Travel writer Pól Ó Conghaile has ten must-do’s for your next adventure in one of the world’s most magical island chains…
 
1. Bring your snorkel
 
Or at the very least your swimming trunks and a pair of goggles. The Aegean Sea offers the most brilliantly blue and crystal-clear water within a short-haul flight of the UK (Luc Besson filmed much of The Big Blue around Amorgos). Over several visits, I’ve seen everything from sea hares to big shoals of bream and dolphins jumping in the distance. Divine.

Fyriplaka beach, Milos, Cyclades Fyriplaka beach, Milos, Cyclades

2. Go off-season
 
Popular islands like Mykonos and Santorini get crowded and expensive in summer months. The sun can also be stinging hot. If your dates are flexible, consider May, June or September (when the sea is warmest) instead… the crowds are more bearable, and there are fewer mosquitoes, too.

Aigialos Hotel, Santorini, Cyclades Aigialos Hotel, Santorini, Cyclades

3. Hit up the hidden histories
 
The Cyclades may be small, but they pack a big historical punch. 220 odd islands are crammed with ancient Greek myths and influences ranging from Roman to Byzantine and Venetian. Basic reading will add enormously to your appreciation of the layers in Cycladic food, culture and personality.

4. Eat more than moussaka
 
And speaking of food… the Cyclades are not the place to subsist on English breakfasts and imported steaks. From mouth-watering salads to fish off the grill, from zingy local olives and thyme-tinged honey to Feta cheese, from Naxian potatoes to Sifnian chickpea fritters or local takes on goat stews, stuffed peppers and loukoumi (Turkish Delight), a culinary adventure awaits.

Calamari, Milos, Cyclades Calamari, Milos, Cyclades
Milos, Cyclades Milos, Cyclades

5. Don’t overdo the island-hopping
 
There’s no point trying to squeeze in too many islands. I’d advise visiting two or three in depth – over, say, a fortnight - rather than skimming the surface of several. Unless you are sailing, transferring between islands can be tiring work, so it’s important to get the balance between travel, exploration and downtime right… and allow time for delays and schedule changes.
 
6. Get your boots on

 
Outside of the hot summer months, the Cyclades can be a walkers’ paradise – with webs of trails taking you off the tourist track to remote beaches and mountain heights with amazing views over the Aegean. Even tiny Sifnos has over 100km of waymarked walking trails (see sifnostrails.com).

Kastro, Sifnos, Cyclades Kastro, Sifnos, Cyclades

7. In vino veritas
 
The Cyclades can be tiny, and have even tinier populations, but some produce surprisingly vibrant local wines. Santorini, for example, has almost a dozen wineries (some offering tours), and other islands like Tinos and Paros have a small but growing reputation for their varieties. Yamas!  
 
8. Hit the road
 
Spending your time shuttling between hotel and Hora (main town) is all well and good, but you’ll get a far richer sense of the Cyclades by striking out and exploring, whatever island you are on. Renting a car, bike or booking a guided tour gets you off the beaten track and into the older villages and towns, to less populated coves, and spreads your spend beyond the resorts

Old Market Street, Naxos, Cyclades Old Market Street, Naxos, Cyclades

9. Do Delos
 
Did you know one of the most important archaeological sites in the Med lies just a short boat trip from Mykonos? The mythical birthplace of Apollo and Artemis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site sprawling with ruins.
 
10. Brush up on your sunset snaps
 
You’re going to take a gazillion sunset photos in the Cyclades, so do a little homework first. First, find a strong foreground subject (like a boat or church) to set against the backdrop. Second, press the area of your screen you want the phone to expose for – e.g. the shadows, or the strong light – and play around with the different effects and silhouettes that result (try using the automatic HDR function too). Finally, take your photos a step further by editing them using a free app like Snapseed, Instagram or Photoshop Express.

Old Town (Hora), Mykonos, Cyclades Old Town (Hora), Mykonos, Cyclades

- Pól Ó Conghaile is Travel Editor with the Irish Independent & Independent.ie, and a regular contributor to National Geographic Traveller UK. You can follow him on Twitter at @poloconghaile.

The Sunvil Family

By The Sunvil Family

1st August 2018



The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family

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