Over the past few decades, the islands in the Greek Cyclades have become one of the most desired tourist destinations in the world. They range from the ultimate beach vacation and family fun to party paradises and traditional mountain villages. So what are the best islands in the Cyclades for you? Join us to find your dream destination in this breathtaking region of Greece!
What Makes the Cyclades Islands So Special?
The word Cyclades means “encircling islands,” and they are named so because they form a ring around the ancient island of Delos. This is said to be where Apollo and his sister Artemis were born so it’s been of great importance for centuries.
All have the islands that circle Delos have their own unique flavors and traditions that make them special. In this article, we will of course tell you about the most popular islands in the Cyclades.
Yet as you’ll see, there are so many lesser-traveled spots that should be on your radar! Make sure to check out a few of our other Greece articles before you get started on your adventure.
- Planning a Trip to Greece: 10 Step Easy to Follow Guide
- The Ultimate Greek Cyclades Island Hopping Itinerary
- Blue Star Ferries: Why We Use the Affordable Slow Ferry in Greece
13 Amazing Islands in the Cyclades
Let’s start with one of the Cycladic islands that every traveler probably knows! Santorini is world-renowned for its white-washed buildings that sit on the cliffs.
The towns of Fira and Oia have been shared in pictures around the globe. These popular villages are a huge reason why many travelers come to the Cyclades in the first place.
However, there is so much more to see on Santorini! You can visit a black and red sand beach, the charming mountain town of Pyrgos, and even the ancient Thera ruins. Santorini is also known for producing the best wine in Greece!
Although it’s very touristy, once you see this island in the Cyclades you’ll get what all the hype is about. Keep in mind the best time to visit Santorini is outside of July and August.
You’re sure to have a much more enjoyable experience if you go when there aren’t 7 or 8 cruise ships in port in the peak summer months.
Next up is one of the most unique islands in all the Greek Cyclades! Milos has gotten well deserved attention for its wild rock formations and fun swimming spots. That means once you get to the port of Adamas, you should be ready to explore.
One way to see Milos is to rent a car or all-terrain vehicle. You can explore the colorful fishing village of Klima, Roman catacombs and amphitheater, and the traditonal town of Plaka.
Still, the best way to experience Milos is to take a boat tour! All-day sailing trips are offered from the main port and take you to all the best swimming spots that can’t be reached by car. You’ll even get to swim through the wild sea caves of Kleftiko.
Milos Day Trip: if you have time make the short ferry ride over to Kimolos. Milos’s small neighbor is an off-the-beaten path adventure to add to your Cyclades Islands itinerary.
Although not as popular as Mykonos and Santorini, Paros does have its own following that can’t be denied. From the moment you get off the ferry in Parikia, you will be truly blown away!
The old town is honestly enough for you to fall in love with, but to see the best parts of Paros you will need a car to explore. Naousa is an absolutely stunning town to experience on the Northeastern coast.
After that, you’ll want to see the one-of-a-kind beaches of Kolympethres and Monastiri. Honestly, some of these beaches will have you feeling like you’re swimming on a different planet.
Golden Beach is definitely worth the trip as it’s where they’ve held the World Windsurfing Championships. At Kalogeros, you can even find special clay to put on your body for a natural treatment that’s great for your skin.
Once you’re done at the beaches on Paros, head into the mountain village of Lefkes. This is the ancient capital of Paros and will take you back to olden days. It’s also a fantastic place to have a local Greek meal.
Believe it or not, there is another amazing island right next door to Paros! The little island of Antiparos is just a quick 10-minute ferry ride across the Aegean Sea.
You may think that it’s a just a quiet island but Antiparos is so much more! It has a bustling main street, fun hiking trails, and sailing trips that circle this unreal landscape.
We particularly loved making the day trip from Paros since it’s so close. You can even just go for dinner and drinks, and to see the ruins of a 15th Venetian Castle.
Not far from Paros and Antiparos is another gem of the Greek Cyclades. Naxos has been important to the history of this region for thousands of years and it even plays a part in Greek Mythology.
Legend has it, that Zeus took shelter in the cave on the top of the highest mountain of Naxos. It was here he was given his lightning rod and named the supreme ruler of Olympus.
If that’s not enough reason to visit Naxos, don’t worry. There is plenty more to see and do on one of the best islands in the Cyclades!
After seeing the gate of the Temple of Apollo and Naxos Town, the Western Coast has a stretch of gorgeous beaches that seems to go on forever. On both of our trips to Naxos, we have found ourselves staying in the beach town of Agios Prokopios and using it as a home base to explore the vast island.
If you have time be sure to make the drive into the mountain villages to see Chalki, Filoti, and Apeiranthos. You can easily rent cars, ATV’s, and scooters to make for the ultimate road trip on Naxos Island.
You may have never heard of Syros as it’s one of the lesser-known islands on this list. It also serves as the administrative capital of the Cyclades Islands. Once you’ve seen the colorful main town of Ermoupoli, make your way to one of the beach towns on the coast.
Our personal favorite towns is the perfect place to relax in Galissas Beach. Syros is the kind of quiet and traditional island that will steal your heart.
If you plan to see the more touristic Greek Cyclades, definitely include somewhere like Syros in your itinerary to switch it up.
You may be wondering… How have you not mentioned Mykonos yet?? This is one of those islands in the Cyclades that has a certain reputation. Mykonos is known for its all-day beach parties, expensive restaurants, and overall lavish lifestyle.
Now that’s not to say that you shouldn’t visit this popular island. Mykonos Old Town is one of the most stunning places you’ll ever see, and the windmills which hover above it feel straight out of a fairy tale.
The good part is that there are direct flights from Athens to get there. Much like Santorini, we would just suggest going to Mykonos in off-season to see its true beauty. Unless you’re ready to party your face off that is!
Speaking of a party… Ios is known as one of the best party islands in the Cyclades. Its hostels and cheap accommodations surely draw in the backpacker crowd. Yet, as we would find out, there is so much more to see on Ios.
It may be small but it more than makes up for its size with the beautiful surroundings. We loved walking through the main streets and hiking up to the Panagia Gremiotissa church for sunset.
There are over 30 unreal beaches to discover, ranging from long sandy paradise to sparkling crystal coves. Ios is somewhere that’s easily added to a larger Greek Cyclades itinerary with its close proximity to the main islands and firm spot on the ferry schedules.
Oh Folegandros. This one of those tiny islands that many travelers miss on their visit to the Greek Cyclades. However, it’s easy to see that this will surely change soon!
We only had the chance to visit here for 2 days in off-season and we could already tell how special it is. There is a calmness and traditional style to Folegandros that separates it from other islands in the Cyclades.
The small main town sits high in the mountains and serves as the center of life on Folegandros. You can easily rent a vehicle to experience its rugged landscapes and untouched beaches.
If you’re looking for another unique destination to include in your Cyclades islands itinerary, Sifnos might be it! Sifnos has the perfect mix of beautiful beaches and mountain villages that are guaranteed to blow you away.
Also, the food on Sifnos has the reputation of being some of the best in the Greek Cyclades! With its easy accessibility from Athens and other close by islands like Milos, you’ll have no problem getting to Sifnos.
Much like Sifnos and Folegandros, Serifos has maintained its authenticity over the years. Starting with its traditional Cyclidic architecture, the gorgeous mountain villages of Serifos are certainly easy on the eyes.
If you can tear yourself away from the fun capital town Chora, there are 50 miles of incredible coastline to discover. Serifos is the ideal place to sit back, relax, and let yourself go.
The first thing you will notice about Amorgos is how massive it is. We stopped here en route to the Decodonese island chain from the Cyclades and couldn’t believe our eyes. The rocky mountains tower into the sky and are filled with breathtaking hiking trails.
The Hozoviotissa Monastery is one of the most important of the Cyclades Islands and definitely worth all those steps! Also, make sure to try the traditional raki liquor drink to truly feel like a local.
We saved one of the most beautiful islands for last! Patmos is somewhere we stopped on our recent trip with Celestyal Cruises. It is slightly off the beaten track of the more popular Cyclades islands, and we were so happy to see it.
The main attraction on Patmos is a Unesco World Heritage Site with religious lore from ancient times. We got a chance to visit the Cave of the Apocalypse where St. John wrote the Book of Revelations.
Although we only had a short time on Patmos, it’s one spot that definitely shouldn’t be missed.
More Incredible Cyclades Islands
With so many mind-blowing places to visit, we aren’t claiming that the above 13 are the very best islands in the Cyclades. These are simply the ones we have personally been to so far. We didn’t want to write about islands we hadn’t been to as we like to share our own personal experiences.
While we have made several trips to the Cyclades Islands, there are still SO many that are on our list. Here are a few more to consider while planning your trip to this magical region of Greece.
7 Cyclades Islands On Our List
Delos: As we mentioned earlier, Delos is the ancient centerpiece of the Greek Cyclades. Explore the Doric temples, mosaics, and more of the most important historic ruins in the country.
Tinos: Tinos is known for its Panagia Evangelistria church and over 60 traditional villages. See the history of the marble craft on your visit while enjoying the food and amazing beaches of this lesser-visited island.
Andros: This is the most northern of the islands in the Cyclades which makes it one of the easiest to get to from Athens. Even with its great location, mass tourism hasn’t seemed to get to Andros yet. It’s also an island filled with greenery and nature unlike many of the desert-like appearances of much of the Cyclades.
Anafi: Anafi is a place you may have never heard of, but it’s certainly worth considering on your next Greek Cyclades vacation! The is one of the smaller islands which is quite peaceful as it only has 300 residents year-round. Yet, it’s still easily reachable being the closest to Santorini.
Kea: Kea has plenty of eye-popping beaches but what it’s really known for is its system of walking trails. The scenic pathways will take you through ancient sites and viewpoints that will impress even the most well-traveled Cyclades islands hopper.
Kythnos: What if I told you Kythnos has over 100 beaches? Yes, that’s the most of any of the Cyclades Islands. Excuse us while we book the next ferry boat over!
Sikinos: Last but not least, Sikinos is a not-so popular destination that can’t be missed. Its untouched beaches, natural beauty, and perfect location between Folegandros and Ios make it a great addition to any Greek holiday.
Have any questions about this article or want to share more of the best islands in the Cyclades? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Greece Travel Planning
Explore all our Greece articles to help plan your trip! We cover everything from general travel tips to amazing destinations such as Santorini, Paros, Rhodes, Karpathos, Crete, Milos & more beautiful islands!
For island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies. The fast ferries like Sea Jets will cost more but often takes half the time of slower ferries like Blue Star.
Rental Car: You can book a rental car for as little as $20 a day in Greece! We use Discover Cars to explore the larger islands with a vehicle.
Tours: Go to Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities in Santorini. You can find everything from group sailing tours to private catamaran cruises. Go wine tasting around the island, horseback riding down the beach, or even jump on an ATV tour!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without insurance. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.