Planning a Greek island vacation? The Cyclades are a group of islands in the Aegean Sea southeast of mainland Greece. While Santorini is perhaps the most famous of the Cyclades with over 220 islands, there are many others from which to choose. Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach getaway or an exploration of the ancient history of the Greek isles, there is something for everyone in the Cyclades. Here are our top picks for Greek islands to visit.
Perhaps the most well known of the Greek Islands after Santorini, Mykonos is known for its glitzy nightlife scene, which is especially vibrant in the summer. Be sure to watch for the many celebrities that visit Mykonos this time of year. When you’ve had your fill of the nightlife, explore Mykonos’s Alefkántra district. In this 18th-century district, you’ll see impressive mansions with colorful balconies and windows. Take time to sit at a waterfront cafe and admire the beautiful views of the sea and mountaintop windmills.
Naxos is the largest and greenest of all 220 Cyclades islands. One of its most remarkable features is the Portara. This impressive marble gate served as a temple of Apollo and has stood in the Palatia islet since the 6th century BC. The capital Chora is a medieval Venetian castle town with stone alleys, fortifications, and arched gateways. The island also attracts foodie visitors who want to experience the many wines, cheeses, and other specialties produced here. Perhaps the most popular is Kitron, Naxos’s signature liquor. Of all the Greek islands, this may be our favorite.
Paros is one of the most loved holiday destinations in Greece. With its villages of cubic homes and unparalleled natural beauty, it’s no wonder. Sunny beaches with crystal clear water, like Chrissí Aktí, Santa Maria and Poúnda, are the perfect places from which to start a kayak or canoe tour of the coast. On land, explore the villages such as Náoussa. This colorful traditional village has the ruins of a Venetian fortress stand at the entrance to its small harbor.
Milos has amazing beaches; there are over 80 of them in total, many of which are accessible only by boat. All of the beaches are wonderful, but a few are certainly not to be missed. The hideaway Tzigrado beach is flanked by cliffs, and can only be accessed by boat or by a ladder from the top of the cliffs. You will feel like you’re on a trip to the moon on the otherworldly Sarakiniko beach made from fine white pumice. Towering rock formations surround the three beaches of Paliochori. Their pebbles are beautifully multicolored and the water has warm pockets where it’s fed by underwater hot springs. No matter which of Milos’ beaches you choose, you’ll be glad you made the trip to this standout beauty in the Greek islands.
Locals on Serifos have maintained the Cycladic tradition of building white and blue houses so this island is especially photogenic. Visitors to Serifos enjoy many outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, climbing, and diving. This island is also the closest to Athens, lying only a short 4-hour ferry ride away, making it perfect for combining with a trip to the mainland. Be sure to visit the town of Chora while you are there. Yes, just like the capital town in Naxos, this town is also called Chora! This beautiful village is built on two levels with the upper mountaintop area accessible by a staircase from the lower neighborhood. It also has an imposing 15th-century Venetian castle well worth the ten-minute walk to visit.
No matter which of the beautiful Cycladic islands you choose, your vacation to the Greek islands is sure to be wonderful. For more planning ideas, learn Why Foodies Love the Island of Mykonos.