archipelago shows Greek life at its best. Countless islands rise from the
Aegean Sea, with incredible architectural sites just metres from oceanfront
bars and excellent restaurants. The pace ranges from Mykonos’s manic partying to
the timelessness of islets such as Folegandros or Delos.
The island of Delos,
once a religious powerhouse of Ancient Greece, is one of the country’s most
important archeological sites. Key remains include a theatre, colourful
mosaics, and the Terrace of the Lions with its carved marble beasts. Boats
depart daily from Hora on Mykonos (00 30 22890 22322; except Mon; returns £17).
Folegandros, on the
southern edge of the archipelago, is a good option for escaping the crowds. The
population of barely 700 live mainly in the hilltop village of Chora, its
medieval streets, archways and wooden houses made for getting lost in. High-speed
ferries leave from Piraeus (returns from £45).
There’s no denying
that Mykonos is the fashion capital of the
Cyclades, but the labyrinthine Mykonos Town has its own appeal. Its
16th-century Venetian windmills are reminders of the isle’s history, and the
art galleries, boutiques and bars of Little Venice in Hora are a draw too.
The experience of
watching the blood-orange Cycladian sun dip beneath the horizon from the multi-coloured
cliffs of the volcanic island of Santorini
is hard to beat .
The white-sand beaches
of Naxos are the pick of the bunch. Stretch out
and sip the local liqueur kitron while relaxing on the endless sands of Agia
Anna, or explore isolated Mikri Vigla, where golden slabs of granite divide the
beach into two.
Eat and drink
Mykonos’s Bolero Music
Bar is a long-standing favourite and has been pulling in partygoers, plus
celebrities including the likes of Keith Richards, for years (00 30 2289 024
877; Malamatenias 1; drinks from £3).
Enjoy Grecian classics at Pounta on
Folegandros. It serves breakfasts of cheese, olives and bread and evening meals
such as rabbit stew and artichoke casserole in an egg and lemon sauce (00 30
22860 41063; Plateia Pounta; open Jun–Sep; dishes from £4).
You might not expect
the tiny island of Schinousa to be the home of one of the finest restaurants in
the archipelago, but it’s true. The family-run Deli Restaurant and Sweet Bar 8 serves
breads and cheeses made on its own farm, as well as mains such as fish
carpaccio marinated in lemon juice (Mar–Oct; mains from £5.20).
Set in the heart of
Paros’s port town Parikia, Levantis is a favoured spot of locals and tourists. An
inventive menu features starters such as fennel, pear and radish salad with
chilli feta, and mains of codfish cakes, anchovy dressing and aubergine purée (1
May–31 Oct; mains from £9).
Tucked away in the Old
Market area of Bourgos on Naxos, O Apostolis is a family-run restaurant serving Greek
dishes like kleftiko (lamb wrapped in filo pastry) and bekri mezes, a popular
type of casseroled beef (00 30 22850 26777; 1 May–31 Oct; evening mains from
On a quiet cul-de-sac,
Sofia Pension on Paros is a
friendly guesthouse with immaculate, individually decorated rooms. The building
is set in a serene garden and is close enough to the main town of Parikia for
exploration, but far enough from it to allow for relaxation (from £45).
Aeolos Beach Hotel, on
the island of Folegandros, offers splendid views across the bay of Karavostasi.
It recently underwent a complete renovation, and its new rooms are well sized
and maintained. There are also some good bakeries and fine seafood restaurants
nearby (from £55).
The Carbonaki Hotel on the edge of Mykonos Town
is a family-run boutique stay with a delightful ambience and an admirable
policy on recycling. Its guestrooms are bright, white and comfortable, with public
balconies dotted around its sunny central courtyard (23 Panahrantou; from £70).
Situated in the
attractive village of Karterados, less than a mile Sleep from Santorini’s
capital, Fira, Karterados Caveland Hotel is
a village-like complex of ‘cave houses’ – small apartments with colourful,
creative décor and good facilities. It was once also a tennis club, and its
courts are still available for guests (from £100).
A recent opening on
the island of the same name, Astir of Naxos
is an expansive complex of classic whitewashed buildings surrounding a pool,
with the beach close by. The rooms are delightful – some with coloured drapes
above the bed, and others with chic four-poster beds (St George Beach; from
When to go
Peak season is balmy
June–August. In more serene April and May, you can catch the early-season sun
and the first boats, and in September and October, the island air is filled
with the scent of herbs.
The ferry network
covers every inhabited island. Prices vary, overnight trips being the most
expensive. Single tickets can be purchased online, at local ferry company
offices at main ports and from travel agents (tickets from £7–£50; Apr–Oct; danae.gr, gtp.gr).
EasyJet flies from Gatwick to Santorini (Thira)
National airport (from £185) and Mykonos (from £130; Apr–Oct only). Thomson Airways flies there from Birmingham,
Gatwick and Manchester (from £130). A number of international carriers fly to
Athens – from here, catch the X96 bus to the port of Piraeus.
The article 'Mini guide to the Cyclades, Greece' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.