Travel Guide: Cyclades Islands, Greece

It’s hard to believe this time last year my husband and I visited the beautiful islands of Greece. And now I have a newborn snoozing in my arms as we speak. Oh how life changes! We visited the Cyclades Island chain this past June. The islands are located right off the coast of Athens, Greece. It is fairly easy to get from island to island by boat. Here is our route and what we saw on this memorable trip!

And if you haven’t already, check out my post on What To Expect In Mykonos.

THE BOAT

We had an awesome opportunity to island hop by boat. We traveled on a power catamaran with four cabins - perfect for four couples! We each had our own bedroom and attached bathroom. We chartered the boat through The Moorings and our friends’ Dad acted as the Captain of the boat! Traveling by boat meant we could stop at some of the smaller islands along the way to Mykonos.

You can also travel to these islands by ferry from Athens! If we weren’t traveling with this group, we would’ve gone the ferry route.

Our boat for the week - 514 Power Catamaran

Our boat for the week - 514 Power Catamaran

I’ll admit that boat life was pretty great :)

I’ll admit that boat life was pretty great :)

THE ISLAND ROUTE

On our trip through the Cyclades, we stayed on the islands of Kea, Kythnos, Siros and Mykonos. I found this map below that gives a better idea of which islands are closest to each other. This is roughly how we planned our route. Knowing we wanted to get to Mykonos and then have time to work our way back to Athens, we chose the islands that were on our way. We were on the boat / island hopping for 6 days and 5 nights.

FOOD

Even though the islands are small, we always had the best food. If you stick to the local cuisine and specials, you’ll eat like a King! I never had a bad meal. Lobster pasta was one of my favorite dishes. I also ordered a traditional Greek salad and fried cheese (saganaki) at almost every meal. We usually asked the restaurants which fish or seafood was caught locally. The islands are small enough that, in many cases, the server at the restaurant was actually the person who caught the fish. Talk about farm to table! It was pretty incredible to learn about life on the islands for the locals.

If you’re picky, I would suggest getting some other food options from the markets. We stopped at the local market at every island, to make sure we didn’t run out of essentials like water, snacks, and wine :) Some markets had a good selection - including water toys like pool floats. Other markets were a bit skimpy, so buy things when you see them available.

Traditional Greek salad and fried cheese (Saganaki)

Traditional Greek salad and fried cheese (Saganaki)

Lobster pasta - a local favorite and MY favorite!

Lobster pasta - a local favorite and MY favorite!

KEA ISLAND

First stop - Kea! Maybe it’s because this was the first island we stopped at…or maybe it was the dusty pink color of the buildings that matched the sunset…but I thought Kea was the CUTEST! Kea is small, about 6 miles wide, but it is the closest island to the mainland of Greece. Which makes it ideal for all sorts of boats and yachts to gather from Athens.

We found a spot to pull in and jumped off of the boat to explore on foot. We wandered the streets, up into the hillside, and noticed the island was so quiet and relaxed! There is also a small, but nice, beach where the restaurants set up tables. We had a wonderful dinner on the water. That night we ended up hanging out with the locals at a bar only 20 feet away from our boat! We drank the local beer and danced the night away. It was one of the best memories from our trip.

Pulling into Kea, I instantly noticed all of the pink buildings.

Pulling into Kea, I instantly noticed all of the pink buildings.

The beach on Kea was set up with little pink tables and chairs!

The beach on Kea was set up with little pink tables and chairs!

Wandering down the streets of Kea.

Wandering down the streets of Kea.

KYTHNOS ISLAND

Second stop - Kythnos! Oh my gosh we LOVED Kythnos. By far this was everyone’s favorite island. We liked it so much, we stopped here again on our route back to Athens. The coolest thing about Kythnos is that there is a sand bar that stretches across the bay, dividing it into two sections (you can see it in the photos below). The sand bar also creates the coolest beach to swim to and hang out. This beach is called Kolona.

We spent most of our time here floating on pool noodles, walking on the beach, and just relaxing. There are only two restaurants to choose from! One on each side of the sand bar. Since we had to moor the boat here, we took the dingy to shore for dinner. We followed a lit path up the hill to the restaurant. It was pretty gorgeous.

When we stopped here on our way back to Athens we found the natural hot spring and took a dip into it! Of course, the only way to get to it is to swim, so I don’t have any photos. But let me tell you, the cove where the hot spring is located is magical! I felt like a mermaid, swimming through pretty fish, in crystal clear water. Kythnos is a MUST see, in my opinion.

Kythnos - or “mirror island” - was incredible. The sand bar stretches across the bay, dividing the marina into two sections. And leaving a nice beach to swim up to!

Kythnos - or “mirror island” - was incredible. The sand bar stretches across the bay, dividing the marina into two sections. And leaving a nice beach to swim up to!

Pre-dinner drinks on the boat before we took the dingy to shore.

Pre-dinner drinks on the boat before we took the dingy to shore.

The lights lead you up the path to one of the two restaurants! We dined outside and just enjoyed ourselves.

The lights lead you up the path to one of the two restaurants! We dined outside and just enjoyed ourselves.

SIROS

Third stop - Siros! After hanging out in Kea and Kythnos, Siros felt much bigger. Siros has much more to do, in terms of shops and restaurants. We admittedly took our time leaving Kythnos the next morning, so we didn’t have a ton of time in Siros. We spent the afternoon walking to the nearest beach. We posted up under a straw umbrella for the afternoon with a few beers and ice cream! We passed a ton of cute shops along the way. And put our name in at a restaurant for dinner.

While Siros was great, we were also in a rush to get to Mykonos the next morning, so we had the least amount of time on this island.

Pulling into Siros to this view!

Pulling into Siros to this view!

We walked to the nearest beaches in Siros and posted up for the afternoon.

We walked to the nearest beaches in Siros and posted up for the afternoon.

We found a spot under these fun umbrellas and relaxed on the beach in Siros.

We found a spot under these fun umbrellas and relaxed on the beach in Siros.

Fun fact: there are cats all over the islands. I happen to love cats, so I took a ton of pictures of them. Usually they were just adorably lounging in the sun or the shade :)

Fun fact: there are cats all over the islands. I happen to love cats, so I took a ton of pictures of them. Usually they were just adorably lounging in the sun or the shade :)

MYKONOS

Fourth stop - Mykonos! We were most excited to get to Mykonos, as we had heard nothing but good things. The island lived up to the hype. It was gorgeous, with a ton to do, and had great night life. I wrote a whole post about Mykonos here! But here are the highlights.

The windmills are pretty and definitely worth the trek up the hill to get the best view of Mykonos from above! I also highly recommend catching sunset - and a bite to eat - in Little Venice. It is stunning to watch the sunset take over the island, the water, and the windmills. The city starts twinkling as the night life comes alive. It’s pretty spectacular. The shops stay open fairly late, but the bars stay open VERY late. Do yourself a favor and drink an espresso with dinner!

The windmills in Mykonos.

The windmills in Mykonos.

View from a restaurant in Little Venice in Mykonos. Catching the sunset here is a MUST!

View from a restaurant in Little Venice in Mykonos. Catching the sunset here is a MUST!

The shops in Mykonos are fabulous and stay open late!

The shops in Mykonos are fabulous and stay open late!

Every street is more photogenic than the last.

Every street is more photogenic than the last.

The nightlife in Mykonos lives up to the hype. Plan to stay up late and maybe stop in the Skandinavian - one of the most famous discos on the island!

The nightlife in Mykonos lives up to the hype. Plan to stay up late and maybe stop in the Skandinavian - one of the most famous discos on the island!

If you’re headed to the Greek Islands, have an amazing time and I hope this was helpful in planning your memorable vacation. It truly is an amazing destination.

Check out my post on What To Pack for Greece!

Happy travels!