Here is everything you need to know about Cyclades island hopping. We have the best routes to take for Greek island hopping in the Cyclades, and of course, find out what the best beaches in the Cyclades are.
Before you jump on that ferry from Athens to the Cyclades Islands, read ahead to discover how many islands are in the Cyclades, the best routes to take for Greek island hopping in the Cyclades, and, of course, find out what the best beaches in the Cyclades are.
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How Many Islands Are In The Cyclades
The Greek Cyclades include approximately 220 islands. The name “Cyclades” relates to the shape of the islands – they form a circle around the sacred island of Delos. You should know that most of the smaller islands are uninhabited.
The major islands are:
Visiting The Cyclades Islands Greece
Greek island hopping is the most brilliant way to spend your time visiting Greece. It’s a fantastic way to understand the local lifestyle and tune in to the times and rhythms of the countries.
There are different and varied ways to go island hopping in Greece; however, the idea behind this guide is not to see the highest number of islands in a short time but to see the best of them, taking a more relaxed experience.
To put it clearly, more islands are not always better. You will certainly not optimize time and end up tired and confused, uncertain of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen.
For this reason, our one-week Cyclades itinerary includes only three islands, and our two-week itinerary just five. Remember that you should also devote at least two days to Athens since this is the port of departure, so take it easy and enjoy the best of Greece.
Best Time To Island Hop The Cyclades
August is the hottest month in Europe for travel, not just because of the high temperatures but because half of the continent has summer holidays.
If you can avoid August, you’ll be able to find more convenient fees for almost everything, the weather will still be warm and pleasant, and you’ll see fewer crowds everywhere.
If you insist on traveling during August or have no other chance, then the first golden rule to follow is to make sure you book early. Remember that many Greeks have holidays in August so that ferries can be booked.
The best months to go island hopping in Greece are May and June before the crowded months of July and August, or the end of September when the weather is still charming, but families with kids are already back home because school is about to begin.
If you choose to travel in less popular months, such as April and October, remember that ferries don’t have a high frequency, so some islands might be more challenging to reach.
Best Islands In The Cyclades
In this section, we highlight our favorite Cyclades islands, the reasons to visit them, and the reasons to avoid them if your time is limited.
These tips and suggestions are here to help you decide which places to visit according to your travel style and the things you like to experience when on vacation.
Greece’s stunningly beautiful and charming Santorini star island is often included in everyone’s first-time Greek Island hopping itinerary.
Romantic whitewashed villages over the edge of the Caldera and blue-domed churches are part of the traditional landscape we all expect to discover on the island.
The beaches in Santorini are certainly not the best ones in Greece. Nevertheless, this guided tour lets you explore all the popular sights in Santorini. You should visit Santorini if the unique landscapes interest you and if you are not just about beach life and suntanning for hours.
The most popular tours in Santorini:
- 🚢 Experience Santorini’s beauty, hot springs, and beaches on this catamaran cruise
- 🍷 Sip on Santorini wine during this small-group tour of the island and three of its wine estates
- 🚶 Succumb to Santorini’s charms on a private tour to see its highlights
- 🛥️ Make the most out of your time in Santorini aboard this relaxing and tranquil sunset sail with BBQ and drinks
Santorini is also a good option since there are direct flights from almost any European country; this makes your itinerary easier and might even help you skip a stop in Athens.
Among the reasons not to choose this island, high prices and huge crowds all year long are probably the most important ones. The island is so popular that it’s challenging to find a time of the year when you’ll find it quiet.
As we also said before, there are better places to go in Greece regarding beach life. Here, most beaches are windy, or there’s nowhere golden sand to be found. The underwater panorama is rocky and can be dangerous for small children. In fact, you should remember that Santorini is, after all, an extinct volcano.
Remember, since Santorini is the island farthest from Athens, it is always better to make it the first destination if you’re traveling by ferry; this way, you can cross your path up from Santorini to get back to Athens at the end of your island hopping experience.
Another famous Greek Island, Mykonos, is known for its glamour and crazy nightlife, expensive boutiques, and super high prices. Whitewashed landscapes are also part of Mykonos’ panorama, while the island also has something Santorini doesn’t: amazing beaches.
There are direct flights from several European cities, too, so Mykonos offers an excellent opportunity to travel to Greece without reaching Athens,
Mykonos is exclusive and glamorous; it’s a place where celebrities choose to spend their summers, so expect very high prices for anything you want to do, from riding a taxi to buying a bottle of mineral water. Everything costs more in Mykonos! Being a cruise ship destination, the island can sometimes feel overcrowded.
Mykonos Island, however, has some pretty beaches, including Elia, Ornos, and Super Paradise. Other than that, if you’re a fan of Greece’s past, Delos’s archaeological site is an incredible island that can easily be visited from Mykonos.
The most popular tours in Mykonos:
- 🚢 Escape the crowds on land and admire Mykonos from the water on a luxury catamaran cruise
- 🚶 See the essential sights of Mykonos on this guided half-day shore excursion with pickup from the terminal
- 🍷 Experience Mykonos’ wine-making culture on a winery tour with traditional music and orange juice for any kids
- 🏞️ Discover the best that Mykonos has to offer during this combination of a walking & driving tour or on this half-day private Mykonos tour
The sacred island of Delos is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites you can choose to visit in Greece. A visit to the site can make an excellent day trip if you’re spending your holidays on the island of Mykonos.
Delos is a small islet a few miles from Mykonos and a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. According to Greek mythology, the island was where the god of light, Apollo, and his twin sister Artemis were born.
A sacred place in ancient times, the most remarkable places to discover include the Agora, the Temple of Apollo, and the famous Avenue of the Lions. There’s also a small museum on the island with objects found in the place during the excavations.
You can’t stay on the island, so it’s best to add this stop while you are in Mykonos to take a boat there and back in a day.
Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Cyclades, the island of Naxos is enormous and hard to visit in a short time. If you’re happy seeing only a tiny portion of the island, then add it to your Cyclades island-hopping itinerary.
Prices are affordable compared to other Greek islands, and there are not many reasons you should exclude Naxos. Maybe it’s not as cosmopolitan as Mykonos or Santorini, but for many tourists, that’s the real beauty of it. The island is green and has enchanting mountain villages you can visit. The food is wonderful, balancing incredible landscapes, top archaeological sites, outstanding beaches, and many interesting activities with kids. In a way, it is a perfect destination that you should not miss in your itinerary.
Another fantastic Greek island is Paros, which is just a quick ferry ride from Naxos. It’s much more popular among young Greek crowds, making it lively and crowded during peak season.
On the downside, it can be considered more fit for a younger crowd, so if you’re after a family place, relaxing and quiet, then Paros could be replaced by Naxos in your itinerary.
Having reached a favored status, chosen by young people who cannot afford a holiday in Mykonos, has made prices go up a little, not much, but definitely noticeable by Greece’s standards.
Those traveling on a budget should remember this and plan well ahead to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Superb beauty, astonishing beaches, and incredible whitewashed landscapes are also part of the Ios atmosphere. Ios is one of the most beautiful Aegean islands you can visit, yet it has earned the fame of being an island for young people and party animals… Not so much so, but indeed, there’s some truth beneath this common belief.
Ios can be considered the party capital of the Cyclades; there are plenty of clubs and bars, and night beach parties are part of the deal, too. This makes Ios an option for teens and young adults who are less loved by families.
Milos is a small, pretty, and quiet Greek Island in the Cyclades, easy to visit quickly. The island features incredible things to do despite being relatively small. You can explore traditional white villages, check archaeological sites, eat delicious food in authentic Greek tavernas, and relax on the island’s magnificent beaches.
Sharing the exact volcanic origin as Santorini, Milos is one of the many magnificent Greek Islands at the southernmost part of the Cyclades Island cluster. And it’s precisely because of its volcanic past that Milos has a stunning lunar landscape and bizarre coastline with some of the most exotic beaches you can find in Greece.
Although Milos has been blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches of the Aegean, some of these unique beaches are very hard to access without a boat. This means that those who are not so keen on swimming might have difficulty reaching the water by jumping from a boat.
Despite beautiful beaches being a key trademark of Milos, this moon-like landscape may not be the right place for you if you prefer traditional sandy beaches.
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Folegandros is by far one of the less-visited islands in Greece. It’s gorgeous, peaceful and calm.
Spend time in Hora, the main port, perched on a cliff overlooking the Aegean. Roam the pedestrian-only center and take time to admire the picturesque view from the dramatic cliffs.
Folegandros is further south; low season times (think of May and October) still offer impressive enough beach weather. We suggest spending time at Karavostasi Beach; with its fine pebbles, you will need beach shoes, but it’ll be worth it. Rent a sunbed under the shade and curl up with that book you’ve been waiting all year to read.
Syros is a small but prosperous Cycladic Island, the capital of the Cyclades. A relatively recent touristic development makes it entirely off the beaten track and relatively free from mass tourism. It’s a perfect place for a tranquil holiday and ideal for enjoying pristine, empty beaches, traditional villages, excellent gastronomy, and local music.
Syros Island is famous for its excellent restaurants, its rebetika music, and some delicious sweets such as loukoumi (Turkish Delight), mandolata (nougat), and halvadopita (a softer kind of nougat).
Ermoupolis, the capital of Syros, shines with a myriad of neoclassical mansions of exquisite taste and elegance, beautiful churches, and romantic alleys. The city is also close to some of the most amazing Syros beaches, most of them concentrated on the southern and western coasts.
Kythnos is a relatively mountainous Cycladic island destination, not far from Athens, making it a convenient and nearby destination for a weekend or a short escape from Athens.
The coast of Kythnos boasts over 70 different beaches, so there’s no shortage of magnificent places to swim and sunbathe on the Aegean, including the lovely strip of Kolona Beach on the northwest of the island that connects Kythnos to the islet of Agios Loukas.
The island offers many outdoor activities and unique spots like hot springs and caves.
Best Route Options For Cyclades Travel
In this Cyclades island-hopping itinerary, we show you what islands you should naturally visit. We know that not all the islands included here will be part of your trip, which allows you to plan the trip better.
As mentioned above, the best thing you can do is start your trip from the island further from Athens, which is Santorini. You can get there by ferry (from 6 to 10 hours ferry trip) or by plane in less than an hour.
You’re not tired and full of energy at the beginning of your trip, so the long journey will not look so long. Once you have visited the whitewashed island, the famous Caldera villages, and the black beaches, you should move on to the Ios if this island is also included in your itinerary.
Ios is the closest island to Santorini, meaning several boats and ferries connect both islands daily.
The trip is less than an hour, so you can certainly add it to your trip if you love parties and renowned beaches, too. Also, Milos has ferry connections to Santorini, so this is another option to move forward on your route if you intend to skip Ios.
Paros and Naxos are the two following islands you should visit. Both are easy to reach from Ios island, so they are the ones that should come next. Being bigger and with plenty of things to do, we suggest you start visiting Naxos, which is also very close to Santorini, something you should consider if Ios is not part of the islands you plan to visit.
If you love more traditional places, entirely off the beaten track, it’s not a bad idea to drop Paros and, from Naxos, head directly to Amorgos. The island is a magnificent destination if you love to hike or are longing to spend a relaxing holiday, where a simpler lifestyle is a priority for you, instead of parties or nightclubs.
Mykonos is connected via ferry only with Naxos, Ios, and Santorini. So, remember this if you plan to include it in your Cyclades itinerary.
Which Cyclades Islands Have Airports
Although we know that ferry travel is the quintessential part of island hopping, getting to an island by plane can save much time.
Islands With International Airports In The Cyclades Are:
Islands With Domestic Airports In The Cyclades Are:
Airports allow you either to begin or end your trip without even setting foot on a ferry from Piraeus.
Best Beaches In The Cyclades Greece
These are the best beaches in the Cyclades Islands mentioned in this article:
The most scenic beach on the island is the Red Beach, which is more interesting for the landscape than for the actual beach facilities. If you like weird landscapes, also visit White Beach and Perissa, the black beach.
Paros has gorgeous beaches; Santa Maria is a broad, sandy shore loved by families traveling to Greece. Kolymbithres is a bizarre shore with a lunar landscape and soft rocks eroded by the wind and the sea.
Mylopotas is the most famous beach on Ios Island. It has unique azure and emerald waters and is a perfect place for water sports.
The most famous beach on the island is Tsigrado, while Sarakiniko is another favorite beach you can visit in Milos.
One of the most famous beaches in Amorgos and the rest of the Cyclades is known as Mouros Beach.
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Cyclades Island Itinerary 1 Week
As we have mentioned, a one-week itinerary of the Cyclades can offer you the possibility of seeing two or three Cyclades islands without stress and running around.
Adding more islands to a week can result in stressful experiences.
According to what we mentioned before, these are three good itinerary options:
Option 1: Santorini – Milos – Ios – Athens
Option 2: Santorini – Paros – Naxos – Athens
Option 3: Santorini – Naxos – Amorgos – Athens
Cyclades Island Hopping Itinerary 14 Days
When you have more time available, you can fit one or even two more islands into the itinerary, provided that the last two are very close to each other.
Here are 10 Cyclades island hopping route suggestions
- Option 1: Santorini – Ios – Naxos – Mykonos
- Option 2: Santorini – Paros – Naxos – Mykonos
- Option 3: Santorini – Milos – Paros – Naxos – Mykonos
- Option 4: Mykonos – Syros – Paros – Naxos – Ios – Folegandros – Milos
- Option 5: Kythnos – Serifos – Sifnos – Kimolos – Milos
- Option 6:Andros – Tinos – Mykonos – Naxos
- Option 7:Tinos – Mykonos – Naxos – Paros – Ios – Santorini
- Option 8: Syros – Mykonos – Naxos – Ios – Santorini
- Option 9: Paros – Naxos – Iraklia – Schinoussa – Koufonisia – Amorgos
- Option 10: Santorini – Ios – Paros – Naxos – Mykonos
All these three options can end with a flight or ferry to Athens or a direct flight within Europe.
Now you have all the information you need to island-hop the Cyclades in Greece – we hope that you enjoy your trip to Greece.