Greece & the Cyclades: Venturing Outside of Santorini & Mykonos
Food & Wine
In terms of tourism, Santorini and Mykonos are the crown jewels of Greece. Understandably so! Both islands are breathtaking and offer totally different experiences to the traveler. But popularity can be a double edged sword and both islands can get expensive and crowded. Luckily, in the Cyclades, you can have your cake and eat it too, with some simple island hopping. Get your taste of Santorini and Mykonos, and then spend some time with one of their less touristy, but equally amazing, neighbors. (All of these islands are accessible via ferry from Santorini, Mykonos or both!)
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Where to stay In Greece
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Liostasi Hotel & Suites
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A selection of local treats.
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Things to do In Greece
After Santorini and Mykonos, Paros is probably the most well-known of the Cycladic Islands. It is located in the middle of the island group, making it the perfect starting (or ending) point for island hopping. Paros is great for literally any group, from young travelers to whole families. It’s also a great choice for honeymooners! In Paros, you can get the best of both worlds. The island’s two main villages, Parikia and Naoussa, are home to exquisite restaurants and vibrant nightlife, as well as a maze of Greece’s signature white-washed alleys. Miles of perfect beaches are home to quiet seaside towns and fishing villages. If you want a break from the ocean, head inland to Lefkes to see a truly authentic and historic Cycladic town!
Must-visit spot: Kolymbithres Beach on the west side of Naoussa. Easily one of the most photographed beaches in Paros, it's home to amazing granite structures that were created over the years by natural elements. Between these structures are extra hidden beaches!
If Mykonos is the party spot of Greece, then Ios is its cool, more budget-conscious cousin. Ios will give you all the fun and beauty of Mykonos at a lower price point. Ios is a great destination for the younger set, solo travelers, couples and groups, who are looking to have a really great time! Ios is a great island for a boat tour. Like many islands in Greece, Ios is full of beaches that one can only access by boat. There are also many caves and amazing snorkeling spots. If a boat isn’t your speed, you can rent an ATV and explore some of the clifftop villages scattered around the island.
Must-visit spot: Mylopotas Beach on the west side of the island. This is a must if you’re interested in a day party. The stretch of beach is not only breathtaking but home to several beach bars and clubs. It’s also a popular spot for water sports!
Naxos is a personal favorite for my family with my husband calling it his favorite spot in Greece. It’s actually the biggest of the Cycladic islands, and while there is nightlife available if you’re looking for it, it's more of a relaxing destination. The coastline is covered with quaint and peaceful beaches. You could go to a different beach every day of your trip and still not hit them all! Naxos is a great choice for any traveler, but we found it particularly nice for families and large groups! Naxos has several bus lines, which make getting around the island very easy. It’s also pretty walkable. While we were there, we were able to walk to several other beaches, even with a stroller! The best thing about the buses is that you can stay in a more quiet beach town, like Plaka, and easily head into the Chora at night!
Must-visit spot: The Portara, located right by Naxos’ port. The Portara is a massive marble doorway and the last standing part of an unfinished Temple of Apollo that was being built in the 6th century BC. The Portara itself is located on a small islet, connected to Naxos via a paved path. It’s a quick visit, and then you can enjoy a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants overlooking the water in the Chora!
Every year, I hear more and more people talking about Milos. What used to be a hidden gem in the Cyclades is slowly becoming another hot spot, and for good reason. Milos is considered by many to be not only the most beautiful Cycladic island, but perhaps the most beautiful island in Greece. My father, who spent his childhood living in Greece says that Milos is his favorite place, bar none. It is literally the perfect place. There are miles and miles of natural wonders to explore in Milos. From caves and secret beaches to hot springs and ancient archaeological sites, you will never long for something to do on Milos. Many recommend renting a car, specifically one with 4-wheel drive, that will allow you to explore even the most remote places on the island.
Must-visit spot: Sarakiniko Beach, located just a few miles from Plaka, is probably the most famous beach in Milos. The water is surrounded by large, breathtaking, smooth white rocks, formed over the years thanks to volcanic eruptions. Many describe the landscape as lunar, as it mimics the craters on the moon. Go early!
Sifnos is a rare find on a list like this. For one, there’s no airport, the island is only accessible via ferry. I likely would have never visited Sifnos if my cousin had not decided to get married there, and I am so thrilled that he did. Sifnos is breathtaking and so authentically Greek. It’s also a great spot for adventurers with a ton of hiking trails. Renting a car on Sifnos is a must and it allows you to visit every single town on the island. Each offers something different, but they all have one major thing in common — incredible views. The culinary scene in Sifnos is also incredible - I could write a whole guide just on eating in Sifnos. The first Greek cookbook ever was written by Nikolas Tselementes, who was from Sifnos, and you can feel his legacy being carried on in every bite of food.
Must-visit spot: Kamares, which is where the port is located, is also home to a beautiful beach. The beach is surrounded by amazing food, and my daughter loved being able to watch all the ferries come into the port while playing in the shallow waters!
Places to eat & drink In Greece
Yemeni | Naoussa: Yemeni serves elevated versions of traditional Greek and local specialties. They somehow manage to combine rustic flavors with upscale design, a feat many restaurants try to achieve, but often fail. Don’t forget to accompany your meal with a signature cocktail!
Ouzeri Halaris | Piso Livadi: Psarotavernas, or fish taverns, are staples on all Greek islands, and where else to find a psarotaverna in Paros but the bustling fishing town of Piso Livadi. Don’t get caught up on what you would typically get — ask what they caught that morning and just go with it!
BONUS! Loukoumades To Paradosiako | Naoussa: Loukoumades are Greece’s answer to the donut, deep-fried balls of dough saturated in honey. They’re like little bites of heaven - and have been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl! You can get some of the best at Loukoumades To Paradosiako!
Drakos Fish Taverna | Mylopotas: After a day of partying on the beach, get some fresh fish, delicious salads and a carafe of wine at Drakos. Sit back and enjoy the delicious food while looking out over the water.
Taverna Vilaeti: For a break from the partying, head a bit inland to Taverna VIlaeti. Here you can enjoy traditional, homemade Greek dishes. Everything on the menu is fresh, authentic and cooked with love.
Boulamatsis | Chora: Boulamatsis is in an ideal location, right in the Chora overlooking the port. This is where you want to try homemade specialties, like moussaka! Not only is the food delicious, but the convenient location makes it a perfect place to start your evening.
Rotonda | Apeiranthos: For amazing food that can only be overshadowed by the incredible views, head to Rotonda. Rotonda serves classic Mediterranean food on a panoramic balcony. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner — head there for a delicious frappe in the morning, go about your day, then head back at night for a delicious dinner!
Rakomelo | Pollonia: Rakomelo is THE place to go for sunset views, and I can't think of anything better than accompanying a sunset with a delicious meal. Grilled seafood is a must here, from whole fish to octopus and squid. I also highly recommend an order of Saganaki (a personal favorite of mine!)
Avli | Plaka: Avli is the perfect place to try a bit of everything! The menu is expansive, so this is a perfect spot to go with a large group and order a bunch of food for everyone to try. They offer Greek specialties, and the options are very rustic. This is your opportunity to have rooster, goat or rabbit!
Yialos Seaside Obsession | Platis Gialos: Yialos Seaside Obsession is where I had some of the best food of my life! We went with a large group and everyone tried everyone else's dish, and no one could decide what was best! The food is simultaneously traditional and upscale, and the cocktails are out of this world. Bonus points for the absolutely gorgeous location right on Platis Gialos beach.
Captain Sifakis | Kastro: The journey to Captain Sifakis is half of the joy of eating there. First, you drive up a very high mountain, then, you need to go down quite a few stairs. But the work is worth it. The views from Captain Sifakis will take your breath away, and you'll feel right at home with the homestyle food. The restaurant is run by a mother and her two sons: mama does the cooking, one son does the fishing and one waits tables. I recommend just asking them what they recommend to eat.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Parker White’s guide: A Guide to Athens & Islands of Paros and Santorini.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Greece.