Cyclades

Aegean island adventure

In the southern reaches of the Aegean Sea, between the Greek mainland, the Turkish Riviera and the northern shores of Crete, the Cyclades island group is arguably Greece’s most alluring destination. It’s a place where chalky, whitewashed walls, colourful rooftops, olive groves, vineyards and classical ruins perch above picturesque old harbours and deserted coves. It’s a place of shipwrecks, sunsets and sandy beaches; of honeymooners and romantic escapes. From the slow, traditional rurality of Syros to the ‘destination glamour’ of modish Santorini, the varied delights of this close-packed archipelago are easily accessible on a week’s charter from Athens.

With an enviable position just five miles from the city centre, Athens Marina puts you on the cusp of elegant streets, fast-paced urban entertainments and extraordinary archaeological sites. The Acropolis and Parthenon are of course major highlights, but the genteel Plaka quarter is also a memorable place for its authentic Greek cuisine.

The island of Syros is not a carefully preserved tourist utopia, but an authentic Greek hub, with the bustling old Cycladic port town of Ermoupoli at its heart. While the bulk of the island is rural, Ermoupoli is an apex for ferry travel in the north, a fine gastronomic destination and a happily uncontrived four-season resort.

Mykonos is well established as a party destination, but it’s not just about all-night clubbers. It’s also a magnet for cruise ship visitors, preening fashionistas and touring celebrities. In addition to its cosmopolitan profile, Mykonos boasts some fine beaches, many with useful anchorages, plus a renowned restaurant scene and some crowd-pleasing Cycladic architecture.

While it doesn’t enjoy the exalted profile of its noisy neighbours, Paros is a major highlight for cruising yachtsmen. The relative absence of tourists makes the elegant capital much easier to enjoy and the proximity of smaller Antiparos to the southwest offers plenty of opportunity for a sheltered inlet and a private swim at anchor.

The modest size and sparse population of Folegandros gives it a remote, natural beauty as yet unaffected by tourism. The port town of Karavostasi is a pleasant low-key experience and in accordance with its reputation as the ’Island of Peace’, the leafy town of Chora is closed to motorised traffic. This is as pristine as an Aegean hideaway gets.

Romantic Santorini is the most classically beautiful island in the entire archipelago. Blessed with dramatic clifftop towns such as Fira and Oia, plus rich vineyards and famous sunsets, its inverted C-shape offers plenty of shelter from the swells so you can anchor up in peace – and there are several smaller volcanic islands within easy reach.

TOP TEN CYCLADES ATTRACTIONS

  1. Visit UNESCO-protected ancient temples on Delos, the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.
  2. Step ashore in Athens, and take the pulse of the antic old town, Plaka.
  3. Anchor in St George’s Bay, close Simi : unspoiled and unhurried paradise.
  4. Drop anchor in the middle of a volcano in Santorini, a place like no other in the world.
  5. While in Santorini, lunch with the locals in the tavernas of Amoudi Harbour.
  6. Enjoy 7km of Agia Anna beach, near Naxos.
  7. In Paros, the famous church of one hundred doors - count !
  8. See thrill-seekers jumping from the high cliffs, Agios Nikolaos, in Santorini.
  9. Experience windsurf in Mykonos, off Fetelia and Kalafatis beaches.
  10. Enjoy the smooth cosmopolitan nightlife and fantastic restaurants of Mykonos Town

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