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The Cyclades Guide

Photo Courtesy of Natalie Obradovich

The Cyclades Guide

When you think of the Greek islands, there are a few images that probably come immediately to mind: the absurdly blue water of the Aegean Sea, the blindingly white houses stacked on top of one another like sugar cubes, the tumbling bougainvillea, and the best grilled fish you’ll eat anywhere. And you’re right. Because all of this is accurate. But beaches, seafood, and picturesque villages aside, the 200-plus islands that are the Cyclades are also a historical and cultural gold mine. Monasteries, Byzantine churches, and natural wonders abound, and the earth here is so rich with artifacts that archaeologists are still hard at work finding new treasures.

Of course, some of the islands—Santorini and Mykonos in particular—are highly developed and the Greek equivalent of the French Riviera: bursting with glamour, luxury, and crowds. Lesser-known islands, like Sifnos and Folegandros, on the other hand, often have only one or two hotels, a smattering of restaurants, and the laid-back, authentic vibe to match.

Some logistics: Mykonos and Santorini have airports that serve both mainland Greece and (in the high season) most major European airports. The other Cycladic islands do not but are easily reached by affordable, regular ferries from either of the two main islands. If you’re interested in a deeper exploration of breathtaking beaches and hidden coves, rent a boat to hop from one island to another. It’s also your best bet to discover a deserted beach. There’s an unspoken rule in this archipelago: The smaller the island, the better idea it is to rent a cottage—or grand, fully serviced villa (One Fine Stay and White Key Villas are great resources for the latter).

While Mykonos and Santorini get all the glory in the Cyclades, our travels have shown us how special the less-populated and even lesser-known islands are. (Several goop staffers spent time scoping out the region this summer.) So by all means spend a day or two on Mykonos or Santorini—and we’ve included the best spots to hit when you do. But for an even more superlative experience, the kind that really is that white and that blue and that romantic, think about visiting an island with slightly less name recognition. Or better yet, one with none.

Ktima Lemonies

Ktima Lemonies

Lamyra, Andros | +30.22820.23677

Ktima Lemonies is the bed and breakfast of our imagination. Hidden on a three-acre private estate away from the center of town, the hotel includes an old farmhouse, stables, and stone cottages, all thoughtfully restored by the Greek couple that now owns and operates it. Complete with a quiet swimming pool, antique furniture, and country-style décor, this place is downright charming. Be sure to take a stroll through the heavenly gardens that wind through the property—you can even pick and eat fruit straight from the trees. Then sit back, relax, and...nothing.

Laskari’s

Laskari’s

Empeirikos St., Katakaeli, Andros | +30.228.202.2305

From the bread to the baklava, everything at this small bakery in the heart of town is handmade using high-quality local ingredients. It's a favorite among locals and tourists alike—people flock to Laskari's day and night for the amygdalota (a Greek delicacy similar to a macaroon) and the kalitsounia.

Onar

Onar

Ahla Beach, Andros | +30.211.800.2912

One of the few Cycladic islands untouched by the masses of tourists, Andros is probably what you think of when you think of the perfect Greek escape. And there is no better way to take it in than at a hotel whose name means “dream” in ancient Greek. Guests lucky enough to occupy one of Onar's ten traditional cottages are treated to incomparable nature and wildlife as well as the utmost peace and relaxation. Situated in a protected wetland within a cove on the east coast of the island, the limited accommodations create an intimate, almost communal experience, all while maintaining a sense of privacy.

Waikiki Andros

Waikiki Andros

Port Andros, Andros | +30.228.202.3685

Everything at this chic boutique feels hand-selected—probably because much of the clothing and accessories is designed by the owner. The other items are curated with a great eye from labels near and far, resulting in a stylish collection that's upscale and easygoing at the same time. With breezy sundresses and classic Greek sandals, this is the kind of place that makes you wish the airline lost your bag.