|Colin Murison Small's|
The Cyclades are what most people assume all Greek islands are like – rugged outcrops of primaeval rocks lapped by the bluest of seas and topped by a cluster of white houses. Reality will not disappoint: each island has its capital, the Chora, on a hill overlooking the port (often Skala). Every one is different, making the group perfect for island hopping. There are huge contrasts between the islands: at one end of the scale are the popular and very sophisticated islands of Mykonos and Santorini; at the other there are the unspoilt Small Cyclades (Schoinoussa, Donoussa) between Naxos and Amorgos, the last being less small but particularly paradisal. At neither extreme are……… well, the rest: click on the individual island links in the RH column to find out more.
Direct flights from the UK serve only Mykonos and Santorini, but flights of Olympic Airlines from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Athens feed into onward flights to Mykonos, Naxos, Paros and Santorini and into dozens of ferries and catamarans (which often work out quicker than flights) from Piraeus (some from Rafina or Lavrion) to every island. The overnight outbound flight connects best, but the return is always by day. Our separate introductions to the three Cycladic groups give brief details for getting there from the best gateway airports. Note that the domestic flights of OA permit open jaw returns – you may fly out (say) Athens-Mykonos and back Santorini-Athens at no extra cost. Obviously, for ease of ferry connections, a multi-centre holiday will work best if you limit your stay to islands in the same group but, if you particularly want a cross-over please ask us – it can sometimes work.
You will meet few Martians because there are only two charter airports. Most visitors are either travellers or Greeks. If you want to avoid archaeological sites, you’re safe unless you visit Delos (where you can’t stay anyway). The Cyclades remain the most genuinely Greek of all the chains. If you like to avoid excessive heat in high season, you will be glad of nature’s own air-conditioning in the shape of the Meltemi, a strong northerly wind traditionally blowing in Jul/Aug. Enthusiasts of the intelligent design school might claim it is vindicated by the way the Cyclades are so perfectly scattered – always several within sight but never so close as to intrude. We don’t subscribe to the theory, but do agree with the perfection of the result.
The Cyclades are the first choice of Athenians for their own summer holidays, making high season prices on some islands a bit o.t.t. but, conversely, attractively modest outside the high season. For the same reason some tavernas open late and close early; a few cater only from early June to mid-September but others cover the whole season and the islands are nicely uncrowded if you choose the shoulder months. That said, Mykonos and Santorini have long seasons and Paros and Naxos are well enough populated to remain alive through the winter. The flip side of the Meltemi brings choppy seas (swim with care) and slamming doors.
Descriptions and pictures of the individual islands and their accommodation, grouped as follows, lead you finally to the table of guide prices for the Cyclades section. The seasonal dates for each unit of accommodation are listed at the end of each description in the RH panel of this page.
We include the sections activities, plus points and minus points in our accompanying texts for only the larger islands and/or those where we feature several different places therein; for the smaller ones, they seemed rather superfluous.