The most visited island group, the Cyclades are everyone’s Greek island ideal, with their whitewashed cliff-top villages, blue-domed churches, and stunning beaches. The islands vary greatly, from the quiet and traditional to the more nightlife-oriented. The cradle of the Cycladic civilization (3000-1000 BC), they also offer a rich ancient history. Important archaeological sites, such as those on Delos and Santorini, provide a fascinating insight into the past.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Sandy beaches and dynamic nightlife combine to make Mýkonos one of the most popular islands in the Cyclades. Visited by intellectuals in the early days of tourism, today it thrives on its reputation as the glitziest island in Greece. In addition to offering sun, sea, and sand, the island is a good base from which to visit the ancient archaeological site of Delos.
The tiny, uninhabited island of Delos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. The legendary birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, from 1000 BC. It was home to the annual Delian Festival, held in honor of the god Apollo. The most important remains on Dellos are the magnificent 7th-century Lion Terrace, the Theater built in 300 BC to hold 5,500 people, and the Theater Quarter.
Colonized by the Minoans in 3000 BC, this volcanic island erupted in 1450 BC, forming Santoríni’s distinct crescent shape. A popular tourist destination, it is a stunning island, as famous for its ancient archaeological sites as for its whitewashed villages, volcanic cliffs, and black sand beaches.
Founded in the late 18th century, Firá was destroyed by an earthquake in 1956 and rebuilt along terraces in the volcanic cliffs. Among Firá’s most interesting sights are the Archaeological Museum, with finds from Ancient Thira and Minoan Akrotíri, and the 18th-century church of Agíos Minás.
The largest of the Cyclades, Náxos was a major center of the Cycladic civilization. The Venetians, who arrived in the 13th century, built many fortifications that still stand on the island today. Overlooking Náxos town’s bustling harbor is the huge marble 6th-century BC Portára gateway, built as the entrance to the unfinished Temple of Apollo. To the south, Agios Geórgios is the main tourist center, with a wealth of hotels, apartments, and restaurants. The old town divides into the Kástro – the 13th-century Venetian fortifications – and the medieval Bourg. The fine 18th-century Orthodox cathedral, the Mitrópoli Zoödóchou Pigís, stands in the Bourg, which also has a busy market area. In the Kástro, the Archaeological Museum, in the Palace of Sanoúdo, has one of the best collections of Cycladic marble figurines in the Greek islands.