The Cyclades form a famous Aegean archipelago of some 220 stunning islands – it’s quite possible to spend months on end exploring them all.
Some things unite them all: Gorgeous beaches; traditional white and blue houses; hospitable people; traditional food at waterside tavernas; and sun-parched landscapes dotted with isolated chapels. Other things divide them: some islands are quiet paradises; some are hedonistic party meccas; while others are better for families – choose the right island and you’ll be in for the perfect Greek holiday.
For quiet getaways
The quietest islands are the ones with the smallest populations and can make perfect places to immerse yourself in traditional Greece and escape modern-day life. These have populations of between just 150 and 370 each – choose between: Iraklia; Donoussa; Schinoussa; Anafi; Sikinos; and Koufonissia.
All are worth visiting, but if you want to combine relaxation with a little exploration, consider either Koufonissia or Schinoussa as despite their populations, they still have stunning beaches, hiking trails and bicycles for rent if you like keeping active. Other great places for hiking include the trails and mountains on the islands of Amorgos or Andros.
Children generally love beaches and some of the most child-friendly are on Naxos, Antiparos, Milos, Sifnos and Serifos, as well as on lesser-known Pythagorion and Samos.
A rental car gets everyone around effortlessly and there’s usually a plentiful supply, from small budget cars to 8-seaters on all the islands. On tiny Antiparos you don’t even need a car – there are several good beaches within 15 minutes’ walk of the pedestrianised town centre. Meanwhile, Naxos, the largest island, has more to see so a hire car is worth it to get to the lovely sandy beaches, mountain villages, and its beautiful main town with castle.
If you fancy a day-trip to another island, no problem: ferry distances in the Cyclades are relatively short so you can get to Paros from Naxos in just an hour or from Antiparos to Poros in an hour and a half.
If you’re looking to let your hair down, head for Mykonos, Paros or Ios as they tend to be the livelier islands. Mykonos’ Little Venice boasts the craziest of all nightlife scenes with partying continuing until the early hours, whilst Ios is equally lively with its many clubs and bars in Chora.
If you’re looking for good music to dance to then head to Gialos, the port of Ios. Alternatively, you’ll find bars buzzing with local music in Parikia and Naoussa on Paros.
You can get to many of the islands on seasonal flights. The main airports are on Santorini, Mykonos and Paros which serve charter flights and domestic services from Thessaloniki and Athens.
For ferries, Piraeus in Athens provides crossings to most of the islands, while the two other Athens ports, Rafina and Lavrion, also serve ferries to the Cyclades islands.
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