A quick introduction to the Cyclades Islands, Greece

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A quick introduction to the Cyclades Islands: The Cyclades is a group of Greek islands, southeast off the mainland in the Aegean Sea.  Many of the islands are popular holiday destinations. They are known for their beaches, ancient sites, rugged landscapes, nightlife, and traditional blue-and-white towns overlooking the sea.  The name “Cyclades” refers to how the islands form a circle (“circular islands”) around the sacred island of Delos.

The Cyclades are made up of more than 200 islands, the well-known ones being Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Ios, Milos, Serifos, Syros and Tinos. 

Most of the other smaller islands are uninhabited.  You can’t reach all the Cyclades Islands by plane, so you will have to take a ferry from the main ports in Athens.  You can read my post on how to book Greek ferries.

I’m going to highlight some of my favourite, well-known Cyclades Islands.

1. Santorini

Located in the Southern Aegean Sea, Santorini is simply stunning.  Over the years it has become very popular with tourists.  It’s often associated with romance and many couples have gotten married there. They take advantage of the weather, the views and beautiful sunsets to get a magnificent backdrop for their wedding photos.

Santorini stands out mainly because of the extraordinary views, black sand beaches I’d heard of and the fantastic sunsets.  I decided that Santorini would be the destination for my first solo trip and despite people questioning why I would go there as it’s “for couples”, I went and had a great time and made a few friends.

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Crisp white homes - Santorini, Greece

Feeling so comfortable and completely taken with Greek life, I decided after a few days there that I’d visit Greece again.  In fact, I’ve been every year since.  Once you visit, you’ll understand why the island of Santorini held a place in my heart ever since and why it’s such a popular place to visit because of its history, ancient sites, culture, and natural beauty.

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Spectacular Santorini sunset
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2. Ios

Ios is a great place to go if you want a bit of a party atmosphere blended with some time chilling on the beach and wandering around the Chora.

I didn’t go directly to Ios, I took a day trip tour from Santorini after realising just how close it was to get to another island.  You could also book a ferry independently but if it’s your first time and you’re unsure, an organised trip is a good option.   I did just that and it was a great day I’ll never forget.

Ios Chora
Blue domed church - Ios Chora

On Ios you can rent an ATV and drive to other areas and beaches on the other side of the island.   There’s enough to do and you can spend four to five days on this little island easily.

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Mylopotas Beach - Ios_The Cyclades -RiA Vistas
Mylopotas Beach - Ios

3. Paros

Paros is a beautiful island in the Cyclades, and I really had fun on this island.  Known as the “poor man’s Mykonos”, Paros has enough nightlife not to break your budget.   It’s known for its long sandy beaches and there’s plenty of things to keep you occupied for more than a few nights.

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View over Paros port
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Naousa harbour, Paros

I stayed a few nights and loved travelling around the island visiting the different beaches, historical villages and relaxing in the Chora.   Like I did, you can visit the original ancient capital, Lefkes – a beautiful village in the hills, spend time on its many beaches like Pounta or do some shopping near the port.


It’s very close to Naxos and you can easily do a day trip to this nearby island.

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4. Milos

Milos, Milos!  It’s such a beautifully peaceful island.  The island is small enough to get around in a day and see quite a few things.  Milos is pure bliss and is known as one of the most exotic Greek islands.

Why?  It’s because of its association with the birthplace of Aphrodite. The Venus de Milo, the famous statue that now resides in the Louvre in France, was discovered on Milos.

Sarakiniko beach in Milos
Sarakiniko beach in Milos, Greece
Milos island boat tour
Milos island boat tour, Greece

I loved my time there.  It was the first stop on my Cyclades Island hopping solo trip and the perfect place to start.   Small enough to get used to your surroundings but with enough to see and do.  This island has some amazing, out of this world beaches like Sarakiniko, which will remind you of a planet in space.

If you want a very serene island to kick-off your island-hopping adventure in the Cyclades, add Milos to your list.

Kimla - Milos, Greece

5. Naxos

Naxos is the largest of the islands and is synonymous with the famous Portara – the doorway to the island.  It’s the first thing you see when you arrive at the port.

The island has a lot to see and do.  It’s great to wander as a solo traveller and it’s also perfect for families as well.  There’s enough to keep the children entertained.

Portara - Naxos
Portara - Naxos
Naxos Castle - Kastro
Naxos Castle - Kastro

There are several boat tours you can take around the island and even to nearby islands like Mykonos and Paros foe the day.

Visiting the Cyclades

Most of the Greek islands shut down for winter (off season) at the end of October.  During this time ferry services are available, but they run a reduced timetable.

The season starts again properly from the end of April, depending on the island.  If you’re planning to visit Santorini, then you may want to avoid the crowds. The months of May and June (classed as ‘low season’) are the best times to visit.  While other quiet months to plan a trip would be September or October (post season).  For more on visiting the Cyclades, read my post on the best times to visit the Cyclades Islands.

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