As we depart Santorini this morning, we’ll make stops at some other islands in the Cyclades as we make our way to Mykonos. We keep our sailing itineraries flexible to allow for weather and the opportunity to showcase all the hidden gems in this archipelago. While in the Cyclades, a few of the islands we might visit are:
Explore one of the must-see islands in the Cyclades, Folegandros, and the beautiful clifftop city of Hora. Spend some time hiking the trails, taking photos of the classic whitewashed houses decorated with colorful bougainvillea or enjoy a drink or a bite while taking in the view, which is said to be second only to that of Santorini. There are limited things to do in Folegandros, apart from swimming and walking. Time is slow and relaxing on this island. Beaches are beautiful, calm, and uncrowded, which makes it the perfect place to relax.
Upon reaching the island of Ios, the village of Hora is enchanting and as pretty-as-a-picture. The snow-white little houses, picturesque arcade-covered alleys, the twelve windmills, churches with arched belfries and light blue domes create a unique residential area. Out of the 365 churches on the island, the most important is Panayia Gremiotissa, standing on Hora’s highest spot. It is built literally on the edge of a cliff, affording an amazing view of the open sea.
This island is particularly famous for its intense nightlife that attracts mostly young crowds. However, this island is not just about partying. It has many places off the beaten track. Take a scenic 25-minute walk up to the hill of the old town. Visit the tomb of the famous poet Homer or head to the famous Manganari beach on the south side of the island to enjoy the sun and crystal-clear water.
A feast of local tastes awaits lucky visitors: chickpea balls, sun-dried picarel, tsimetia (stuffed vegetable marrow flowers), vegetable marrow omelette, dolmadakia using fresh vine leaves from the numerous vineyards where the famed niotiko wine is produced, and goat soup are just a few of the menu items you might find. Don’t leave without getting some of the local cheeses like skotiri (soft goat cheese with herbs), local kefalotyri (hard salty yellow cheese) and mizithra (soft white creamy, almost sweet cheese) as well as some of the excellent thyme honey, pastelia (honeyed sesame bars), watermelon confiture, mizithra pie and pomegranate liqueur.
If you are looking for that perfect Greek island with a balance of beautiful beaches, a sizzling food scene, low-key nightlife, and quaint villages, look no further than Sifnos. Hike along the walking trails with spectacular views of olive groves and wild juniper. The aroma of orange-and-anise biscuits will hit you as you drift down the whitewashed lanes with pockets of sage and oregano in wind-chiseled valleys. Little churches with blue domes on green hills that lead to sandy beaches.
Known as the island of flavors, Sifnos is the birthplace of several famous poets, such as Ioannis Gryparis, Kleanthis Triantafyllou (or Rampagas) and Aristomenis Provelegios; as well as award-winning chefs like Tselementes.
Apollonia, the capital town of Sifnos, is built in the shape of an amphitheater over three hills in the center of the island. During your evening walk, be sure to pay a visit to the Folklore Museum at the Hiroon Square (meaning “Square of the Heroes”).
A few kilometers away from the town lies the traditional settlement of Artemonas, famous for its neoclassic mansions and its outstanding panoramic view of the island. Some of the most famous restaurants and patisseries of Sifnos will welcome you here with fresh homemade cookies and hot doughnuts.
The historic settlement of Kastro (meaning “castle”), inhabited since ancient times, is built over the ruins of ancient Sifnos, on an abrupt rock with a breathtaking view of the sea. A beautiful outdoor museum and one of the most picturesque villages on the island, Kastro stands out for its old houses with the wooden balconies, the ancient columns and the narrow courtyards.
Whether cosmopolitan or secluded, all the beaches in Sífnos offer sun-loving tourists azure waters and sun-drenched sandy beaches. Kamáres, the port of the island, is a sandy beach with trees and beach bars; Platís Yialós is the most cosmopolitan and buzzing beach on the island, whereas next to it lies Vathí, a sandy beach with shallow waters and many tavernas where you can enjoy fresh fish. The rocks in Chrisopigí, where also the homonymous Monastery proudly stands, are ideal for diving. If you’d like to rest under a cool shade, head to the next beach which is surrounded by salt water loving trees. If you find yourself in Kástro, follow down the path to “Eptá Mártyres”, and enjoy a leisurely swim or unwind with a book lazing on a sun lounger.
Sifnos is the center of pottery in the Cyclades since the first samples were found here are dated back to the Early Cycladic period. The island’s clay soil in combination with the continuous sunshine resulted in the development of the art of pottery on the island. Throughout the island there are many small, locally owned pottery workshops, some of which are open to the public. Stop and pick up a unique gift to take home.
In every small taverna or classy restaurant, you can sample some of Sifnos’ exceptional dishes cooked by chefs who know how to tempt our taste buds. When the night falls, set out to discover fancy lounge bars and the hottest nightclubs on the island and dance the night away!
Located just next to Paros island, Antiparos is great for a day excursion. Explore ancient sites like the Cave of Antiparos, used as a place of worship for the goddess Artemis. Hop on one of the hourly buses to the cave, travel 100m down using the staircase and take in the view of the stalagmites and stalactites. Chora, the capital and only village on Antiparos, is built around a 15th century Venetian castle and is also worth exploring.
Located in the heart of the Aegean Sea, Paros Island is known for its hidden beaches, byzantine footpaths connecting quaint villages and bountiful plant life. The countryside is filled with vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees, while in the spring the scenery is dotted with bursts of color from blooming flowers. Parikia and Naoussa are the main villages of Paros, where most activities are concentrated.
Parikia, the capital of Paros, is a beautiful Cycladic village with whitewashed cubic houses and impressive neoclassical mansions. A well preserved 13th century Venetian castle stands proudly on a hill at the center of the village offering an amazing view of Parikia. Here, you’ll also find the 6th century church of Panayia Ekatontapyliani, also called Katapoliani. The name “Ekatontapyliani” means the church with 100 gates, one of which is a secret one!
Naoussa is located in a huge bay in the northern part of Paros and is considered to be one of the prettiest villages in the Cyclades. This village is built amphitheatrically around a picturesque port where colorful fishing boats called caiques moor and remains of a Venetian castle can still be seen.
Sun-drenched beaches, like Chirssi Akti, Santa Maria and Pounda, welcome sun-loving visitors who want to enjoy the crystal-clear sea, the sun or even their favorite water sports. You may also choose to discover the island’s stunning beauty by hiking along the “strates,” the trails created by farmers to help them cross the island and transport their goods. It’s like stepping back into history! Alternatively, you can discover the island on horseback. There are two horse-riding centers, one by the sea at Ambelas, and one at Ysterni. Ride around the coast, along the sandy beaches or take a detour inland – a great way for you to discover some of the most beautiful spots on the island.
Koufonisia is a small group of two islands, Pano Koufonisi (Upper Koufonisi) and Kato Koufonisi (Lower Koufonisi), that are separated by a narrow strait. They were named Koufonisia (meaning Hollow islands) because of the existing huge caves which gave the impression to pirates who viewed them from a distance that the islands were hollow. Upon arriving at the island, a white windmill stands at the harbor entrance as if welcoming visitors. Koufonisia is the perfect place to relax on one of the golden sand beaches, swim in one of the small natural pools of turquoise waters, or rent a bicycle and tour the island following the shoreline. Visit the inland area and hike along the paths from Chora to Pano Meria.
Naxos is the largest island of Cyclades and is located between Paros and Mykonos. According to mythology, this was the nuptial isle of the god Dionysus, god of wine. Plaka, Agios Prokopios, Orkos and Mikri Vigla are among the most beautiful beaches on the island, while the entire coastline is ideal for windsurfing and kitesurfing due to the strong winds that blow here in the afternoon.
A drive inland will bring you to picturesque villages and some interesting stops including the Monastery of Fotodotis in Danakos. The name of this monastery means Christ who give the light and it is found at an altitude of 500m, of top of a hill with a fantastic view to the sea and Donoussa Island. The monastery was originally founded in 6th century AD and legend says it was constructed by a Byzantine princess, after she was saved by the rough sea. The interior of the church has fantastic frescoes dating from the Medieval times.
The Temple of Demeter, near the village of Sangri, is a magnificent temple made of the finest quality of Naxos marble and is believed to date back to the 6th century BC. Some excavations in the area certify that the area was used for religious purposes during the late Mycenean Era. The remains of the ancient temple were discovered by archaeologist Nikolaos Kontoleon in 1949 and excavation works lasted from 1976 to 1995.
Another site to see is the Panagia Drossiani church, meaning Dewy Virgin. It’s the oldest Christian church of Naxos. Located near Moni, it is also considered one of the most important Byzantine churches and is therefore of immense historical significance. It dates back to the end of 6th century AD and if full of rare paintings and offers a beautiful view of the Tragea Valley.
Mount Zas is the tallest mountain of the Cyclades with an altitude of about 1,000m (3280 ft). As you would guess, it’s a popular hiking destination on Naxos.