About Cyclades

The Cyclades islands (/ˈsɪklədiːz/; Greek: Κυκλάδες [kikˈlaðes]) are the most popular group of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Its name "Cyclades" derives from the Greek word cyclos, which means "circle" as the islands form a circle around the sacred island of Delos, one of the most important religious centers of ancient times.

The natural landscape of the Cyclades is arid and wild. The beaches have crystal water and are covered with sand or pebbles. Geographically, the islands of the Cyclades are considered the peak of a submerged mountainous terrain, except for two volcanic islands, Santorini and Milos. The climate in Cyclades is generally mild and dry, temperatures are cool and northern winds known as "meltemia" blow in the summer, making the atmosphere chilly even during the hot summer days.

Which Cyclades islands to visit? Discover information about 23 islands of the Cyclades sorted by popularity.

About Cyclades islands

The most popular island of the Cyclades is Santorini, a volcanic island with quaint villages hanging on the edge of a submerged caldera. From every spot of the caldera, visitors can see the top of the volcano and enjoy the most romantic sunset views in the world. Due to its wild natural beauty and the fabulous sunset, Santorini is a very popular wedding and honeymoon destination.
The second top island of the Cyclades is Mykonos, famous for its traditional architecture and wild nightlife. Enjoy the sunset from the windmills on the hill above Chora, walk around the picturesque village of Mykonos Town (Chora) and Little Venice and swim in exotic beaches. At night, the heart of entertainment beats at the bars and clubs of Chora.
Paros and Naxos are also very popular islands of the Cyclades. In general, every island has something different yet charming to offer to visitors. Frequently connected by ferry or plane from Athens, Cyclades islands constitute the most typical destinations for holidays in Greece.

Cyclades photos

Photos

Discover more than 50.000 photos of the Cyclades islands that will help you choose the best destinations for your summer holiday! Photos of beaches, villages, sightseeing, architecture and more. For your daily dose of Greek beauty, you can follow our community feed or follow our page on Instagram!
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Cyclades beaches

Beaches

The Cyclades offer beaches of all styles: pebbled or sandy, organized or remote, large coasts or small coves. The Cyclades islands group is among the most popular region of Greece. One of the reasons for its popularity is the amazing beaches. The most famous beaches are located in Mykonos, Paros, Naxos and Milos. But many other islands offer equally beautiful beaches. The best beaches in the Cyclades are Super Paradise in Mykonos, Plaka in Naxos, Kolymbithres in Paros, Tsigrado in Milos, Mylopotas in Ios and more.

Cyclades Things to See & Do

Things to see & do

The islands of Cyclades are the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. With their distinctive architecture and relaxing atmosphere, they attract millions of tourists every summer. Most of them choose to hop from one island to the other for their holidays in order to see as much as they can from these wonderful places. But even if they stay in one single island, they will certainly find many places to explore. Excursions in the Cyclades are many and ideal for all preferences, either you are looking for beaches or for archaeological sites.

Cyclades villages

Villages

Beautiful villages can be found in the most popular islands like Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos and Paros. They distinguish for their local Cycladic architecture, the historical churches, and the traditional atmosphere but beautiful villages can be seen in most islands of the Cyclades. Of high interest are the caldera villages in Santorini with the unique whitewashed houses constructed right on the edge of the cliff, romantic narrow alleys and view directly to the volcano. The traditional quarters of Mykonos town are also special, particularly Little Venice, but also the Venetian architecture of Naxos. Charming fishing Cycladic villages, such as the famous Naoussa in Paros, also attract many tourists. Discover the best villages in the Cyclades islands: Oia in Santorini, Chora in Mykonos, Chora in Amorgos, Apiranthos in Naxos, and more.

Cyclades travel

Travel there

Ferries to Cyclades: The Cyclades islands are well connected via ferry with Piraeus port, the main port of Athens. It is the busiest port in Greece and is serving itineraries to the majority of Cyclades islands. The trip can be long for the remote islands or short for the nearby destinations, always depending on the vessel and the weather conditions. The ports of Rafina and Lavrion, the other two ports of Athens, also serve ferry itineraries to the Cyclades. View ferry connections & timetables
Flights to Cyclades: The Cyclades islands are also reachable by plane. The two main airports in the Cyclades are Santorini airport and Mykonos airport, the two most popular Greek islands. Both these airports host domestic flights from Athens and Thessaloniki and also charter flights from abroad in summer. Very busy is also the airport of Paros. Smaller airports that receive only domestic flights are found in Naxos and Milos. The International Airport of Athens serves flights to these Cycladic islands on a daily basis and the flight time is 45 minutes max.

Cyclades hotels

Hotels & Accommodation

Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, and Ios are the most popular islands of the group and have fantastic upscale hotels and villas with super luxurious facilities. Enjoy the breathtaking caldera view from your private balcony with Jacuzzi in Santorini, or gaze at the Aegean Sea from your villa in Mykonos.
But on the other islands, all kind of hotels and accommodation are available.

Cyclades nightlife

Nightlife

Mykonos island, Ios island and Paros island are the top three Cycladic islands offering a great variety of bars and clubs for wild dances and strong drinks. Particularly, in Mykonos, the party begins in the midday at the beach bars and continues till the early hours in the many bars of Mykonos Town. Ios is mostly youth-oriented.
The rest of the islands are more peaceful and have few lounge bars to spend a romantic night out.

Cyclades History

History

The most important point in the history of Cyclades was the early Copper Age. The first-Cycladic civilization developed in the 3rd millennium B.C. in parallel with the first-Minoan civilization of Crete. The Cycladic statues are the most characteristic samples of this civilization. In the centuries that followed, the islands of Cyclades naturally developed a very strong connection with the sea and their ships navigated the entire Mediterranean.
Trade activities brought wealth to the islands and their geographical position led to their occupation by many conquerors over time: by classical Athens in the 5th century B.C., the Venetians in the Middle Age and the Ottomans in the 15th century. In 1830, the islands were finally set free and they were annexed to the modern Greek State. Due to their geographical isolation from Athens and their limited economical sources, the islands of Cyclades gradually declined.
From the early till the mid 20th century, many inhabitants immigrated to mainland Greece or abroad in search of a better life. Today, most islands live from fishing, agriculture, and tourism.

Cyclades Geography

Geography

The Cyclades is an island complex located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, between Attica (Athens) and Crete. It is a natural continuation of Cape Sounion and Evia, the second largest island in Greece. It comprises of 220 large and smaller islands, Naxos island being the largest of them. These Greek islands are characterized by their rocky and barren landscape, which is unique in the world. The total population of all the Cyclades is 112,615 people, with Syros island as its capital.

Cyclades Architecture

Architecture

The islands of Cyclades are famous for their distinctive architecture: the Cycladic architecture, with the white sugar-cubed houses, the narrow paved streets, the blue church domes, and the colorful doors and window shutters. Particularly, blue and white are the dominant colors of Cyclades. It is quite impressive that the islands were painted in these two colors after a government decision in 1937: the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas ordered that the houses in the Cyclades were painted in white and blue so that they match with the blue Greek sky and the white foam of the waves.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why visit the Cyclades?

Cyclades is the most famous archipelago in Greece!

  • Famous islands: The 2 most famous islands of Greece are located in the Cyclades: SantoriniMykonos
  • Amazing sandy beaches: The beaches on the islands of Cyclades are among the most beautiful in Greece. They are characterized by soft sandy sand and crystal clear waters. Some islands like Naxos Naxos, Milos & Koufonisia are famous for that.
  • Wild beauty: The islands of the Cyclades are mostly arid with dramatic landscapes, cliffs and mountains offering an amazing contrast with the blue sky and sea.
  • Always sunny: Between June and August, in only rare occasions someone will see clouds in the Cyclades. And even more rare is rain, In fact, it is among the places that have the longest duration of sunshine during the year.
  • Traditional villages: The villages of the Cyclades is what characterize them the most: whitewashed houses in villages on the seafront of perched on hills and cliffs, with narrow alleys, bougainvillaeas, small taverns and restaurants, cocktail bars and local shops. Everybody has seen photos in tourist guides of villages such Oia in Santorini, Naoussa in Paros or Chora of Mykonos.
  • Party destination: Some islands of the Cyclades are known for their vivid nightlife. The most famous are Mykonos, for the jet setters and the LGBT community, but also Ios, for younger party animals.
  • Island-hopping: All islands are located in a relatively close distance to each other and there are well connected by ferry. The most popular island-hopping routes are between the islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Paros as they are well connected with daily ferries.
  • Variety of islands: While the most famous islands are Santorini and Mykonos, there are also much calmer (and cheaper) alternatives. Discover all islands in our Cyclades Travel guide. We strongly recommend Paros, Naxos, Milos and Amorgos.
  • Attractions: The Cyclades islands have a very rich history that started in Ancient times. As an archipelago, there were conquered but many civilizations. Visitors today can visit the vestiges of the past: Delos in Mykonos • Akrotiri in Santorini, • Temple of Demeter in Naxos, museums, and many more. Also, one of the most famous attractions is the active volcano of Santorini.
  • Proximity to Athens: The islands of the Cyclades are reachable by ferry or by plane. You need 45 minutes to reach the islands with an airport, like Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros and Milos. By, ferry, it depends of the vessel and island location. Islands like Andros, Tinos, Kythnos and Kea are reachable in a 1 hour ferry ride. Mykonos in 2 hours. Paros is 4 hours, Naxos in 5 hours and Santorini in 6 hours.

Where to go?

While there are around 220 island and islets, not all of them are inhabited. Some islands like Santorin, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos are very popular, some other are also very beautiful but much calmer and perfect alternative for relaxing holiday. Discover our Cyclades Travel guide with 23 islands in the Cyclades listed by popularity.

When to visit the Cyclades?

The best period to visit the Cyclades is between June and September. The weather is great and the sea temperature is perfect for swimming. August is the hotest month and must be avoided if you want to hike.

How to get there?

The Cyclades islands are located in the Aegean sea, on the eastern side of Athens. The islands are easily accessible by ferry and some of them also by plane. Discover how to get to each island.

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