Ancient sun-bleached ruins pierce blue skies as the Aegean laps at the endless coastline. And Greek culture is alive with passionate music, inspired cuisine and thrill-seeking activities.
Greece is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, ranking in the world’s top 20 countries: many first-time visitors arrive in Greece with specific images in mind and are surprised to discover a country with such regional and architectural diversity.
The famous whitewashed homes and charming blue-domed churches only characterize a specific region of the country, the Cyclades Islands:
Santorini‘s multicoloured cliffs that soar above the sea-drowned caldera are unforgettable. The main towns of Fira and Oia – a snow-drift of white Cycladic houses that line the cliff tops and spill like icy cornices down the terraced rock – will take your breath away. And then there’s the sunsets, the glorious sunsets. And the island’s fascinating history, best revealed at the Minoan site of Akrotiri.
Discover ancient Akrotiri, the Minoan town destroyed by volcanic eruption. Its buildings were buried, preserving their contents, including the remains of the fine frescoes you’ll see in the Museum of Prehistoric Thira.
From here, enjoy Profitis Ilias with its impressive panoramas.
Mykonos is the great glamour island of Greece and flaunts its sizzling St-Tropez-meets-Ibiza style and party-hard reputation.
The high-season mix of hedonistic holidaymakers, cruise-ship crowds and posturing fashionistas throngs Mykonos Town (aka Hora), a traditional whitewashed Cycladic maze, delighting in its cubist charms and its chichi cafe-bar-boutique scene.
Mykonos is the jumping-off point for the archaeological site of the nearby island of Delos:
The Cyclades fulfil their collective name (kyklos means circle) by encircling the sacred island of Delos, where light was born.
It’s a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s an ark of history, floating lazily on the waters of the Aegean Sea, just a few miles away from cosmopolitan Mykonos. It’s a chance to walk around the revival of the glory of the Greek civilization. It’s the head priest of the Cyclades, the birthplace of the immortals.
Nowadays, Delos reserves its uniqueness to the know world: nowhere else in the Globe is there a natural insular archaeological site of this size and importance. No other island on Earth hosts so many monumental antiquities from the Archaic, the Classical, and the Hellenistic periods, i.e. the centuries of the great Greek art, on a territory used exclusively as an archaeological site.
Located only one hour away from Attica and perfect for a weekend getaway, Kea (also known as Tzia) is a rich Cycladic world teeming with surprises.
The first impression is that Kea’s landscape is typical of the Cyclades, yet behind this exterior, Kea has a surprisingly unique and varied landscape: oak forests; a few olive trees; rugged rocky slopes interspersed by almond groves and, scattered throughout, tasteful summer homes, many of which have been built by charismatic architects inspired by the simplicity of Kea’s traditional farmhouses built out of local stone.
The majority of the beaches are small and secluded, however, there are some with amenities and varying facilities. If you would like to be somewhere that is partly organised and has some tourist facilities, the best beaches are Gialiskari, Koundouros and Korissia. Whilst it can be busier on the weekends with Athenians escaping the city, during the week it is usually very quiet. Gialiskari is particularly picturesque with its surrounding eucalyptus trees and crystal clear water and -if you’re an avid hiker- there is a 30-minutescenic trail down to the beach from Ioulida.
Despite being connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, making it one of the few Greek islands that you can drive to, Lefkada remains surprisingly unaffected by tourism.
Laid-back Lefkada Town is a charming place to spend a day or two, while the hills of the interior still conceal timeless villages and wild olive groves, and the rugged west coast holds some amazing beaches, albeit in some cases badly damaged by recent earthquakes. Only along the east coast are there some overdeveloped enclaves; if you continue all the way south you’ll find stunning little bays and inlets, as well as windy conditions that attract kitesurfers and windsurfers from all over the world.
Lefkada was originally a peninsula, not a true island. Corinthian colonisers cut a canal through the narrow isthmus that joined it to the rest of Greece in the 8th century BC.