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The Cyclades Islands, Greece
The best known of the Greek Islands, the Cyclades have long dwelt in the public imagination as a land of shining sun, sparkling sea and dazzling beauty. Many people visit these shores each year which means that on occasion they have been given an unfair reputation that does not take into account the many beautiful serene and unspoiled spots that can be found away from the party hotspots and crowded beaches. But which of the islands should you choose for your perfect Greek holiday? Here is a brief guide to some of the main islands of this group to help you make up your mind:
Itinerary Part One
Itinerary Part Two
The Cyclades Islands, Greece from space
The northernmost island, Andros, is quite distinct – different in its vegetation and landscape from the other islands in many ways. There are the ubiquitous sandy beaches, but Andros also has a rocky coastline, mountain ranges and fertile plains through which abundant streams flow.
An enchanting and lesser known island of the Cyclades, Tinos is a religious centre – pilgrims come here from far and wide to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary at the church of Panayia Meyalóhari. The fact that this island is an important Orthodox and Catholic site gives it a unique character. There is a strong culture of arts and craft in the historic settlements and beautiful, uncrowded beaches.
This island is, of course, a well-known 20-30-something party hotspot, and people flock here for this reason from all over Europe. Though away from the main tourist areas, this island has a lot more to recommend it.
Kea is easily accessible due to its proximity to Attica but is a natural and unspoiled wildlife haven. This island has the largest oak forest in the Cyclades and is a perfect location for hiking, birdwatching and sailing.
Santorini is well-known as a romantic destination. What may be less well known is that the Santorini islands are still an active volcano. The combination of rugged, volcanic landscape formed by fire, and the perfect blue waters make this a popular wedding or honeymoon location.
Kythnos is close to Attica and yet is one of the less-visited islands of the Cyclades. This is the island for thermal tourism, due to the hot springs. Geologists and others will also be fascinated by the Katafýki cave, one of the largest caves in Greece.
This island of perfect, pristine beauty and unusual and delightful beaches, legend has it, rose from the bottom of the Aegean sea to aid the Argonauts. The magic of this tranquil island, with its old trails perfect for walks, cycles and donkey rides, is almost enough to make you believe in the legends.
This island's name means 'flower', and it does have the beauty of one. Many consider it one of the most beautiful islands of the Cyclades. Ios is enchanting. Its traditional settlements nestle in the picturesque landscape. Ios is also a culinary dream – be sure to sample some of the delicious local food if you do visit this island.
This island is practically untouched by modern tourism. It is a perfect place to get away from it all into a quiet place of tranquil beauty. The beautiful pebble beaches, historic settlements and bluest of blue oceans will enchant you all the more for being so uncrowded. Folegandros really is an undiscovered treasure.
Serifos too has emerged relatively unscathed from the growth of mass tourism. This island is perfect for a relaxed holiday in beautiful natural surroundings. Typically Cyladic, Serifos sports many lovely sandy beaches, bare rugged hills and seven lovely walking or cycling trails. This is also a popular scuba diving site – there are old mines and a WWII wreck to explore.
This tiny island is covered in gentle walking trails, from which you will see a variety of interesting wildlife. Paths lead down over the volcanic landscape to a variety of lovely beaches of soft sand or pebbles. You can take a boat from here to the wonderful bird-watching spot of Polyaigo, the largest uninhabited island of the Aegean.
This is an island for gourmands. There is a variety of delicious local food to be found here. Sifnos was the birthplace of award winning chefs as well as some well-known poets. There are also a range of beaches, both busy, with amenities, and secluded and quiet. You can party the night away, or enjoy a more sedate visit, enjoying the landscape, historic sites and the potteries for which the island is also known.
Escape from the hubbub of daily life on this traditional and quiet, typically Cycladic island. It is located between Ios and Folegandros and could be perfect if combined with a relaxing visit to one or both of these other tranquil and beautiful isles.
This sacred and unique island is an uninhabited UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was once the centre of religion for all of Greece, being famed in legend as the birthplace of the gods Apollo and Aphrodite and is an archaeological site that is beyond comparison. You can take a day trip to Delos from Mykonos, or in the summer from Tinos or Naxos.
The unrivalled natural beauty, glorious beaches and Byzantine footpaths make Paros one of the most popular islands of the Cyclades. Though popular, it is easy to hike or bike yourself to quiet destinations untouched by mass tourism.
This islet south-west of Paros has an enchanting mediaeval town built around a Venetian castle, and also has many beautiful beaches, some of which are perfect for activities such as kayaking or canoeing. History lovers can take tourist boats from here to some of the nearby uninhabited islands, which were once important Cycladic cultural centres.
Naxos is the biggest and greenest island in the Cyclades, sporting lush, green gorges, stunning landscapes and seascapes and picturesque mountain-top villages where a traditional way of life can still be observed. There are many historic sights and plenty to do, which means that this could be an ideal family holiday destination.
This island is famed for its spectacular scenery of mountains, cliffs, sweeping terraces, looming rock faces and picturesque coves.
Milos' volcanic activity has made this a fascinating and colourful island of interesting geological formations and its white sandy beaches are lovely.
Syros too has a great many beautiful beaches. It is also interesting as a cultural melting pot and its many historic and cultural sites reflect the fix of cultures that have coalesced here over the years.
Which island you decide on is very much a case of personal preference, but it is clear that the mythic Cyclades Islands have something for everyone.
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