The Cyclades’ Circle
The four beautiful islands of Milos
in the Cyclades
have a lot in common yet each hold a different appeal for visitors. The 220 islands that make up the Cyclades
played their part in Western civilisation and photojournalist Aline Dobbie
offers a personal account of her recent visit to the Aegean
to discover why they have such an enduring appeal today. Greece
… it’s oh so much more than just wine and sunshine!
I first visited 50 years ago; this was, however, my first time in the Cyclades
and it was pure enchantment. A quick visit to the Acropolis
was essential and then we embarked on a ferry to take us to our first stop, Milos
is known as the Island of Venus or Aphrodite
whose statue was discovered in 1823 and sold to the French. This volcanic island
emerged from the Aegean Sea
around two million years ago and is a spectacular place with its amazing multi-coloured beaches
. In the Mesolithic period the mineral obsidian was traded widely for tool-making.
The island is covered with herbs
and beautiful creepers, oleander, bougainvillea, roses and stunning pelargoniums in vibrant colours. In late May the whole island is ablaze with colour against the iconic blue and white Cycladic architecture
.The resident population is 5,000 and Milos
provides a warm welcome with authentic Greek cuisine
and a whole host of lovely places to stay.
is the port with a magnificent bay having once been the crater of the volcano that made Milos. Pollonia
is in the extreme north east with a scenic bay and beaches and the capital is Plaka
. The fishing village Klima
nearby was once an ancient city with Christian catacombs
and the cave in which the Venus was discovered.
has an archaeological museum with an exact copy of the Aphrodite statue
dating from the end of the Hellenistic period 323-146BC and is worth a visit. Sarakiniko,
with its pumice rock, is absolutely fascinating as are the small ruins of the city of Phylakopi
, the important centre for the obsidian trade. Adamas
has a very good mining museum
and the small Ecclesiastical Museum
in the ancient church of the Holy Trinity.
Having lunch in simple tavernas
where the seafood
is fresh really is a sheer delight.On our last day we relaxed on the Thalassitra
, a replica of a typical old Milos yacht. It was glorious swimming in the azure water off the west coast, and delicious food cooked by the skipper added to the enjoyment. There are daily flights from Athens
for the time-pressed traveller.
is reached by sea jet and we drove from the port of Kamares
to one of the many good hotels in a beautiful bay with a glorious beach and well-kept tavernas. There are 2,000 permanent residents - the picturesque churches
, 55 ancient towers, whitewashed villages
, historical monasteries, dovecots and the capital town of Appollonia
with its narrow charming lanes and squares and the beaches all combine to make it so beautiful!
Being a small island it is easy to drive around. Apokofto beach
is near the iconic church of Chryssopigi
. Vathy beach
has a small colony of houses and tavernas along with the island’s only 5* luxury hotel which is truly beautiful and in Cycladic style with elegant pool and green lawns. We drove up to the prehistoric ruins on the Acropolis of Agios Andreas
and the church at the summit. Human activity is evident from the Neolithic period to the beginning of the Early Bronze Age (late 4th millennium BC). The strongly fortified citadel dates from the Mycenaean Age in the 13th century BC.
is the heritage ‘castle’ village with its Cycladic fusion with Venetian architecture. Artemonas
is adjacent to Appollonia
which also has strong Venetian influence; we visited a potter and also tasted the local unusual sweets being made by the confectioner. We watched the gathering of the caper berries
from hundreds of bushes growing everywhere. I would happily return to Platis Yialos
for a relaxing beach holiday
I particularly enjoyed the breakfast buffet at our hotel… the glorious preserved citrus
and fig jam
with as much fresh orange juice
as you could drink, or good coffee,
set you up for the day.The ferry departs daily from Piraeus for Sifnos, so it is easily accessible on the water as well as via the helipad too.
is the third largest island of the Cyclades
and in the evening light as we arrived it was equally as beautiful as the other, smaller islands in the region. Excavations reveal remains of Neolithic civilisation dated from 4,300 – 3,700 BC. This is considered to be the first signs of life in the whole of the Cyclades. Paros
developed through the era known as the pre-Cycladic 3,200-2,800 BC. The Arcadians led by Paros son of Parrhasios settled the island in the first millennium BC.
The lovely beaches
are fairly evenly distributed around the island including Port Parikia
in the west with its fine bay; it has an archaeological museum
and a ‘kastro’ – castle – and very sophisticated shopping. Parikia’s Katapoliani Church
is one of the best-known orthodox churches in the whole Aegean, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and dating from the 6th century. Being different from the usual iconic Greek chapel or church it is interesting with superb iconography and interesting Baptistery.
We stayed at a family hotel on the outskirts of Naoussa
in the north of the island which is a charming town with a lovely harbour and ancient Venetian ruins. The shopping here is also sophisticated and the restaurants
with al fresco dining are attractive with excellent food
A sunset cruise
on a restored fishing boat around Naoussa’s Bay whilst sipping ouzo
and eating nibbles was so enjoyable and ripe apricots
on the trees, vines promising a bounty of grapes
and vibrant pelargoniums were all around us. A truly beautiful island and well worth a visit...
Tradition links the island of Ios to Homer
, the greatest epic poet of all time. The author of the Iliad and Odyssey is apparently buried on a hill top overlooking the Aegean at Plakotos. The island is home to 2,000 residents and has 365 churches. The Port of Ios
with the lighthouse
on the one side and the church of Saint Irini
on the other is a scenic marvel. It is a popular yachting base
and there is also a lovely beach
with several good hotels with their own pools.
, the capital, is a superb example of Cycladic architecture
and the topography makes it stunning. The Cycladic architecture is respected in all the islands and there are no high-rise or unfinished buildings on any of the four islands we visited. The elegant town
square and the ancient church of the Annunciation are very inviting with the many lanes and small squares and huddled little chapels and churches… enchanting. The hillside has three iconic white chapels
ascending at intervals along with heritage windmills
This island encourages the young and energetic and from about noon onwards the lanes and squares become busy. The covered streets are called stigadia and the decor of the little shops
, night clubs
are all individual.
The stone and marble Greek-style open theatre
seats 1,000 people overlooking the Aegean and Mylopota Bay
and the small archaeological museum
reminds visitors of the antiquity of this gem of an island. The Acropolis at Skarkos
is dated to the Protocycladic period of 2,800 -2,700 BC. The antiquity is all around with the ancient walls of Hora
, the Roman aqueduct in Aghia Theodoti, the Byzantine Paleokastro
in Psathi and other heritage sites.
We stayed at a hotel with an elegant pool and stunning vista of the bay – looking down from my balcony as the sun set is a memory to treasure. Ios
has a number of very good hotels to suit the traveller’s budget but also accommodation designed for the young.
En route to Magganari beach
we visited Homer’s grave
and one of the goats’ cheese
dairies. The thyme-clad hills with small wild flowers and the evocative tinkling of goats’ bells in the distance soon showed us the flock. The cheese
is excellent and honey
too is another important product - both are flavoured by thyme
in springtime and heather
in the autumn. Yet again the food was excellent with lots of fresh seafood
and authentic local dishes
with vegetables which are grown on the island.
would love this island as there are several dedicated walks. Snorkelling
and water sports
are available at Mylopotas
as well as Magganari
and the Port beach
; the Port is considered the safest natural harbour in the Cyclades for yachts
. The light on Ios
, reflected from the sea and mountains, seems to surpass light anywhere else in the world!
My abiding memory is of a warm welcome, lovely Cycladic architecture and the sheer antiquity of each of these glorious islands. A most beautiful two weeks in Greece
and one I hope to repeat very soon...
Text by Aline Dobbie
For more island photos, check Aline’s website: www.thepeacockscall.co.uk