Beyond Santorini: The alternative Cycladic islands that should be on your radar

Photo of Anna HardyPhoto of Anna Hardy
By Anna Hardy

23 May 2024 | Updated 24 May 20246 min read

Naoussa, Paros Upmarket Naoussa gives Santorini a run for it's money.

Santorini and Mykonos might be the Cyclades’ spotlight stealers, but they’re not the only islands with that Greek island magic.

Say hello to Paros, Milos and Ios. These blissful Greek islands have all the hallmarks of a Cycladic island adventure – think spectacular sunsets, topaz-blue bays and whitewashed houses – but a fraction of the crowds.

And thanks to the launch of inter-island airline, Cycladic, in October 2022, island hopping in the region has become even easier.

Here’s what you need to know about this up-and-coming Cycladic trio.


Already a favourite among Greeks, Paros is finally making its way on to the international radar.

Just like its rowdy neighbour, Mykonos, you’ll find water here just as blue and houses equally as sugar-cube cute, but life on Paros is on the laidback side – picture local tavernas draped in disco-pink bougainvillaea and sandy coves tucked between cliffs.

Throw in some boho hotels, a trendy nightlife scene and fishing villages that look like they’re straight from a postcard, and it’s no surprise Paros is tempting tourists.

Our advice? Get there first.

Where to stay in Paros

Parikia is Paros’ main port and a great all-rounder if you’re visiting the island for the first time. Its winding alleys, picturesque waterfront and remarkable Byzantine church ooze charisma and you’ll have the biggest range of restaurants, accommodation and amenities on your doorstep.

For a more upmarket vibe, Naoussa is a good bet. The Insta-worthy fishing town is home to some of the island’s best restaurants and shops, plus it’s the place to be if you’re looking for a bit more energy, with swish cocktail bars and live music venues open day and night.

In the south, Chrisi Akti and Aliki are all about small town charm, seafood and days on the beach.

What to do in Paros

Beach time is a must in Paros. Santa Maria has got watersports and beach clubs covered, while Parasporos is the champion of sunset views. If you’re seeking seclusion, opt for Logaras or Faragas.

Away from the shore, get a feel for local life in the wonderfully preserved villages of Lefkes and Marpissa – all paved streets and blue-domed chapels. Then, check out the island’s historical landmarks including Naoussa’s Venetian Castle and the Ancient Cemetery of Parikia.

Don’t miss a trip to Paros Park to hit up hiking trails, explore hidden caves and catch open-air summer concerts.

How to get to Paros

There are year-round, daily flights to Paros from Athens International Airport that take around 40 minutes. If you’re combining Paros with an island-hopping adventure, Fly Cycladic currently offers connecting flights between Santorini, Crete, Rhodes, Syros and Milos.

You can also reach the island by ferry, either directly from Athens or from Santorini and Mykonos. Journey times range from 45 minutes to 4 hours, with daily sailings available.


A treasure trove of both timeless, whitewashed villages and striking volcanic landscapes, Milos rivals Santorini’s famed aesthetic.

There’s no wealth of luxury hotels or exuberant towns here though. Instead, you’ll find an unpretentious ambience, former fishermen’s sheds turned into guesthouses, and a crooked coastline studded with extraordinary beaches – and that’s exactly why we love it.

Where to stay in Milos

Milos may not have a huge portfolio of five-star hotels, but its main villages have plenty of accommodation options, from boutique villas to private apartments and B&Bs.

Pretty and peaceful, Pollonia is popular with families and couples seeking an easy-going getaway. The restaurants are relaxed, the sea shallow, and colourful fishing boats bob gently in the harbour.

Plaka is Milos’ capital, but tucked away in the hills, it feels more like a romantic village than a busy town centre. Beach days aren’t on the cards, but excellent shops, sightseeing and sunsets are. As the island’s main port, Adamantas is easy to get to and a hub of activity – great for good-value hotels and nightlife.

What to do in Milos

There are a few must-see attractions in Milos – the first is Sarakiniko beach. Vast white volcanic rock formations tumble down to the sea, looking more like a lunar landscape than a coastline. Check out the epic sea caves before cooling off in the turquoise waters below.

The second is the island’s traditional fishing villages, where enchanting two-story fishermen’s houses called syrmata line the waterfront, dazzling with multi-coloured painted doors. Klima and Firopotamos have some of the best.

Elsewhere, visit the Ancient Theatre and underground catacombs in Tripiti, take a boat trip around Kleftiko caves and soak in the spring-heated waters at Paliochori beach.

How to get to Milos

You can travel to Milos via ferry from Piraeus in Athens – the fastest ferry journey takes around two and a half hours. There are also ferry crossings to Milos from Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos and Paros, most frequent during summer.

The island has a small domestic airport, which you can fly into from Athens International Airport. Flights take 40 minutes.


Some have already started making their way to Ios, following the rumours that its nightlife is giving Mykonos a run for its money. And they’re not wrong. With late-night cocktail bars, pulsing beach clubs and live DJ sets, this fun-loving isle is stealing the show as the new party playground in the Cyclades.

Beyond the social scene, historical architecture, Blue Flag beaches and culture-packed towns mean daylight hours are equally thrill-filled.

Where to stay in Ios

Ios’ capital, Chora, is the heart of the action. The town hums with activity dawn until dusk, blending both the traditional and touristy, with tavernas, night clubs and shops tucked between cobblestone alleys and historic churches.

Mylopotas is a favourite with families and beach bums alike thanks to its golden horseshoe bay. It’s the island’s largest resort and where you’ll find the best selection of beachfront hotels and villas, along with cafes and beach clubs.

Away from the buzz, the little village of Agia Theodoti is a tranquil off-the-beaten-track retreat. Accommodation is limited, but the empty beaches are worth it.

What to do in Ios

Ios’ historical sites are the stuff of Greek legend. Homer’s Tomb is the most famed, believed to be the final resting place of the great poet, while the Panagia Gremiotissa Church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary – the saint protector of the island. The Odysseas Elytis Theater, sat behind Chora’s windmills, should also be on your itinerary.

After busy mornings exploring, there’s no better way to relax than on the island’s beaches. Head to Manganari or Gialos for silky soft sand and crystal-clear water. Windsurfing and paddleboarding are also on offer if you want to hit the waves.

Come evening, refuel the right way with delicious fresh seafood. Fried calamari and grilled octopus are menu staples.

How to get to Ios

There’s no airport on Ios – one of the reasons it’s stayed under the radar for so long. Ferries depart from Piraeus and Rafina near Athens daily during summer, and from Piraeus outside of the tourist season. Ferry times range from three to seven hours.

Ferries also connect Ios to other Cycladic islands (Santorini, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos) and Crete.

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