The Cyclades Islands: Athens, Mykonos, Ios, and Santorini

The Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea are on almost everyone’s travel bucket list. Each island has its’ own unique flair – from experiencing the world’s best party hotspots in Mykonos, to chilling out in Ios, and viewing the magical sunsets in Santorini.
To get to many of the islands, many have to make a pit stop in Athens. We stayed at the Divani Palace Acropolis. The hotel was within walking distance to all of the attractions, so we enjoyed not having to take any taxis. There was also a cute courtyard pool to cool off during those hot summer days.
During our one night stopover, we made sure to visit the Acropolis and pack in as much as we could. The streets of Plaka were littered with great shops and bars and came alive a night. Greeks like to eat dinner later than where else we have been, so we always aimed to eat at 9 pm. For dinner, we went to Anafiotika Cafe – Restaurant. The restaurant served typical Greek fare, but the showstopper here is the rooftop views coupled with the live music from the streets below. Then, we headed to Brettos bar for a nightcap, which featured a cool wall of specialty liqueurs that are all made in house.
I was most excited to visit Mykonos, and we came revving to go. Mykonos is known for its very very late nightlife – think dinner starting at 10 pm and cocktail bars opening at 1 am. We wanted to pack everything we could in 4 short days on this stylish island. THIS is the place to take fashion risks – gold, glitter, all-white outfits, and bright colors. Anything goes.
They don’t have Uber here but the Aegean Taxi app works the same and is a lot more reliable than trying to find a taxi.
Hopping off our flight, we changed and headed straight to the infamous Scorpios for the Sunday night party. It is a chill atmosphere here, with table service and as well as lots of areas to stand and take in the views. A great place to spend a few hours adjusting to the super fun vibe of the island and people watch. The sliders were also really tasty. The dress code is boho luxe.
Around midnight we hopped into our cab and headed to Mykonos Town to check out Astra and then the Queen of Mykonos, which are both lively bars with people spilling out into whitewashed courtyards.
After a night of dancing, we headed to Jimmy Gyros for their famous gyros. If it were up to me, every night should end with a gyro.
The next day we woke up and headed straight to Principote Panormos, which is still one of my favorite beach clubs in the world. We started with some delicious shrimp pasta and mojitos in the restaurant. Made perfect with some champagne. And moved to to the day beds to lazy away our day with some shisha and more champs. My idea of a perfect day.
We were getting hungry and wanted to check out another beach club called Alemagou. So we hopped in a cab and went straight there. The seafood risotto was hearty and served in a clay pot, almost like a soup. Delicious. The live DJ warmed up the atmosphere, but it wasn’t so busy when were there so we headed off back to Mykonos Town shortly after dinner.
After a little siesta, we went to Void nightclub, which we found a little cold. It was more like an after-party spot than somewhere to start the night. So, we headed to the Toy Room which was tons of fun, albeit a little cramped.
The next day, we had exhausted ourselves with the non-stop dancing from the night before, so we relaxed during the day seeing the famous Windmills and checking out some local shops in Little Venice. That night, we went to the Sea Satin Market for dinner which is situated right below the Windmills. They had lots of fresh fish options. I would say the food here isn’t outstanding like our other experiences on the island, but the atmosphere and direct ocean views really can’t be beaten. At around 10:30 pm -11 pm, guests start dancing on tables and twirling their napkins to top 40 hits and Greek classics. I would make this my first stop next time in Mykonos.
We wanted to pick a more relaxing island after Mykonos, so we picked Ios on a whim. We took the ferry and the journey wouldn’t be too long, if not for delays. We stayed at the Far Out Beach Club. In our later twenties, we were definitely older than the average age here. Our private room was actually a freestanding house on its won, which was nice for privacy and quiet. There were multiple pools on-premise, and some decent simple food like sushi and pizzas, but we picked the hotel for the location on Mylopotas Beach. Beautiful palapas just steps away and a few restaurants too. The town was also not too far away by walking, approx 20 mins, but in the pitch dark.
Once we arrived in the Chora, we saw Click Cocktail Bar which had live music and a packed patio. It was a great place to start our night, and the only spot we went to with people closer to our age group.
We had to try the famous slammer hammer shot at the Slammer Bar Ios, and you should too! Where else can you pay to get hit in the head by your bartender? Another bar we really like was the Lost Boys bar. We really liked their shirts so we did their shots challenge to get them. I think it was something like 7 shots for a shirt? Afterward, we went to Shush Bar Ios, because I’d always wanted to try a silent disco. You get a pair of headphones where there are multiple channels and you can jam out to whatever you like. Super cool!
We found out very quickly Ios is a top spot for college-aged party goers. We decided to go on the Ios Bar Crawl which took us to so many fun and hidden spots along with free T-shirt and drink deals and every bar. It was a great way to spend the night, especially if you are a solo traveler or a couple like us. Chora Town also has great greasy places to satisfy your hunger – like tasty gyros.
So, Ios wasn’t the quiet and relaxing stop we had planned, but it sure was a blast! I would recommend going if you are college-aged. We were on the brink of being too old to enjoy the Ios lifestyle. It is a beautiful island and everything was super cheap and geared towards that age group.
Yes, it’s true. Santorini looks even more beautiful in real life than in photos! We chose to stay in the heart of Fira since we knew that we would like to spend our evenings.
We started off with dinner at Argo, which was on the famous cascading cliffs of Fira. It is a busy spot with delicious Greek dishes, and probably the “hippest” one in the area, so reservations are needed. We also tried Lithos, which had beautiful unobstructed views, and pretty good Mediterranean dishes.
The next day we did a hiking trail from Fira to Oia which is approx 10.5 km (6.5 miles). We followed this guide for the trek. It took us about 4 hours with some stops in shops along the way, stops for water, and stops to take in the views. In Oia, we trekked down the 300 or so steps into Almoudi Bay for the best vantage for the sunset. The steps were extremely slippery as they are worn away with time.
We walked left along the cliff face to the famous cliff jumping area. After a quick celebratory swim and some jumping, we went to Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna for a quick bite to eat before heading home. Btw, we saw some thieves lurking around here, so I would swim one at a time so you can keep an eye on your belongings.
On the way back up to Oia, we took the donkey ride up the steps, and would definitely recommend the same for a fun experience.
The following day, we booked a Catamaran trip on a Lagoon 560. They took us to a natural thermal bath that was kept warm from the volcanic complex underneath. As well as the black sand beaches to swim and snorkel. It was a fabulous day, and so nice to view the caldera from the water. And, the perfect way to wrap up our time in Greece for this holiday!
I would definitely recommend the Cyclades for anyone looking for a Greek adventure. I’m hoping to go back to Mykonos again soon, as we just couldn’t get enough of the nonstop fun!

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