Experience the vastly different personalities of these five lovely islands close to Mykonos — all easy to reach in a day trip. Hop a local boat to reach the world-class ancient site on Delos. Or catch a larger fast ferry for the stark beauty and sensational food of Tinos, the classic charms and modern bustle of Syros, the great circular drive of Paros or the wide-ranging sights of Naxos.
None are further than 90 minutes from Mykonos and most are under an hour each way. It’s like visiting an entirely different — and fascinating — destination for the simple price of a ferry ticket.
Why go? A sacred ancient island minutes from Mykonos
One of the most sacred ancient Greek sites lies at the center of the circling Cyclades. Delos is the mythical birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, the brother and sister twins of the big gun Zeus and his bride Leto. Both were avid hunters and it’s easy to imagine them prowling the hills of this tiny and arid island with their bows in search of game.
Today Delos' importance as a vital archeological site has given it Unesco World Heritage status. Uninhabited (and closed to overnight visitors), the island features the remains of temples, treasuries, mosaics and more, dating back as far as the 3rd millennium BC — making it one of the very oldest sites in the Mediterranean. Anyone with even a passing interest in ancient Greece shouldn’t miss Delos (that it’s the tranquil antidote to the frenetic fun of Mykonos is a bonus).
How to get to Delos:
Boats from Hora make the quick journey four times daily in summer, less often other times. Tour guides for hire meet incoming boats; it’s also possible to book a visit through the many Mykonos tour companies.
Why go? Crowd-free natural beauty with fantastic locally produced food and art
Hidden bays, terraced valleys and cloud-shrouded peaks give Tinos a natural beauty that’s in direct contrast to arid Mykonos. Dozens of villages accented with traditional buildings made from the local marble invite exploration of the island’s sinuous roads, so it’s worth renting a car. Among the rewards are tavernas serving excellent food made from the produce of Tinos’s rich farms and fisheries.
The local marble is also put to good use by scores of local artisans, especially in the sculptors’ village of Pyrgos. And in the main town of Hora, the hallowed Church of the Annunciation is a pilgrimage site for the devout who come to visit its miraculous icon.
How to get to Tinos:
In peak season, fast ferries make the roughly 30-minute run to Tinos several times daily from Mykonos. The main town and port on both islands is named Hora, so keep this in mind to avoid confusion when checking schedules. You can rent cars for the day in the port, but be sure to book ahead.
Why go? Check out the capital of the Cyclades and also hit its beaches
Pint-sized Syros (it’s just under 10mi/16km-long) is outsize in importance as its main town of Ermoupoli is the administrative center of the Cyclades. Meanwhile, the quiet countryside has a rural feel that’s ripe for a grammable shot of a goatherd corralling his charges or of tiny roads winding down to sparsely peopled beaches.
In the capital, there’s a noticeable buzz and it’s been that way since the 19th century when Syros was a Greek Orthodox refuge from Turkish rule. The engrossing Industrial Museum of Ermoupoli preserves a time when it was also the center of Greek shipbuilding. Stop into a portside taverna for excellent fare and watch modern Greek life far removed from the tourism of Mykonos.
How to get to Syros:
One to three ferries a day link Mykonos and Ermoupoli with a journey time of about an hour. You can rent a car on arrival, although exploring just the capital can fill a day and be accomplished on foot.
Why go? Hit the road and explore far-flung villages from the mountainsides to the seashore
Long considered something of a tourism sleeper, Paros is rapidly moving up visitors’ popularity charts. Sure, the booming port town of Parikia has its appeal, but to really get a flavor for this large, varied island, head out to the villages you can visit on a superb half-day (or more) driving loop of the island.
Stroll through towns like Alyki and Naoussa and stop at affordable, excellent seafood tavernas. In between, hit the surrounding soft-sand beaches and explore headlands and rock formations. Then, head to the hills for the lovely village of Lefkes with artisan shops and sweeping views — exquisite at sunset.
How to get to Paros:
Paros is easily reached from Mykonos by fast ferry several times a day in peak season in under an hour. Reserve a car in advance in the port town of Parikia. There’s a frequent car ferry for the 10-minute trip to the wonderful adjoining island of Antiparos.
Why go? Exploring grand rural expanses, ancient temples and untrammeled beaches
If Mykonos leaves you wishing for something, well, larger, you’ll find it on Naxos, the largest of the Cycladic islands. Greener than most of its neighbors, the island has farms producing rich harvests of olives (of course!), oranges, lemons, figs, grapes and citron. (The latter tastes pretty rough when eaten fresh, so stick to the treats of the local alchemists who turn the leaves into a delicious liqueur called kitron.) Excellent tavernas scattered about the island put Naxos’s bounty to good use.
Don’t miss the perfectly positioned Temple of Demeter as you climb into the mountains and seek out massive marble statues — Naxian marble is world-famous — that have been left in the fields.
On the island’s east side, quiet country roads lead to even quieter beaches. And, the main town of — you guessed it — Hora (otherwise known as Naxos) makes for a good wander before your ferry back to Mykonos.
How to get to Naxos:
Fast ferries in summer serve Hora from Mykonos’s Hora (!) with journey times of 40-90 minutes. Your own wheels are a must for exploring its vast hinterlands; reserve in advance.
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