Journey deep into the heart of untouched, unspoilt archipelagos
The Cyclades, the Dodecanese and the Saronic islands: Greece is renowned for its stunning archipelagos, nestled between mountain and sea. Head out to explore these beautifully preserved little islands, far from the major sightseeing spots. Leave the car behind and wander off the beaten path into a luscious natural setting to experience Greece in a different light.
Seeking authenticity in the Cyclades
Located in southern Greece, the Cyclades are so called because they encircle the sacred island of Delos. In Greek mythology, Delos was where Apollo and Artemis were born. In the Cyclades, star-studded skies are a feast for the eyes, while regional produce treats the taste buds to something special.
Amorgos: amidst mountains and coves
A cruise around the Cyclades is an opportunity to experience unspoilt authentic islands where nature is left to thrive untouched, as in Amorgos. Lying at the gateway to Turkey, this mountainous, volcanic island is a paradise for hikers and ramblers, and is much loved for its jaw-dropping views over the sea and nearby coves. The island was the setting for Luc Besson’s iconic film The Big Blue.
On the island of Amorgos, the 11th-century Panaghia Chozoviotissa is one of the Cyclades’ most beautiful Byzantine monasteries. Sealed away from the world, the building was carved into the cliff face itself and is accessed by a 300-step staircase.
Folegandros: the quest for tranquillity
Folegandros is a small Cyclades island that is little known to tourists. On this peaceful, bucolic island, time seems to slip by slowly.
Visitors to this island love its small churches, where you can stop for a break when enjoying a walk, as well as its spectacular secret coves and beaches, with their beckoning turquoise waters.
Chora, the island’s largest town, offers ample opportunity to sample the local cuisine. Situated 200 metres above sea level, this typical Cyclades village is a sight to behold with its bustling little streets and whitewashed houses.
Head for the fringes of Europe and the Dodecanese islands
To the east of the Cyclades, the Dodecanese islands brush shoulders with Turkey. Welcome to Europe’s warmest and sunniest region! Its name means ‘12 islands’ in Greek, but in reality, the Dodecanese archipelago is a constellation of over 160 islands, most of which are uninhabited.
The mystical island of Patmos is home to the Cave of the Apocalypse, the fortified monastery of St John and the village of Chora, all of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Nicknamed the ‘Jerusalem of the Aegean’, Patmos is both a pilgrimage site and a boho-chic destination that is appreciated for both the authentic charm of its old town – one of the oldest and best preserved in the Aegean – and its untamed shores and gorgeous sheltered beaches. This scared island is distant and difficult to get to, with tight property regulations that help preserve its unspoilt charm.
The Saronic islands: a haven of peace and quiet for artists
Situated close to Athens, the Saronic islands enjoy an incredibly relaxed pace of life and make an ideal day trip for visitors from the capital.
The archipelago features six islands, with Hydra the jewel in its crown. This peaceful island has been a firm favourite with artists since the 1960s, with visitors including Leonard Cohen, Greta Garbo and Henry Fonda. Cars are banned on the island of Hydra, resulting in an incredibly tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. Island life is centred around its enchanting port, which is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful in all of Greece. Whitewashed and fortified houses perch across the island’s heights.
History and art enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the island’s museums, which include the Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion, the Byzantine Museum and the Historical Archives Museum. Once you’ve had your culture fix, the beaches and crystal-clear waters promise a welcome dose of relaxation.
Ikaria: Greece’s sweet way of life
Ikaria, which takes its name from the mythological character Icarus, is a little-known island that floats in the middle of the Aegean Sea. It is notable for the incredible lifespans of its inhabitants, many of whom are over a hundred years old. Perhaps their secret lies in Ikaria’s peaceful atmosphere and inspiring landscapes, or the island’s delicious, healthy cuisine based on home-grown vegetables.
Photo credit: © iStock