Lesser-Known Islands of the Cyclades

The Hidden Gems of the Cyclades LesserKnown Islands to Visit

Santorini has become a major player in the Greek islands scene and while it’s totally beautiful (and expensive), it can get super crowded at peak times.

So for an off-the-beaten path getaway check out these lesser-known islands of the Cyclades:

1. Anafi

The pristine island of Anafi is the perfect spot for travelers who are looking for an authentic Greek experience. Located just 12 nautical miles from renowned Santorini, the little island offers breathtaking landscapes, a charming village, and captivating beaches.

The capital town of Anafi is full of narrow white streets and picturesque tavernas. You can spend the day strolling around the city and chatting with locals.

There are also plenty of places to explore on the island, including the beautiful beaches of Klisidi and Megalos Roukounas. Despite its size, there are many restaurants on the island and you can find a variety of food options.

One of the most famous sights on Anafi is the Monastery of Zoothohos Pigi (Kato Panagia). Located at the top of the hill, this elegant single-aisle church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and provides breathtaking views over the sea and sky. You can reach the monastery by following a trail from the city of Kalamos. The scenery is breath-taking, and the monastery itself is gorgeous! During your hike, you can also see other historic sites on the island.

2. Folegandros

Folegandros was once a sleepy hidden island known only to a few discerning travelers. Nowadays, it’s a favorite among Greek island-hoppers looking for an easy-going escape from the crowds. Its main town, Hora, teeters precariously on the edge of a cliff and its squares are framed by graceful churches and old-fashioned tavernas. Its beaches are either sandy or pebbly and crystal clear, and its rocky peaks and hiking trails offer panoramic views.

Stay at one of the luxury hotels in Chora, or book a traditional Greek Aria hotel like the Kymanemi. From here, explore the tucked-away beaches and villages on Folegandros. Make time to hike up to the Church of Panagia, which holds a silver-dressed icon of the Virgin Mary.

Discover the beauty of these lesser-known islands of the Cyclades with this 10 or 14-day itinerary that pairs Athens, Naxos, Tinos, Ios, and Syros. Hike through secluded mountains on Tinos, go diving off the coast of Naxos, and relax on sandy beaches on Ios before spending a few days exploring Syros’ historic center. Contact Aegean Thesaurus Travel to plan your trip.

3. Kimolos

The island of Kimolos is a tiny Cycladic paradise that feels like time stopped. It doesn’t have tons of beach bars, posh clubs, or large cruise ships, so you can often look up from your sunbed and realize that you are one of the only people on the entire beach!

Its beaches are the main attraction on Kimolos, and there is a reason why this is one of the lesser-known islands of the Cyclades: the waters are crystal clear and you’ll often see marine life swimming around. The best beach on the island is Athinia, which is lined by hills and olive groves.

There’s also a charming little castle that you can visit on your trip to Kimolos. The ruins date from the fifteenth century and you can find some beautiful icons inside. You should also make sure to check out the Archaeological Museum, which is housed in a traditional two-story home opposite Panagia Odigitria church and the castle gate.

Other places of interest on the island include Gioupa Kara – a quaint fishing village with houses carved into rocks, and Sirmata – where you can explore sea caves and snorkel in azure waters.

4. Sikinos

This small, quiet island is an ideal place to unwind and escape the hectic pace of everyday life. It offers a collage of natural beauty, tranquility, and proud Cycladic traditions.

Sikinos is a wonderful place to visit any time of the year, but I highly recommend visiting during May-June or September. The sea is still warm and the wind is milder, making it much more comfortable to walk around the island.

Sikinos has a great number of beautiful beaches. You can relax on the beach of Alopronoia or explore the beaches of Agios Georgios and Malta Beach. The island also has a lot of mountain paths, some of which have been used since ancient times. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Mavri Spilia (Black Cave) located in the north of the island under the Monastery of Chrysopigi. This cave is one of the most spectacular caves in the entire Cyclades. You can also visit the chapel Pantochara, a small white church built on the order of famous Greek poet Odysseas Elitis. The temple has multiple layers of history, being a Roman mausoleum and later a Christian temple.

5. Syros

Syros is a regal island of neoclassical town halls, the Apollo Theater and a handful of other opulent buildings. It’s also a thriving commercial centre with a busy port and lively cafes. A stroll around the capital city, Ermoupolis, will reveal marble flagstones, high-ceilinged neoclassical buildings and the Renaissance Cathedral of St George.

The northern part of the island is a contrast: green hillside and mountainous interior dotted with traditional villages, such as Kampos, Plati Vouni and quiet San Michali. Explore these villages on foot, accompanied by the scents of wild fennel and thyme. Don’t miss a stop at a local distillery to try tsipouro, a strong raki-like spirit made from the pomace (remnants) of wine production.

Syros is a great island to visit to see authentic Greek island life. You can also head further afield to discover the lesser-known islands of Andros and Tinos. Taste the flavours of the Cyclades on this 11-day trip. Start in Athens with a street food tour and an afternoon of Greek cheese tasting, before exploring the islands of Tinos, Naxos and Syros to tuck into fresh seafood, sample homemade liqueurs and learn how to make your own olive oil.