Best Islands in the Cyclades

Are you looking for a getaway in the lovely Cycladic isles? The Cyclades are located almost in the middle of the Aegean Sea and consist of 220 islands and islets, the most famous islands of which one could visit while in Greece.

All islands share the distinct Cycladic architecture of minimalism, but each has its own local delicacies and distinctive character and amazing beaches with crystal-clear waters. If you’re looking for the best islands on the Cyclades, here’s a guide to the most popular ones to help you decide which islands suit your needs.

Best Islands to Visit in the Cyclades

1. Mykonos

Little Venice Mykonos Greece - most beautiful islands in Greece
Little Venice Mykonos Greece

Undeniably the most popular island in the Cyclades, Mykonos is an island that combines it all, stunning scenery, picturesque Cycladic style, and vibrant nightlife. In Mykonos, you can have it all. From all-day-partying at the famous beaches of Psarrou, Super Paradise, or Platis Gialos to enjoying breathtaking views in the idyllic Little Venice, you surely won’t get bored.

Mykonos is an ideal place to take a closer look at the Cycladic architectural style. Visit the world-famous windmills to take photos, stroll around Mykonos town and visit Matogiannis Street. Go on a romantic stroll at the Old Harbour or head to Armenistis Lighthouse to enjoy the views.

Learn more about its history by visiting the Archaeological and Folklore Museum and enjoy art at the ‘Dio Horia’ Art Gallery. Mykonos is considered the most expensive Greek island, where you can always find posh restaurants for fine dining and VIP clubs to party and enjoy your drink.

But Mykonos has all these perks and also very good beaches to explore. Enjoy the party life by heading to Cavo Doro beach or swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Super Paradise beach. If you’re more adventurous, head to Platis Gialos and try out water sports for fun.

2. Santorini

OIa Santorini Guide
Oia Santorini

Santorini is perhaps the second most popular island on the Cyclades. From the imposing calderas to the untouched islets, volcanic Santorini and its breathtaking scenery must make it into your bucket list.  People flock from worldwide to marvel at its magnificent sunsets and the quaint little white and blue domed churches.

To get the best glimpse of the volcanic landscapes and amazing panoramas, go hiking from Fira to Oia. Alternatively, discover more by sea by going on a boat tour around Santorini. You can also visit Thirassia, the small islet opposite the main island, and Nea Kameni.

sunset from Fira
sunset from Fira

Santorini is considered an expensive island, which offers many options, from fine dining in luxurious restaurants to going shopping at chic boutiques. Spoil yourself by exploring this cosmopolitan island.

To get a taste of its lovely atmosphere, walk around the alleys of Fira to the Old port of Fira Skala, where you can enjoy its busy nightlife. For history lovers, there is also a visit to the ancient site of Akrotiri, the Archaeological Museum, and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera.

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Best beaches in the Cyclades

Island Hopping in the Cyclades

3. Syros

Ano Syros - Syros Island

On the list of the best islands on the Cyclades is Syros, a most aristocratic and outstanding island. It is considered an island of immeasurable cultural and architectural value, and it has a cosmopolitan air that you can’t miss while there.

Its lovely capital is colorful, with pastel-colored mansions, Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and little alleys to explore. Stroll through Ermoúpolis and the famous Vaporia neighborhood. For another shot of the rich culture of Syros, head to the Town Hall, the Archaeological Museum of Ermoupolis, or the imposing ancient Apollo Theatre.  

Ermoupoli in Syros - Beautiful Towns in Greece
Ermoupolis in Syros

It is well-known for its delicious local food and the famous “loukoumia,” traditional sweets with different flavors. It has a wide variety of cheeses, and you should definitely try graviera, xynomizithra, and kopanisti (spread). Other traditional dishes include sysira and fligouni, or honeyed eggplants.

It also offers off-the-beaten-track experiences for the adventurous types. From secluded beaches to hiking trails, it never stops surprising the visitor with its beauty. Enjoy its lovely waters at Vari beach, Kini, Foinikas, Gialissas, or even Dellagrazia and Posidonia for sunbathing and admiring nature.

4. Paros

Naousa - Best airbnbs in Paros
Naoussa, Paros

Paros couldn’t be missing from the list of best islands on the Cyclades. Its vibrant nightlife has nothing to be jealous of other Cycladic islands such as Mykonos. It has lots of bars, clubs, post restaurants and more to visit. You will find those most in Naoussa or Paroikia.

Kolymbithres Beach Paros
Kolymbithres Beach

Paros is also known for its wonderful beaches. Kolymbithres is the most popular beach on Paros Island, unique in its beauty, with rocks sculpted in strange formations looking like small swimming pools.

Santa Maria is another popular beach in Paros, where you can find amazing turquoise waters and a luxurious beach bar to lounge. It is also located in Naoussa bay. You can also choose Mikri Santa Maria if you want peace and quiet.

5. Naxos

Temple of Apollo Naxos

Naxos is also among the popular Cycladic islands with the best beaches to visit. But it also has many picturesque villages, as well as a distinct culture and traditional cuisine.

While in Naxos, stroll around Chora and the alleyways, or head to the mountain villages such as Apeiranthos, Halki, Apollonas, Damarionas, Koronos, and many more. Eat traditional cheeses such as graviera Naxou, lamb, and goat, and try their local liqueur kitron.

One of the best beaches is Plaka beach, situated near Agia Anna, about 9 km from Naxos town, which is partly organized with sunbeds and umbrellas but also has a lot of space for relaxing in its unorganized part. Another must-visit is Agios Prokopios beach, sandy with turquoise waters.

6. Sifnos

kamares sifnos

Sifnos is not one of the most popular Cycladic islands, but it really is among the best islands on the Cycladic. It stands out thanks to its wild landscapes, untouched nature, and amazing cuisine! The picturesque villages of Sifnos are charming, with white-washed houses and cobblestone alleys.

To experience this village charm, head to Kastro and Apollonia. Among the most outstanding sights of Sifnos is the Monastery of Chrissopigi or the Church of the Seven Martyrs. While in Sifnos, you can’t miss the delicious food! Try the specialty, “revithada” (chickpea stew) and “mastelo”. There is also “melopita” or honey pie. It is an unforgettable experience for your palate.

But the fun doesn’t stop there, as the island is also known for its wonderful beaches, ideal both for families and couples, as well as adventure lovers. Kamares, on the western side, is a long sandy shore, ideal for relaxing and sunbathing, and the waters are crystal-clear and quite shallow, so it is considered family-friendly.

Heronissos is a picturesque small fishing village that features one of the most beautiful beaches in Sifnos, with emerald waters. Faros beach is also among the top beaches in Sifnos, located in the southeastern part of the island. You can also explore other beaches, such as Fasolou, Vroulidia, Apokofto, and many others.

7. Ios

Ios island is the ideal summer destination for its vibrant nightlife. Its Cycladic beauty is also distinct, and the beaches all over the island are popular among travelers of all types.

While in Ios, you can stroll around the picturesque alleyways and immerse yourself in Cycladic bliss, find chic boutique shops on the main street, experience the taste of local delicacies at small taverns, or enjoy refreshing cocktails in any of its quaint bars.  

Mylopotas is a great beach situated only 3 km outside of Chora. The long beach has crystal-clear waters along with countless amenities and all-day-long beach parties.  Another not-to-miss destination is Magganari beach, with its stunning waters, which were featured in the film “Le Grand Bleu.”

Head there for some endless snorkeling and seabed exploration. Other beaches to explore in Ios are Kalamos, Agia Theodoti, Gialos beach, and others.

8. Amorgos

Katapola in Amorgos

Located in the southern Cyclades, Amorgos is among the best islands on the Cyclades to visit. It offers an off-the-beaten-track travel experience and another type of holiday. Over the last five years, it has gained a lot of popularity, and people flock to it, yet, it retains its authentic character.

While in Amorgos, you can’t miss the picturesque capital of Chora, with the many alleyways and incredible views, and small “kafeneia.” You should definitely head to the Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa to marvel at the endless Aegean blue. You can also head to the villages, which are full of tradition and life. Don’t miss Tholaria, Lagada, Katapola, and Arcesine.

In Amorgos, you will find many stunning beaches to bask in the sun. Katapola beach is an organized sandy beach with crystal-clear turquoise waters, while Maltezi beach and Plakes beach are nearby but can only be accessed by boat.

The former is organized, but the latter is a naturist and nudist paradise. Other beaches you should definitely explore are Aghia Anna, Kalotaritissa, and Mouros.

The island offers some hiking adventures for the active type of travelers. You can go on a hike alongside herbs and wildlife, such as the Old Strada, Fotodotis, Itonia, Melania, and Pan, depending on your mood and experience. There are trails for all types of hikers all over the island.

9. Milos

Mandrakia Milos

Milos is considered the jewel of the Aegean Sea and has recently been awarded the title of Top Island in the World / Top Island in Europe for 2021, according to the magazine Travel + Leisure. It is, thus, one of the three most popular islands on the Cyclades. Tourists and inland travelers flock to the island for the whole summer period.

It’s a mesmerizing island with volcanic landscapes, emerald waters, and many hidden sea caves. It is generally known for its unforgettable beaches, which look like moonscapes. The famous Sarakiniko beach, with its otherworldly rock formations, makes it look like a volcanic landscape with inviting azure waters.

Sarakiniko Milos
Sarakiniko, Milos

In the southern part of Milos, you will find Firiplaka, a long sandy bay with lagoons. It is organized and quite busy. Other beaches to visit in Milos include Tsigrado, Provatas, Papafragkas Caves, and others.

While in Milos, you can’t miss the beauty of its villages, whose architecture and distinct character are utterly unique. Adamas is one of the best villages in Milos, and it is also the main port of the island.  Another quiet but picturesque village in Milos is Pollonia.

It is a fishing village built on the waves, and you can stroll along the pier and enjoy the views of the open Aegean Sea. Plaka also retains its Cycladic beauty, although it is considered highly touristic, thanks to white-washed houses, traditional elements, and cobblestone alleyways.

In these villages, you can enjoy pure culture and authentic food. Eat delicious dishes at local taverns, and don’t miss the “pitarakia,” a special type of cheese pie.

10. Small Cyclades

Kato Koufonisi
Kato Koufonisi

The small Cyclades Island complex, also known as Lesser Cyclades, has 32 islands and islets and mainly consists of Koufonisia (Ano Koufonisi, Kato Koufonisi), Schoinousa, Donousa, Irakleia, and Keros.

All these islands offer off-the-beaten-path options for people who like to avoid the crowds and wish to see a more authentic Cycladic life away from the touristic and the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle.

They are getting more and more popular each year, and rightfully so; they have the most idyllic beaches, whether remote or organized, small locales to grab drinks, local taverns with specialties, and warm hospitality. They are relatively small islands that offer themselves some hiking.


Koufonisia Greece

Discover Ano Koufonisi with its cobblestone alleyways and crystal-clear waters. Stroll around the Chora and find your spot. Head to Pori beach, made of fine sand and crystal-clear azure waters, which has mesmerizing rock formations, or visit Italida beach, with views over Keros and the perfect turquoise. You can hike all around Ano Koufonisi as it is very small. 

Kato Koufonisi is a wild, uninhabited island with little vegetation and virgin beaches. You can go there by boat. Naturists and adventure lovers flock here to camp or spend the day.


Iraklia - small Greek Island

Although the biggest island on Small Cyclades, Irakleia is the least touristic. It is a remote, quiet island with two villages- Agios Georgios and Panagia. While in Irakleia, try out local food at the taverns, and bask in the sun at Livadi beach. During summer, you can also catch a bus that takes you to the beautiful but remote beach of Tourkopigado.


Schinoussa - small Greek Islands

Schoinousa is another jewel of the Small Cyclades, with 18 amazing beaches and coves to discover. It offers unique landscapes of untouched nature and also has characteristic mastic tree shrubs! There are three villages you can visit in Schoinousa, where you can eat and enjoy authentic food, such as fava!


Donousa - quiet Greek islands
Livadi Beach Donousa

Donousa is the heart of the Small Cyclades. It is where the nightlife happens. While in Donousa, you can’t miss the wonderful beaches, Kedros, Livadi, and Kalotaritissa, all accessible on foot. Livadi beach is a long, sandy shore with crystalline waters near Mersini village. Kedros has a nice beach bar that serves drinks all day. Don’t miss Fokospilia, a wonderful sea cave where you can dive off the cliffs.

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