The Cyclades

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Named after the circle they form around the sacred isle of Delos, the two hundred and twenty or so Cyclades are the most Greek of all the islands. In myth, Delos itself was a floating island and it was a major sacred site for the ancients.

Positioned in the middle of the Aegean by Poseidon and fastened by four diamond chains attached to granite columns, Delos–-meaning brilliant, visible–-was where Leto, after nine days of labor, gave birth to Artemis and Apollo. The moment Apollo was born, the place was filled full of light and nature flourished, and Leto promised that the island would become rich and well-known.

Nowadays, those attributes seem to have been taken by its near neighbor, Mykonos. A member of the Delian alliance, it benefited greatly from the prosperity of Delo... Read More

Named after the circle they form around the sacred isle of Delos, the two hundred and twenty or so Cyclades are the most Greek of all the islands. In myth, Delos itself was a floating island and it was a major sacred site for the ancients.

Positioned in the middle of the Aegean by Poseidon and fastened by four diamond chains attached to granite columns, Delos–-meaning brilliant, visible–-was where Leto, after nine days of labor, gave birth to Artemis and Apollo. The moment Apollo was born, the place was filled full of light and nature flourished, and Leto promised that the island would become rich and well-known.

Nowadays, those attributes seem to have been taken by its near neighbor, Mykonos. A member of the Delian alliance, it benefited greatly from the prosperity of Delos but sank back into obscurity once Delos fell. Romans, Venetians, Turks, even Russians controlled the island until the Greek revolution. Discovered again in the middle of the 20th century by artists drawn to its scenic harbor, sandy beaches, proximity to the archaeological site next door, and a tolerant attitude, it courted celebrities and the monied, bon viveurs of international society. It still retains an egalitarian spirit despite the best efforts of some, but the days of supermodels and film stars mixing with the hoi-polloi have sadly gone. It has become more exclusive in the last ten years, more so than in the preceding fifty, but it pays to remember that the view of Little Venice and the windmills is the same sat on the waterfront with a beer from the kiosk as it is from the stateroom of an oligarch's superyacht.

Farther up the island chain is Tinos, spiritual center of modern Greece, outshining even Patmos for its pilgrim pulling power. Notably quieter than many of its more feted neighbors, it attracts mainly Greek visitors and has a different feel from other islands–-timetables and menus may be printed only in Greek outside of the major centers, and Tinos Town is set up for the faithful rather than tourists. Venture out and you will be rewarded by lovely Tinos, though; slowly, the island is unraveling itself to an audience thirsting for authenticity and a pristine, natural landscape. The beaches are numerous and good and the island specialities of dovecotes and mountain villages are impressively attractive. There is also a rich cultural life, with striking architecture and a marble carving tradition dating back through the ages.

Syros is unlike anywhere else in the North Cyclades. If you are imagining little white houses you will be very disappointed. Neoclassical masterpieces rub shoulders with Venetian and Genoese-influenced mansions. In the Apollon theater, a tiny replica of Milan's La Scala, Aeschylus, Homer, and Euripides look down from the ceiling as Rossini and Verdi play below. Two cathedrals stand watch in the town; the Orthodox Church of the Resurrection and the Catholic Church of San Tzortis in Ano Syros, the enchanting district with many preserved alleys and countless stairs.

The Roman Catholic community was protected by the patronage of the King of France, and thus the island escaped much of the chaos and destruction of other islands. As the main port of the Aegean in the 19th century, it grew rich and in its prime it had its own currency, worth more than the drachma. Today, as the capital of the Cyclades, and center of its administrative duties, it has only a fleeting history of tourism and visitors are seen as guests, not as an industry. It makes for a pointed contrast to the rest of the island group.

If Zeus shook and threw the isles like dice across the Aegean, the islands of the north Cyclades were particularly blessed. Countless classical sites, monasteries, churches, and villages wait to be explored, as do some of the most varied beaches in Greece. The best reason to visit the islands may simply be the enjoyment of the evening walk, the beauty of the surroundings, and the hospitality shown to strangers. Do remember, though, that the prevailing wind is the northern vorias, known as the meltemi in summer, and these islands can suffer from it the most. Tableware and beach umbrellas can go flying during the day, so choose your beaches wisely, and the summer nights can be noticeably cooler–-bring a light cashmere sweater for the ultimate Mykonos chic.

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Language

Greek

Nearby Airports

JTR

Electrical Outlets

200v/50 cycles; electrical plugs have two round prongs

Currency

Euro

Language

Greek

Electrical Outlets

200v/50 cycles; electrical plugs have two round prongs

Currency

Euro

Nearby Airports

JTR

The Northern Cycladic experience is different in summer compared to winter, however, it is not as noticeable as in other island groups. Mykonos...Read More

Discover the best neighborhoods in The Cyclades with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

The Northern Cycladic experience is different in summer compared to winter, however, it is not as noticeable as in other island groups. Mykonos...Read More

Discover the best neighborhoods in The Cyclades with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

The Northern Cycladic experience is different in summer compared to winter, however, it is not as noticeable as in other island groups. Mykonos...Read More

Discover the best neighborhoods in The Cyclades with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

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