Best time to go on a Cyclades vacation


For many people, the traditional height of summer is not always the best time to visit the Cyclades, and walking vacations, for example, usually skip July and August due to the heat. The springtime brings flowers such as orchids out in wild abandon, and the water is warming up. June brings the aromatic wild herbs, and autumn the crocus along with crowd free ports. Between Nov – April you can get snow, showers and blissful sunshine, all in a day in the Cyclades. Be wary of Easter as the busier islands will be packed, but not if you are sailing the seas.

Things to do in the Cyclades Islands

What to do in the Cyclades & what not to

Things to do in the Cyclades…

These islands are Hellenic hiking at their finest, most of them boasting mountains and volcanic peaks. You can spend a week hiking the highlights of Paros, Santorini and Naxos, for example. Walk up to the highest point in the Cyclades on Naxos, Mount Zas at 1,004m, or to the volcanic caldera on Santorini , visiting Venetian settlements and whitewashed villages en route. Paros has myriad ancient walking trails connecting remote traditional villages and, of course, like all the islands, some stunners of beaches. And the smaller Western Cyclades are a whole other world for those who are prone to walking wanderlust, with Natura 2000 protected landscapes peppered throughout.
It’s an archipelago, so not surprisingly the top thing to do here is island hopping, with a small ship cruise or sailing vacation around the serene spots of the Cyclades. Start in Mykonos, and then leave behind the worshippers of Bacchus, Greek god of wine, to go on your own Poseidon adventure, sailing to Santorini, Syros, Seriphos or Siphnos. There are over 200 islands, so there is probably one for every letter in the alphabet. Most sailing vacations include some hiking or cycling when you drop anchor, so be prepared to use those land legs too. Small cruise ships sleep a maximum of 49 people – so none of your floating hotel business. Just blissful boating all the way.

Things not to do in the Cyclades…

Assume that they are just for summer. Book a bargain springtime flight to Athens and then hop over to Naxos for empty hiking trails and beaches on this and all the other Cyclades. The only thing that is busy at this time of year is the flora, all bursting into life on the mountainsides. Autumn is also gorgeous, and the sea temperatures sublime. The nights may be closing in back home, but the Cyclades are still open for business.
Mess with nature. These islands are very precious in terms of natural resources and many of them, such as Milos and Syros, have EU protected zones on them known as Natura 2000. Adhere to Leave No Trace practices, taking everything that you brought on to the island off again if possible, as waste and recycling can be an issue. Water is also a problem in the height of summer, so even though it’s hot, resist the urge to take multiple daily showers. Bring a refillable water bottle, and ask your vacation company if the tap water is drinkable. With pure mountain sources, it often is.

Be brazen about the heat, especially in the height of summer and keep hydrated at all times. If you are sailing, you may not realise how hot you are getting. Carry a hydration backpack if you are going hiking as well as salts, just to be safe.

Cyclades vacations travel advice


Annie Antonatou from our Cyclades vacations supplier Mystic Blue:

Sailing tips

“Our guests are welcome to get involved in sailing the boat if they wish, although it’s not compulsory. Our skipper gives all guests an introduction in sailing so you can help with trimming the sails and holding the helm, but there is also opportunity for other activities such as snorkelling and diving, walking, dolphin and bird watching. Or you can sit back and enjoy the sailing, sunbathe, or just relax and read your book. There is something for everyone.”

Itinerary tips

“We take guests to smaller, unspoilt islands of the Aegean to show the real Greece – to mingle with locals and experience delicious food grown on the doorstep. Sailing to remote islands is a unique way to discover local producers – fresh fish from the fisherman, olive oil from a small grove or locally produced cheese. You'll experience a Greek feast with traditional island music and dancing. And discover unique Aegean wildlife. Dolphins, seals and loggerhead turtles will be sailing companions, plus land species like the Skyros’ wall lizard and Milos viper – the Aegean's unique natural wealth.”

Cultural advice

“In Greek ‘panigiria’ (local feasts), people of all ages gather, usually at the main square of the village, and under the uplifting sounds of the local musicians, they eat, drink wine and dance till dawn. Since the ancient times, feasts would take place in order to worship the god of Dionysus, the god of wine and festivity. I strongly recommend that you plan to attend one during your stay. Just ask us for dates and further information.”

When to go

“Walkers who visit the Cyclades between February and April will enjoy the relaxed pace of life of the out-of-season months as well as lower fees for accommodation. They may experience though some cool and damp days. The sea temperature is not ideal for swimming but this is compensated for by a green landscape with a variety of flowering plants such as asphodel, irises and tassel hyacinths. The flowering period lasts until June when most herbaceous plants start to dry out and a large part of the landscape is bathed in various yellow and brown tones. Some plants flower though in the summer such as the thistle, sage, thyme, winged sea lavender, yellow horned poppy and spiny startwort. Around September with the first showers plants such as such as sea squills, pine thistle and autumn crocus produce their flowers. All seasons have something to offer. “

Cultural tips

Powell Ettinger, Director of our supplier The Small Cruise Ship Collection: “Even though it is a cruise and most people speak English on board, do learn a bit of the local language for when you land and go in to visit local communities. Just a few words are really important.”

Cyclades vacations travel advice


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Cyclades vacations advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
“Annie’s walks are well prepared, all you need is good hiking shoes !... Annie prepared us some lovely picnics that we ate on the beach, and once in a small chapel. We enjoyed delicious food in a mixture of places, once in a small fisherman's café, delicious fresh fish, and a few times at the end of our hikes we ended up in family run places, where the food was their own produce. What could be better?” – Gillian Arcone

“If you wish to experience Greece and breathe its soul, then this is the tour to go on!... Be cognizant of the way of life in Greece – you will be advised not to waste natural resources (water, paper etc.)….Keep a good water proof jacket and fleece jacket handy – the weather in the mountains changes without warning – being prepared helps! Good shoes, sunglasses and sunscreen and you are all set! Wi-Fi is available in all the places, you will be staying, but a little piece of advice from a fellow traveler – leave those phones and tablets in the room – go out there – talk to the locals, enjoy a glass of wine and hear what they have to say – you will be amazed at what you will hear and how much there is to see.” – Sarita Chitrapu

"It's a relaxing trip, most on board are of a more mature age. Shame there are not more round the mid 40's - mid 50's yr looking for this type of fulfilment. It’s a lovely trip.” - Rosanne Sene on an Island hopping cruise in the Aegean

“Travel light, and leave the hair dryer at home, you only need basic gear, and sunblock... the islands were not crowded and beautiful. The sailing was great fun, I had never been sailing before, and both Annie and Sorteris knew their stuff. You were asked to help if you wanted to as well.” – Louise Jones on a sailing and walking vacation
Photo credits: [Temp Chart: Eric Molina] [Sailing tips: Pedro] [Cultural advice-1: Klearchos Kapoutsis] [Cultural advice-2; Klearchos Kapoutsis] [Tip1: Emmanuel Eragne] [Tip2: liddybits] [Helpdesk: Christos Loufopoulos]
Written by Catherine Mack
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Klearchos Kapoutsis]
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