Best Greek islands to visit, meet the western side of the Cyclades
When planning a trip to the Cyclades the first islands that come to mind are of course Santorini and Mykonos. However, if we leave aside those two famous destinations you will discover that there are plenty of hidden gems in the Aegean Sea. So, this is exactly the reason that we decided to share some info about this very well kept secrets with you. All you need to do is to create some free days on your calendar, save some money, plan ahead, decide which islands are best for your lifestyle and start your Greek island hopping!
The secret side of the Western Cyclades
In case you want to see something alternative and get away from the crowds of Mykonos and Santorini then we suggest you pack your bags and head to the Western Cyclades. Are you ready to discover the Western Cyclades? Five Greek islands with unreal beauty and picturesque settlements that will make their mark on you! Even if you are travelling with a backpack, the hotels in the Cyclades will make you feel like you are part of the jet-set. Overflow pools, terraces with spectacular views are just a few of the hotel features that are often cheaper than you would expect. Small villas are also a popular option, but the best ones are mainly hidden in the small islands. Kythnos, Serifos, Sifnos, Milos and Kimolos will reveal their goodies and steal your hearts forever. These islands are considered one of the best routes for those looking to try Greek island hopping. You can either choose sailing around them or even get there by using the ferry routes!
Kythnos is located in the western Cyclades, between the islands of Kea and Serifos. Calm and lively, close to Athens and yet so far away, Kythnos is a destination worth visiting. The island was formerly called Thermia because of the hot springs that exist up to today in the area of Loutra. This island is going to be an incidental revelation. The game of contrasts starts from the port of Mericha, and continues to its Chora and Dryopida. Believe us, a weekend will seem so small compared to the richness that lies on the mountainous Dryopida and Chora, as you go along the strait coasts of Dogos and Agios Sostis. The first thing anyone can see in Kythnos is yachts and sailing boats in the port of Mericha, their owners are mostly Italians who organize group trips to the Western Cyclades. The best beaches of the island, without any doubt, are Apokrousi and Kolona. In the first one you can arrive pretty easily, but when approaching the stunning Kolona you will discover that even a 4X4 car is going to be unable to move onwards, suggesting the only way to keep going is to go on foot. You must have figured out by now that in Greece, the best beaches are hidden in the most unreachable places! The view of the sandy strip of land that connects Kythnos with the island of Agios Loukas and the crystal clear waters is truly worth all the trouble and the inconvenience to reach this destination. It will be a real revelation! Loutra is one of the most popular tourist resorts of Kythnos, known for its thermal springs. It is no coincidence, that Queen Amalia spent her holidays here. Continuous steep turns and sheep in the middle of the road (!) is what you will meet as you take the 4.5 km downhill route towards Loutra. A walk in Kythnos Chora is never enough. This beautiful, picturesque settlement will steal your heart from the very first moment. Wonderful houses, freshly painted alleys, small squares, beautiful churches and a wealth of shops to get your souvenirs. Go and explore Dryopida, a beautiful village built in a valley, unseen by the sea. There you will find the Folklore, Byzantine and Rural Museums. Dryopida is characterized by the neoclassical rhythm of its houses and stands out as a traditional village in the Cyclades, since it is the only village with tiled roofs. In this area you can find one of the largest caves in Greece, Katafyki. The natural part of the cave was created by an underground stream, which artificially carved the walls. It was a refuge for the inhabitants during the Second World War and it was also associated with religion, since after the Resurrection (Greek Easter tradition), the inhabitants of the village gathered a feast in the “big square” of the cave. Kythnos has a rich network of hiking routes. Some of them are marked, while the rest can be found in the new updated maps and walker’s guide.
Serifos is located in the Western Cyclades, in the area between Kythnos and Sifnos. The port of the island is in the village of Livadi, on the southeastern side of the island. For some, the best island of the Cyclades. They must know something you don’t, yet. Serifos is an island that you could return to every summer and discover something new to love each time. Its wild beauty creates a distinguished scenery authentic to the Cycladic landscape. The windswept slopes and the beaches where you can map all the geological phenomena of the Mediterranean make you want to explore more. Every corner of Serifos has its own special significance, its own sensual presence on the island. The best thing you can do in Serifos is to take your vehicle and go off the beaten path. This is where all the magical settings are hidden.
A swim in the double beach of Agios Sostis is necessary. You can sit either on the side with the pebbles that lays near the chapel or on the other side where the pebbles are finer and smoother. The Chora of Serifos is ideal for a walk, it is considered one of the most beautiful in the Cyclades. While most of the capital villages (Chora) are mainly lovely to be watched from afar while standing on the rock, Serifos Chora is best suited for walking in the alleys, with the wind blowing and playing games with you, making you think it’s going to pick you up. Beautiful when you see it from the harbour, even more, beautiful when you walk and explore it. If you are sucker for the sunsets… in Mega Livadi, you will find the best spot. It is amazing to see the sun go down above the old mines. You should try to find perhaps the most beautiful bar in the Aegean with the greatest balcony that gives you the best view of the Aegean Sea. It is located in a beautiful and carefully selected side in Chora, with fine drinks and interiors, all you have to do is ask around. In the Gulf of Platis Gialos that is constantly hit by the north wind you will admittedly find the best fish on the island, so a visit to one of the northernmost points of the island is considered imperative. Get lost in Ganema, possibly the largest beach of Serifos. It is a very long sandy beach both in length and in width that fits them all. You might not find shade anywhere, but there is a nice tavern with great fish choices to make your evening even better. If you are looking for an alternative afternoon, you could visit Vagia. You should go there for the scenic sunset. The bay takes magnificent colours and gives you the feeling of a cave as the sun gets lost behind the rock. The Castle in the Chora of Serifos is impeccable. The view from the church located on the highest point of Chora is truly magnificent. Make sure you find the courage to walk up there and spend at least half an hour gazing at the beauty of this magnificent place from above. You also have to acknowledge the beauty of Psili Ammos, the most famous beach of the island with wonderful white sand. The waters are stunningly blue because of the soil, you might have to walk a bit to see them deepen. In Livadakia, under the tamarisk trees, you’ll find your relaxation spot. One of the greatest experiences to help you unwind is falling asleep under the trees after your swim. This is beach is the closest to the busy harbour, which makes it ideal for the last dive before taking the return ferry…
The island of Sifnos is located in the Western Cyclades and its capital is Apollonia (or Stavri). A Cycladic island with character, aesthetics and a strong feeling that everything here is made with taste and passion. The trip to Sifnos lasts only around 2 hours and some minutes with the fast ferry from Piraeus Port and the first sense you get when you see the port, Kamares, for the first time is exactly this: Cyclades! Wonderful houses perched on a hill, whitewashed streets, flower gardens and all kinds of shops along the coastal road.
You can start your exploration from here, the capital of the island, the beautiful Apollonia. Apollonia is a name derived by the god Apollo. Apollonia is built amphitheatrically on three smoothly created hills, situated in the center of Sifnos. It is the largest village on the island and here you will find apart from many restaurants and accommodation options for public services, bank branches, pharmacies and all kinds of shops. The Cycladic aura is scattered everywhere. In every step you will discover a picturesque house, a special corner with colorful flowers or a magnificent church. The traditional architecture, the simple decoration and the cleanliness of the houses and the cobblestone streets are noticeable throughout the settlement. Choose one of the local coffee shops that are set on the main road of the village. Get a nice coffee and a honey-pie with unsalted mizithra cheese, honey and eggs — the right choice for your breakfast — while you observe the daily life of the locals. The central paved pedestrian street is impressive, as is the number of churches, which are inextricably linked and fully integrated into the residential complex. The whitewashed streets lead you to go further and discover all the hidden corners of a village that welcomes you. Purchase souvenirs and original jewellery from Sifnian silversmiths and do not forget to take with you one of the traditional Sifnian ceramics. The shops that sell ceramics made on the island have the name “Sifnos Pottery Association”. Sifnos is famous for its pottery, while traditional dishes of the island are the chickpea patties (Revithokeftedes), the caper salad (kaparosalata ), the stringbeans (Ampelofasoyla) with garlic sauce (skordalia). The inhabitants of Sifnos are by nature hospitable, cheerful and maintain their traditions and their local cooking recipes. The Siphnians are revelers and like gourmet cuisine, therefore they make excellent cooks. The unique flavors of local cuisine using pure materials make Sifnos stand out! It is no coincidence that Sifnos is the birthplace of many great cooks such as Nikos Tselementes. Visit the Folklore Museum of Sifnos in Heroes Square (opposite the post office), which includes exhibits from the traditional life of Sifnos. You might want to check out the only multi-site of the Cyclades, the “Cyclades Area”, also known as Rabagas. It is an old mansion, restored with care and respect and has a restaurant, bar, gallery, jewellery shop and clothing store. Here you will also find an exhibition area, where during the summer months you can see exhibitions of famous Greek and foreign artists. Its large courtyard is ideal for all hours of the day. The best way to spend your holiday days in Sifnos is by relaxing on the beach, swimming, eating fresh fish at the sea front taverns of Sifnos and maybe take some great walks on the hiking paths of the island. The best beaches are in Faros, in Kastro, but Platys Gialos is also recommended. Hersonissos is a beautiful deep bay, very lovely and quiet. Note that there are daily scheduled routes from Sifnos to Serifos (25 minutes) or Milos (55 minutes) by speedboats.
Milos is located at the southwestern tip of the Cyclades, in the middle of the Piraeus-Crete route, and has the shape of a petal, forming in its centre a great bay. An island different from the others. If you want to see the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, you will go to this island. The land of Milos was born out of a volcanic eruption and this actually the reason for the existence of many underground hot springs, which, combined with the magnetic fields, transmit waves of positive vibrations to the unsuspected visitors! Milos has the reputation of being a “couple island”, but you can have the same amazing time there with your company of friends.
Milos is one of the most exotic islands of the Aegean; the island where the Aphrodite of Milos was discovered. Aphrodite of Milos is one of the most famous ancient Greek sculptures in the world. It owes its name to the island where it was discovered and preserved today at the Louvre Museum, is one of its most important exhibits. The statue was discovered on 8 April 1820 by a Greek villager, in a place identified with the ancient Gymnasium of Milos. A characteristic of Milos is its natural harbour, Adamas, one of the largest in the Mediterranean. Combined with the island’s mineral wealth, it played an important role in the history, culture, economy and development of the inhabitants of Milos.
Having your vacation on Milos means getting down and climbing up to the mythical beaches of Papafrangas and Tsigrado (if you are quite daring), with a sacred purpose to swim in the bluest waters you may find in the Aegean. Another must is to visit the famous beach in Sarakiniko and walk on the odd, almost lunar landscape there — one of the most unique you can find in the whole world. You will admire the colourful rainbow of rocks that is depicted on the imposing rocks on the beach in Paleochori and the area around the Sulfur Mines. Milos has been famous since the prehistoric years, for its minerals such as perlite, obsidian, bentonite, while metal mining has also supported the economy of the island for centuries. Tsigrado, mentioned above is one of the best beaches you’ll ever visit. A small bay with little caves for exploration. Blue waters, fine sand, gets shady after 5 in the afternoon but with a big drawback: to get to the sandy beach you have to go “Tarzan” mode! If you want to follow a more comfortable path you can reach it by boat. Apart from other famous beaches like Fyriplaka, Agia Kyriaki, Plathiena, Palaiochori it is imperative that you take a sailing day trip to Kleftiko. Kleftiko is not a beach, nor is it just a massive rock formation as the postcards show. There are three adjoining bays with many caves to explore, sheltered bays to plough anchor and wonderful waters. To reach Kleftiko you can get a sailing boat or plain boat that depart from Adamas, Agia Kyriaki and Kipos (Garden). Most sailboats also offer tours to other beaches on the west side of the island, where you can not reach either by car or on foot.
During the summer months three to four times a week there are ferries connecting Milos with the islands of Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros, Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos and Syros, the islands of the eastern Kiklades Kassos, Karpathos, Halki, Rhodes, as well as the Heraklion and Sitia, Crete. If you are going to hop from one island to the next and try the famous Greek island hopping experience then we suggest that you spend at least 2–3 days on each island. Milos, for instance, needs even more days (at least 5) since there are so many locations around to be explored. It can easily be combined with Kimolos for your island hopping since they are right opposite each other.
Kimolos is located in the Western Cyclades very close to Milos island. The first sense that the island will give you is a total tranquillity. Here everything seems to be wrapped in a soft veil of serenity that relaxes you from the first minute you reach the harbour, Psathi. Its Chora, the traditional village, is the heart of the island. You will love having your coffee in the morning there. Great place to stroll through the freshly lined cobbled streets and enjoy the tranquillity of the Cycladic landscape with the beautiful whitewashed houses and the flower-filled courtyards.
The best spot in the village, the medieval castle, is a fortified settlement with distinctive architecture. It consists of the settlements of Mesra Kastro and Exo Kastro, which communicate with the “portares” (passages). The exterior walls of the houses are joined together creating a fortification enclosure. The number of its churches will amaze you, they seem to spring up in every corner. The tradition of the island is kept alive in the Folklore-Maritime Museum of Manolis Christoulakis. At the southern exit of the village, visit the picturesque fishermen’s village of Goupa with the “wires” (caves chiseled in the soft rock where the boats are kept), while in the Greek — Mavrospilia area you will make an appointment with history, since the ancient city of the island is immersed in the shallows, while on the beach you will see many ancient tombs from the Mycenaean to the Hellenistic period! In the northwest part of Kimolos, to the west of Sklavos Hill, there is a huge stone mushroom, which the inhabitants call it Skiadis, you must have seen it in plenty of pics about Kimolos. Very characteristic. The beaches of the island are another point you should not miss. The island offers you the best choices with organized or more isolated beaches. In Prassa, the full white sand and the turquoise waters will enchant you. Bonatsa has an organized beach, but also plenty of space to put your own umbrella. A walk in the village of Karras is a must if you like diving from the rocks. Driving down the narrow streets can be a bit difficult, but the beautiful scenery will compensate you. You might also want to check out Monastiria, Soufi, and Mavrospilia for a relaxing day.
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