The Cyclades islands are the most popular tourist destination in all of Greece. Nothing at all quite beats the stark landscape of these islands - the blue sky atop the white-washed buildings scattered on barren land. The most popular of the lot are Santorini and Mykonos and if you are a first-time visitor with only a short holiday period, then these are literally the ones you must see. These are the islands that make the Cyclades what the world knows them to be. Of course, there are numerous other island choices in this archipelago of more than 200 islands in total. So, if you want to explore more the other islands to see are: Amorgos, Andros, Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Koufonisi, Kythnos, Milos, Naxos, Paros, Sifnos, Serifos, Sikinos, Syros and Tinos.
Seeing the islands is easy, especially in the summer season, when numerous ferries make the journeys between the islands. This excellent choice of travel is easy and it seems that every island is connected to the other. Island-hopping, going from one island to the other, maybe two or three a day, is the ultimate hobby in the Cyclades.
The islands of the Cyclades are exquisite destinations with contemporary facilities, but all of them have their long and ancient past, after all, there are archaeological finds that date many settlements on these islands as far back as the Neolithic Age. But one of the most well preserved and noticeable historical periods in the region is the Byzantine Age and this can be enjoyed by visiting the countless Byzantine churches and monasteries scattered over the islands. While the bigger islands and beach resorts have become very modern, with all the best facilities for travellers, some of the smaller islands remain almost untouched by time. As such, many of the islands are rich in museums - archaeological and folkloric - reflecting the age-old history of the region.
The islands are also rich centres of culture and art. Many local and foreign artists make the Cycladic islands their home and as such there are hundreds of art galleries scattered around the islands. Many artists hold art workshops for beginners and professionals, alike. Some writers hold writers workshops. The atmosphere on many of the islands is artistic. This means that for art-lovers or for tourists seeking quality souvenirs, many of these islands and the art galleries offer excellent artworks, paintings and sketches that have been inspired by and reflect life on these unique islands.
Because the islands are destinations of rest and relaxation for many tourists, you will find that many experts in relaxation and exercise techniques - Alexander Technique, Pilates, Reiki - have their base here and provide services and workshops right here in the most idyllic locations. On the other hand, the Cycladic islands are often synonymous with endless parties, and some of the bigger and more popular islands, such as Mykonos seem to have been designed purely with this purpose in mind. Whether it is relaxation and rejuvenation you are after, or socialising and partying, there is an island designed just for you.
On the island of Amorgos, for example, you will find excellent beaches and numerous nightclubs, but also the Byzantine monastery of Chozoviotissa. On Andros, you will find a unique shipping museum, reflecting the island's age-old industry.
On Folegandros you will find an island that has yet to be really discovered, apart from the active artistic community that calls it home. On Ios, you will find one of the most quaint islands with a most impressive nightlife.
On the island of Kea, also known as Tzia, you will find an excellent destination for tourists who want something less manufactured. This is one of the most popular island destinations for Greeks. On Koufonisi you will find excellent seafood and a tiny community of local inhabitants, making it one of the most homely of the islands. On Kythnos, you will find the famous hot springs, perfect for a therapeutic getaway.
On Milos island you will find volcanic rock formations and hot springs and numerous archaeological finds. On Mykonos you will find the ultimate party island of decadence. On Naxos you will find one of the most fertile of the normally barren Cycladic islands with stunning natural scenery. On Paros, you will find excellent opportunities for water sports, while on Antiparos you will find lazy beaches and cafés.
On Santorini you will find one of the most sublime views in the world, that of the Caldera. On Sifnos, you will find an island that is full of life, but for families and for an over-30 crowd. On Serifos, you will find spectacular scenery and beaches, some of the best in all of the Cyclades. On Syros, you will find a quaint old town centre and on Tinos you will find the spiritual site that attracts hundreds of visitors during the festival of the Virgin each year in August, the Church of Panagia Evangalestria.
The Cycladic islands are so numerous and so unique that it would take more than a lifetime to explore them all. The best one can do is visit again and again, as often as one can, and take in as much or as little as this magical region in the Aegean has to offer.
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