Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Travel Fantastic: Whistle-stop tour of the Cyclades, Greece

When I was deciding on the title for this post I started out with 'A guide to Milos, Sifnos, Folegandros, Paros, Naxos....et al.' But I quickly realised that was becoming a total tounge twister! Luckily for me, the Greeks have a collective name for this cluster of rocky outcrops in Agean ocean - The Cyclades. (Thank goodness!)

And these islands are literally that - huge rocky mounds that push straight up out of the azure blue ocean in a series of sharp dramatic cliffs. This makes for dramatic scenery, raw beauty and a drop of mystery. The islands are inhabited by a rock gardener's dream collection of hardy succulents that are tough, tenacious and tireless! And so they need to be, with the Methini wind sweeping over these isolated isles for many months of the year you need to be a tough cookie to survive these extremes.

We spent a week doing some serious island hopping, spending each night on a different island. We were the guests of my wonderful parents in law on board their gorgeous sailboat. We stayed is small marinas on each isle, sailing and motoring between Islands during the day. And by night mooring up in  series of small marinas scattered across the Cyclades!

By virtue of the early season, the marinas were quiet and the waters even more so! This one above was probably busiest we visited! 


I landed in Milos, a gorgeous little island. The small cute town of the same name rises up over a small hill, with a little church on the top. It sits on the edge of a wonderful large bay and is really the most beautiful setting! The seafront has a handful or lovely fish restaurants and they'll even cook you home caught tuna fish for you if you ask nicely!!

We spotted this colourful waterfront as we left the bay, what a colourful collection of beach huts! Would love to go back and explore this coastline on foot, those colours are so enticing!  


This is maybe my favourite of all the islands, one of the least developed and least touristy! We stayed at Platis Gialos which had a delightful little bay with a lovely long sandy beach and a series of small cute restaurants and modest homes along the beachfront that opened straight onto the beach! This would be a wonderful place to come back to for a week long holiday or with a family. It felt incredibly safe and easy (other than getting there!). There was just one (fabulous) restaurant open in the village at this time of the season and we had the beach and the crystal clear water completely to ourselves! Bliss!

Leaving the next morning on our way to Folengandros, we came across then most wonderful sight - a large pod of dolphins! There was possibly 7-8 of them in total and it was amazing to see. We didn't get too close, but we think they may have had some young with them as usually they are curious to investigate sea vessels pasig, but instead they kept their distance. 

A day or so later we saw another dolphin, this time a large lone male and he came right up to the boat and dove beneath us!! If you're a fan of these darling aquatic creatures, then sailing around these islands is a must! 


The small bay and harbour of Karavostasis was both practical and delightful! We clambered over the hills and cliffs to find some wonderful deserted tiny beaches! And a short bus ride yo the hill was the Chora of Folegandros, a gorgeous hill top town, full of tiny white houses with splashes of colour creating the most delightful vignettes at every turn through the meandering narrow streets.

The view from the cliff-tops was breathtaking (and the perfect spot for a sneaky little selfie!) and while exploring the village we stumbled across the most exquisite square in the Chora. Nothing beats dining alfresco at the best of times, and in this setting with the textured walls, rustic wooden tables and chairs, twinkling lights and it's own dancing begging dog (I kid you not!) it was truly heavenly!


The welcome you get as you arrive into the bay is gorgeous, the first thing you see is this unmissable church perched on the peninsular towards the opening of the bay.

For the party capital of the Cyclades, Ios was rather sedate in May! Ios is less untouched than the other islands, the town is a little functional and the water on the beach was no where near as clear as the other bays we stopped in. This may have had something to do with the large swell we had on our evening in Ios, walking the plank from the boat to the quayside was a mini adventure in it's own right each time!! Thankfully none of us had an impromptu dip this time round!


This was my second favourite Island of the trip. It was even more untouched and quiet than Sifnos. We stayed in a tiny bay on the South West of the Island and again the waters were totally clear and divine.  There were only two boats on the quay and a handful that anchored in the tiny bay and again it was a one-restaurant village. Perfection.


The most cosmopolitan of all the islands we visited. Naoussa on the Island of Paros was actually rather chic and sophisticated! The seafront and old marina was lined with smart fish restaurants that each vied for your custom, hanging out their squid out front to tenderise it in the sun! 

The old port was an absolute delight, so many gorgeous tiny fishing boats in all shades of blue and turquoise an instagramers dream!!

The small narrow streets wound up the hill and were full of hidden shopping gems, selling all sorts of good quality wares such as jewellery, beachwear and shoes! A shoppers paradise! 


Naxos was our last stop on the trip. The history of Naxos was fabulous, from the old castle at the very top of the town, that we stumbled upon whilst exploring, to the ancient arch on the peninsular. No idea how this remains upright in the face of the Methini winds, but it frames the town marvellously!

And that rounds up our whisle-stop tour of the Cyclades. Phew, sounds exhausting, right?! ;) Don't feel too sorry for us!

It only remains for me to say a huge thank you to these two super smart sailors for putting up with us on board, teaching us the ropes, saving us from scrapes and generally spoiling us rotten. Cheers!

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