Sail southeast on the Aegean from mainland Greece and you won’t go far before discovering one of the world’s most famous and beautiful island chains. The Cyclades consist of over 200 islands in a circular pattern surrounding one of the most famous islands in the chain, Delos. Visitors come from all over the world to stay in the iconic whitewashed buildings of Mykonos and Santorini or to enjoy the sunny beaches of Naxos. From history to culture and everything in between, cruising through the Cyclades should be on everyone’s bucket list!
Cyclades Islands Cruise
Have you ever noticed how so many cruise ships make stops at islands? That’s because nothing beats island life. A trip around the Cyclades is a vacation experience unlike any other. While each of the islands is a link of the chain, each has its own unique style that cruisers will love. Let’s take a look at some of the major and lesser islands which make up the Cyclades and get started planning your next cruise vacation!
When it comes to historical, mythological and cultural importance, the island of Delos stands apart from the rest of the Cyclades. Extensive archaeological work on the island have uncovered priceless works of art, groundbreaking discoveries about early humanity and uncovered countless sites of historical, political and religious importance.
The Sacred Lake of Delos is a great place to start for those exploring the island. In Greek Mythology, the lake was were Gods Apollo and Artemis were born and was widely considered one of the most sacred sites in all of Ancient Greece. The lake was drained nearly 100 years ago, but the spot still remains popular amongst tourists on the Northern section of the island. It’s there you’ll find the famous Terrace of Lions, white marble lion statues overlooking where the lake once was. It’s perhaps the most photographed place on the island!
Shaped irreversibly by volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, the island of Santorini is what most think of when they picture a Greek island vacation. Sprawling cliffs dotted with whitewashed stone homes and churches provide for unbelievable photo opportunities, as do the many wineries and pristine beaches found across the island.
Oia, a town on the island’s northern coast, offers stunning sunsets, five-star accommodations and the iconic white stone homes you’ve come to associate with the Greek islands. There’s no better place on the island to enjoy a delicious meal and a glass of wine after a day of exploring the many ancient sites.
Along with Santorini, Mykonos is perhaps the most famous of all the Cyclades. Tourists from all over the world come to what’s known as “The Island of the Winds” to visit historic sites, relax on the many sandy beaches and enjoy local cuisine influenced by thousands of years of history. Little Venice is an incredible section in the town of Mykonos overlooking the water with some of the best restaurants, historic homes and incredible views on the island. The island has numerous beaches each with a unique appeal that caters to every visitor. Platys Gialos Beach is considered one of the best on the island as it’s wide, has soft sand and a calm, shallow bay to swim in. Paradise Beach, however, is one spot where the younger crowd goes to enjoy the island’s robust nightlife.
Most are quick to notice one of the Mykonos’ staple features, 16 windmills which line the coast and are prominent to visitors from both land and sea. While no longer operational, the windmills go back hundreds of years and remain hotspots for photography and tourism today. Mykonos offers a unique mix of historical significance with modern amenities like luxury hotels, five-star restaurants, a new brewing company and numerous organic wineries.
Centrally located in Cyclades, the 3rd largest island in the chain, Paros is just a quick ferry ride away from Santorini and offers a whole new island to explore. It is mountainous at the center but with the same pristine beaches and ancient attractions found across the islands. Parikia, the bustling port town, exudes character thanks to its cobblestone streets, ancient churches and delightful old town area with shops and restaurants. Don’t miss Panagia Ekatontapilliani, “The Church of 100 Doors” in English, as it is one of the oldest and best preserved churches on the island.
The village of Lefkes, situated on a hill in the center of the island, was the first capital and built strategically high up in the hills, away from the ancient threat of foreign invaders. One of the island’s other popular towns, Parikia, is home to the Archeological Museum of Paros. It’s not a large museum, so it’s easy to fit into a busy day of sightseeing, but it holds some of the ancient artifacts found by archeologists over the years.
No matter which of the over 200 islands you explore, the Cyclades is sure to amaze, delight and leave you yearning for more. These islands offer a vacation experience unlike any other and visiting them on a cruise is the ideal way to see multiple islands and discover what makes each unique. Have you booked your trip to Greece yet? There’s no better time than now!