A guide to the cyclades

The Greek Islands are an absolute dream holiday destination. White-washed streets, pristine beaches, and don’t even get me started on the food! They’re a must-do if you’re spending your summer in Europe. But with over 30 islands in the Cyclades to choose from, simply deciding on a destination can feel overwhelming. Each island has a special charm and distinct feel to it. This guide will help you pick out which Island’s suit your holiday mood the best, and I’ll tell you what you can expect from each of these dream locations!

When is the best time to visit the Greek Islands?

The best time to visit the Greek islands is either May or September. The Islands are extremely popular and get really busy in the summer months. This will not only drive up the prices in the area but it also makes it harder to take advantage of services like public transport. I recommend visiting in May, September or even October as the weather is still really good, and you’ll avoid the heavy summer crowds.

How to get to the Greek Islands

The easiest way to get to the Greek Islands is to fly into the capital, Athens. From here, you can take a ferry to most of the islands. It’s really important to check which port your ferry is leaving from, this is usually Rafina or Piraeus. The journey from your start point to the islands can take a full day depending on your flight and the ferry schedules, so if you’re on a tight schedule it might be worth it to fly directly to the island or leave from an island. If you have a week and you’re flying to return from Athens, I’d recommend choosing two islands to make the most of your time there.

Super important – the ferries are often a bit late. This is normal. I had a ferry that was meant to arrive at 3 am and it actually arrived at 5.30am. If you;re relying on a ferry to catch a flight, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time.

How to get around the Greek Islands

The best way to move from island to island is definitely by ferry. You can fly between some islands, but the ferries are a lot less stressful, are more frequent, and are often cheaper. I booked all of my ferries through the site ferryhopper. Essentially, this is the Skyscanner of the seas. The site allows you to see all the ferries that are available for a certain route, and easily compare prices and times. To get around on the island you can either rent an ATV or scooter (make sure you have a valid license) or you can use the island’s public transport.

The Best Islands in the Cyclades

On my recent trip to Greece, I visited six islands – Mykonos, Santorini, Milos, Paros, Naxos, and Ios. I’m going to take you through what you can expect from each of these islands. You’ll hear a lot of people throw out the phrase, this is the best Island in Greece! Ignore them. There’s no point in comparing the islands, as the best one will really depend on what you’re looking for. As the Island’s also have a reputation for being expensive, I’ve added a breakdown of what I spent when visiting in May of 2022.


Go For: Unspoilt scenery and adventure

Daily Budget: €55 to €75

Accommodation€35 – €45 pp
An average meal at a restaurant€10 – €15
Beer €3
Transport (ATV or car)€8 – €15 pp
Average price breakdown in Milos

How long to stay: 2 Days

We are starting off strong with Milos, my favourite island in Greece! Milos is one of the most incredible natural beauties I’ve ever seen. Epic sea cliffs, sandy beaches, cliff jumping, and caves you can swim through, this place screams adventure. This is an ideal place for photographers and adventure lovers, as you have incredible landscapes and activities that will get your adrenaline pumping.

Klima Village in Milos
Klima Village, Milos

Things to do in Milos

Milos is a bit cheaper than the other islands, as most of the best things to do here are free. My recommendations would be to climb down the ladder to the secluded Tisgrado beach, swim through the caves in Papagragas, and of course, go cliff jumping at Sarakiniko Beach. If you’re looking to chill out, I’ve got you covered. You should watch the sunset at the castle of Plaka or stroll along the waterfront at Klima village.

To get around Milos you will either need to rent a car, an ATV or a scooter, as the public transport isn’t very reliable. With this being said, the prices are extremely reasonable. We paid €30 a day for our rental, and it was the best way to see the island.

If you’re a solo traveler, there’s only one downside to Milos. There aren’t any hostels on the island, so it might be hard to meet new people and split costs such as accommodation and transport. I’d recommend starting your adventure in Paros. There are lots of solo travelers here, and you’ll easily find people who want to explore some of the lesser-known islands!


Go For: Beautiful Instagrammable places at reasonable prices

Daily Budget: €50 – €85

Accommodation€13 – €30pp
An average meal at a restaurant€14 – €20
Beer €4
Transport (bus)€5 a day
ATV / Scooter Rental€15 – €25 pp
Average price breakdown in Paros

How long to stay: 2/3 Days

Antiparos, Greece

Paros is one of the most up-and-coming islands in the Cyclades. It’s not as expensive as the famous Santorini and Mykonos but has a lot of the same charm and appeal. You’ll find lots of great bars and restaurants here, as well as beach clubs and instagrammable white streets.

If you’re looking to treat yourself, you can find great and affordable accommodation, bars, and restaurants in Paros. Although it’s becoming very popular, it has remained very backpacker friendly and the prices aren’t too bad! It really is what you make of it. If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend staying at Paros Backpacker hostel. It’s only €13 per night, and the owner George has set up a WhatsApp group with daily activities to help you meet other travelers.

ATV Rental on the Greek Islands
The Best thing to do in Paros, ATV Rental!

Things to do in Paros

The buses on the island are pretty good, and you can use them to visit the beautiful towns of Naousa and Lefkes. I’d recommend saving your money and taking the bus instead of grabbing an ATV. I’d also recommend taking a trip to the nearby Antiparos Island. You can do a return trip here using the public ferry and bus for less than €5. The beaches on Antiparos are a lot quieter, and you can’t miss the caves here which have a lot of interesting history. The caves are free to visit in the off-season, but cost €5 from June to August.


Go For: A Luxurious, Treat Yourself Trip

Daily Budget: €55 to €75

Accommodation (Luxury)€100+ pp
Accommodation (Hostel)€50
An average meal at a restaurant€20 – €35
Beer €4
Bus€5 per day
Average price breakdown in Santorini

How long to stay: 2/3 Days

Oia, Santorini

The most famous and popular island in the Cyclades is Santorini. In terms of natural beauty, this place has it all. Black sand beaches, volcanos, beautiful mountains… what more could you ask for! In my eyes, the beautiful nature here surpassed the other Islands in the Cyclades by far. But it definitely wasn’t my favourite location.

Santorini’s beauty has increased its popularity, and this has made it one of the most expensive locations in Greece. This is a location to visit if you’re on a treat yourself trip – Somewhere where you don’t mind spending a bit extra to have a luxury experience.

If you’re backpacking, I recommend staying at bedspot hostel in Fira. It’s close to the main town and bus station, so you’re easily connected to other parts of the island. The area is well serviced with lots of bus routes, which will also help you to save a bit of cash on car rentals!

Another thing to note, and I hate to say it, is that the volume of tourists has made the locals a lot less friendly than on the other islands. It seemed as though we weren’t really wanted here, and a lot of the staff at hotels, shops, and restaurants were quite rude. This doesn’t speak to all people in Santorini, of course, but it definitely impacted our stay and experience of the island.

Things to do in Santorini

Of course, while you’re here you should take some time to explore both Fira and Oia. They are beautiful towns to stroll around and get lost in! If you want to knock off both on the same day, you can do the hike from Fira to Oia, which ends at Oia castle. Make sure to get there before sunset for one of the most amazing views on the Greek Islands! Another town which isn’t as popular but is just as beautiful is Pyrgos. Our host told us that it has all the same beauty of Fira, but without the crowds. And this town didn’t disappoint! It’s surrounded by an old castle and we got a great view of the sunset from here.

One of the most popular things to do on the Island is to take a boat trip to the volcano. The view from the water is incredible, and it will give you a completely new perspective of the Island! Santorini is famous for their wine, and it’s the perfect place to go wine tasting in Greece.


Go For: Authentic Greek Island experience with friendly locals

Daily Budget: €40 to €65

Accommodation (Luxury)€25- €50
An average meal at a restaurant€10 – €15
Beer €3.50
Bus€5 per day
Average price breakdown in Naxos

How long to stay: 2 Days

View of Naxos from the Temple of Apollo

Naxos is an absolute gem in the Cyclades, and we absolutely loved our time here! We met some incredibly friendly locals who made us feel right at home. This was also one of the least crowded and most authentic locations we visited, and Naxos is incredibly rich in history. It’s also pretty cheap in comparison to the other islands.

Things to do in Naxos

The most impressive part of Naxos is undoubtedly the old market. This area is built on the ruins of an ancient castle, and it has the idyllic, white-washed streets that we all think of when we think of Greece! It’s really beautiful to walk around and admire the flower vines, and also a great place for dining and shopping.

For sunset, you need to get yourself to the Temple of Apollo. This ancient ruin is a must-do on the Island, and you’ll find locals and tourists gathering here to watch the sunset. The Temple is a large marble arch on a small headland. It’s free to visit and is a great viewpoint of Naxos.

If you’ve had enough adventure over the past few days and just want to chill, head to Plaka beach. You can easily reach this area by bus, or rent an ATV if you’re looking for more adventure!


Go For: Boujee Party vibes

Daily Budget: €100 to €200

Accommodation (Luxury)€75 – €120
Accommodation (Hostel)€40
An average meal at a restaurant€20 – €25
Beer €14
Bus€5 per day
Average price breakdown in Mykonos

How long to stay: 3 Days

There’s nowhere better to party than Mykonos. They have the best nightlife on the Greek Islands, and maybe even the whole of Greece! It’s also a very scenic place, with lots of white-washed streets, old windmills and the most beautiful spot for a drink – Little Venice. Although the island is primarily known for its nightlife, you can find a little bit of everything in Mykonos.

Little Venice, the most beautiful spot in Mykonos

Things to do in Mykonos

Nightlife! It’s what Mykonos is known for. Kick off your night with a cocktail at Little Venice, or head to the famous 180 degrees bar. This bar has the best view of Mykonos, as well as live music each night. It comes at a price though, with cocktails costing €25 and a glass of wine setting you back €14. If you’re on a budget like me, grab a drink at the local supermarket and head to this location for the same view, but without the frills!

Once you’ve watched the sunset, the best place to party is Paradise Beach. During the day, this is a cool beach bar, and at night it is the most popular clubbing destination on the island.

For more history and culture, head to Delos Island, just a short boat ride from Mykonos! This is an archeological site with lots of ancient ruins and makes a great day trip. You should also spend some time at the famous Mykonos Windmills, which are a great spot for some photos.


Go For: Partying on a Budget

Daily Budget: €30 to €65

Accommodation (Mid-Range)€20 – €40
Accommodation (Hostel)€12
An average meal at a restaurant€10 – €15
Beer €3.50
Bus€5 per day
Average price breakdown in Milos

How long to stay: 2 Days

Ios is the place for backpackers and partying. The crowd here is a bit younger than those in Mykonos, and it is also a lot more affordable. This is a great place for partying at night and relaxing during the day, with maybe a little bit of watersports thrown in too.

Things to do in Ios

The best place to stay if you’re a backpacker in Ios is Far Out. They have two affordable accommodations, and this is the best place to meet new people. The hostel is also within walking distance to Chora, the main town on the Island with the best restaurants, bars, and nightlife. After a night of partying, you’ll want to relax on the famous Mylopotas beach.

Ios is one of the cheapest Islands to rent an ATV, and this can be a great way to get out and explore the island! Although Ios is most famous for its party scene, there are also some great historic sites you can visit on your tour of the Island. I recommend taking a trip to the Odysseas Elytis Theatre, a large amphitheater. You can also stop off at Homer’s Tomb, which has panoramic views of the area.

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful for your next trip to Greece! The Greek Islands truly are a dream come true holiday destination, with so much to see and do! I hope I’ve helped you to narrow down your search for the perfect place to spend a summer in Greece. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

Niamh x