The Greek island group the Cyclades is the perfect destination for island hopping. You can easily combine a visit to several islands in one trip. In this guide I’ll give you tips and information on how to plan the perfect island hopping trip!
About the Cyclades
For the ones who don’t know the Cyclades that well: it’s an island group in the Aegean Sea which belongs to Greece. The Cyclades exist out about 56 islands, but the most well-known ones are Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos and Andros. A big characteristic of the Cyclades are the white houses with blue doors and frames. Especially for island hopping the islands are popular. There are beautiful beaches, cosy towns, delicious local restaurants and a warm atmosphere.
How to get there
Planning a trip to the Cyclades starts with looking at how to get here in the first place. Best would probably be to book flights on Athens or Santorini, depending on which islands you’re planning to visit. Athens and Santorini often have good flight connections, but also Mykonos may be an option. Best is to have a look at Skyscanner for all the flight possibilities.
For our own trip, we booked a flight to Athens and a return flight from Santorini. In that way, we didn’t need to go all the way back from Santorini to Athens to get our return flight. Personally, I found it really nice to start the trip in Athens. We booked two nights in the city before we went to Paros, which is absolutely a recommendation.
Going from A to B
The best way to get around the Cyclades, to get from island to island, is by ferry. The ferry network is quite big and there are so many possibilities. This is the perfect way to get around the Cyclades! You can chose to book a fast ferry or a ferry which takes a little longer. A few of the ferry companies are Blue Star Ferries, SeaJets and Golden Star Ferries. Of course it also depends on what day and time you’d like to go on which ferry company you’ll end up eventually. It’s recommended to have a good look at the ferries and chose the one which fits best.
Take into account that the ferry schedules can always change.
When you arrive at an island, you can take a transfer towards your accommodation. This shouldn’t be that hard to arrange, but it’s also possible to arrange this beforehand.
For most islands, especially the bigger ones, it’s recommended to rent a car during your stay if you’d like to see some more from the island. Having the rental car with you for the whole trip makes it quite expensive, especially because you’ve to pay the ferry boat as well for the car. It’s better to rent a car just for a few days (or only one day) on the island.
Creating an itinerary
The Cyclades count many islands and I can imagine that it’s difficult to decide which islands you’d like to go to. Of course it’s not a surprise that you’d like to visit them all when you have the chance, but most travelers don’t have that much time.
In the map above you can find the itinerary of my trip to the Cyclades. Like told before, I started the trip with two nights in Athens, which I really liked. Afterwards, I went to Paros for three nights, Naxos for three nights and eventually Santorini for two nights. I would say it’s best to plan a minimum of three nights per island. In that way, you can explore most the islands. I personally found my time on Santorini quite short, that’s why I’d take a minimum of three nights as a recommendation.
As for the choice of islands: it’s really hard for me to say to which islands you should go, as the interests differ per traveler. I think it’s best to read up on the Cyclades a lot online and to see which islands appeal to you. My personal favorite island (from the ones I’ve visited) is Paros, as it’s a relaxing, quiet and authentic island. Below I’ve written a small paragraph per visited island, but for Paros and Naxos I’ve also written an extensive post which you can all find here.
One tip: it’s really handy to plan your itinerary in an online map like I did in the map above. In that way, you can create a logical route and minimize the distance you need to travel by ferry.
Paros is one of the more unknown islands of the Cyclades. This beautiful island is overloaded with atmospheric towns, beautiful beaches and romantic bays. You can see much of the island in one day (if you have a rental car). The town of Naoussa is a must visit, as it has a beautiful port, white houses, typical Cycladic small alleys and lots of shops and bars. For me it was the perfect place to stay. Other nice places to visit on the island are Parikia (the place where you arrive by ferry), Antiparos, Piso Livadi and Lefkés.
Naxos is an atmospheric island with imposing mountain massifs, fertile valleys, delicious Greek food and locals who love to welcome you! It’s a beautiful island where you can easily spend a few days. The capital of Naxos, Naxos Town, is the place where you’ll arrive by ferry. It’s a typical Cycladic town with boutique shops, small streets but also with a nice boulevard and one of thé images of Naxos: the Temple of Apollo (the Portara of Naxos). Furthermore, you’ll find traditional villages and a diversity of beaches on the island.
Santorini is of course the most popular Cycladic island. With its crystal-clear waters, white building and pretty blue roofs it isn’t a surprise. Compared to the other two islands, this island is even more focused on tourists. You can see it at the boulevard, where there are so many cafés and restaurants. You can go to Oia for an incredible sunset or you can pay a visit to the Tholos Naftilos volcano just in front of the coast of Santorini.
Have you been to the Cyclades? What are you experiences? If you have any questions or tips, please feel free to share them in the comment section below!