The smell of the sea, wind whipping your hair around your face, floating in the Aegean Sea, seafood suppers, chilled rose and beaches, glorious beaches. The Cyclades are an absolute dream.
Southeast of mainland Greece lie the country’s finest set of islands, the Cyclades. You can party the night away in Ios or Mykonos, sip local wine and watch Europe’s finest sunset in Santorini or hike in the barren hills of Naxos. These islands have it all, and if time were no option, you could easily spend a summer bobbing between the 220 islands that make up the Cyclades.
Getting around is easy, and you can do so by joining an organised tour which sorts out everything for you, but it can work out cheaper if you want to freewheel on the ferries to give you the freedom to chop and change as you go.
I spent a week lounging on beaches and munching on gyros whilst island hopping the Cyclades last summer, and it was as gorgeous as the pictures on Pinterest would have you think.
Popular and picturesque, Mykonos is the most expensive of all of the Cyclades, no thanks to it’s perfect town and rampant night life. Head to Paradise Beach for the best night out on the island, however, be warned that drinks will set you back your projected budget for your trip. If parties where people aren’t really wearing any clothes aren’t your thing, simply stroll the streets, shop, eat and find a bar with a view to sip wine at until the sun dips behind that gorgeous, turquoise sea.
Accommodation in Mykonos reflect the price of drinks, and don’t come in cheap. We stayed at Paraga Beach Hostel, which was perfect and was €21.50 per person, per night.
Paros, oh Paros. It’s got beaches and pretty villages festooned in gorgeous flowers on every turn. You can hike, drink, swim, sunbathe, sail, party. Everything. It’s got a party reputation, and happy hour is available everywhere, but it’s a place to wind down and ramble slowly to your heart’s content, if that’s what you’re after. Head inland, to Kefkes, for unspoilt Greece without the hordes of tourists.
Controversially, Naxos was my favourite of the Cyclades we visited. It has mountains and green, green landscapes, a vibrant town that seemingly hasn’t been taken over by the Mykonos’ crowds and a gorgeous harbour with balmy sea to swim in. It’s a bit rugged and a bit rough, has little party scene and has a whole load of charm. Hire a guide or join a tour and go for a walk in the mountains. You won’t be disappointed.
We like to party, we like, we like to party. Ios attracts a crowd like no other island in the Cyclades and, how ever hard it may try to shake it off, has a reputation spread far and wide of extreme parties and excessive booze consumption. It is possible however to go to Ios and not leave with a hangover worthy of record books. Head to Yialos for chilled out beaches and a more family friendly affair. For views of the best sunset on the island, cocktail in hand, Ios Club, which is right at the top of the hill, has reasonable prices.
It would be rude to visit the Cyclades and not go to Santorini. This dreamlike, awesome island rises out of the sea in one, gigantic red cliff that engulfs the sea with no mercy. It has a dramatic history, and more tourists than anywhere else in Greece. Don’t miss sunset at Oia, but do get there early (don’t forget the beer or wine) for a spot with a view.