Cyclades

The crown jewels of the Aegean
View of Oia, Santorini island
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Dazzling white villages, golden beaches and clear azure water are just the start of what Greece’s most famous island chain has to offer

Within easy reach of Athens, these are the Aegean’s most precious gems. Ancient Greek geographers gave this unique cluster of islands the name Cyclades because they saw that they formed a circle of sorts around the sacred island of Delos. According to myth, the islands were the debris that remained after a battle between giants. In reality, they resulted from colossal geological events like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  

Their colours of these islands are blue and white, like the Greek flag, and they come in all sizes. And though the ingredients are the same – incomparable light, translucent water, heavenly beaches, lustrous white buildings and bare rock – each has a distinct character. The group’s stars, Mykonos and Santorini, need no introduction but the lesser-known islands, big and small, are just as rewarding. There’s aristocratic Syros, cosmopolitan Paros, the sculptors’ paradise of Tinos, bountiful Naxos, exotic Milos and historic Delos … not to mention the hidden gems of Tzia/Kea, Kythnos, Sifnos, Serifos, Amorgos, Sikinos, Anafi and Folegandros. 

Whether you’re travelling with family or friends, you’re bound to find your summer paradise in the sun in the Cyclades.

Beaches of indescribable beauty

What’s your idea of the perfect beach? Green-blue water and white sand? Beach bars and water sports? Framed by rocks for snorkelling and scuba diving? A secret Aegean cove accessible only on foot or by boat? You’ll find it in the Cyclades. 

First stop: Mykonos with its extra-golden sand, turquoise water and 5-star facilities. Paradise, Super Paradise, Psarou and Elia all rank amongst the top beaches worldwide.

Next comes volcanic Milos, with its range of colours and rock formations, such as at Sarakiniko and Kleftiko, and Santorini’s black and red beaches like Kamari, Perissa and Perivolo, revealing the wild side of the Cyclades. Small Serifos is ringed with beaches, while rugged Amorgos can claim the ‘Big Blue’ at Agia Anna beach, where Luc Besson shot his seminal movie about testing the limits of man. Andros’ ‘secret’ sandy beaches, like Ahla and Grias and Pidima, win rave reviews for being extra photogenic, as does Tinos for the round boulders at Livada and the enormous dune at Pachia Ammos (Fat Sand). For getting away from it all, both tiny Polyaigos(between Kimolos and Milos) and the Lesser Cyclades, near Naxos, offer unexplored destinations of raw beauty.

Time for a painless history lesson

Thousands of years of civilisation evolved here in the Cyclades, much of it visible in local archaeological sites and museums. You’ll see its mystique encapsulated on the whole island of Delos and within Santorini’s Akrotiri, the Minoan Pompei. It is also present in the two colossal horizontal statues lying on Naxos and in Kea’s ancient Karthaia. Virtually every island has at least one ancient ruin. 

While beautiful, typically Cycladic churches exist on every island, the most visited are the 19th century Panagia on Tinos, the early Byzantine Ekatontapyliani on Paros, and the 11th century Hozoviotissa Monastery on Amorgos. The best museums to visit are Santorini’s Prehistoric Thera Museum, Andros’ Contemporary Art and Archaeology Museum, the Industrial Museum in Syros’ Ermoupoli, Amorgos’ Archaeology Museum, Milos’ museums of Mining and Archaeology (with a copy of the famous Venus de Milo), Tinos’ Museum of Marble Crafts at Pyrgos and the Archaeology and Venetian museums on Naxos.

Action against a Cycladic backdrop

Known for the iconic blues and whites of their villages and beautiful beaches, the Cyclades islands also deserve worldwide renown for their crystalline waters and rugged shorelines. From the private coves of the Lesser Cyclades, to wind- and kite-surfing on Paros, and fun-filled water sports, there are options for everyone. On land, discover the well-marked hiking trails on all the islands, especially Naxos, Tinos, Amorgos, Syros and Andros. They cross rugged landscapes made all the more enchanting by castles, chapels, ruined towers and temples shrouded in the mysteries of the ages.

Gourmet treats and superior wines

Every island specialises in a local treat with the distinctive flavour of the Aegean. Santorini’s volcanic soil produces exceptional wines and extra delicious small tomatoes, capers and white aubergines (grown without water). On the other islands, look out for wonderful cheeses like spicy kopanisti and xinotyro on Mykonos, arseniko on Naxos, and San Michali on Tinos, Paros and Syros. Culinary stars are also the rich omelette called froutalia on Tinos and Andros, sausages and cured pork fillet (louza) on Mykonos and Tinos, chickpeas cooked in a clay pot on Sifnos, and sweets like pasteli (sesame bars) and amygdalota (crushed almond shortbread) found through the island chain. All the islands distil their version of firewater, but Tinos’ raki is thought to be more refined and lighter, while on Amorgos they drink rakomelo, raki mixed with honey.

The most significant sights in the Cyclades

  • Santorini: Santorini’s Fira and Oia at sunset and the majesty of the caldera.
  • MykonosCosmopolitan Hora, with its windmills and wave-lashed Little Venice
  • Syros: Stately Ermoupoli on Syros, one of the most regal settlements in the Cyclades.
  • Andros: The shipowners’ neoclassical buildings in the main town of Andros.
  • Serifos: The steep cubist Hora of Serifos.
  • MilosMilos’ Plaka with its castle and old churches.
  • TinosThe Volax plateau on Tinos with its giant granite boulders.
  • AmorgosThe unspoilt villages of Tholaria and Langada.
  • ParosThe little port of Naoussa and mountain villages, like Lefkes, Marpissa and Prodromos.
Fishing boat on turquase waters on Koufonisi

Experience the best of Cyclades

Landing on the lunar landscape of Sarakiniko beach

Landing on the lunar landscape of Sarakiniko beach

Feel like the star of your own photo shoot as you explore a unique setting of chalk-white rock and azure-blue sea on the northeastern coast...
Beautiful paved streets, neoclassical buildings and a lively market and shops all testify to Halki’s past as the capital of Naxos

Mountain village hopping in Naxos

The quaint little mountain settlements of Naxos stand ready to reveal all the authenticity of the island… one cobblestone at a time?
Wine-making can be traced here to before the eruption of its legendary volcano, more than 3,000 years ago

Sampling the wine routes of Santorini

Bottling all the authenticity of an island renowned for its cosmopolitan charm, the wineries and vineyards of Santorini allow you to enjoy thousands of years...
A walking tour through the Hora of Mykonos

A walking tour through the Hora of Mykonos

Behind the Instagrammable beauty of Mykonos’ main town beats a strong, authentic heart that you’ll adore discovering.
To meander through the cobblestone streets of Upper Syros (as the name translates) is to uncover the medieval and Catholic character

A walking tour of wonderfully preserved Ano Syros

The ultimate fortress town, wonderfully preserved Ano Syros allows you to explore a world of Cycladic architecture and Venetian charm, punctuated by magical views of...
Tables of a restaurant in front of a church in the harbour of Naousa village, Paros island

A walking tour of Naoussa blends island chic with deep traditions

Tradition and style go hand in hand as you explore Paros’ charming fishing village of Naoussa.
  • Sunset ritual, Santorini
  • Little Venice and the windmills, Mykonos
  • Naoussa, Paros
  • Archaia Portara, Naxos
  • Sarakiniko, Milos
  • Ermoupoli, Syros
Highlights

Islands in the Cyclades

For a walk that takes you back in time, come to Ioulis, a colorful village in Tzia

Tzia

Ancient yet cosmopolitan, just a stone’s throw from Athens
View of Sikinos's port at sunset

Sikinos

The charm of simplicity in the Cyclades
Merichas port on Kythnos during sunset

Kythnos

The island that hides its secrets in plain sight

Travel ideas

Shining the light on stories
Fyropotamos, a seaside settlement with a tiny sandy beach

8 reasons why Milos is out of this world

Milos has been the rising star of many a travel feature over recent years, celebrating an extraordinary array of beaches (more than 70), eye-catching coastline
Miaouli Square with its grand Town Hall, palm trees and cafes and shops

8 highlights to light up your holiday on Syros

One of the most popular Cycladic islands, Syros is unique blend of contrasts. Cycladic minimalism, medieval charm, neoclassical nobility, Orthodox and Catholic heritage, rugged hillsides and little fishing villages… the diversity is astounding. It’s also
Bazeos tower, one of the most well-known monuments of Naxos

8 reasons to make you visit Naxos again and again

What if there was an island that had it all? A choice of sandy beaches where you can sunbathe, swim, eat or get active, whether you’re a family, a couple or with friends.