Use code OLYMPIC50 to save £50 on your next package holiday booking* | Use code ISLAND200 to save £200 per person on your next island hopping holiday* | Book now

A guide to the Cyclades

As the holiday season kicks in, you might be planning your next epic escape, amazing adventure or relaxing retreat. Where better to visit than a group of islands that offers picturesque villages, beautiful beaches, historic sites, amazing architecture as well as some of the most instagrammable locations on the planet?

Found in the Aegean Sea, the Cyclades are a fantastic example of Greece’s rich history, unique landscapes, and delightful diversity. These iconic islands are ideal for pretty much everyone, from those looking to kick back, disconnect and relax to travellers in search of a party atmosphere and island-hopping opportunities. The Cyclades is home to several gems leaving you spoilt for choice. So which island is best for you? We have picked a selection of our favourites and the incredibly varied experiences they offer.

Santorini 

Famous for its breathtaking sunsets and picturesque volcanic landscape, Santorini is one of the most visited Cycladic islands. From the stunning white buildings, to the dark sandy beaches, this sensational, stand out superstar of the Greek Islands has it all.

The crescent-shaped island is said to be the Lost City of Atlantis and compared to other islands in Greece, it offers views like no other. Born out of a volcanic eruption, there’s no white sand in Santorini, instead, grey sand hugs the glorious beaches which are flunked at the rear by jagged cliffs.

The legendary Santorini sunset is unlike any other evening show you’ve ever experienced – it truly has to be seen to be believed. With a volcanic past and a unique geological make-up, a caldera has been formed on the island which is a large cauldron-like hollow that forms shortly after the emptying of a magma chamber in a volcanic eruption. Oia takes pride of place on the caldera, an opulent northern town which is undoubtedly the best place to view the sunset in all its glory.

Each and every town or village in Santorini is as spectacular as the last so you can imagine it’s a difficult feat to choose where to reside. The cosmopolitan Kamari nestled only ten minutes away from the airport and Perissa village with its laidback atmosphere, are a must visit, whenever you’re in Santorini. The island is great for romantic getaways, there are so many sights to experience and weddings held on the beaches are unforgettable with the backdrop of majestic sunsets.

Santorini, Greece

Mykonos

If you want a vacation destination fit for a family or a honeymoon, with a touch of elegance and sophistication, then why not check out Mykonos? The island is among the most famous of the Cyclades bunch and it’s all down to the stylish stores, high-quality shopping, and a spectacular nightlife. 

The architecture of Mykonos Town is also strikingly good, with magnificent sandy beaches, antique 16th-century windmills, perfectly white, cube buildings, and churches accentuated with dramatic blue roofs.

Indeed, there is something for everyone on the glorious island, if you want to have an unforgettable time with your family, or a romantic getaway with your loved one or are planning a destination wedding, then Mykonos is the island for you. A lot of visitors have frequented the island after their first visit and with so much to love about this magical place we are sure you will to.

Mykonos, Greece

Naxos

The moment the ferry docks in Naxos harbour, you can feel that you’re going to have a good time. The view of the town’s medieval buildings and the Venetian castle welcomes you, but not before passing through the massive marble doorway that is part of Apollo’s (sun god) temple.

Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades Islands and it has over 100 km of golden beaches, all full of soft sand, and clear waters. What makes the place memorable is the friendly people, magnificent scenery, ancient sites and oh, the food. How can we forget the food?

The island produces most of the food they consume, so make sure to try the cuisine that features locally grown potatoes and locally-made cheeses. Throughout the island, there are restaurants, tavernas and sunshades, although if you want to stay away from the crowds, there are beaches where everything is laidback. 

One more thing, while in Naxos Town, don't forget to visit the old side of the city, where there is a network of stone-flagged passageways that were created to keep invading pirates at bay. There is so much to see and experience on the island, including seeing the sun set through the famous Portara Porch.

Naxos, Greece

Andros

This is the northernmost island in the Cyclades. Yes, the Cyclades Islands are known for white houses and volcanic landscapes, but Andros is said to be the greenest of them all, with rivers, woodlands, waterfalls, all hidden deep within neo-classical architecture.

While stunning Andros may be unique, it retains all the outstanding features of the other islands, including wonderful beaches, crystal-clear waters, sociable residents, and a fascinating, rich history. 

Once there, you will never run out of beaches to stroll on, as there are over 100 sprawled across the island. You don't have to leave the comfort of the seaside to enjoy some of the local cuisine, as there are several tavernas, bars and during the summer, there are outdoor cinemas. 

Their main town, Chora, also known as Andros Town, is a sight to behold. It’s built on a thin granite cape that juts out to the sea, and all the architecture from when the town was a successful port is well maintained. No cars are allowed in the area, so expect to enjoy nice walks without any interference.

The hidden beauties in the rich landscape are what makes Andros a unique place to visit, with the village of Menites holding spring water that gushes from the mouths of stone lions. At Gerolimni there’s a lake and a waterfall and if you want some fresh spring bottled water, then Apoikia village is the place to visit.

Andros, Greece

Ios

So you want to let yourself go and enjoy some music as you dance and drink? If so, Ios is the place for you. The island is considered the ultimate party location, with plenty of bars, restaurants and nightclubs to have a good time in. There is also majestic beauty to be found on this Cycladic gem with plenty of picturesque villages and historic landmarks.

Yet, that’s not the only thing that makes Ios a summer destination to consider. It’s surrounded by crisp, white beaches, and like all the Cycladic islands, there are magnificent white buildings, clear blue sea, dome-churches and inviting cliffs for the adrenaline lovers. All across the isle, there are stunning beaches, coves and depending on what you want, you can choose the busier beaches that are close to the main town, or go further away, where there are few visitors and facilities.

For history enthusiasts, you'll find the ruins of a Bronze Age hamlet where 300 people lived centuries ago, and foundations of a mediaeval Venetian castle. There’s also a tomb where the Ancient Greek poet Homer is said to have been buried.

A tale of two faces, Ios has a lot of churches and cathedrals and you’ll find village elders enjoying a cup of Greek coffee outside the cafes. As soon as night kicks in, the mood changes and the partygoers take over the streets. 

The most popular resort where most tourists stay is Mylopotas that has a variety of watersports, restaurants and a long, pristine beach. The lovely golden sand and shallow water is a suitable place for families to visit. 

Ios, Greece

Paros

While most people head out to the more popular islands of Santorini and Mykonos, Paros is the underdog that shouldn't be ignored. The island is purely Cycladic, with beautiful blue tables and seats on the walkways, white houses and the magnificent churches with blue roofs perched on top.

The island is home to 40 beaches, and there are several water sports to choose from, serene villages, countless restaurants, and trendy bars. If the nightlife is for you, you won't be disappointed as Paros has a fantastic atmosphere once the sun goes down.

Away from the sea, there is a butterfly valley and a mountain that offers unparalleled views of the surrounding islands. The main town Parikia is a sight to behold, and Naoussa town on the north-coast is picturesque,  elegant and a great place to spend the evening.

Paros, Greece

Syros

As the ferry enters Hermoupolis harbour, it's easy to see why Syros is hailed as the Queen of the Aegean. The main city of this great island welcomes you with fantastic views of a typical Cycladic landscape, white houses flowing from the hillside and a town full of life with its narrow pathways.

At the heart of this delightful town is a large marble-paved area flanked by palm trees and cafes, with a central stairway leading to the city hall and archaeological museum. The streets are full of bars, restaurants and boutiques which come to life once the sun has set.

Away from the marble-accentuated towns, Syros is also home to a number of fantastic resorts, among them Galissas Beach which is one of the Blue-Flag beaches on the island with a fantastic nightlife. The island isn't only known for its seaside life, there are rocky mountains on the north that you can access on foot, by car or using a mountain bike. 

While tourism is the main activity this glorious island runs on, there other businesses like shipbuilding, and horticulture. If you’re a fan of the popular Greek delicacy loukoumi, it’s manufactured in abundance on the island. 

Syros, Greece

Tinos

Located between Andros and Mykonos, Tinos is the epitome of old Greece. The island is dotted with amazing beaches and enchanting traditional villages that heavily feature white marble architecture. While there, visit Pyrgos, the town known as the sculptor’s village and explore Volax, Krokos, Falatádos, Istérnia, Komi and Ktikados for the full Tinos experience.

The island is also a heavily religious haven, with thousands of pilgrims of the Panagia Evangelistria Church flocking the place every year. For your visit there, make sure you’re dressed appropriately.

One of the features that make Tinos unique, are the dovecotes located on the Tarambados passage ways. It’s said that the dovecotes were designed by the Venetians, who used them for pigeon rearing. The scintillating architecture aside, if you like hiking, you can head out to the Xóbourgo plateau where you can experience stunning views of the entire island from its ancient fortress.

Tinos wouldn't be complete without the awesome beaches, with Agios Fokas among the best Blue-flag beaches in the Cyclades. All have several bars, tavernas and restaurants as well as being perfect for swimming or surfing. Food lovers will have the time of your lives on the island, as there is a variety of local seasonal produce like mushrooms, wild artichokes and capers. The food there is original Greek cuisine so don't forget to try out something new!

Tinos, Greece

Island Hopping in the Cyclades

Struggling to decide on just one Cycladic Island to visit? Visit both Santorini and Mykonos on one of our bespoke island-hopping holidays or for those wanting to see even more of the Cyclades, our Romantic Greece package to Santorini, Naxos and Mykonos is a wonderful option. Remember that all our island-hopping holidays are bespoke so whether you want to visit two, three or all eight of the Cyclades Islands listed above in one trip, our dedicated team of experts can make it possible.

Everyone should visit the Cyclades Island at least once during their lifetime. There is something for all, whether you are an adrenaline seeker, history enthusiast, food lover, nature enthusiast, or you just want to enjoy some sun, sand and sea in a stunning location, these idyllic islands are waiting to be explored.

Island Hopping - Romantic Greece

Also in the blog

View all articles »