From Mykonos and Santorini to Tinos and Serifos, the Cyclades islands are the crown jewels of the Aegean Sea, famous for amazing beaches and sugar-cube houses
Within easy reach of Athens, the Cyclades islands are the Aegean’s most precious gems, so-called by ancient Greek geographers because they saw that they formed a circle of sorts around the sacred island of Delos.
Like the Greek flag, the colours of the Cyclades islands are blue and white and they come in all sizes. And though the ingredients are the same – incomparable light, translucent water, heavenly beaches, lustrous white buildings and bare rock – each has a distinct character. The group’s stars, Mykonos and Santorini, need no introduction but the lesser-known islands, big and small, are just as rewarding.
The Cyclades are in fact the peaks of the mountains of the Aegais, a mountainous terrain, which was submerged in geological times, about 5 million years ago. The earthquake and volcanic activity played an important role in all the geomorphologic processes. Volcanic eruptions that took place before 35.000.000 years (with the volcanic eruption of Santorini, 17th- 16th century B.C. being the most important) constitute part of the geological disruptions that shaped Aegais.
In fables, Cyclades are connected with Poseidon in whom it's imputed their creation. It is said that they took its name from the nymphs, Cyclades that the God of sea transformed them into islets when they provoked him. There are also and other traditions about their name as for instance from the word cycle, because they spread around Delos, the island where Apollonas born.
The islands flourished during the Bronze Age, despite the occasional destruction of some settlements by earthquakes. The development of the Early Cycladic civilization is spanning the period from 3000 BC - 2000 BC and communicates and develops with the Early Minoan civilization of Creta. According to history the carriers of the Early Cycladic civilization were the Kares and the Leleges. During the Byzantine times Cyclades belonged to the Theme of Aegean. The Ottoman Empire took control of the Cyclades in 1500. However, Ottoman authority was relatively lax on the islands because no governors or garrisons were dispatched or deployed there. The Cyclades played an active role, in 1821, in the Struggle for Independence. In 1830 Cyclades became part of the newly founded Greek State.
The whitewashed houses and the rocks are typical of Cyclades. The folk architecture of Cyclades became a role model for modern architecture. The abundance of suitable materials (white and green marble, slate, granite, etc) and the amazing beauty of the sunsets and sunrises combined with fine architecture give to Cyclades a particular atmosphere and the feeling of being in a painting, surrounded by extreme purity and beauty.
Each island has its own architectural features: underground buildings, towers, stone rustic huts buildings, neoclassic noble men's houses as well as traditional Cycladic houses. The visitor can find almost in every Cycladic Island monuments and buildings of great rural and cultural importance such as: dovecote, windmills, watermills, bridges, monasteries, "syrmata" (traditional mooring or storage space).
Arts, traditional crafts (such as marble sculpture, ceramics and pottery) as well as local gastronomy are giving to Cyclades a "couleur local". Easter, Christmas, Halloween and wedding traditions and customs revive in Cyclades. Innumerable fairs are taken place in the islands of Cyclades keeping alive the religious and cultural tradition of the place.
The islands of Cyclades constitute a meeting point of people from all over the world. Cyclades are full of geographical contrasts, history, landscapes of unique natural beauty, hospitality, local cuisine, traditions, and customs presenting a culture of great significance. Holidays in Cyclades give the opportunity to have fun, to relax, to taste local food, to make romantic walks and to enjoy the immense blue sea. The largest islands are full of life -all year around- and are ideal destinations for short excursions; whereas the smallest are essential for, those that are fond of alternative tourism. Agro tourism, sea tourism, sport activities, congress tourism, religious tourism, ecotourism, geo tourism, as well as therapeutic tourism satisfy each visitor.
The climate is generally dry and mild, with mild winters and cool summers. The average winter temperature ranges from 10° to 16°C, while the average summer temperature ranges from 24° to 30°C. "Meltemia" (summer winds) constitute a substantial weather phenomenon during summertime. They are winds that blow from northeast to northwest with high intensity between the middle of July until the middle of September and make the summer.
And the world’s most striking sunset. • When the sun dives behind the tiny island of Thirassia, find your perfect spot on Santorini to experience the majesty of the caldera from Fira and Oia villages. • Experiencing the famous Santorini sunset • Hiking from Fira to Oia • Going Instagram crazy in Oia • Visiting the volcano • Taking a boat cruise around Santorini • Go on a wine tour • See Ancient Akrotiri
The definition of island luxury. • You’ll already have seen the most iconic sights of Mykonos before visiting, especially cosmopolitan Hora, with its cobbled alleys, the sunset by the iconic windmills and wave-lashed Little Venice. • Day trip to Delos Island. • Beach days in the sun. • Clubs and bars.
One of the most cultured Greek islands. • Stately Ermoupoli is one of the most regal settlements in the Cyclades. Along with neoclassical buildings, it is famous for Syros’ Apollo Theatre, a miniature of La Scala in Milan. • Sunset watching from one of the beaches in Syros (Delfini) • Walking around Ano Syros (Upper Syros) • Exploring the Vaporia neighbourhood • Checking out the neoclassical buildings in Ermoupoli • Visiting the Apollon Theatre
The home of many ship-owners. • Andros was the home of many of Greece’s best-known captains and ship-owners. Walk the main town to get a glimpse of the neoclassical buildings, which blend harmoniously with the medieval architecture. • Spend time in Chora (museums, sightseeing and more) • Visit villages and towns such as Korthi, Batsi, and Menites • Go down into the depths of the earth at Aladinou Cave • Laze on the beaches (you must visit the Old Lady’s Jump!)
A wildly beautiful island in the Cyclades. • The steep cubist Hora of Serifos, built amphitheatrically on the top of an arid hill, is one of Greece’s most beautiful island towns. Stroll through the alleys and discover the ruins of the Venetian castle. • Sunset watching from Chora • Visit the abandoned mines • Dive off Kalogeros Beach • Beach days at Karavi, Avlomonas, Lia, Agios Sostis and Psili Ammos
A culinary hotspot in the Cyclades. • Walk around the medieval village of Kastro • See as many churches as you can (there's almost enough churches for every day of the year on the island!) • Visit the village of Artemonas • Go scuba diving • Use the hiking trails • Try the local lamb and chickpea dishes • Beach time (Gialos, Poulati, and many more
A volcanic gem full of local traditions. • Milos’ Plaka is a picturesque village of whitewashed houses with azure doors and pink bougainvillea. This is the perfect place to try a strong Greek coffee and chat with the locals. • Boat tour to Kleftiko Bay • Visiting Sarakiniko beach (it's like the moon!) • See the Roman Catacombs • Exploring Plaka • Soaking up the romantic atmosphere
A symbol of Greece and the Cyclades. • The Volax plateau on Tinos, with its giant granite boulders, is a unique village that has stimulated the imagination of visitors thanks to its lunar scenery. • Visiting the Panagia Evangelistria • Spending time in the villages of Volax, Pyrgos, Isternia, Kardiani and others • Learning about the history of marble workmanship • Using the hiking trails • Enjoy the lovely beaches
For fun-lovers and romantics. • In the heart of the Aegean, Paros is an island that combines the modern with the traditional. If you are a romantic soul, you should visit the little port of Naoussa, while adventurers should go hiking to the mountain villages of Lefkes, Marpissa and Prodromos. • Visit the Panagia Ekatontapiliani (Church of 100 Doors) • Walk the streets of Old Town and Port of Naoussa • Visit the Town of Lefkes • Chill at Kolombithres Beach • Hike through Paros Park
For the amazing beaches, villages, and glorious food. • Sunset at the Portara / Apollo Temple • Getting lost wandering the streets of Chora and the Kastro • Spending time in the traditional villages of Naxos • The Temple of Demeter • Street art at an abandoned hotel near Aliko beach • Beaches – especially Plaka beach
A true paradise with pristine beaches, seas that sparkle like jewels, and a coastline to fall in love with. • Hire a boat to see the coastline of Koufonisia • Spend time on Ano Koufonissi beaches of Foinikas, Loutro, Italida, and Pori • Spend time on Kato Koufonissi beaches of Nero, Detis • Hike around Ano Koufonissi • Eat fresh fish at tavernas (try the urchin salad!) • Enjoy the charm of Chora
Famous for its elegant architecture and a variety of wildlife such as birds, reptiles, and wild animals. • Spend time in the beautiful village of Ioulida with castle and archaeological museum • Visit more quaint villages such as Vourkari, Korissia, and Otzias • Relax on the beaches of Gialiskari, Koundouros, and Korissia • You must visit the ancient site of Karthea
The morphology of the islands and the microclimate of each and every one of them play a decisive part in what has become the local culinary culture. Besides, many of the ingredients accounting for the scrumptious food you can have here are protected designation of origin products. Meat of no massive production, fresh fish and seafood, dry tomatoes, potatoes, yellow split peas (fava beans), caper, top dairy products, fantastic honey… The Cycladic ambrosia finds its perfect match in the nectar of the renowned wine specialties, ranging from white (athiri, assirtiko, etc) to red ones (vinsanto, etc) many of which with international distinctions.
The sea around the Cyclades offers the islands wonderful and abundant treats: divine fish soups, grilled fish or cooked with vegetables, dried or salted so that you enjoy it with your ouzo: You just name the way and relish! The few sheep and goats give milk for rich milk and mouthwatering cheese. Even vegetables, although few and dry, are delicious. Low vegetation and thyme provide honey, one of the main ingredients of the Cycladic pastry. Aromatic plants and herbs add their touch to the delightful flavours’ palette too.
• Fava me koukia: Being made from fava beans mashed up with a lemon sauce. The lemon sauce is spiced with fennel and parsley, which add a sense of bold herb flavour that creates a very bright taste. It's perfect as a snack or side dish and is a favourite among Santorini locals. • Domatokeftethes: Are made from a specific variety of Santorini tomatoes fried in a thick olive oil batter with peppers, onions, mint and herbs. The tomatoes are about the size of cherries and have a sweet flavour. • Apochti: A traditional sort of pork jerky made from salted pork loin brined in vinegar, then dried and seasoned with pepper and vinegar. It's also used in many main dish recipes in homes and restaurants all across the island. • Chlorotyri: A true delicacy in Santorini, a local goat milk cheese found only on this island and made in very limited quantities, and one you will never forget. • Melitinia: a traditional sweet treat, especially around Easter, a cheese pie made with sugar and mastic powder in homes and traditional bakeries across the island. The recipe is deceptively simple but also difficult to master. It's made of mizithra cheese blended with sugar and mastiha to create a unique pastry with a soft, creamy consistency unlike anything anywhere else.
• Kopanisti: a fine cheese that can compete with top European cheeses. Many people even refer to it as the “Greek Roquefort.” It’s thick and creamy with a spreadable texture, peppery and intense flavour, and yellowy-pink colour. It’s made from sheep’s milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, and takes around 4 months in total to produce. • Kremidopita: is one of many Mykonos delicacies associated with Easter. Although the pie contains onion, the tanginess of the onion is balanced with creamy tirovolia cheese. The recipe also includes dill and various wild herbs and spices. • Amygdalota: A traditional sweet with a distinctive rose aroma and almond flavour. On Mykonos, they are moulded into an oblong shape, similar to kourabiedes (butter cookies). Unlike on the other Cycladic islands, here they are baked. This results in a slightly hard exterior with a soft inside. • Sausages with black-eyed beans: Mykonos black-eyed beans are called 'kafematika' and combine well with Mykonos sausage, which is made exclusively from pork meat and fat. Unlike other areas in Greece, the Mykonos sausage is sun-dried rather than smoked. The traditional Mykonos sausage also contains savoury herbs, pepper, spice, salt, and finely chopped oregano. • Melopita: (honey pie) is a sweet pie made with the traditional Mykonos cheese, tirovolia. The original recipe is made with 2 crispy sheets of pastry wrapped around a filling of tirovolia, cinnamon, and honey. • Louza: The Myconian prosciutto. Traditionally, Louza sausages were made after the annual pig slaughter – a popular festival taking place in the autumn when each household would slaughter the pig they had fattened up over the year.
• Kaparosalata (caper salad) • Maindanosalata (parsley salad with lemon, onions and capers) • Marathopita (wild fennel pie) • Aetopita (fish and vegetable pie) • Atherinopita sounds like a pie but it’s a dish of small fish, lightly coated with flour, mint and parsley, fried and served with chopped tomato and either onions or egg. • Melomenes melitzanes (literally translating as honeyed aubergines but it’s the slow-cooked tomato sauce that gives the sweetness) • Halvadopita (a gooey nougat made of honey, sugar, vinegar, egg white and almonds and sandwiched between confectionery wafers) • Pastelaries (a kind of sesame bar made with dried figs and almonds) • Loukoumia with flavours such as rosewater, mastic from Chios and bergamot, traditionally eaten with Greek coffee or a glass of chilled water.
• Petroti: this is a fresh cow cheese which has a semi-hard texture. It is tasty and full of flavors. It can be eaten plain as a food, with other foods or served with other fruits • Volaki: this Andros Greece gastronomy desert is made of pasteurized cow milk, cone shaped and with a texture like that of mozzarella cheese. It can be eaten with salads, or bread. Once refrigerated and hard, it becomes ochre in color and spicy, it becomes a snack for ‘raki. It can also be grated over pasta. • Froutalia: this is an omelet made from potatoes, pork fat locally called glyna, local sausages and herbs. It can be served with zucchini, zucchini blossoms, artichoke or broad beans. • Lampriatis: this is an Andros Greece Gastronomy dish specially reserved for the Easter session. To make this meal, Lamb is stuffed with up to three distinct types of cheese, rice, eggs, parsley and spear mint. It is then baked slowly in a wood oven for a long while (8-10 hours). • Thyme & Heather (Riki) honeys: this is a delicious meal male of very native Andros Island products. It is usually served at breakfasts with yoghurt or bread.
• Marathotiganites (friend fennel-balls) • Revithada (chickpea stew with rosemary) • Skepastaria • Local fish such as mullet, swordfish, monkfish, squid
The birthplace of Nikolaos Tselementes, a Greek chef who’s known for changing Greek cooking for ever. Tselementes published the first Greek cookbook back in 1932. This cookbook was such a huge success that it found its way to each and every household in Greece and changed the country’s cooking mentality once and for all. • Manoura (Local Cheese) • Revithokeftedes: served as a meze dish or starter but they can definitely be enjoyed as a main alongside some salad or freshly cut French fries and contain cheese sometimes. • Mastelo: is the island’s typical meat-based dish. It consists of lamb or goat’s meat, washed in red wine, and doused in dill. It’s then slow-cooked inside a clay pot also called mastelo. • Melopita, a traditional sweet that’s made of local cheese and honey. In essence, melopita is the island’s take on cheesecake. • Fresh and delicious cookies, that come in many flavors.
• Koufeto: a traditional spoon sweet (glyko tou koutaliou) from the island of Milos. It is made by simmering pieces of local sweet white pumpkin in a mixture of water, sugar, and local honey, which is then combined with blanched almonds and lemon juice. This sweet specialty is usually associated with weddings and engagements. • Karpouzopita: Consisting of watermelon flesh, sugar, local thyme honey, flour, cinnamon, and olive oil. This dish derives its name from the Greek words karpouzi, meaning watermelon, and pita, which means pie or flat. • Pitarakia: small half-moon-shaped pastries filled with cheese. The pastry dough is typically made with flour, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, salt, and lukewarm water, while the filling may be as simple as crumbled local cheese (such as manoura) mixed with freshly ground pepper.
• Artichoke pie • Fennel pancakes • Furtalia which is the local omelette with potatoes, eggs and sausages or louza of Tinos • Cheeses of Tinos, produced in the modern cheese factory of the island • Kserotigana • Amigdalota • Beizedes • Sweet cheese pies
• Gouna Fish: a local specialty made of sun-dried mackerel fish, drizzled with herbs and then grilled. It is usually served with fresh lemon juice. • Karavoloi: Another authentic Parian recipe are the Karavoloi snails. Usually, large snails that are boiled and served with garlic sauce. • Octopus balls: Just like meatballs but instead of meat you add octopus. It is considered an amazing appetizer especially when accompanied with the local alcoholic drink known as souma. • Rafiolia: Traditional fried pastries made of dough, myzithra cheese, honey and cinnamon. An original recipe that has been passed from generation to generation and still fills the air of Paros with its sweet notes. • Flavorsome cheeses such as graviera, touloumotyri and xynomyzithra • Handmade pasta • Pumpkin pies • The “samota” spoon sweets • The petimezinia, myzithropitakia, lamparokouloura and lazarakia sweets as well as the authentic zahara baklava dessert.
• Sefoukloti (a traditional local pie, hearty and fragrant with chard, fennel and other herbs.) • Rosto (a delicious local dish made with pork, garlic and red wine, combined with thick pasta.) • Melachrino (one of the most delicious sweets on the island) It is very similar to Greek walnut cake or “karydopita”, but flavored with the famous local citron liqueur. • Koukoulomaeria soup (is made from white beans, wheat, corn, and olive oil.) • Salachtouri is a famous Naxian salad made with rays, mixed green vegetables, olives, and a delicious lemon dressing.
• Patatato, made with meat and potatoes cooked in the oven, is one of the most famous local dishes in Amorgos and Koufonissia. • Cream cheese (small production) • The meat of the local wild goat is equally delicious • The pasteli (made with honey and sesame), known all over the Cyclades.
• Tsigaropita, the original pie of Kea made with tsigara, eggs, milk, anise and sesame • Tsigara, a traditional dish based on pork with fat • Loza , mezze of Cyclades with corned pork, the so called “prosciutto of Kea” • Paspalas, the typical dish of Kea with pork meat cooked together with tomatoes and eggs • Chamomile, sage, lavender, verbena, basil, oregano, rosemary, “thrymbi” and sedge are among the most common herbs on the island.
Ideal for families: Paros, Sifnos, Andros, Syros, Naxos
Best food: Naxos, Paros, Tinos, Sifnos, Milos
Most famous nightlife: Mykonos, Ios, Paros, Antiparos
Best sandy beaches: Naxos, Ios, Mykonos, Andros, Serifos, Sifnos, Kythnos, Koufonisia, Schinoussa, Donoussa
Nicest wild beaches: Naxos, Donoussa, Amorgos, Sikinos, Folegandros, Milos, Iraklia
Prettiest quaint towns and villages: Tinos, Naxos, Paros, Syros, Amorgos, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Kimolos, Folegandros
Most beautiful landscapes: Santorini, Milos, Kimolos, Amorgos, Naxos (but beauty is subjective!)