Posted in Italy on 11. Feb, 2012
A constellation of Greek islands in the southern Aegean Sea, the Cyclades have an identity all their own. The archipelago, located south of Athens and north of Crete, is best known for containing Santorini and Mykonos; however, there are in fact 2,200 islands, islets and rocks (33 of which are inhabited) within the Cyclades. Here are a few of the island chain’s hidden gems:
The namesake of the iconic Venus de Milo, this volcanic island is surely beautiful enough for Aphrodite herself. Its unique landscape is characterized by colourful rock formations and fascinating caves (including the one at the stunning bay of Kleftiko) and is home to a total of 74 beaches. Milos is located halfway between Athens and Crete, and it is close to Sifnos, Santorini and Folegandros. Its capital city of Plaka, perched 200 metres above sea level, is therefore a great stopping point on any tour of the Cyclades. While there, be sure to visit the town’s historic castle.
Covering only 32 square metres in the southern Cyclades, Folegandros is one of the smaller islands. It is home to about 700 residents, and it maintains a relatively untouched atmosphere. Its pristine coastline and protected culture are what make it such a special places to visit. Folegandros is home to three villages: Chora, Karavostasis, and Ano Meria. They are all connected to one another by a paved road. The crumbling walls of a medieval castle, quaint houses built into rocky seaside cliffs, and splendid terraces all let you admire the island’s stunning views.
The easternmost island of the Greek Cyclades, Amorgos is close to Naxos and Ios. Along with being the site of a famous scene in Luc Besson’s film “The Big Blue,” the island is known for its historic monastery: Hozoviotissa, wedged into a stunning precipice 300 metres from the sea, is a perfect example of Cycladic architecture—at once rustic and strikingly elegant. Incredible beaches, crystal-clear coves, ancient windmills and whitewashed houses can be found throughout the island’s remote villages. There is also a great number of hotels near Amorgos, like the Finikas Hotel and the Summerland Holiday’s Resort.
Ermoupolis Village is the capital of Syros—as well as the entire Cyclades island chain. Named after Hermes, the God of Trade, the village has been developed into a hub of commerce and culture. It combines French, Greek and other European influences; this can be seen in the town’s amazing architecture. Be sure to see the magnificent Miaouli Square, the Bavarian-style Town Hall, and the fascinating Archaeological Museum. The Apollo Theatre on Vardaki Square and the Cultural Centre of Hermoupolis are also worth visiting. Sure, Ermoupolis is more urban than the other destinations on this list—but it is also a must-see destination for anyone looking to gain further insight into the Cyclades Islands’ heritage.
Sifnos is the Greek island of Apollo, located between Paros, Serifos and Milos. Its landscape is especially mountainous and verdant, dotted with lush olive groves and colourful gardens. On the western side of Sifnos, you will find the village of Kamares. Nestled at the base of two hills, the narrow stone-paved streets are lined with traditional whitewashed houses and Greek tavernas. Kamares has one of the longest sandy beaches on the island, while the adjacent villages of Apollonia (the island’s capital) and Artemona feature the highest concentration of cultural and historical sites (do not miss a trip to the Folklore Museum.) Lastly, the cliff-top village of Kastro is the one to see for ancient medieval ruins: Built atop the former capital of Sifnos, the village still shows evidence of its origins in the crumbling walls of a Venetian fortress, narrow streets, mansions and loggias, and churches from the 16th and 17th centuries.