Panormos Beach, Mykonos
This restaurant and club on Panormos Beach looks straight out of a glossy design magazine. Smooth slatted wood covers every inch of this place, which helps to create the clean lines that frame the perfect ocean views. Big terra-cotta pots of greenery and succulents add to the sense of calm. It’s all rather Zen, though the spirited crowd keeps things lively. After lunch (try the crudo and squid ink pasta), stop by Principote’s boutique, which carries a big selection of locally made sun hats, shoes, and bags.
An open-air restaurant in a sunken courtyard right in the middle of town, Interni feels like theater—both for its physical setting and for the first-rate people-watching. The gorgeous crowd is here to see and be seen, so if you aren’t in the mood for a little peacocking, it’s probably not the best spot for dinner. Otherwise, it’s all good fun, and the food isn’t bad, either, especially the cuttlefish ink tagliatelle and lobster risotto.
Kalo Livadi, Mykonos
Kalo Livadi Beach is one of the longest stretches of sand on Mykonos, and a good reason to book a room at Archipelagos (one of the nicer hotels on the island), which is only a few minutes’ walk away. Another bonus: a serene, ridiculously pretty swimming pool that’s an antidote to the thumping party-scene hangouts on other parts of the island. The rooms were recently renovated in crisp shades of white, grey, and blue, and each comes with its own ocean-view balcony.
Marble Quarries of Marathi
Epar.Od. Parikias-Marpissas, Paros
For some reason, you’ll rarely hear the Marathi quarries mentioned, despite the fact that the marble used to sculpt the Venus di Milo came from this very site, and it’s known as possibly the most ancient marble mines in the world. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a flashlight to properly explore the mine shafts. It’s isn’t really set up as a tourist destination; in fact, there is no signage or explanatory material. But given its history and significance as the primary source of material in building the Parthenon and many other Greek landmarks, it’s certainly worth a look.
Big, loud, and lively, Barbarossa is the place to come for first-rate people-watching, and the religiously observed sunset cocktail hour is the time to do it. Settle in beneath the strings of small twinkling lights strung above the tables for big platters of fish and pasta. Sure, there are better restaurants on Paros, but the buzzing ambiance and cosmopolitan feel at Barbarossa sets it apart, and the setting, alongside the old Venetian port, where you can watch the last of the boats come in is something special.
Ano Meria 840 11, Folegandros
People come to this eight-table hole-in-the-wall for the matsata—homemade ribbons of tagliatelle tossed with a rich ragu of slow-cooked rabbit or goat. But be sure to order one of the incredible cheese pies for the table, too. This tiny little place, on a slender road on the way to the Panagia church, is also a great roadside stop for a glass of ouzo. Image courtesy of the Cyclades Chamber of Commerce.
If you’re going to try rakomelo—a hot raki drink sweetened with honey and spiced with a pinch of cinnamon—do it here. It’s very hot and very strong, and if there are some who may not find it appealing during the summer, Astarti also makes a really good ice-cold Negroni. Even if you don’t try the rakomelo, the pots of hot raki brewing on the bar give the air a pleasant aniseed fragrance, and the welcome is always so friendly.
Diaplous Boat Company
840 11, Folegandros
Folegandros’s rocky topography means that to really experience the myriad small beaches and coves, you want to do it by boat if you can. Diaplous’s reputation is well-established, and its excursions are nothing fancy: Guests spread out towels on the deck and jump off the side for a swim here and there as the boat navigates its way around the shoreline. It’ll stop at under-the-radar-but-gorgeous-nonetheless inlets for exploring. Look for Chrysophilia, the one cave you absolutely cannot miss, with its ancient, inscription-clad walls. For divers, SEA-U Dive Center is the way to go; it's run by locals who know the island like no one else.
Platis Gialos, Sifnos
This tiny, rustic beach shack may not look like much, but as the name suggests, Omega 3 is the best fish restaurant on Sifnos.
Atsonios Handmade Ceramics
In the port of Vathi at Tsopos beach, the Atsonios family is continuing the tradition of making the terra-cotta pots that are the foundation of traditional Sifniot cooking. Ceramics was the major industry on Sifnos before tourism overtook it, and this spot is one of the few remaining kilns on the island. Anthony Atsonios has continued the craft and tradition of his father and grandfather, firing the pottery still used by many of the island’s kitchens. Book a private workshop to get away from the sun for an afternoon and to have something special to bring home. These are beautiful keepsakes made to last. Image courtesy of Sifnos-island.info