Blue-domed churches and white cubic houses line the cobbled streets forming a labyrinth that leads to the bluest sea you’ll ever feast your eyes on. This is the quintessential postcard of the Cyclades – Greece’s prized group of 220 islands including the infamous party town of Mykonos, the stunning volcanic island of Santorini, and the picturesque fishing village of Paros.
Ever since 7000 BC, long before party-goers and wealthy yachtsmen discovered them, the Cyclades were inhabited by the Minoans, the Romans and even the Turks. Today visitors can still see these influences throughout the islands, from the sacred island of Delos to the Venetian fortress of Exobourgo.
Choosing just one island to visit can be hard so most people island-hop instead. The easiest way is to take a flight to Mykonos or a flight to Santorini then hop on a boat or ferry to the surrounding islands. To avoid the summer crowds head to the less popular islands of Naxos or Siros which offer the same Greek isle holiday but with fewer crowds. For an even more authentic experience, do as the Greeks do and head to Tinos, one of the largest Cyclades, lined with long stretches of sandy beach.
Greece enjoys long, Mediterranean summers, with temperatures averaging 25-30 degrees Celsius and around 11 hours sunshine a day. But even the hottest days are generally tempered by seasonal winds, called meltemi. The mountainous regions are cooler. Winters are mild in the low lying areas. The average temperature in January and February in Athens is 10 degrees. However, there is normally snow on the mountains.
Mid-June to the end of August is high season for most of Greece, when the temperatures are hottest. Easter time to mid-June is also very popular as the weather is still very warm, though not unbearably hot. You may be able to pick up some cheaper deals at this time of year though. Late August to mid-October is Greece’s shoulder season. The temperatures are still high (substantially higher than the UK and Ireland) and most resorts and attractions still open, but prices are much lower than early or high summer so cheap flights and accommodation are easier to find.
October to April is off season. Though you will find the cheapest deals at this time, much of the tourist parts of Greece close down around this time. Unless you’re in Athens you may find that there is little to do and hardly any hotels or restaurants that are open.