Kyklades… er… Roadtrip

Sea trip or ferry trip would be more precise, but road trip is more accurate.

For 22 days, beginning October 4, we had the good fortune to tour the Kykladic islands (otherwise known as the Cyclades). We planned out trip to coincide with the arrival of some great friends from Canada in Santorini. What we had hoped for was to get a sense of and experience island life on different islands. Compare and contrast, and all that.

Here’s the basic trip: Piraeus – Milos (3 days) – Santorini (8 days) – Naxos (6 days) – Mikonos (3 days) – Syros (2 days)

2014-10 kyklades Island Trip map

Each island, a different vibe

Milos (three days)

Our first island is a visual beauty, borne of volcanism and tectonic processes. There’s a laid back vibe here; sure, there are beaches and restaurants, but not much in the way shopping or nightlife. The attraction here is the scenery. We rented a car here for the three days, and it was necessary to see the different corners of the island. There were not many tourists here, not many at all. We had the best meal of our trip (so far) here.

Santorini (eight days)

A perfectly stunning island, but for different reasons. Here, the man-built environment – the towns built and perched upon the lip of a volcanic caldera – shines brilliantly. The two main towns (the ones that everyone knows) are Fira and Oia, but there are others too… Perissa, Kamari, Finikia are are very different. Shopping seems to be the main tourist attraction here, and this late in the season (with a dozen or more cruise ships over the days) the streets were busy. They become unwalkable during the height of the season.

But scenery aside, Thera has one of the most brilliant archeological sites in the world. Think Pompeii, but in Greece, and fully enclosed. Are at least the 5% of it that’s been excavated. So many treasures to uncover.

Naxos (six days)

Naxos is the antithesis to touristy. A lot of tourists do come here (no doubt), and there are plenty of beach resorts (most closed for the season) to be seen. But the vibe is casual and workmanlike. This is a functional island that grows food and basks in moisture. There are mountains, small towns, beaches, and roads toe explore, and we did, by car, for our six days. We swam at the the finest beach of our trip (so far) and we had it all to ourselves.

Mikonos (three days)

This is a party island. Or at least it would be at the height of the season. At the end of October most of the stores and all of the clubs are closed. A few more stores open up when the odd cruise ship shows up, but there’s no enthusiasm. We spent our days wandering around the village, watching sunsets, and buying komboloi beads. Nice to have visited, but just to say we did.

Delos (a day trip from Mikonos)

Birthplace of Apollo, home of Mycenaeans, the Classical Greeks, paleo-Christians, and Romans… this island is UNESCO World Heritage Site for all of those reasons. 18 Euros gets you a return trip to a huge archeological site, and you can walk the streets and almost imagine the bustling port city this used to be.

Syros (two days)

Syros is another working island, the administrative centre for the Kyklades. Its major town, Ermoupoli, is the largest in the islands, so different again, with streets paved with marble slabs. You cannot believe how beautiful this place is at night, with a light misting of rain. And if you want a taste of something more traditional, head up to Ano Syros and get lost in the maze of streets. We did; you extricate yourselves by heading downhill.

Cycladic IslandsClockwise from the top: Syros, Delos, Santorini, Naxos, Mikonos, Milos.

 

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