Discover the lesser-seen stars of Greece’s most celebrated island group.
- Slipping into Cyclidic life on peaceful Paros
- Celebrating Sifnos’s culinary heritage as you trot between tavernas
- Hopping between hot springs and limpid blue bays on geothermal Milos
- Watching the sunset from the clifftop church Panagia on far-flung Folegandros
- Sampling local liqueurs then snoozing in the sun on Naxos’s beautiful beaches
It’s easy to follow the well-trodden route through the Cyclades from Mykonos to Santorini. But with simplicity comes crowds, cruise ships and some hefty price tags. This 15-day island-hopping trip takes in some of the smaller, quieter islands of the Cyclades, where rural life has changed little in centuries, and dazzling beaches are devoid of tourists.
Days 1-3: Paros
Start your two-week trip on Paros, whose fashionable towns and pretty, rural villages are all the more charming for their (relative) lack of tourists. It’s easy to while away an afternoon in the labyrinthine Old Town of the capital Parikia, browsing boutiques and stopping off in cafes and restaurants. If you’d rather hit the beach there’s no shortage of options. Some are lively, like Marchello and Pounda, while others lean more towards peace and seclusion, with the pick of the bunch being Golden Beach on the south-east coast.
Inland, the sleepy village of Lefkes clings to a natural amphitheatre amid hills dotted with old windmills. Or to really get away, hop on a boat to Antiparos, reportedly a hangout for European royalty not wanting to be disturbed.
Stay at Parilo
Spend your three nights on Paros at Parilio, a high-end, high-design boutique hotel on the north-east coast, constructed using traditional white-block architecture. The 33 suites are part modern, part classic, and for all their simplicity feel organic, warm and welcoming. At the very least you’ll have a terrace and sunbeds; upgrade a bit and you’ll find yourself with a jacuzzi or private pool.
Days 4-6: Sifnos
Travel from Paros by ferry to Sifnos, whose three whitewashed villages sit like pearls along the crest of the island. Olive groves, almond trees, oleander and fresh herbs flank the slopes of the central mountains, and every evening the sun sinks into the Aegean to reveal a panoply of stars in the clear night skies above.
As serene as Sifnos is, it’s not actually the scenery that steals the show here, but rather the food. Nicholas Tselementes was born here. He wrote the first Greek cookbook in 1910 and Sifnos has been a mecca for Greek manna ever since. From traditional tavernas to celebrity-chef restaurants, eating out on Sifnos is always a delight.
Stay at Verina Astra
Soak up the sensational seascapes from your private terrace at Verina Astra, a secluded clifftop residence with just seven suites. Although less than a mile from Artemonas, the prettiest of Sifnos’s whitewashed villages, all you’ll hear here are the jangling of goat bells, the thrum of cicadas and the whistling of the wind.
Days 7-9: Milos
Onwards to Milos, the volcanic island where the Venus de Milo was discovered by a farmer in 1820, before it was spirited off to the Louvre. There’s more to appreciate here, though, than just a place in art history. The island arches around a central caldera and is ringed by one of the most diverse and dramatic coastlines of all the Greek islands.
Between the colourful and surreal rock formations – shaped by the minerals that have long been a source of wealth here – are dozens of beaches (more than on any other island in the Cyclades), natural hot springs, bays of sapphire blue water, a protected nature reserve and a series of picturesque villages.
Stay at Milos Cove
Perched on the rocks above its own private beach, Milos Cove offers 42 chic and sophisticated suites and villas, all with private pools and breathtaking views of the Aegean. Most pleasing of all is that the island’s character comes first and centre in the minimalist designs, with Milos stone and minerals used in everything from basins to bedside tables.
Days 10-11: Folegandros
Now’s the time to take slow-lane living down a further notch. Beautifully unspoilt Folegandros is tiny – just eight miles long, with a couple of hundred inhabitants who share the island with rambling, bell-chiming goats. From the clifftop capital Hora, easily one of the most appealing villages in the Cyclades, zigzagging steps lead up to the island’s only real landmark, the looming Panagia church – go at sunset or sunrise for some incredible photo backdrops.
Several beaches are serviced by water taxis, while others can be reached by a scramble down rocky footpaths. Don’t expect sand and sunbeds though; think pretty pebbled coves and limpid blue water that cries out to be swum in.
Stay at Anemi
Anemi’s 44 white-sugar-cube suites are a study in minimalist architecture, the bright whiteness of the bedrooms offset only by the largescale modern artworks used as headboards. All have verandas, some have private pools, and all channel the eye towards the heart-stopping views over Karavostasis Bay. And after the island’s cliffs and beaches have inevitably drawn you out, Anemi’s amazing restaurant will just as surely draw you back.
Days 12-15: Naxos
End your loop through the Cyclades on Naxos, from which you can catch a flight home via Athens. Although the largest of the Cyclades, it’s still relatively easy to get away from it all on Naxos. The west coast, in particular, is fringed with mile upon mile of powdery beaches, some with shallow waters great for swimming, others wilder and more open, fit for windsurfing, kitesurfing and galloping on horseback.
Hidden in the hills you’ll find dozens of drowsy villages, two giant marble statues from the 6th and 7th centuries BC, as well as liqueur distilleries, olive oil presses and some venerable vineyards.
Stay at Naxian Utopia
Home for your last three nights will be Naxian Utopia, a beautiful villa complex on the west of the island near Agios Prokopios, perhaps Naxos’s best beach. Even the smallest villas can comfortably sleep two adults and two children, and promise white-on-white décor, sun-bleached wood furnishings and terraces with private pools.