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Introduction

The Cyclades island group is one of two island groups together forming South Aegean, one of thirteen peripheries in Greece. The other island group is the Dodecanese.

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Islands

There are dozens of islands. The main ones are:

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Sights and Activities

Historical sites

The island complex of the Cyclades is a region in Greece, which is characterised by long and rich history through the centuries. Some Cycladic islands, such as Santorini, have developed Neolithic civilisation, which dates back in 4,000 B.C., while other, such as Delos, Naxos or Milos were renowned city-states during the Classical and Roman Times. Vacation in the Cyclades is a journey in time, a true cultural trip that can of course be combined also with the stunning turquoise sea, the exotic beaches, the tasteful cuisine, the nightlife and the shopping. If you are interested in the history of ancient Greece, these archaeological sites and monuments are definitely worth visiting during your summer holidays.

Delos
For the lovers of history, the island of Delos near Mykonos is unique. According to mythology, Delos was the birthplace of God Apollo, and the ancient Greeks considered it a sacred place, building the Temple of Apollo and a theatre for theatre performances. In the archaeological site of Delos, which is located in a very close distance to Mykonos and is connected with it by boat several times in the day, you can also see the Avenue of the Lions to the way to the ancient temple and admire the findings of the excavations in the Archaeological Museum. Other fascinating landmarks in Delos are the House of Dionysus, a luxury private house, the Doric Temple of Isis, the Hellenistic Agora as well as the House of the Naxians.

Akrotiri, Santorini
Akrotiri site in Santorini is located on the southern side of the island, in a close distance to the famous Red Beach. It is visited by thousands of visitors each year thanks to the amazing findings of an ancient fully-working and developed settlement, which was constructed around 4,500 B.C. The ancient town of Akrotiri was covered by ashes and lava due to the enormous volcanic eruption around 1,650 B.C., and thus, it was preserved intact through time, just like Pompeii. The settlement is maybe the place of Plato's inspiration for the story of Atlantis. During the excavations, have been discovered frescoes, pottery, furniture, advanced drainage systems and several buildings. The place is like a whole village, where you can walk around and admire this Cycladic civilisation, while many artefacts are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Thera in Fira, the capital of the island.

Portara, Naxos
Portara is the symbol of Naxos and the first thing you will see on the cliff above the port, on the islet of Palatia, as the boat approaches the island. Portara (or Great Gate) is a gate, which is the only remain of the ancient Temple of Apollo that was constructed on the island in the 6th century B.C., when Naxos was at its peak of glory. The myth says that the islet of Palatia is the place, where the Minoan princess Ariadne was abandoned by her lover, Theseus, when he killed the Minotaur in Crete. Portara is a true jewel, which can be seen from everywhere in Naxos reminding its glorious past.

Temple of Demeter, Naxos
Naxos was an important city-state in ancient Greece, and thus many historical sites are to be found there, not only Portara. In the 6th century B.C., it was constructed the ancient Temple of Demeter, the goddess of grain and agriculture. It is located in a short walking distance from the village of Ano Sangri, and it is an ideal place to explore the ancient architecture of Naxos. You walk through this hiking path admiring the nature of Naxos, and then you reach this temple, which impresses with its unique architecture and the beautiful location.

Ancient Thera, Santorini
Ancient Thera is an ancient city on the island of Santorini in a close distance to Kamari, which dates back in the 9th century B.C. Particularly noteworthy ruins are the Agora and the main square of the city, the Basilike Stoa, which was the centre of the public life, the Roman theatre, the sacred area dedicated to Hermes and Herakles and private dwellings. Ancient Thera is the place, where you can be informed about the history of Santorini after the eruption and the destruction of the Minoan civilisation. The most important archaeological remain, which has been found there, is the statue of Kouros, which is now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Roman Theatre, Milos
On the top of the hill near the Catacombs, stands the well-preserved Ancient Theatre of Milos that the Romans built during the Hellenistic Period (3rd century B.C.). This theatre was used to organise festivals during the antiquity, and nowadays, the locals also use it for many cultural events and theatre performances during the summer period. It is built in a prominent spot, on the hillside, overlooking the port and the magnificent Aegean Sea.

Archaeological site of Skarkos, Ios
The site of Skarkos is an ancient settlement in Ios, built in the early Bronze Age (3,000 B.C.), and it is considered as one of the most significant prehistoric settlements in the Aegean Sea. This city was built on terraces, and you can admire there the streets between the houses as well as the walls of houses and public spaces. Excavations have unearthed small artefacts, such as marble figurines, obsidian ware, amphorae, seals, ceramics, stone vessels and tools.

Kouros statues, Naxos
Outside the village of Melanes, in the countryside of Naxos, can be seen a remarkable statue of Kouros. It lies on the ground, at the exact position, where it was found by the archaeologists. It is 6 meters long and dates back to the 7th century B.C. Historians believe that this huge statue represents either a god or a local hero. Another Kouros statue is located 200 m from the first, and there is also a third statue in the village of Apollonas. This statue, which looks like hidden on the ground, is the perfect opportunity for you to learn about the ancient history of Naxos, admiring this treasure in its natural place and not inside a cold museum.

Minoan settlement, Amorgos
At Moundoulia Hill, above Katapola port in Amorgos, excavations have found ruins of a Minoan settlement, which dates back to the 10th century B.C. The ancient site dominates a building that was dedicated to gymnasium type activities, but you can also admire other findings, such as the ruins of a Hellenistic temple, a sanctuary from the Geometric period, a lavatory and a statue.

Venetian Fortress, Paros
The Venetian Fortress of Naousa in Paros is located in the old port, being the landmark of the picturesque seaside town of Naousa. It was constructed in the 15th century by the Venetians as a watchtower for pirate and enemy attacks. This castle is one of the best preserved medieval remnants in the Aegean Sea, a perfect site to understand how the ancient history is combined with the medieval culture in the Mediterranean Sea.

Greek Island Hopping

Island Hopping in the Cyclades has a top advantage: it gives you the opportunity to visit many of the most famous Greek islands and enjoy their amazing assets. Explore more than just one of the Cycladic islands by jumping from one island to the next. Each island offers something totally different.

Mykonos: best for partying
Mykonos is the most popular destination in Europe for its wild nightlife, its cosmopolitanism and the goal to see and to be seen. Every beach -and Mykonos has many gorgeous organised beaches- has a beach-bar for partying till night, and world-class DJ's organise memorable events. Cavo Paradiso is one of the most famous clubs worldwide, and you can combine your swimming in Paradise Beach with it. Chora of Mykonos has also numerous bars and clubs to offer, where the night lasts till dawn or even later in the morning. Bar-hopping is the top activity to do in Mykonos Town when you wander around the beautiful paved streets, which are full of young people and people, who want to have fun. Full of luxury hotels and elegant restaurants, Mykonos is also top for entertainment and will give you the feeling of having a great time.

Santorini: best for romanticism
Santorini is a well-known romantic destination worldwide thanks to its amazing sunset and the fascinating volcanic villages with a breathtaking view of the caldera and the Aegean Sea. There is nothing more exciting than watching the sunset in Oia,Fira or Imerovigli, when the sun paints the sea pink . The beauty cannot be described by words. The hotels in Santorini are luxurious, and many of them offer you an astonishing view of the Caldera and/or a private pool. You can't find a better scenery to live your love than the volcanic Caldera and the famous worldwide sunset.

Milos: best for sunbathing
Milos has volcanic soil, which creates an astonishing scenery with beaches that look like a painting made by the most inspired artist. The whole island can be described as a natural geological wonder with its unique volcanic rock covering the island's surface. 75 beaches, endless options and extraordinary beauty make Milos a paradise for those, who love sea, sunbathing and swimming.

Koufonisi: best for swimming
Koufonisi is a small island, which is considered to be the Caribbean of Greece.Turquoise waters, golden soft sand and impressive caves in the coastline create an exotic scenery that is a heaven on earth. The beaches are within walking distance from the port, since Koufonisi is a tiny island (only 15 square metres). Pori, Gala, Italida and Fanos are some of the best beaches you can find to relax and unwind.

Naxos: best for eating
Naxos is a top gastronomic destination, where you can taste the secrets of the Greek cuisine. Among the best local products are the Naxian potatoes, the sweet tomato, dairy products, such as graviera or xinotyro cheese, and the citron liqueur. This island was the place that charmed the top chef Anthony Bourdain with its cuisine!

Paros: best for nightlife
Paros is the counterweight to Mykonos, but it is definitely cheaper than Mykonos. It also has wonderful beaches, Naousa, a lovely port with bars and seaside taverns, crowds of young people and generally the aura of the Cyclades. In Paros, you will meet numerous friendly youngsters, wander around the paved streets of Naousa, eat fresh fish by the sea and spend great time in the beach bars of the island, such as in Pounda Beach.

Ios: best for young travellers
Ios is the ultimate island for youngsters and people that want to relax as well as discover the party side of the island. If you want to save money, Ios has many quality hostels to spend the night, but at the same time, you can also find luxury hotels. Calm beaches and crowded coves with elegant beach bars, cocktail bars in the picturesque Chora as well as clubs and fun until the dawn, young people and families or couples that want to relax and feel the mystery of this island in the middle of the Aegean Sea.

Amorgos: best for relaxing
In Amorgos, another must-stop during your island hopping in the Cyclades, you can relax and enjoy peace and privacy. It is an off-the-beaten-track Greek island with unorganised beaches, traditional shops and the feeling that it has remained untouched by mass tourism. Amorgos is a great destination where you can rest, have quality time with your company, stroll around in its well-preserved Chora and be impressed by the endless blue and the wild landscape.

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Getting There

By Boat

Boats and ferries to the Greek islands start from Piraeus, the largest port of Athens and Greece. If you choose Piraeus as starting point, be careful because it is a large and crowded port, and especially in the mornings, when all boats depart, the traffic jam can be really heavy. Piraeus is located about an hour (50 kilometres) from Athens airport, but take into consideration that you have to be there at least one hour before departure. If you think you cannot make it in time, you can spend the night in Piraeus and begin your journey the next day without stress. You can go reach Piraeus by train from Athens centre (30 minutes for about 15 kilometres), but then you have to walk 5-10 minutes to go from the train station to the gates.

Always check the weather. If the ferry is a high-speed one and it is too windy there is a possibility of cancellation. The wind can be strong sometimes during the summer and some speed boats cannot travel. So arrive early, check if your boat is expected to come on time or if it is expected after all and plan accordingly.

If you travel by boat, you can sit on the deck. You will feel the warm sun on your face, see the blue sea, the islands and the sea gulls around you - the best spot to avoid nausea. However, the seats on the deck are not numbered, so you have to be early on the boat to find a seat. The airline seats are being offered in boats as well as in ferries, they are numbered, booked on your name and convenient for routes up to 5 hours. For more hours, for example if you travel to Santorini, you can book a cabin, which has private showers and offers the option to accommodate 2-4 persons depending on the price you want to pay.

Piraeus-Paros: About 5 hours with the conventional ferry and around 2,5 hours with the high-speed
Piraeus-Naxos: About 7 hours with the conventional ferry around 4 hours with the high-speed
Piraeus-Ios: About 7 hours with the conventional ferry around 3 hours and 30 minutes with the high-speed
Piraeus-Santorini: About 9 hours with the conventional ferry and around 4-5 hours with the high-speed
Piraeus-Mykonos: About 5 hours with the conventional ferry and around 3 hours with the high-speed
Piraeus-Milos: About 5 hours with the conventional ferry and around 4 hours with the high-speed
Piraeus-Amorgos: About 9 hours with the conventional ferry and around 4 hours with the high-speed

Here are some of the routes you could follow from Piraeus Port:
Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini-Anafi
Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Thira (Santorini)
Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos
Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Koufonissi-Amorgos (Katapola)
Piraeus-Sifnos-Ios-Santorini

Inter island connections:
Heraklion - Santorini - Ios - Paros - Mykonos
Ios - Sikinos - Folegandros - Kimolos - Milos - Sifnos - Serifos - Kythnos - Piraeus
Kythnos -Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Ios-Santorini
Thirassia - Ios - Sikinos - Folegandros - Naxos - Paros - Syros
Anafi - Heraklion - Sitia - Kasos - Karpathos - Diafani - Chalki - Rhodes

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Accommodation in Cyclades

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Cyclades searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Cyclades and areas nearby.

Cyclades Travel Helpers

  • anniesweetiepie

    I'm Greek and totally in love with the picturesque islands of the Cyclades! I've been to most of them but my favourite islands are Paros, Naxos, Milos, Amorgos. I've been paying a visit at least once a year since '00 :) If you need any tips about the Cyclades don't hesitate to ask!

    Ask anniesweetiepie a question about Cyclades

This is version 7. Last edited at 16:25 on Apr 23, 18 by Utrecht. 15 articles link to this page.

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