Which are the best islands in the Cyclades

The best cycladic islands - Kimolos - Private yacht charter

In the Cyclades archipelago are to be found the most outstanding archaeological sites from about 4,500 Greek islands.
Considered the gem of the Aegean Sea, it is made up of some 250 islands and islets, among which only 24 are inhabited, and 12 of them, very famous, are widely renowned for their beauty, their so special history, their blue and white villages, with steep and narrow alleys taking you down to the sea.

This archipelago, whose name comes from the ancient Greek word Kiklos (circle), thus called by ancient Greek people, like a necklace around the sacred island of Delos. Sailing around these islands is tremendous pleasure, but sharing a catamaran cruise with family or friends on board Catamaran Emelia, with Nikos for a skipper, remains a rare privilege.

Traveling safely, while enjoying ultimate comfort, seems the ideal way to explore this enchanting place.
The sailing boat can accommodate up to eight people, each couple with their own cabin fitted with a double bed.

From Athens, Holidaymakers can either travel by plane or by ferry to reach Livadia harbour, on Paros island, at the heart of the Aegean Sea. It is the perfect starting point to experience exceptional catamaran sailing vacations in the Cyclades.

Various routes are possible thanks to the skipper’s experience and perfect control over technique and anchoring places. Each island has its own unique identity and you can explore a new one every day.
In addition to Amorgos, located further South, the four largest islands are Paros, Serifos, Mykonos and Naxos.

The best cycladic islands - Paros | Sailing vacations greece | Catamaran Emelia
The best cycladic islands – Paros

Paros

Paros lies 95 nautical miles off Piraeus harbour (about 180 km) and is the third largest island in the Cyclades.
A perfect spot for sailing, the island, surrounded by islets, offers a great deal of well protected shelters easy to reach.
The crystal-clear water temperature is around 26°C during the beautiful season.

After a refreshing bath, it is nice to relax on the deck, listening to the water gently lapping against the hull, while watching the coastline topped with hills and small typical villages. The light is special there, and if you listen carefully, you will hear the cicadas’ sounds mingling with the calls of swallows and seabirds.
Exploring Paros will allow you to discover a historical heritage dating back to around 7,000 years ago. Parikia, the biggest town, is composed of small alleys winding between whitewashed houses, tiny churches and many windmills.

Do visit Naoussa for its unique atmosphere. Kolimbithyres beach, coves and rocks are also typical of the place. South of the island, towards Aliki beach, lie a few amazing moorings far from the crowds, unrivalled peacefulness and tranquillity in fantastic setting.

Read: How to get to Paros ?

The best cycladic islands - Paros Sailing vacations greece Catamaran Emelia
The best cycladic islands – Paros

Serifos

In spite of its typical Cycladic landscape, Serifos is definitely one of the most exotic stopovers. The arrival at Livadi harbour is so different from the desolate atmosphere of the rest of the island. 

Nestled deep inside a large and well-sheltered luxurious bay, the harbour is dominated by a splendid chora. The medieval village looking down on it is one of the most beautiful in the Cyclades. Narrow cobbled alleys with stairways often carved into the rock lined with flat-roofed houses, wind through the historical centre leading to friendly tavernas often covered with bougainvillea.
At the hilltop, the remains of a 16th century Venetian castle are the highlight of the show for the bravest visitors. After a steep climb, they will enjoy a panoramic view on the island and the sea, and a fabulous sunset. Serifos’s jagged coastline is scattered with many wild coves. Psili Ammos, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island with the finest white sand, is lined with tamarisk trees. Maliadiko cove, only accessible by boat and fully sheltered from the wind, is an invitation to dive endlessly into an emerald and sapphire blue water.

Mykonos

Mykonos competes with Santorini for the title of “queen of the Cyclades.”
What makes Mykonos uncommon is its whitewashed blue-roofed religious buildings, rows of windmills and flat-roofed houses with balconies overlooking the sea. Holidaymakers suffering from solitude will find there a vibrant and lively atmosphere, and might bump into one of its many celebrities living there.

A must-see place, this “little Venice” is an 18th century village built on the water’s edge. A former haven for pirates, visitors have now a huge choice of restaurants offering traditional and local food. After this lively stopover, sailing will take you to one of the most remoted spots in Mykonos: Agios Sostis. This beach was named after a small church overlooking the place.

Between you and me, on a very clear day, it is possible to see opposite Agios, the sacred island of God Apollo, Delos.
This island is uninhabited and access is restricted, but interesting ancient artifacts are to be found. Delos can be reached early in the morning for a private visit in the loneliness of your group.
Depending on the season, when heading toward Ornos beach, seals can be watched from the catamaran.
Just a few miles away, a beautiful shelter is colourful, due to fishing boats lying next to luxury yachts.
The local beach is ideal for families with young children for the water is shallow and still. Anchoring South of Mykonos, on Kalo Livadi beach, is easier as it is less crowded in summer. Located near the charming village of Ano Mera, this little paradise still offers an outstanding view over an enchanting place.

Naxos

Naxos is the largest, highest and most fertile island in the Cyclades. The flora of the Cycladic shrubland is abundant. In the spring, the island is beautiful and covered with colourful flowers.

Being mountainous, access to Naxos is difficult, but holidaymakers can come to the island by ferry or by private boats from Piraeus or other islands. There is a small airport but with little traffic.

According to Greek mythology, this is where Theseus abandoned Ariadne who was then adopted by Dionysus. The harbour of Naxos is famous for the gate to Apollo’s temple (Portara) which was erected on Palatia islet around 530 B.C. The archaeological museum of Naxos is famous for two important Prehistoric collections from Minoan and Cycladic civilisations. It is worth visiting to understand Ancient life and ancestral traditions better.

Scuba diving addicts will enjoy their favourite activity on Agios Prokopios beach. Instead of abundant sea-life, they will rather discover ships and aircrafts wrecks, 25 to 30 meter deep.
Thanks to outstanding clear water near the Calypso reef, they will also discover some remains of amphoras.

When getting off the catamaran, it is also possible to explore the island on horseback or to go hiking on Mount Zeus.

The best cycladic islands - Naxos|  Sailing vacations greece | Catamaran Emelia
The best cycladic islands – Naxos

Amorgos

This large island is the most Eastern of the Cyclades.
A part of Luc Besson’s film The Big Blue was shot in Chora, not far from the monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa. Amorgos is accessible only by sea and has two harbours.

Tourism is less important than in the nearby islands, but the monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa is a significant visitor attraction. It is one of Greece’s most scenic monasteries, clinging to a 300-meter cliff above the sea. Its chapel was built into crevices and in places which does not exceed 1.50 meters wide. From a distance, it looks like a white fort. Southwest of the island, a semi-enclosed bay offers good shelter from Meltemi.

Sailing boats alongside small colourful fishing boats are tied up to mooring buoys. The place is quite isolated and a goat path is the only way to reach the village.
The astonishing greenery of Katapola harbour contrasts with the mostly rocky landscapes of the rest of Amorgos.

Only one road runs on Amorgos which links it to Aigiali, the other harbour on the island. The village is quiet and you can have lunch or just enjoy a glass of Raki, often generously offered by the very friendly Greek inhabitants.

Milos

This island is famous for the statue bearing the same name. The Venus de Milo is exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
What also makes Milos different from the neighbouring islands is its particular fauna. Many naturalists from all over the world come to Milos to study a local lizard bearing the sweet name of Lacertidae. The male has typical green and blue scales. The other endemic though less friendly species, is Milos viper. These two endangered and protected species can also be found on Sifnos, Polyaigos and Kimolos.

The next sailing stop can then be Tsigrado beach, a beautiful place surrounded by rocks and various caves, or even, Sarakiniko beach with its volcanic white cliffs shaped by the wind.

The best cycladic islands - Milos | Sailing vacations greece | Catamaran Emelia
The best cycladic islands – Milos

Folegandros

Between Sikinos and Milos, stands Folegandros island.
Inhabited since the Ancient times, Folegandros offers shelter only to a few villages, including the eponymous main town.

There is Karavostasis harbour, and Ano Meria, a small town with 350 inhabitants, proud of its picturesque Folklore Museum housing a collection of ancient traditional housing objects.
The Chora, built on the edge of a steep cliff is worth a visit to enjoy an outstanding view. The houses built on steep cliffs give this island a unique atmosphere. Slopes are steep, and houses are hanging on the edge of cliffs, but warm friendship is everywhere. On this land, the fragrance of thyme is overwhelming, sometimes even heady.

When arriving by boat, the island rises from the sea like a huge shark fin because of its long shape. It is then easy to anchor in sheltered and beautiful places and to discover gorgeous beaches away from the bustle of the main touristic centres.

Ios

South of Paros, Ios is a beautiful island almost entirely dedicated to tourism.
Homer is said to have died and to be buried there. He has a dedicated tombstone, just like Clymene, supposedly Homer’s mother. The desolated landscapes of this small arid island and the crystal-clear water of its beaches where you will enjoy having a swim, are worth a visit.

When going ashore, you can enjoy a large Pita Gyros, the traditional Greek sandwich, sitting on the patio of one of the many tavernas, surrounded with a wonderful view. You can also walk to Manganari beach.

Syros

Syros island has been inhabited since prehistoric times.
Many excavations were carried out, discovering tombs, figurines, vases, skeletons and various ruins dated back to the Bronze Age.
Today the island is the capital and administrative centre of the Cyclades. Ermoupoli, also called Hermes’s town, is worth a visit. Arriving from the sea, visitors will be impressed by the picture of the big Catholic church facing the big Orthodox church, and the colorful vibrant city scattered over the hills in a joyful mess. Strolling its tiny alleys while enjoying a Halvadopitta (local nougat), is pure bliss, and enhanced by the view over the Aegean Sea.
The Archaeological Museum, the Apollo Theatre, the miniature version of La Scala Theatre in Milan, and the neoclassical building of the Town Hall are to be seen. Syros is righteously called the Cyclades islands’ princess.

While sailing, it is common to see beautiful dolphins riding the bow waves, following the boat for a while or even jumping into the air before leaving for other destinations, others unknown.  

Sailing the Cyclades islands - Syros - Private yacht charter
The best cycladic islands – Syros

Sifnos

This island is special for its capital city Apollonia, located inland.

The town, built amphitheatrically against three hills, is nice and friendly but the main interest remains the village of Kastro. Built on top of a cliff along the sea, this place is a genuine open-air museum with the remains of all the periods of its existence. Some parts of the acropolis are left, whose ramparts are made out of the oldest houses outer walls. Many circular ancient watchtowers can also be found. These watchtowers provided protection for the gold and silver mines in operation between the 6th and 3rd century B.C.

Around Sifnos a few nice mooring places are near small white housed villages, so typical of the Cycladic architecture. The narrow winding paved streets are ideal for melancholic daydreaming, the magic sunsets at scenic viewpoints over the Aegean Sea and the tavernas are full of delicious local food. The most famous for their beautiful beaches are Kamares, Plati Gialos and Vathi.

Santorini

Santorini and Mykonos are the most famous and visited island in the Cyclades.

When arriving by sea, its white villages with blue domes nestled on top of hills dropping down to the sea are so widely recognized. If we add the windmills, regarded as true historical monuments today, we have the key landmarks of the Cyclades, even of the whole Greece.
The West coast is composed of numerous cliffs, whereas the East coast is lower. On the croissant shaped island a specific and famous grape variety is grown close to the ground, the Assyrtiko. Its low yields make the Vinsanto wine a rare and sought-after product with a dry and citrussy taste.

When arriving from sea, we anchor in a bay which attracts a large number of boats of all sizes. A world-famous hiking path runs along the scenic caldera. Hanging from the cliff, charming villages like Fira and Oia are the most photographed places on Santorini for their traditional architecture and unique sunsets. Each even has a small harbour in the caldera.

To reach the villages, you must walk up steep paths or take the cable car to Fira. When touring the island, do not forget the blue domed church of Firostefani. Exploring the excavations of the archaeologic site of Akrotiri from the Bronze Age is also possible.

The place was frozen in time after a volcanic eruption some 3,600 years ago. According to the legend, Atlantis would be there… There is an astonishingly advanced drainage system, multi-storey buildings, beautiful fresco paintings and furniture dug out during excavations. The red beach and the black beach are worth a visit too, but Perivolos beach is the largest on Santorini. It is made of black volcanic pebbles, while in the South, the red beach sand comes from the erosion of the cliff above, composed of red pulverized volcanic rock, which gives a spectacular and surprising visual effect of great beauty.

Sailing the Cyclades islands - Santorini - Private yacht charter
The best cycladic islands – Santorini

Antiparos

Antiparos is separated from Paros island by a strait, just over half a nautical mile in its widest part.
The coast is severely indented. You will enjoy beautiful anchoring between Despotiko and Antiparos as well as many natural shelters and wonderful coves.

Antiparos’s main attraction is Agios Ioannis cave, for its striking stalagmites and stalactites. There is evidence of human occupation since the Stone Age, through wall paintings. Its visit is a reward, after the 411 steps leading to its entrance. Lastly, the island is dotted with many chapels, and you can go ashore to taste a glass of Tsikoudia, the local drink, or go to one of the beautiful beaches such as Glyfa, Apantimma or Sostis.

Kimolos

Next to Milos, Kimolos is renowned for its white sandy beaches and small hidden coves with crystal clear waters.

Although Kimolos is, as Milos, originally a volcanic island, a lot of chalk can be found there too. Old people used to call it “Silver Island”, for the sun rays upon the white stones made them glitter like silver. It is a lovely place with unique beaches, not very crowded even in the summer.

The specially whitewashed houses with bright blue domes of Chorio are special and recognizable. There are over 80 churches in Chorio. The island exudes the old-fashioned charm of yesterday’s peaceful life in the Cyclades.

If you are lucky, you may see big sea turtles near Dekas beach. These friendly animals have almost completely fled the Cyclades in order to seek refuge on Zante island, in the Ionian Sea.  

Sailing the Cyclades islands - Kimolos - Private yacht charter
The best cycladic islands – Kimolos

Small Cyclades

The Small Cyclades are tiny islands inside the archipelago of the Cyclades. They are called the Small Cyclades, and are scattered South of Naxos, to which they belong, on an administrative point of view. On request, Nikos can take holidaymakers to the beautiful semi-secluded but still inhabited islets like Schinoussa, Irakleia, Koufonisia and Donoussa.

Remains of ancient villages can still be found on Irakleia, as well as tombs from the same period and ruins of Zeus and Tyche temples. This island, which used to be a shelter for pirates, abounds with caves and coves for idyllic anchoring.

Schinoussa is at the heart of the Small Cyclades tiny archipelago. It is the perfect place for peace lovers. There is no road on the island but a small trail between Mersini harbour and the Chora. You can therefore endlessly enjoy the wild and beautiful landscape with a background of emerald sea, and in the distance the islands of Santorini or Ios. Schinoussa’s beaches being difficult to reach, they seem reserved for sailors only. There are also many tavernas offering local Greek food.

Donoussa, even more secluded, lies away from the other three islands. It is a genuine haven of peace, difficult to imagine. The legend reports that Dionysus hid Ariadne on this island after Theseus had abandoned her on Naxos. By boat we arrive at the small harbour of Stavros surrounded by a few white houses clinging to the hill, and from where you can see the mountains of Naxos. Sailing around the island, we will discover the lovely village of Mersini where you will find the only water spring on the island, under a big hundred-year-old plane tree. There is also the beautiful Agia Sofia church. There is a series of wonderful moorings places between Livadi beach and Kalotatissa village. The cave of the monk seal (Monachus monachus) is one of the last Mediterranean shelters of this friendly species.

Koufonisia is a beautiful small island complex belonging to the Small Cyclades. Pano (upper) Koufonisi is the smallest and most densely inhabited island. Kato (lower) Koufonisi is lined by gorgeous beaches. Hundreds of ancient statues were found there, as on Delos. Ano Koufonisia is the main island from which ships arrive. The island is also tiny, peaceful and its Chora is mainly composed of an old district overlooking the old harbour. The lively touristic centre, near Agios Georgios church, is home to shops and tavernas. From this village, you will have a spectacular viewpoint over the nearby Keros islet. On a catamaran, you can also discover Nero beach and the small bays of Loutro and Parianos, where two lovely small fishing harbours are sheltered. Then, it will be time to find shelter in one of the beautiful bays known to Nikos only, and to enjoy sunset on Naxos, while having a drink.  

Sailing the Cyclades islands  - Koufounissa - Private yacht charter greece
The best cycladic islands – Koufounissa

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