset swimming

Sifneikos Gialos Beach, located in the northwest, got its name from the view it offers over the island of Sifnos. The golden beach with transparent turquoise waters is about 500m away from the Kastro (castle). The best time is when the sun sets against the backdrop of the surrounding islands. It has a municipal parking lot.

Kayaking at Despotiko

Despotiko is an uninhabited islet south of Antiparos, with many secluded sandy beaches, wild beauty, and the restored sanctuary of Apollo. Rent a sea kayak, grab some water, snacks, and a hat, and explore the coast. Livadi, in the south, is the most famous beach. For organized excursions, contact Antiparos Sea Activities – Tel. (+30) 698.006.7722.

DONOUSSA

At the lighthouse

As you reach the large bay of Kalotaritissa, you will see the two beaches below the settlement and across from Trypiti, its third beach, usually with fewer people. The path there takes 10-15 minutes, but you can continue to the lighthouse for a circular walk along the trail of the local mountain running race.

Another island

Far from the popular beaches, in the northwest of the island, lies the charming Aspros Cavos. The trail starts from Stavros, passes through the Lake where you can take a dip, and after a total distance of 2km, it reaches the enchanting cliffs of the cape.

IRAKLIA

Routes to its heart

For moments decidedly quieter than those offered by the port of Aghios Giorgis, ascend to the settlement of Panagia, take Trail 2, which starts below the cistern, and walk for 1.5km until you reach a viewing point over Meriha Bay, with its steep cliffs (30 minutes/easy/maximum altitude gain 60m). Alternatively, half a kilometer into the trail, follow the paved footpath to the right and take a second trail for another 400m until you reach Profitis Elias, a whitewashed chapel with blue shutters in the middle of nowhere.

IOS

Hermits at Plakes

Located 16km southeast of Hora, it is one of the island’s most remote and isolated beaches. It is not serviced, boasts white sand and azure waters. Don’t forget to bring a beach umbrella and supplies.

Cheese at the source

Amazingly, the super rare, aged goat’s milk graviera cheese is produced at the Diaselis Dairy (Psathi-Manganari Crossroad, Tel. (+30) 697.279.8071). They also produce small quantities of sour goat cheese, aged skotyri cheese, mizithra cheese, and other cheeses, few of which leave the island. Locals who are familiar with them and some gourmet restaurants source them. The dairy also functions as a museum showcasing old agricultural artifacts used on the island.

KEA

A purifying swim

The trails of Kea, many of which are part of the island’s ancient road network, stretch for a total length of 81km. However, the paved footpath that starts from the settlement of Stavroudaki and crosses the Vathypotamos Valley, ending at the bay of Mikres Poles below the acropolis of Karthea, will reward you with a journey through dense vegetation and an unforgettable afternoon swim.

For connoisseurs

Away from the hustle and bustle of the beach and from tourist traffic, the taverna Karthea (Tel. (+30) 22880.241.01) in Kato Meria offers well-cooked homemade dishes, a family atmosphere, and friendly service. Locals and repeaters know it, and tables are in high demand.

KIMOLOS

Authentic and genuine

Kalamitsi is a well-known beach in Kimolos, with lovely tamarisk trees and calm waters. What is not widely known is that the incredible taverna (Tel. (+30) 697.460.6086) by the sea is the most genuine on the island: it serves fish caught by themselves, vegetables from their garden, meats sourced from local farmers, all at reasonable prices.

Mom’s-style ladenia

The traditional ladenia of Kimolos, a type of pie made with oil, tomato, and onion, is renowned. We found the best at Sardis taverna (Aliki, Tel. (+30) 22870.514.58) made by the hands of Beba and her son Themis, who also prepare other delicious dishes.

Sunset on the rocks

 

Mavrosplilia Beach is fairly popular thanks to its sunset and the chill beach bar that now operates there. Relaxing music, great cocktails, and views of the sun diving into the sea, alongside dramatic cliffs. The beach is large, and the beach bar hasn’t taken over, so if you prefer you can find a spot further away

KOUFONISI

Recital in the Aegean

Since 2016, the Koufonisia Classical Music Festival (koufonisiaclassical.com) has been adding a different tone to the island’s summer nights. With top artists from Greece and abroad participating in a program curated by conductor and pianist Cornelius Michaelidis, if you find yourself on the island from July 18th to August 3rd, you will enjoy a unique experience.

KYTHNOS

Thermian delicacies

In western Kythnos, in the coastal village of Flampouria, next to Panagia Flampouriani and right on the beach of Megali Ammos, you will find Flampouriotis (Tel. (+30) 22810.322.09), where you can taste dishes and flavors of local cuisine: braised goat with tomato sauce, sfouggata (fried cheese balls), local feta, and trima cheese. Several products are made in-house.

A home for antiquities

The Archaeological Museum of Kythnos was inaugurated in May and is housed in the old Elementary School in Hora. The exhibits come from excavations that have been taking place on the island for years, such as in the ancient city (Vryokastro) and the Mesolithic settlement of Maroula.

MILOS

One more beer

Nestled in the alleys of Plaka, Syrma Beer Shop (Tel. (+30) 693.883.0243) is a taproom for beer enthusiasts. Recently inaugurated, apart from their own Syrma beers, it also offers an extensive collection from small independent breweries in Greece. Try six different options on tap while enjoying the sounds of punk and rock music.

Authentic flavors in Pollonia

A new arrival in Pollonia, Nama (Tel. (+30) 697.939.5719, 22870.415.64) serves traditional flavors by the sea. Here, local products are cooked with respect, redolent of homemade food eaten during summer meals, just like in the old days.

Industrial past

 

Head to Vani to learn about its industrial history, where intensive exploitation of manganese-iron once took place. Traces of the past remain due to the shallow sea, and fossils of teeth and mammal bones, corals, and more have been discovered. Today, you will only see ruins of buildings and the loading ramp on the beach.

MYKONOS 

No reservations

This simple little tavern is unreal, standing alone with views of the endless blue, just above the unserviced beach of Aghios Sostis. At Kiki’s Tavern you must get on the waiting list, because they don’t take reservations. They quench your thirst by offering a glass of cool rosé wine as you wait, and finally, under the thick shade of the pergola, you choose between pork, fish, or the catch of the day, all charcoal-grilled, and of course accompanied by roast potatoes, fantastic salads, and dips.

Gastro-tourism

Make a stop at the Mykonos Farmers (Aghios Lazaros, Tel. (+30) 22890.239.70), one of the few visitable dairies in town. Here, you can get Cycladic xynotyro (sour cheese) and their tangy koupanisti cheese, which pair perfectly with products from the local Mikonu brewery, Tel. (+30) 22890.779.12). Dare to try a Blonde Saison, which craves a match with something fatty.

NAXOS

In Apollonas

The north of Naxos is synonymous with Apollo. Here lies the famous ancient Kouros, and right below it is the village of Apollonas and the taverna Apollonas (Tel. (+30) 22850.670.05). Stop by for home-cooked dishes, moussaka, wild greens, ribs, handmade beef patties, braised goat with tomato sauce, and freshly caught fish and seafood.

The oldest castle-monastery 

From Naxos Town, head towards the inland area, and after 30km and an hour’s drive, you will find yourself at the Monastery of Fotodotis Christos, the oldest castle-monastery in Naxos according to some. It is redolent of a tower and features Byzantine frescoes and a unique view. Fotodotis celebrates on August 6th (Transfiguration of the Savior), when a plethora of people visit the site.

PAROS 

The most beautiful view

In the heart of Paros, between Parikia, Naoussa, Alyki, and Piso Livadi, you’ll find the windswept Aghii Pantes, as the highest peak of the island is called (730m). Here you’ll find two chapels, Aghii Pantes and slightly lower, Profitis Elias, with views over Naxos, Antiparos, and on clear days, even more distant Cycladic islands.

Natural spa in the east

In the – less touristy – eastern side of Paros, in close proximity to Marpissa and Molos Beach, you’ll find Kalogeros, a sandy cove with clay formations. Indulge in a free session of mud therapy by applying clay to your body, right by the sea. Be wary of the waves, especially when ferry boats pass by.

Marpissa for meat

 

While everyone seeks out fresh fish on the Cycladic islands, you will go to Georgos and Anna’s taverna (Logaras, Tel. (+30) 22840.421.27) for well-cooked meats, juicy beef patties, hearty pork chops, and tender lamb chops. They also offer a wide selection of Greek beers from microbreweries.

SANTORINI 

Simple and unadorned Therasia 

Time passes differently on Santorini’s small sister island. Among the few highlights that the island offers – from the flower-filled courtyards of Manolas to the paths overlooking the Caldera and the tavernas in Korfos – the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin stands out, with its intricate decorations, as well as the new winery, Mikra Thira (Tel. (+30) 22860.292.92), for a different expression of Assyrtiko.

The sun sets in Megalochori

The central path leading to Megalochori Square is called Potamos (“river” in Greek). It was formed by rainwater that eroded the volcanic soil as it flowed towards the sea. In the village, you’ll find the multi-purpose venue Symposion (symposionsantorini.com), which hosts music events. To enjoy the famous sunset in a quieter setting, walk to the edge of the Caldera, to the small chapel of Aghios Nikolaos.

SERIFOS

In the morning and the evening

The best way to start your vacation in Serifos is by having breakfast at the Yacht Club (Tel. (+30) 22810.518.88) in Livadi, as soon as you get off the ferry. Here you will also return, of course, for the last drink of the evening; it’s like a tradition.

Sunset in Vagia

The best time in Vagia is late afternoon, combining a swim with the sunset. Part of the experience is the route from Livadakia with breathtaking views of the sea and the arid Cycladic scenery.

SIKINOS 

From Episkopi to the sea

Starting from Episkopi, the incredible Roman mausoleum-Byzantine church complex that last year received the European Heritage Award/Europa Nostra Award 2022 for its restoration, follow the path that leads to the port of Alopronia. It is paved with stones, traverses terraces, vineyards, and chapels, and reaches the sea after 8.5km (you can also start from the village).

Spectacular sunset

Chrysopigi is located at the top of the Kastro settlement. You will find it by following the central cobblestone path, passing by shops, whitewashed houses, geraniums, and fig trees. It has been standing proudly, since 1690, over an impressive cliff. The sun sets spectacularly into the sea, revealing the silhouettes of the surrounding islands.

SIFNOS

Ceramic Artists

Every ceramic artist on the island practices their art in their own style and technique. Giannis Apostolidis, with a workshop in Kamares (and a store in Platy Gialos, Tel. (+30) 22840.712.58), adopts contemporary lines and minimalistic aesthetics. Lembesis (Tel. (+30) 22840.320.10) in Apollonia creates hand-drawn designs and paintings inspired by marine life, while I Diskoli by Konstantinos Depastas in Heronissos (Tel. (+30) 22840.331.21) plays with the laws of Physics, creating ceramic puzzles such as a jug that doesn’t pour water when you turn it upside down.

Homemade Sweet

Sifnos is famous for its melopita, a dessert that combines delicious honey – usually thyme honey – with soft, tangy green mizithra cheese. You will find it almost everywhere, but prefer to take a seat at Gerontopoulos (Tel. (+30) 22840.314.31) in Apollonia. Its recipe is… sweet as honey.

Clay Pot Chickpea Stew

 

If you happen to be invited to a house that has a clay pot, you can make your own revithada (chickpea stew), the most traditional Sifnian dish, and give it to the nearest bakery for cooking every Sunday. On Sundays, you can also find revithada of the day in many tavernas, such as Lembesis (Tel. (+30) 22840.712.95) in Chrysopigi or Artemonas (Tel. (+30) 22840.313.03).

A Day at the Farm

At Narlis Farm (Apollonia, Tel. (+30) 22840.311.92), on the road to Kastro, you will eat fresh vegetables, such as dehydrated tomatoes or okra, attend cooking workshops to learn how to make Sifnian dishes, and participate in ceramics classes, all hosted by the sweet Georgos Narlis and his team.

SYROS 

Back in Time

In a dead-end alley of Ermoupolis lies an untouched piece of its industrial history. Walk through the worn-out door of the old Zisimatos textile factory (Hermoupolis Heritage, Iroon Polytechniou 16, Tel. (+30) 693.232.7703) and travel back in time. The immersive experience is based on memories of 40 workers, and includes a tour of the old sewing machines and looms, leading to a monastic-style table where a worker’s snack is served.

Nudism and Pasta with Meat Sauce

Syros has small sandy beaches, most of which are serviced. However, there are also several hidden gems at the end of long footpaths. One such beach, but with easy access (the uphill part is only challenging for the first 5 minutes of the journey), is the nudist beach at Aghia Pakou, below the Catholic chapel in Galissas of the same name. After taking a dip, take a seat at Iliovasilema restaurant (Tel. (+30) 22810.433.25), which is popular for its seafood and marine dishes but also serves fantastic pasta with meat sauce.

SCHINOUSSA 

Carefree summer 

The up and coming island in the Lesser Cyclades with numerous spots for mooring, a magnet for sailing boats, boasts exceptional beaches. Spread your towel at Tsigouri, the large sandy beach overlooking the islets of Plaka and Venetiko, Iraklia, and even Ios. It never gets crowded, no matter how big the summer crowds may be.

TINOS

Little Ladies

Walking through the halls of the Ursulines School (Loutra, Tel. (+30) 22830.234.14), the mind travels back to the early 20th century when the school was at its prime. Here, you can imagine the little ladies of that era, approximately 300 students from all over Greece, receiving valuable education for that period, just before their entrance into society.

Wine Tastings in the Old Hammam 

The home cooked casseroles, risottos, giouvetsi (Greek beef stew with orzo pasta), and slow-cooked meats with a creative touch are now well-known; taste them at Itan Ena Mikro Karavi (Trion Ierarchon, Hora, Tel. (+30) 22830.228.18), the fine restaurant of Tinos with a beautiful courtyard. What many people don’t know are the special tastings of Cycladic and Greek wines organized by appointment in the restored 19th-century Turkish hammam at the edge of the courtyard.

The Square in Arnados

 

As an antidote to the congestion of the villages of Tinos, where reservations are required days in advance during peak times, the beautiful village of Arnados offers the most tranquil Cycladic mornings, in its square with its unique views. Seek out moments of precious tranquility in its café, enjoying bougatsa (custard pie with filo pastry) in the morning and meatballs in the evening after a swim.

The Secrets of the Catholic Villages

One uniqueness of Tinos is its dual religious identity. Open the door of a church in one of the Catholic or mixed villages – Kardiani, Komi, Krokos, Xinara, Volax, Myrsini – and you will find yourself in front of an unexpected spectacle: the imposing statues and simple decor of the Catholic churches, contrasting beautifully with the Cycladic landscape that surrounds them.

Swimming at Aghios Markos

Aghios Markos is a small cove with cliffs, just a few minutes away from Hora. It is never windy here, so on windy days it attracts quite a crowd. However, on calm days, most people spread their towels on the more popular beaches and leave this wonderful spot with its cliff-diving rocks empty for refreshing dips.

FOLEGANDROS 

Towards Aspropounta Lighthouse 

Start from Ano Meria for a satisfying one-hour hike towards Aspropounta Lighthouse, which was built in 1919. The height of the lighthouse is 11m, and it operates without a lighthouse keeper. You will find yourself on the northwest, the wilder side of Folegandros, gazing out at the sea and nothing but the sea. The trail is of moderate difficulty. 



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