There’s nowhere like the Greek islands, though it’s a little tricky choosing which ones to visit – with 227 speckled around the Aegean. Richly clustered together are the Cyclades, a great starting point for first time visitors to Greece.
Whether you have two weeks or two months, the Cyclades are a great place to start – Mykonos, Paros, Santorini and Ios.
Colourful cocktails, towns drenched in white paint, and a place that will literally blow you away – to clarify I’m referring to the ridiculous winds, not anything else you sickies…
Strategically speaking, Mykonos should be your number one island stop to get you into party mode. With skies and seas that share the same turquoise glow and beaches lined with sun-kissed bodies, Mykonos draws people from all around the world.
How to get there: A ferry from Athens is the most beautiful way to travel. Blue Star ferries travel from Athens’ Piraeus port. As soon you see guy screaming “meow, meow” board the ferry, listen up. He sells the most incredible Greek nougat, using milk amazing enough to attract islands’ cats (dodgy joke I know, no one ever said Greeks were funny). Otherwise, you can take the boring route and fly.
Where to stay: If you want to be in the midst of the atmosphere, stick yourself in Paradise Beach Club. Don’t expect incredible accommodation, it’s about location. You get full access to the beach, clubs and parties, where names like Avicii, Afrojack, Hardwell and Bob Sinclar perform. However, be prepared to pay €50 a night for a cabin shack.
What to do:
- Check out the windmills in the town of Chora.
- A short walk away, familiarise yourself with the island’s religious history by visiting Panagia Paraportiani, a church which has been standing proudly since the 17th century.
- Paradise Beach! Grab your towels, slap on the sunscreen and your itty-bitty bikinis, and take a swim in one of Greece’s most renowned beaches. WARNING! While swimming, do not sit on the rock bank in the water and decide to admire the view. You will, get a crazy as rash on your ass that wont want to leave.
- Get your Latin on by getting down with the dancers at Paradise Beach’s Guapaloca club. If you head to its neighbour Tropicana, I advise you wear butt pads unless you want ambitious Italians clawing at your mortadella.
If the islands were people, Paros would be the really suave, slick guy chilling in the corner. Paros used to be what Mykonos is now; the ultimate party hub.. So much so, the council had cut off access to the island for years, as accommodation couldn’t keep up with the tourism demands. Tourists were left homeless upon arrival. The years of closure has allowed Paros to regenerate, making it one of my favourite islands
Where to stay: If for some reason you have been longing for a Greek mother to love and feed you, run to Hotel Dina. The owner (yes, Dina) welcomes you with juice and a whole lot of exuberance. The rooms are traditionally Greek and the perfect environment to rehabilitate yourself from your potentially insane Mykonos adventures.
What to do:
- Boat cruise around Paros and its brother island, anti-Paros- take a day to tan, swim, and snorkel through the caves of anti-Paros. Usually, you will be treated to some Greek nibbles- fresh octopus, tzatziki and skewers. After that, jump of the top of your boat and lose yourself in some of the world’s richest waters.
- Dinner at Krios beach– chomping on mussels saganaki is a must!
- Just because it isn’t classified as a ‘party island’, doesn’t mean you should hold yourself back. The front of Parakia is where you will find a cluster of bars and small clubs. If you are a student and want free drinks, time to get your Coyote Ugly on at the Tequila Bar and score free shots. (Applies for both guys and girls.)
- Get lost! The roads surrounding Parakia’s main street, Market Street, were designed in a way that they would confuse pirates who tried to invade the island during ancient times. Sure, you may feel like you are walking in a straight line, but no, you’ll have found yourself doing a full circle. Ultimate troll.
The Regina George of the Cyclades. The towns of Fira and Oia are situated 300 meters above Santorini’s indigo seas. Dripping in a cliff-face restaurants which border masses of gorgeous jewellery stalls, Santorini is what will suck your pockets dry. But trust me, its worth it.
Where to stay: Make things easy for yourself and find a place in Santorini’s capital, Fira. Buses travel from to the port as well as the sister village Oia and the famous black and red beaches.
What to do:
- Day cruise to Nea Kameni, Santorini’s volcano which cheekily changed the globe’s temperature by 2 degrees back when it was a young sprout and active. You will also take you to the sulphur springs, the oceans natural hot springs. Be sure not to wear white bathers, unless you want them turning brown.
- Donkey ride! For a mere €5 you can get a persistent little fella to take you from the old port in Fira, right back up to the top. It’s unbelievable that people call donkeys stubborn, they’re incredibly hard-working! Let’s see, would you be up for carrying chubby foreigners 20 minutes up a hill?
- Walk down the donkey trail! It’s great fun, if you are heading down to the old port, ditch the cable cart and walk down the donkey trail which isn’t used in the morning. Sure, you’ll have a few stacks in donkey droppings, but the view shits on that.
- Seeing the Oia sunset. This is an absolute non-negotiable. Oia’s sunset will hypnotise you with its captivating warm amber glow. Forget everything for 5 minutes and sink with the sun as it disappears into Santorini’s mystical horizon.
Here’s a note, ditch the Santorini wine tours. Greek wine is crap.
Ios could be described as the baby sister that all of a sudden became extremely hot. Ios was totally underestimated as an island. Now it laughs at all of the others that once doubted it, proving size really doesn’t matter. Up in the village (which no one actually lives in), bars and clubs hug every corner you turn.
Where to stay: Seabreeze Hotel is an absolute must! Placed on a quiet hilltop, Seabreeze offers a stunning elevated view of the exquisite Ionian port. That’s the way to be waking up in Greece. Try and stay away from the hustle and bustle of Far Out Beach Club.
Annarie is the South-African fireball that runs Seabreeze and welcomes you just as a Greek would – with open arms and drinks! The hotel offers a stunning elevated, 180-degree view of the port.
What to do:
- Kayaking, snorkelling and scuba-diving around the Mylopotas Beach bay. If you are in Greece and not spending enough time in incredible waters, you are doing it wrong.
- Dinner and a dance at Far Out Beach Club. Even if you aren’t staying there, you must go. The inescapable mix of music and the beach creates an enthusing ambience guaranteed to get you into the party mood. A fanciful start to a night out. Ios is Greece’s number one party island, so regardless of your age, grab your filoi (mates) and organise an epic club crawl.
Here are some pit stops that should be included:
- Fun pub
- Blue Note
- Slammer Bar
- Sweet Irish Dreams
If you are considering or are travelling to Europe in the holidays, don’t let the Greek islands slip away from your itinerary. Life is forever rushed – island time could be the best way to rejuvenate. Yiassou.