The Cyclades are the most famous island group; the islands everyone means when they talk of Greek island hopping. The island group lies just to the southeast of mainland Greece and Athens, as you can see on the map. Some of them you've heard lots about: Santorini is known for its laid back attitude and beautiful setting and Mykonos is known for its nightlife and the beautiful people who can afford it.
There are about 220 islands in all, many of them way too small to be put on the map. They are the peaks of submerged mountains, except for Milos and Santorini, which are volcanic islands.
Tinos, a lesser known Cycladic island is the religious center of Greece. Pilgrims come to seek spiritual comfort at the church of Panayia Meyalóhari.
Little Kea has the largest oak forest in the Cyclades. Bird watching is popular there.
Ios takes its name from the Greek word for the flower violet. The birthplace of Homer’s mother and the place of his tomb is said to be somewhere on Ios.
Getting to the Cyclades Islands
In summer, the Cyclades Islands are served by several ferry companies that will take you from Piraeus, the port of Athens or Rafina to the islands and between islands. In the off season fewer ferries run. Each year the schedules are "tweaked" to align them with expected traffic, so be sure to check the year of any schedule you find on the net.
Faster boats make it from Piraeus to the larger islands in just a few hours, contributing to the Greek island hopping popularity of the Cyclades.
To the smaller Cyclades Islands like Donousa, you can get around by Caiques, a sort of water taxi that can be hired from the small ports on the islands.
The best and most understandable resource for ferry schedules in Greece is DANAE ferry tickets online.
There are airports in Naxos, Mykonos and Santorini which host charter flights from Europe. Smaller airports are found in Paros, Milos and Syros.
See a Map of Mykonos showing the beaches and the airport.
Ancient Greeks called the cyclades kyklades, imagining them as a circle (kyklos) around the sacred island of Delos, the site of the holiest sanctuary to Apollo, according to Timeline of Art History. Early Cycladic culture started in the third century b.c. and developed metallurgy quickly due to the rich deposits of ores on the islands. The stone carvings, mainly of female forms in white marble, are renowned throughout the art world.
Recommended Cycladic Museums
The Museum of Cylcadic Art in Athens is a good source of information on the culture.
The Milos Mining Museum addresses the mineral wealth on the island of Milos.
The island of Delos, near Mykonos, is itself is an open air museum. Delos is considered by experts to be the birthplace of Apollo, and is home to some of Greece’s most important archaeological ruins.
On the island of Andros you'll find the Cyclades Olive Museum, an old and well-preserved animal-drawn olive mill that has been renovated and converted into a museum.
You will find it in the village of Ano Pitrofos.
Cyclades Islands Guides
Greece Travel offers a Quick Guide to the Cycladic Islands, which will give you an idea of each of the island's charms. deTraci Regula also recommends a visit to the Smaller Cyclades Islands.
What's the weather likely to be? The climate is generally dry and mild. For historic climate charts as well as current weather, see Santorini Travel Weather.