Lesser-Known Islands to Visit in the Cyclades

The Hidden Gems of the Cyclades LesserKnown Islands to Visit

When the Cyclades come to mind, it’s typically images of white limestone villages glimmering above azure seas. However, there are plenty of lesser known islands in this iconic archipelago that deserve a visit.

The cosmopolitan island of Syros is one example. Its capital Ermoupoli offers a jumble of beautifully colored neoclassical buildings and traditional Cycladic architecture that reflect its nuanced cultural identity.


The two islands of Koufonisia may be less glamorous than their more illustrious island neighbours but this little grouping of small islands has everything to offer travellers that come here in search of beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters and low-key tourist development. There is nothing quite like the pristine beaches of Finikas, Italida and Pori to soothe sun-seekers. Moreover, the fact that the inhabited portion of this tiny archipelago is so small ensures that these pristine beaches will remain uncrowded.

The main village of Ano Koufonisi has narrow streets lined with traditional white houses that house charming little tavernas. In addition, the island’s museum of Ethnography showcases a collection of utensils that highlight the local way of life on this unique Cycladic island.

Located to the west of Naxos and south of Amorgos, this charming island of Tinos is an ideal place for a quiet retreat from the buzzing crowds. In addition to a number of gorgeous beaches and bays, the island is also known for its marble sculptures that decorate its villages. Lastly, it’s also worth checking out the Hozoviotissa Monastery that clings to the top of a spectacular cliff.

Kythnos is a popular destination for quick getaways for Athenians and offers visitors an incredible combination of wild natural beauty, elegant architecture and great beaches. Its quaint little tavernas set up in courtyards and on seaside terraces are accompanied by a rich selection of food, including fresh fish and meat choices.


As one of the least-known hidden gems of the Cyclades, Kimolos is a paradise away from the crowds. Located right next door to the more famous Milos, it is a quiet island with breathtaking beaches and an authentic traditional village. It is an ideal destination for peace lovers, philosophers and observers, as well as those who prefer simple but tasty local food and a life away from the glitz of modern society.

During our stay in Kimolos, we were welcomed with genuine hospitality and a unique charm that made us feel at home. Chorio, the main town of the island, is a true feast for the eyes with its narrow cobble-stoned alleys and cubic whitewashed houses with typical blue shutters and wooden doors. The village is dotted with small post-Byzantine churches that hold archaeological and historical significance, especially during Orthodox Easter when they are lit up to create a romantic atmosphere.

Like the other islands in the Western Cyclades, it has a rich history of chalk mining (its name, kimolia, comes from the Greek mythological figure Cimolus). Today, the island is known for its stunning sandy or pebbly beaches. There are also plenty of picturesque walking trails, as well as a handful of restaurants and fish taverns. Those looking to learn more about the island’s past can visit the archaeological museum in Chorio, which is across from imposing Panagia Odigitria church.


While glamorous Mykonos and Santorini steal most of the headlines, Anafi quietly charms travelers seeking a more authentic island experience. This small island of only 300 residents is a sanctuary for alternative travelers, free campers, backpackers, and climbers. Its pristine beaches and traditional white-cubic houses are an ideal retreat for those looking to unwind in the Aegean Sea. But Anafi also has a lively side with its youthful nightlife in its bars and tavernas in Chora, the island’s capital.

The landscape is dramatic, scalloped by cliffs and coves with beaches that are either rocky or full of golden sand. A hiking trail on the island leads to Kalamos, a rock monolith that is considered to be the second largest in Europe and has incredible views. Alternatively, visit the 18th-century Monastery of Panagia Kalamiotissa and admire the incredible necropolis.

While tourism is the main industry on the island, some local farmers cultivate olives, grapes and figs for sale to local shops and restaurants. The best time to visit is from April till June and September till November when the temperatures are comfortable and dry. While on the island, don’t leave without trying its delicious thyme honey and other local products like oregano, sage, pink savory (throumpi), and rock samphire. During your stay, make sure to walk around the picturesque capital of Chora, with its bougainvillea-splashed stone houses and chapels.


The most sophisticated island in the Cyclades, Syros is a vibrant main hub with a bustling port and a lively town reminiscent of a mid-19th-century commercial and cultural center. Its neoclassical mansion houses and cosmopolitan aura are apparent from the moment you step into Ermoupoli, which locals call “the city of Hermes.”

The capital’s heart is Miaouli Square, ringed with cafes and palm trees, as well as Apollo Theatre, which is clearly inspired by the Scala di Milano. There are also numerous churches and a municipal library. In the quarter of Vaporia, you can visit neoclassical mansions that once housed the island’s sea captains.

One of the most popular beaches on Syros is Galissas, which offers everything you need to spend a day at the beach (including sunbeds and umbrellas and simple tavernas). Kini is another family-friendly destination where you can relax and swim in the clear waters.

Other great places to visit include the traditional village of Chora with castles, churches and an archaeological museum. If you have some extra time, don’t miss a visit to the monastery of Panayia Meyalohari for its stunning views and tranquil gardens. The island’s other highlights are a handful of picturesque villages, including Volax and Kardiani with their impressive rock formations. The rocky beaches of Agathopes and Delfini are also worth checking out.