“It takes a lifetime to discover Greece, but it only takes an instant to fall in love with her.”
– Henry Miller –
Another vacation is over so it is time for another roundup post.
Cyclades, island group in Greek Aegean sea, comprises about 220 islands, most of them uninhabited. The islands are the image most people have in mind when they think about Greece: crystal clear waters, never-ending sandy beaches, white houses with labyrinth narrow lanes, streets painted in white Cycladic stile, great food and sweeping views from the only volcanic island in this group chain. If you can drag yourself away from the beaches and the coast, you’ll find great local tavernas, friendly locals, fields of olive trees and vineyards, ancient ruins, bougainvillea and hibiscus flowers, picturesque architecture, small cute churches and relaxing atmosphere.
Where have we been?
Paros: The smallest, cheapest and least crowded of them all. Avoided by most large cruisers, is perfect for relaxing on sandy beaches.
So, what makes Paros special? It’s the most pristine of the four.
Naxos: The biggest island in Cyclades. With it’s ancient architecture and famous Naxos marble it’s suitable for relaxing on beaches (there is a 20+ km long sandy beach on the west of the island), some windusurfing (to the south) and researching the remaining less known parts.
So, what makes Naxos special? Beautiful beaches.
Santorini: Obviously the most famous and unique one. It’s the only island in the group that was shaped by volcanic activity. Yes, it’s crowded (especially in high season) and yes, it’s expensive, but it’s still a must with romantic villages on top of the cliffs (Oia, Imerovigli, Fira and Firostefani) and black sandy beaches on the other side. You have to visit Oia (try to catch a sunset there, just to see the vibe).
So, what makes Santorini special? Definitely the most romantic place in Greece.
Mykonos: Party island, packed with tourists from cruisers. Also the most expensive one of the four. Main town Chora is very cute with narrow, blue and white streets, full of nightclubs, some even world famous. Paradise and Super Paradise are the two beaches with organized parties. Petros, Little Venice and windmills (with marvelous sunsets) are its main landmarks. If you like surfing, Kalafati bay should be your location of choice.
So, what makes Mykonos special? With all the parties and events it will keep you the most occupied.
What we loved the most?
- Blue, clear sea and endless, sandy beaches.
- Unforgettable views on Santorini caldera.
- Food at local taverns. We love Greek food! Most taverns have tables placed on squares of towns or on the streets – simplicity that we really liked.
- Morning frappe – coffee with ice, blended with milk and sugar.
- Narrow, white colored streets and houses with blue colored windows and doors of small little towns around the islands. They’re just like we imagined them they’d be. The one that we liked most was Prodromos on Paros. It looked the most authentic.
- Surfing (after many years).
- Colorful fisherman boats at Naoussa, Paros.
What we didn’t like?
- Too crowded Oia and Mykonos Chora. Beautiful places are always quickly discovered.
- We missed Petros the pelican 😦
- Expensive drinks and food on Mykonos. Another thing that’s expensive are the ferries.
- The trouble we had with accommodation on Santorini.
Our Cyclades in numbers
- Days on trip: 15
- Islands visited: 4
- Ferry rides: 4
- Raining days: 0,5
- Cats petted: quite a lot 🙂
- Number of cute small churches seen: 10.000 (or at least it feels like it)
- Kilograms gained stuffing delicious Greek food: rather not tell 🙂
- Breathtaking views on Santorini’s caldera: innumerable
- Places ticked off our bucket list: 1
- Traveling to and from Cyclades: Mykonos and Santorini have the airports with most international traffic and with good connections. During the high season, low budget airlines travel there constantly. You could have more trouble reaching the islands during low season. All the islands have good connections to Athens (through the whole year).
- Traveling between the islands: To travel within the islands, the best choice are local ferries (you can also fly, but it’s expensive and direct connections are rare). You have different possibilities from regular, fast, super fast, ultra fast ferries… The difference is of course in speed of travel and price (can vary up to 100%). We traveled with Blue star Ferries, once we took a StarJet. We had no problems traveling, every ferry was on schedule. If you’re traveling in high season some recommend purchasing tickets in advance, but we didin’t. We were there in September though, which is a shoulder season. Open Seas portal is a good site, on which you can check out timetables and different possibilities. From June to September most islands have connections to other islands in the chain group more times a day. Every island has also connection to Athens every day.
- Traveling around the islands: Scooter or quad was a great choice for Paros, Santorini and Mykonos. On Naxos it’s better to take a car, because of greater distances (it’s almost twice as big as Paros). On Mykonos the only problem with scooter was getting to Paradise and Super Paradise beaches. Roads leading there are very steep, so we had to walk beside scooter on our way back uphill. Where to rent a scooter is a pure lottery. It’s hard to say which rent house is the best. You should definitely check more than one, because prices and transportation quality can vary a lot. There’s also a lot of difference between low and high season. If you rent it on spot, you can get cheaper prices, but in high season you could probably also stay without a ride. In low-season you can definitely rent it on spot, but be sure to see more renters. Maybe even try to negotiate. If you rent it for more days, you get a better price. We payed for scooters from 12 EUR to 30 EUR per day. We rented it for 3 days on every island.
Have you ever been to any island in Cyclades? How was it for you?