When people come to Greece for the summer it is usually with Santorini in mind, or perhaps Corfu, Mykonos or Crete. Relatively little is known about the other 18 major Cycladic islands. Last year we briefly visited Crete on a Mediterranean cruise and we knew we wanted to come back and see more of the Greek islands. What we also knew is that we wanted to see ones that were more secluded and crammed with authentic Greek culture. We sure got that!
During April and May we visited five islands that you may not have heard of, but are well worth visiting just as much, if not more so, than the other more well-known Cycladic islands.
No more then 1500 people live on this island. It has police force of 3, just 1 doctor and over 400 churches. During the summer the population in one particular town can swell from 3 or 4 families to over 150 individuals. Cars are left unlocked, houses have keys in the doors and everyone knows everyone.
We fell in love with this little island and you will too. From its numerous beaches to it’s thermal hot springs, to classic white houses and lush rolling green valleys. You won’t find expats and foreigners living here, but you will find restaurant menus in English, A-grade hospitality and a relaxed vibe that releases all the tension from your muscles within moments of arriving.
Favourite feature – Hot springs.
Favourite family spot – Kolona Beach & St Lucas Island. A stretch of sandy beach that holds calm, warm waters and a postcard-perfect island panorama.
Why families will love Kythnos – No crime makes the island very safe. Small town atmosphere makes dining anywhere like dining with family. The children can play on the streets with no fear of traffic. If you’re looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, this is your island.
We arrived at night and were greeted by a mysterious floating monastery high in the darkened sky. It wasn’t until the sun rose the next morning we realised that it was in fact a monastery perched atop a steep mountain enveloped in the clouds.
Slightly more developed than Kythnos, the roads are wider, and there are several larger villages. The island has long, rich history dating back millennia and quaint towns with narrow, cobblestone paths.
Favourite feature – Mountains meet the sea with boundless lofty vistas.
Favourite family spot – Vathi is a delightful town on the south-west coast. The beach is calm and there are plenty of restaurants to eat at while the children frolic, collect shells and build sandcastles.
Why families will love Sifnos – Sifnos is easy to drive around and there are ample of beaches to choose from. With extensive walking trails for older children to run wild and discover, and lots of archaeological sites to discover, it’s an ideal location for relaxation as well as site seeing.
Well known as the site of the discovery of the Venus of Milos, Milos holds more ancient history than just one iconic statue. The island is very developed with the majority of roads sealed and easy access around the island.
It has an extensive mining history, ancient Christian catacombs and mysterious caves. Half of the island is a dedicated nature reserve (only accessible via 4 wheel drive or boat), and the other half has over 70 beaches that you could spend days discovering.
Favourite feature – Volcanic landscape.
Favourite family spot – Sarakiniko. This unique volcanic landscape is the perfect place for hide and seek with its caves and oddly shaped rock formations. There is also crystal clear blue ocean for swimming and diving.
Why families will love Milos – The island is geared towards children. Many restaurants have toys or you can sit on a beach for endless child amusement. There are playgrounds in Adamas and Pollonia. Pollonia also has a large swing on the beach that our kids loved. If you want a Mediterranean island getaway but with more the creature comforts of home, this is the ideal balance.
Ios is considered by most as a party island. The island is abundant with expats, many of them Australian. We seemed to slot into life on the island quite easily considering the amount of Aussies we met. While the island may not have as many historical sites as the other islands, it is dotted with amazing sandy beaches.
There are also a collection of hotels and bars along Mylopotas beach offering food, drinks, beach volleyball and even an free-for-all swimming pool. We really enjoyed zipping around on our scooters with minimal traffic as well as discovering the main town of Chora.
Favourite feature – Long, sandy beaches with vibrant atmosphere.
Favourite family spot – Farout Village on Mylopotas Beach is a restaurant/bar with a pool free to use. There is also a foosball table and volleyball net. If you are not heading there, perhaps the playground in Chora will be your kid’s favourite.
Why families will love Ios – There is not much to do on the island, except eat, sleep and spend the days at the beach making it the perfect relaxing family vacation. If you want more action, Mylopotas Beach is the place to hang out, but there are plenty of laid back, secluded beaches too. There really is something for everyone to make it a perfect family holiday.
One of the larger islands in the Cyclades, Paros has plenty to see and do. Numerous sandy beaches, clay spa beaches, restaurants, hikes, horse riding, yoga and much more. If you want more from an island than just lying on the beach all day, Paros is for you.
The main port is a superb little town with plenty of shops, restaurants, a Venetian castle and even an ancient church with 100 openings. The other towns and ports are just as lovely to meander through.
Favourite feature – Shopping.
Favourite family spot – Located on the southern end of the island, you can find the gorgeous town of Piso Livadi. It has a beautiful kid-friendly beach with playground and restaurants overlooking it. Also on the road in the middle of nowhere is a bakery called Wooden Oven (translated from Greek), which had some of the best ice cream ever and was a great treat for the kids.
Why families will love Paros – While there are plenty of remote beaches, Paros offers an abundance of manicured, maintained beaches as well with playgrounds, restaurants and calm, shallow water. If you’re looking for water sports for older children like windsurfing and kitesurfing, this is the perfect place to go.
What we found most surprising about these 5 islands is how different they were from each other. Considering cultures in the Cyclades have developed for thousands of years just a short distance from each other, you’ll find unique food and customs on each island. They have each evolved into really fascinating and fun places to visit. Ferries regularly access each of these islands, and connect you to Athens, so you’re not limited to choosing just 1 for your next holiday. Now the tough choice… which ones will you visit?