Their inhabitants may be small in number, but the islets of Donousa, Iraklia and Schinoussa – which with Koufonisia make up the Small Cyclades islands – are packed with personality and charm. Walking along their footpaths and discovering their beaches, you will enjoy coasts with white sand and lilies, low hills with wild violets, lavender and marjoram, and of course the beautiful blue of the Aegean Sea.
The islands’ settlements – all delightful little vignettes – deserve an afternoon stroll amongst palm, carob and fig trees. On Donousa, Iraklia and Schinoussa, time isn’t measured the way we know. It is cosmic time determined by the motions of the sun, moon and stars.
Merihas never fails to impress with its 100m vertical rocks surrounding it, a perfect nesting site for many a rare bird. Two beautiful beaches complement the scene. In Alimia, enjoy the crystal-clear water of Iraklia and dive to see the German hydroplane that sank here during World War II.
One of the most beautiful caves in the Cyclades, with magnificent stalactite and stalagmite decor, Agios Ioannis Prodromos is well worth a visit, particularly on the feast day of Agios Ioannis (St John) when Vespers are held in its first chamber.
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 continue to mystify experts and visitors to Iraklia. Perhaps you can come up with an answer to the puzzle … or you may be left with the feeling that you’re merely scratching the surface!
Built on a hill as a defence against pirate attack, Hora is hard to spot at first but once you reach it, you can enjoy its commanding views across the Aegean. Visit the church of Isodia tis Theotokou and its famous icon of the Virgin Mary. In the evening, in the cafe of the main paved street, there are impromptu feasts to the accompaniment of violins and lutes and an abundance of food, ideally washed down by homemade raki. And make sure to try the local fava (split pea dip) that has won many awards! It’s Schinoussa at its most authentic.
The small hamlet with its two windmills and the Church of Evangelistria, with the colourful icon screen, makes a fascinating afternoon’s excursion on Schinoussa.
In the gorge of Harakas, there are abseiling excursions organised 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 Schinoussa, naturally with stops for a swim at beaches of unique natural beauty such as Gerolimionas and Sifneiko, difficult to access on foot. Or if you fancy it, you can always nip over to the other islands of the Small Cyclades.
To the southeast of Donousa, 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 natural springs nearby. The Church of Agia Sophia stands out on the hill and there is a footpath starting from the hamlet leading to two of the most beautiful beaches of the island, Livadi and Fikio.
Circumnavigating Donousa island in a caique is an unforgettable experience. You’ll adore Fokospilia (where protected monk seals find refuge) and the Spilia tou Tihou sea cave.
Venturing a mere kilometre from Donousa’s harbour, you reach a heavenly bay with cedars, golden sand and blue waters. And just to add that spice of adventure, on the seabed there is the shipwreck of a German destroyer from World War II.