Top 10 Things to Experience In The Cyclades and The Dodecanese

The sunset in Santorini. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Alexandros Zontanos)

Greek islands have an unmistakable look and feel, but each is unique, with food, customs, natural elements and experiences that distinguish them create indelible memories. Here are 10 Cyclades Dodecanese experiences not to be missed:

  1.    Discover the Blue Cave, Kastellorizo

These natural wonders will amaze every visitor – some special caves turn blue when the light hits the water. Blue caves can be found in many places around Greece, but the Blue Grotto in Kastellorizo is one of the most famous ones, and without a doubt one of the most stunning ones as well. It’s 75 meters long, 35 meters high and 40 meters wide, but the entrance is only one meter high so a professional captain and a small boat are required to enter. Inside the cave sunlight reflects the beautiful turquoise color of the water all around the cave, making it almost an overwhelmingly beautiful experience. Mornings are the best time to visit when the sun is low, and the cost of a boat ride is about €20 per person.

  1.    Sunset sailing, Santorini

Santorini is known to have the most astonishing sunsets in Greece. The best way to fully appreciate this majestic play of nature is to set sail and enjoy some drinks and food on the boat while watching the sun slowly dive to the sea. A variety of companies offer such trips, and some include a convenient hotel pickup and drop-off to the boat service. Some companies also offer longer trips, where you have a possibility to go swimming and visit nice beaches on the island during the day. Approximate prices start from €100 per person, depending on the provider.

  1.    Visit a Distillery on Naxos

The Vallindras Distillery in the village of Halki is known for kitron, a liqueur made of leaves of the citron tree, full of strong aroma and taste. On the island of Naxos, citron trees have been cultivated since the 17th century. The family has been making the liqueur in traditional copper stills since 1896, passing on the knowledge to every new generation. The distillery is open for visitors, even though their exact recipe remains as a family secret. After a complimentary tasting session, visitors can stock up on supplies, since the company no longer exports kitron outside Naxos.

  1.    Ancient History of Delos

    The findings in underwater archaeological excavations at Delos, Greece. (Photo: Ministry of Culture and Sports)

The excavations on Delos island have been among the most extensive in the Mediterranean, and the island is one of the most important historical, archaeological, and mythological sites in Greece. Many significant finds from Delos are currently in Athens, but the site’s own museum showcases an interesting collection as well. In 1990 Delos was added into the World Heritage List because of its rich archaeological importance.  The island’s location at the very center of the Aegean Sea made it a crossing point for many seafarers and a center of various historical happenings and cultural encounters. The island is said to be the birthplace of Apollo.

  1.    Party in Mykonos

Known as the designated party island of Greece, Mykonos attracts entertainment-seeking tourists from around the world. The island never sleeps, but some areas are calmer than others so visitors are not obliged to party non-stop. There are definitely parties and events for every kind of fun-lover, whether you want to dance until sunrise or just sip classy cocktails by the beach. The clear waters and soft sand help to lift up the mood!

  1.    Visit the Valley of Butterflies, Rhodes

This marvelous nature reserve is located inland on Rhodes, and it’s the only natural forest of Oriental Sweetgum trees in Europe. Every year, huge numbers of Panaxia butterflies visit the valley to reproduce. They are attracted by the scent of the trees and the high humidity. In late May the final stage of their life cycle is concluded, and the butterflies emerge in all their perfection. It’s important that visitors don’t disturb the butterflies in any way since in this phase they need to sleep and rest to conserve their energy until mating season. In addition to the unbelievable beauty of the butterflies, the valley also has wonderful waterfalls and lush vegetation. There are plenty of pretty villages and cozy tavernas close to the valley, which makes it a perfect destination for a day-trip.

  1.    Island of Festivals, Syros

The island of Syros is known for its rich festival season – from May to October, the island is filled with cultural events, music festivals, theatrical performances, children’s events, and art exhibitions. In addition to the cultural festivals and events, many traditional religious holidays, like Ash Monday – the island has a substantial Roman Catholic population – are celebrated too. In Syros visitors are guaranteed to always find interesting things to do and see! For example, Syros International Film Festival takes place July 16-21, and there is the Syros Tango Festival June 14-17 – just to name a few.

  1. Wreck scuba diving, Leros

Most of the Greek islands are great for scuba diving, but Leros stands out – the island is filled with WWII relics, both on land and water. Wreck diving attracts many experienced scuba divers since it’s a wonderful way to combine underwater exploration with some history lessons. The impressive wrecks of the Battle of Leros have been resting in the Aegean Sea for over 70 years, making it like an underwater museum. The island has many diving centers renting high-quality equipment and organizing trips to these diving sites.

  1. Cave exploration, Antiparos

    (Photo by Eurokinissi/Apostolis Papanikolaou)

The cave of Antiparos is the number one attraction of the island, located just 8 kilometers from Antiparos town. It’s the only vertical cave in all of Europe, showcasing fascinating old stalactites and stalagmites – the oldest stalactite is estimated to be 45 million years old. The cave is approximately 85 meters in depth and 60 meters in width. It’s a large cave with a stunning view over the Aegean Sea and all the way to the island of Paros. The opening hours are daily from 10 am to 4 PM only during summer months. The admission ticket is €6, and it’s also valid for the nearby Folklore Museum. The audio tours recount the rich history of the cave, which has been a place of worship as well as shelter from a war.

  1. Explore the adorable villages

Both the Dodecanese and the Cyclades are filled with lovely small towns and villages. A walk around the narrow streets, painted houses and squares filled with people allows the visitors to get a glimpse of the life of the locals – the summer months are busy with tourists and work, hustle, and encounters. For example, the village of Nimporio on the island of Halki is a perfect place to wander around, to explore the small alleys and to enjoy the mouth-watering smells from local taverns. Marvel at the beautiful churches and the iconic clock tower while listening to the local Greek accent.

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