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23 July 2014

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Paradise on Earth

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Holidaying on an island is a magical experience; but holidaying on a Greek island is truly unforgettable. Blue-domed churches, cobbled streets and pristine beaches are standard – but distinct character and unique gastronomy is what gives each island its individual personality. From bustling towns and villages to secluded beaches, the islands offer some of the best travel experiences in Greece. A short ferry ride from Athens, the gorgeous Cyclades are made up of 30 islands including world-famous destinations Mykonos and Santorini.

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Mykonos is a whitewashed paradise, well known for its glamorous nightlife as well as amazing sandy beaches. Stroll down charming narrow streets and visit little white churches scattered around its capital Hóra. There’s plenty to see and do for all types of holidaymakers – whether you want to watch the world go by at a waterfront café in ‘Little Venice’ or get wet with diving and windsurfing lessons on Kalafatis beach. Eating and drinking is also an important part of any vacation and Mykonos doesn’t disappoint. Treat yourself to local Aegean specialities, such as the island’s gastronomic trademark: the pepper-flavoured soft cheese called kopanisti. For a mini adventure, blow away the cobwebs with a short boat trip to Delos – a tiny archaeological gem.
Santorini (pictured right), meanwhile, boasts its own archaeological site – Akrotiri is an ancient Minoan town and it adds to the island’s famous, dramatic views. With its multicoloured houses and blue-domed churches perched on the caldera slopes, it’s no wonder Santorini is one of the most visited islands in Greece. You can enjoy exquisite clear waters from the rim of a massive active volcano in the middle of the sea – or take a trip to the islets of Thirassia, Palea and Nea Kameni. Santorini’s seaside treasures boast deep blue waters lapping red, white or black sand – or volcanic pebbles, spectacular rock formations and lunar landscapes. You could even start your honeymoon early; the island has a growing reputation as a wedding destination and you can tie the knot with the famous caldera sunset as the ultimate romantic backdrop.

How to get there:

Direct flights from the UK to Mykonos and Santorini run from April to November. Flights to Athens are year-round and you can access Mykonos and Santorini by ferry from Athens/Piraeus as well as many surrounding islands.

True Holiday Havens

Milos__Firopotamos6.jpg6.jpgDistinctive character and literal roots in gastronomy give Sifnos and Milos (pictured left) their charm. Sifnos has a rich tradition in both pottery and cuisine and it is known for its delicious casseroles baked in clay-fired gástres (pots) – the origin of the word gastronomy. Look out for the island’s capital, Apollonia, and sail into its port, Kamares. Meanwhile, colourful shores, weird rock formations, unspoiled natural beauty and remote beaches make Milos special. It’s the ideal destination for serene getaways and romantic escapes and it is also home to important archaeological finds. The island’s port is Adamas and its capital Plaka. 

How to get there:

Milos has a domestic airport with direct flights from Athens. Both Sifnos and Milos are accessible by boat from Athens/Piraeus and most surrounding islands.

Iconic Odyssey 

A little less known than Mykonos and Santorini, perhaps, but seductively beautiful: check out Ios, Paros, and Naxos. The biggest and greenest island, Naxos enjoys 60 miles of sandy beaches, impressive mountains, stunning seascapes and traditional villages. Nearby Ios is famous for its golden beaches and it is said to be the birthplace of Homer’s mother - and the place of his own tomb. Take a stroll around listed traditional village Hóra – one of the finest examples of Cycladic architecture – or soak up the atmosphere on this party island. Meanwhile, Paros is famous for its crystal-clear waters, picturesque fishing villages and varied nightlife. It’s a top destination for water sport fanatics and young travellers. 


How to get there:

Paros and Naxos have a domestic airport with direct flights from Athens. They are also accessible by boat. Ios is only accessible by boat.

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The Minor Cyclades, comprising Donousa (pictured right), Irakleia, Koufonisia and Schinousa, as well as nearby Amorgos and Folegandros, offer a truly authentic island experience. Luc Besson’s 80s movie The Big Blue was set in Amorgos, where hiking trails, beautiful beaches, scenic bays and gorgeous caves for diving are on offer. The most impressive landmark is the Hozoviotissa Monastery, which hangs over a cliff. Irakleia, Schinousa, Donousa and Koufonisia are off-the-beaten-track retreats, dreamy and unspoiled, while Folegandros is one of the most remote Cyclades islands and largely untouched – it takes time to get there but it rewards with pristine beaches away from the crowds.


How to get there:

These islands are only accessible by boat. There are daily ferries from Athens/Piraeus and most surrounding islands.

Published 24/6/14

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