Three defiant islets, three little pearls in the midst of the Aegean; their character is completely unspoilt and their inhabitants small in number but with a distinctive, warm and charming personality to match the rhythms of their environment.
Walking along their footpaths and round their beaches, you will enjoy coasts with white sand and lilies, sea with deep blue waters, low hills with wild violets, lavender and marjoram. The hamlets – all of them delightful little vignettes – deserve a short afternoon stroll amongst palm, carob and fig trees. Here time is not measured the way we know. It is cosmic time determined by the motions of the sun, moon and stars.
The sunrise finds you in a romantic mood, gazing at the magical view from the Chora of Iraklia to the islands of the Cyclades. When the sun rides higher in the noon sky, you can enjoy a swim in the cool waters and when its rays dive into the water before it disappears over the red horizon, you can sip your ouzo on Agios Giannis beach in Donousa basking the sunset. Pick any one of these three islands of the Small Cyclades and you’ll always find yourself surrounded by landscapes of exceptional beauty.
What to do on Iraklia
The bays of Merihas and Alimia
Merihas is a natural sight that impresses with its vertical rocks of 100m high surrounding it, the perfect nesting site for many a rare bird. Two beautiful beaches complement the scene. In Alimia enjoy the crystal clear water and dive to see the German hydroplane that sank during World War II.
The Agios Ioannis Prodromos
One of the most beautiful caves in the Cyclades with stunning stalactite and stalagmite décor, well worth a visit on St. John’s holiday, when Vespers are held in its first chamber.
Bousoules rock paintings
Marks made by pirates to remind them where to find their loot? Astronomical musings of the ancient Cycladites? Ancient signposts denoting local landmarks, such as hamlets or springs? The big stones with their intriguing spiral designs have mystified the experts for years. Perhaps, you can dig deep into the imagination and come up with your own answer to the puzzle … or you may be left with the feeling that you are merely scratching the surface!!
What to do on Schinoussa
Built on a hill as a defence against pirate attack, it is hard to spot at first but once you arrive there, you can enjoy its commanding views across the Aegean. Visit the “Isodia tis Theotokou”, where the icon of “Panagia tis Akathis” – an icon of the Holy Virgin – is kept. In the evening, in the café of the main paved street there are impromptu feasts to the accompaniment of violin and lute and an abundance of food, ideally washed down by “raki”, a homemade brew which really packs a punch after a couple of glasses. And make sure to try the local fava – a kind of chickpea dip – that has won many awards!
The small hamlet with its two windmills and the “Evaggelistria” church with the colourful icon screen makes a fascinating afternoon’s excursion.
In the gorge of Harakas there are abseiling excursions organized for the lovers of the sport, who can enjoy the natural beauty and the view to Tsigouri and Fidou.
Either in your own boat or by sea taxi you can circumnavigate the island, naturally with stops for a swim at beaches of unique natural beauty that are difficult to access on foot, such as Gerolimionas and Sifneiko. Or if the fancy takes you, there is always a short trip to the other islands of the Small Cyclades.
What to do on Donousa
On the southeast end of the island, built on a slope, lies this mountainous village with a breathtaking view of the Aegean Sea. The houses are made of stone with fruit trees and vegetables in their gardens and the setting is overflowing with natural springs. The church of “Agia Sophia” stands out on the hill while there is a footpath starting from the hamlet leading to two of the most beautiful beaches of the island, Livadi and Fikio.
Circumnavigating the island
Circumnavigate the island on a caique for an unforgettable experience. Admire first-hand Fokospilia – where protected seals monachus monachus seals find refuge- and the “Spilia tou Tihou”; both sea caves will leave a lasting impression on you.
Venture a mere kilometre from the harbour and a heavenly bay with cedars, golden sand and blue waters will reveal itself. Set up your tent – free camping is allowed – and get your fill of the sea, the view and joyful groups of visitors, like you revelling in the harmonious atmosphere. And just to add that spice of adventure, on the sea bed there is the shipwreck of a German destroyer from World War II.
- The bays of Merihas and Alimia in Irakleia
- The Agios Ioannis Prodromos
- Bousoules rock paintings in Irakleia
- Boat trips, Schinoussa
- Mesaria, Schinoussa
- Kedros beach in Donousa