I’m currently writing an article to appear on the Lonely Planet website, covering ‘possibly the best Greek islands you’ve never heard of’. In this case: the Small Cyclades, four tiny islets in the Cyclades group, strung between Naxos and Amorgos. They’re quiet, idyllic and scenic, and offer a chance to hit the pause button and escape the crowds. Revisiting my notes and photos has seen me spend way too much time lost in dreamy recollections of whitewashed villages and unbelievably friendly locals, and prompted me to post a little more on my Greek research from earlier this year.
In this slightly mad, two-month odyssey I visited the 24 inhabited islands that comprise the Cyclades. This includes the much-hyped island supermodels high on travellers’ bucket lists (Mykonos and Santorini) and some excellent, well-known holiday destinations like Ios, Naxos and Paros. They were all deserving of high praise, but for me, the real joy came in discovering lesser-known gems.
I have frequently been asked to name my favourite island(s) – and this is a ridiculously tough question to answer. With some difficulty I’ve narrowed my list of favourites down to five…
Koufonisia One of the aforementioned Small Cyclades, this small island is a scenic knockout – the sea here was the clearest, most swim-enticing I saw (and it faced some tough competition, I promise you).
Tinos A real surprise package – an island where tourism takes a back seat to culture and religion. The villages here were full of local marble – in Pyrgos, I felt I had stumbled onto a film set. The local marble museum was fabulously done. My favourite feature was the dovecotes scattered throughout the valleys.
Antiparos Another small gem, off the larger island of Paros, with a ‘secret getaway’ factor that puts it on the radar of those who don’t like to be disturbed: Euro royalty and A-list rockstars holiday here; Tom Hanks has a holiday home here.
Folegandros This island is home to the prettiest village in the Cyclades, all spilling bougainvillea and alfresco tables buzzing with life. Its meandering main street winds happily from leafy square to leafy square.
Sifnos A consummate all-rounder that was a delight to discover – I’m amazed it isn’t better known. A very chic main town plus photogenic villages and beaches, great walking trails and a fabulous food pedigree (and ace restaurants).
Can I extend the five to seven?? Close runners-up: Milos and Amorgos.