One of our dreams became true! O and A, went to Cyclades on summer 2018.
Before sharing our experience, lets exchange few geographical information! Did you know that the Cyclades comprise of about 220 islands? The major ones being Amorgos, Andros, Antiparos, Delos, Ios, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Folegandros, Serifos, Sifnos, Syros, Tinos, and Santoríni. There are also many minor islands including Donousa, Eschati, Irakleia, Koufonisia, Makronisos and Schoinousa. The name "Cyclades" refers to the islands forming a circle ("circular islands") around the island of Delos.
Sooooo, as it seems the decision was a really hard one. Which islands in Cyclades should we visit? After hours and hours looking around on internet and trusting some local sites and bloggers, our "Cyclades OAsome trip" scheduled to get started exploring the islands of Naxos and Paros. Hmmmm we know... we are Cypriots and speak the same language, so it was easier to search local places, less touristic but still amazing. We agree, so this post is to share our tips, beautiful photos and experiences in your language!
Paros and Naxos; they are both one of the bigger islands in the Cyclades. Paros, is the most popular one, after Santorini and Mykonos! It's really touristic and crowded but at the same time so romantic, graphical and traditional. It's worth it! On the other hand, Naxos, It is not a common destination; however it has been getting more popular in the recent years. It had fewer visitors and had what we wanted to explore: its mountain villages and pristine beaches. Furthermore, it gives you the opportunity to go on a one day trip with local sailing boats from Naxos port. You can do one day trip enjoying the beautiful green-blue sea water of the Koufonisia islands or exploring the natural sea caves near by!
After flying by plane from Paris to Athens and then taking the ferry from Piraeus port to Cyclades, we finally arrived at our first destination. Since we wanted to see more or less all the island in a short period of two days, we decided to rent a car, even if one could find other ways to move around.
Our first day started by exploring around the beautiful center of Paros. The center of activity for locals is the capital town, Parikia, but a huge part of night life, nice shops, and services can be found in Naoussa too. They both have port towns, but with some differences; Parikia seems a bit more chaotic due to getting all the ferries traffic and Naoussa is a very scenic little port town with popular night life.
After a few hours in the capital we decided to go for our first walk and lunch in Naoussa. We enjoyed our seafood-lunch in a nice and local seaside fish tavern tasting our first fish after a long time. On the menu a hearty greek salad with a big portion of fresh red porgy fish. We could already get the feel that Naoussa is the beautiful part of this island. The blue color from the sea along with the white of the houses construct a beautiful and calm scenery.
Besides the dominant blue and white colorswe were struck by the bright violet-pink colors of the Bougainvillea trees that give you the following amazing pictures. These kind of pictures remain in our minds after leaving from Paros and they complement the beauty of this island.
Contrary to the our first afternoon in Naoussa, the night was not so calm. We knew what all the people were saying to us before coming to this island; "Getting popular and popular", "a lot of tourists", "so crowded", etc... It was true finally!
We were left wondering if the place we had been during the afternoon was the same as the one at night. It's not easy to find a place in a restaurant to eat calm and enjoy the island life. Even finding a parking was not easy during the night! In addition, walking around to see the narrow and scenic streets of Naoussa was complicated since there were always people crossing or stopping for visiting shops (shops are open until late at night). Especially, taking photos with the architecture or the view as the main focus, free of people, was very difficult during the night. We can easily say now that "Yes, Naoussa in Paros is really touristic with a lot of visitors during the last years!".
Second day also involved relaxing and exploring the island life. We went to swim in a very nice and calm area in the area of Ampelas. The sea, near to "St. Anna in Ampelas", was really nice, warm enough to enjoy swimming with crystal clear water. Since it was a little bit far from the center of the island, and the big towns, we had the opportunity to relax and appreciate the sun and the Aegean Sea. We really loved it!
Island life took our heart but the Greek fresh food was equally impressive! We wanted to eat more and more fish every day. The food was really good, fresh and tasty! In order to avoid promoting or neglecting restaurants chose to illustrate the food rather than describe it with words.
After completing two full days in Paros, the time to explore the next destination had arrived. Naxos OAsome trip began!
Rent a car
One of our mistakes was that we rented a car for all the days in Naxos. Since we were not sure how far was the hotel from the places we wanted to visit (finally the max distance was 10 minutes by walk) we decided to book the car online prior to our arrival date. It was a terrible idea; few parking places were available and a lot of traffic especially during the night in the chaotic center of Naxos. The car is necessary maybe for one day to explore the old villages in Naxos, or if you really intend on going around the island.
Naxos is bigger than Paros, not so well-known and popular, but still beautiful. No matter how long you stay on Naxos, it is never enough. Getting a full grasp of what the island has to offer from just one visit is not easy. You, simply mentally store the things you learned about the island, retain images of its vast beaches and archeological sites, cling on to the unique local flavors, and hope to make a swift return to explore more.
What hit our hearts and minds during this visit of Naxos, was the colorful sunset from the temple of Apollo. "Portara", the entrance to the Temple of Apollo, a 6th century BC unfinished construction on the islet of Palatia at the port's entry, is the island's most distinctive archaeological site that survives today. The Temple of Apollo may remain incomplete but its Portara entrance still stands today and has become a trademark of the island.
Even though it takes a few minutes on a steep climb to the top of the hill, the experience of viewing the sunset through Portara is completely worth it. Wherever you are in Naxos, your eyes cannot possibly miss the Portara.
One thing we chose to do with the car is ride along all the beaches to witness the differences they propose. We saw what surfers beach are like since there quite a few famous ones but we were mostly amazed by Alyko.
It probably sounds weird, but in Naxos there is the most beautiful abandoned hotel in the world, full of colors, 3D graffitis and nice roof top views of the Aegean sea. This area combines beautiful beaches with sand dunes and Alyko beach is the closest to this hotel. Sparing the details on why this hotel is abandonned, today some talented people used some of the walls of this building to transform it into an amazing street art gallery. Brilliant, 3Ds and revolutionary graffitis are some of the more popular ones
Apeiranthos, a fantastic yet peculiar village, is another lasting memory of us. It boasts magnificent views of the Naxian mountain ranges. While you are at Apeiranthos, there is no way of telling that you are, in fact, on an island. The feeling one gets is more that of a northern mainland Greece village than that of a Cycladic Island. This is partly due to its architecture and stone built houses but mainly due to its altitude, the center of the village is located at approximately 600m from sea level.
But its most impressive feature is its architecture. Stone built towers, old houses and churches, marble paved alleys, traditional small souvenir and local craftsmanship shops. It is a photographer's paradise in all its glory...
Our second stop was Chalki, a quiet and almost deserted village in this season with its distillery Kitron, the local alcohol of Naxos. We strolled around the streets of the village visiting local shops and enjoyed a tasty desert.
It's situated at the center of Naxos and is another must visit villages. The houses there are as we imagined on the islands: all white, the door frames and windows painted blue. This blue can be very dark, as rather turquoise or sky blue.
Just as in Paros, only considerably cheaper we were able to enjoy some very tasty meals. We avoided the ones situated on the road by the port since they didn't seem as authentic as we would like. Still we were able to find the tastes we were looking for. Interesting enough about Naxos is that you should not only taste the fish. Its mountains allow for cultivating potatoes and herding animals so we were not afraid to try some local meat. And we did not regret it.
This short summer trip came to an end rather quickly. We would have liked staying for a couple of more days but Paris was calling us back. We only hope that Cyclades will call us to return there once again!