Beverley Uddin-Khandakar took an enchanting trip island hopping the Cyclades. Embark on an unforgettable island-hopping adventure as we traverse this cluster of idyllic gems scattered across the Aegean Sea.
From the iconic white-washed buildings of Santorini to the livelier beaches of IOS, each island boasts its own unique charm and character. Join Beverley as she explores the sun-drenched landscapes, indulge in delectable local cuisine, and immerse ourselves in the rich history and mythology that define the Cyclades.
Whether you seek tranquil escapes or lively festivities, the Cyclades promise an unparalleled experience for every traveler. Let the azure waters and warm hospitality guide you through this captivating journey of discovery.
Ios. A pretty, exciting island…
Ios is a pretty Cycladic island renowned by the young for its entertainment scene. It has been famous for its wild and crazy nightlife since the 1960s when the hippies headed to the pristine beaches of Ios; relaxing in the daytime and partying at night.
But nowadays, visitors from all over the world travel to Ios to have fun, relax, explore and even get married. It’s a breathtakingly perfect setting for a wedding, with many weddings taking place on the island throughout the year.
Mylopotas is the most popular beach on the island, known for its long expanse of golden sand, glistening crystal-clear water, wide range of entertainment choices and its famous campsite. The beach gets very busy from June to August and is not the place for those in search of solitude. But don’t let that put you off. The island has come a long way from its ‘hippy hotspot’ partying past and is now a secluded treat with very few reminders of its past.
Ios is a must for your bucket list – from churches and chapels and sunset beach bars to some of the most beautiful coastlines in Greece – and an easy-to-reach island situated between the glitz of Santorini and the glamour of Mykonos. We flew Manchester to Santorini, stayed there for a few days, then caught a Seajets ferry to the port of Chora, which is just a 45-minute ride from Santorini. However, Ios is connectable from some of the other Cycladic islands or from Athens.
We stayed at Levantes Ios Boutique Hotel on Mylopotas Beach. The hotel’s simple, white structure and large surfaces – crafted from local stone and natural materials from the surrounding landscape – harmoniously blend in with the wild scenery. This is the perfect place for quiet moments with family or a romantic hideout in the Mediterranean.
This hotel is situated quite high up, so if you don’t like walking uphill, then this isn’t the best choice for you, especially in the dark.
However, you can always catch a taxi, and the majestic sky and sea views and the blissful landscape while you’re swimming or relaxing in the pool, along with the hotel’s warm hospitality, make the walk well worthwhile.
It is very hot in Greece in June, but you can’t sit by the pool all day, every day (not that I didn’t try!) So, we visited Odysseas Elytis, an open-air amphitheatre that holds more than 1,000 people. It is located just behind the windmills at the top of the village of Chora and accessible by car or on foot. We were taken by car, because it is a bit of a steep climb, especially in the heat. The amphitheatre boasts spectacular views of Mylopotas Beach, Santorini and the Aegean Sea and there are concerts and performances held there every summer. This is one of the best places to visit in Ios.
Ios has many lovely places to eat. We chose Salt Restaurant Bar for its Greek and Mediterranean cuisine and lively vibe. The food was delightful and what’s more, you can enjoy eating and drinking with a full view of the beach. And it wasn’t far from our accommodation, which was a plus.
For a traditional Greek experience, we caught a taxi to Sainis in Chora. This amazing taverna spanned the length of the street, with tables wherever there was space! We arrived at 6pm and the place was empty, but as we were eating our taramosalata and pitta, it started to get busy. By the time we left, it was jam-packed, with people queuing outside.
Grandma’s meatballs were a speciality, but we decided to go for grilled shrimps, sea bream, oven-baked garlic mushrooms and chips. You can take the girl out of…
It really was an absolute gem of a family restaurant, run by a father (a very warm and jovial gentleman) and his daughter. You’re even given a drink on the house before you leave. If it wasn’t our last night, we would have returned. Next time!
Ios will always hold a special place in our hearts because son number two was married there at the Ios Palace Hotel in 2017. During the pandemic, the hotel built some pretty special suites, which we need to visit. So, Ios island, we will most definitely be back!
Ios island: visitiosgreece.com
Golden Ferries VIP
Cycladic Island Living in Sifnos
Sifnos, the island of harmony, is in the Cyclades and is the birthplace of famous Greek poets as well as award-winning chefs, like Nikos Tselementes. Unique traditional villages, secluded beaches, unique arts, such as pottery, and hundreds of churches are spread around the island, waiting to be discovered.
Among the Cycladic islands, Sifnos stands out for both its architecture and natural beauty. Once a thriving gold and silver mining location, it has, since ancient times, cultivated a reputation for the finer things in life. Today, the island combines the picturesque with a rich tradition in cuisine and crafts, along with a high-level infrastructure in tourism. Despite its refined culture and ‘Cycladic chic’ ambience, Sifnos retains a low profile that instils a sense of peace in the visitor.
Traditional cuisine on Sifnos includes chickpea soup made in ceramic bowls, mastelo (lamb or goat baked on vine branches) and salad with capers. The island’s soil is famously fortified by clay, water and sun. Potters set up their workshops here centuries ago and their ceramics became famous throughout Greece. You can visit the workshops, where traditional artisans still use the potter’s wheel to find out all about this unique art, and even buy some beautiful pots. But make sure you check out your baggage allowance first!
At the top of Agios Andreas Hill, you will discover the ruins of the fortified acropolis built in the Mycenaean era thousands of years ago and the church of Agios Andreas. The view is extraordinary.
Sifnos is also the ideal island for fans of hiking. Visitors have the chance to follow many alternative paths and enjoy the nature, along with numerous monuments, churches and villages.
Sifnos is different from other Greek Islands we’ve visited. It has an air of peace and tranquility, and it’s stunningly beautiful. Kamares is the main port and consists mainly of one street containing a few shops, waterside tavernas and a delicious bakery. It’s not your usual port in that it doesn’t have the hustle and bustle and it’s immaculate.
We stayed in a wonderful house on a hill. The owners were lovely and our tour guide, Emanuela, went above and beyond to show us all that Sifnos has to offer.
If you fancy a quieter Greek island holiday than Santorini, Zanti or Mykonos, then visit Sifnos. There’s lots to see and do if you don’t mind hiring a car… and the weather was amazing!
We travelled to Sifnos from Santorini on seajets.com
Sifnos island: sifnos.gr
Naxos Greece. The largest island in The Cyclades
Naxos is the largest and most fertile island in the Cyclades and, undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful and most popular summer destinations. Think endless beaches, crystal clear waters, picturesque villages, rich history and delicious local produce…
Naxos is a destination that satisfies any taste and offers a wide variety of activities for its visitors – beautiful beaches, traditional villages, delicious food, archaeological sites, numerous hiking paths, windsurfing, kitesurfing spots, and beautiful weather.
Here, you’ll find nice bars, serving colourful and delicious cocktails, nightclubs with music for the young and not-so-young, and tavernas and restaurants with live bouzouki music and tasty specialities.
It is also the Cycladic Island with the longest coast. The most popular beaches are located on the western side and are considered the most beautiful in the Aegean Sea. Clear turquoise water and pure soft sand are the main features of the shores. Naxos was one of the last islands of the Cyclades to open its gates to tourism and why it has kept its natural, unspoiled beauty.
When entering the port by ferry, you can see Portara, the island’s landmark. It’s a huge marble doorway, build in the 6th century BC as a temple dedicated to Apollo that was never completed. Centuries later, it stands proud and welcomes all travellers arriving on the island and is apparently the best place to see the sunset.
Because of its plains and valleys, Naxos is famous for being fertile and produces agricultural products like olives and high-quality wine. Although its meat and cheese are very good too!
Naxos offers interesting archaeological sites, such as temples, beautiful Byzantine churches and Venetian towers, and there are organised hiking trails passing through the fields of olive trees, traditional villages and abandoned settlements, making this island a popular hiking destination.
Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades islands. It has an airport; however, you can’t fly direct from Manchester. You can fly to Athens and get an internal flight to Naxos or hop on a ferry, which, in my opinion, is the only way to travel around the islands. Or you can do what we did, fly to Santorini and get the Seajet to Naxos. The ferries are nothing like they were on my first visit to Spetse in my 20s. They now have Seajets, offering speed, luxury and brand-new lounges. Seajets operates the largest high-speed fleet in the Aegean and one of the most comfortable and punctual fleets in the Mediterranean. Whether you visit a single island or you go island hopping, the largest network of high-speed vessels worldwide guarantees a great trip. seajets.com
Where to stay
Next to Saint George beach, one of the most beautiful beaches of the island, is Hotel Princess of Naxos, a well-maintained hotel with good rooms in a peaceful location. There’s a nice swimming pool looking out to the sea and the hotel offers easy access to the beach and town too.
Saint George beach offers a wide variety of watersports (water skis, banana, wakeboard, tubes, kneeboard, sea jet, cycling, canoeing, sailing) with organised schools and qualified instructors for groups or individuals.
Where to eat
Meze Meze serves tasty grilled sea bass as well as a great choice of Greek and Mediterranean dishes. It’s one of the busiest restaurants on the waterfront and worth the wait should you have to queue for a table. Service is efficient, food is fresh and it’s a great spot to sit and people-watch. Highly recommended, but don’t over-order as portions are large.
A lovely, cosy and authentic Greek, family restaurant in the Old Town of Naxos. It was empty when we sat down, but by the time we left, it was full; obviously a popular restaurant. We ordered bread with dips, followed by prawns and sea bass. Boulamatsis had a very laid-back atmosphere and wasn’t too expensive.
Overall, the beaches, the gastronomy, the architecture and the activities make Naxos a great example of an island that has preserved its natural beauty and traditional character. And it’s no secret that many tourists visiting Naxos come back year after year.
Naxos island: www.naxos.gr