Are you looking for the beauty of Cyclades but had enough with the crowds and the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Mykonos? While Mykonos is a destination on its own where every rock has a story to tell, the Cyclades complex offers more choices of less discovered destinations where all the Cycladic beauty remains in its original 50s Bohemian form, uninfluenced by the evolution of trends. If you want to blend in with the locals and celebrate Cyclades as an insider try the following destinations:
Tinos – the spiritual Island of the Cyclades
Tinos is a spiritual island where your body and mind can repose itself in serenity and the Aegean beauty and light. Located between the islands of Andros and Mykonos, it features some of the best remote long sandy beaches in the Cyclades and over 50 of the most well preserved villages where marble carving and the ancient art of handmade basketry is still flourishing, defining a sophisticated and Bohemian lifestyle away form the crowds.
In contrast to the rest of the Cyclades, the inner villages are full of life with small restaurants around the central square where visitors get together to the sounds of lounge music under the candles. For years, it’s attracted painters and writers and features numerous museums and galleries giving an overall artistic feel.
The architecture of the island blends in with the Cycladic tradition of cubic houses, the whitewashed narrow alleys decorated with flowers emitting aromas, the windmills and the artistic dovecotes which resemble small fortresses. Tinos is known as an island for pilgrimage due to the Orthodox Church of Panagia Megalochari where the reputedly miraculous icon of Virgin Mary is cited.
Nevertheless, the island has a large catholic population and over 220 Roman Catholic churches such as St. Nicholas and St. Andrews in the main town, and smaller ones in the inner villages which are all connected via mapped trekking paths through a rough landscape of low vegetation and rocks. Follow the route to Pyrgos, the capital for marble carving and walk in the main square where you can taste the local delicatessen of Galaktompouriko under a 200 years old pine tree, before you follow the mule paths from Panormos to Ysternia aseaside village where there is a secluded beach which is actually a protected bay and taste the local fish gastronomy accompanied by rakomelo (warm drink of raki (like ouzo) and honey) before or after Yoga in the sand.
Tzia (Kea) – a celebration to the authentic Greek soul
Kea is close to Athens but still feels far away for those looking for secluded beaches and coves with blue turquoise waters. The island’s natural bays have made it a preferred yachting destination while the mapped hiking routes attract those looking for unique landscapes through coves, ruins of ancient cites and foot paths and windmills.
Following the paths running from the main city (chora) Ioulis to the east and south of the island, you go away through valleys and oak forests to unspoiled beaches and small tavernas. Ioulis, the main town, is built amphitheatrically on a hill for fear of pirates, gazing the Aegean and enjoying views of the island and the sunset.
The architecture follows the Cycladic norm with white washed houses with a mix of tiled roofs, while the stone paved alleys are more narrow and unpolished. The main meeting point is the central square where you can enjoy local wines and cuisine.
Another major meeting point is the fishing village of Vourkari where there are a lot of restaurants and bars, shops and trendy cafes. During the summer there is an open cinema where you can enjoy a movie under the moonlight with a glass of wine and finger food while the scent of Jasmine is all around. Or if you feel more active, rent a sailing boat in style and do island hopping in the nearby islands of Kythnos and Andros.
Maria Nikolakaki is Managing Partner at Beyond Spaces Villas.