Dream IslandsDreams are personal things, needs of the soul expressed in fantasy. Running away to an idyllic Greek island is so common a desire it's almost become a cliché. I often receive emails from readers with the subject line: "Dreaming of Greece" or "Want to Find My Greek Island"
But as long as Greece has islands, there will never be any need to give up this daydream, and no reason to keep it from becoming a reality. While some of the "in" islands in Greece are more costly, the lesser-known, unspoiled (or nearly so) Greek islands are reasonable and great for getting away from everything. Some of these spots don't have the same degree of tourist comforts, and the transportation schedules to and from them will not be as frequent. Miss the boat and you might have to spend another half-week in paradise - ah, the rewards for procrastination!
The Small (Eastern) Cyclades
Yes, well, truth be told, most of the Cycladic Isles are not exactly big. But this group consists of five especially tiny ones, plus an array of even tinier islets. Also called the Eastern Cyclades, Little Cyclades or the Lesser Cyclades, these islands include Donoussa, Iraklia (don't confuse this with Iraklio, the capital city of Crete, especially on a ferry schedule!) , Kato Koufonissi, Pano Koufonissi and Schinoussa. All of these are lovely alternatives to the "in" islands. There are also several completely uninhabited islets in this group, each of which preserve some of the best of the Greek Islands ambiance, while being close to the island of Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades, and Amorgos to the east.
Most travel resources skip the Small Cyclades entirely, and only the proud and thorough Greek National Tourist Organization gives them much recognition. Even then, these little gems are discussed in a less comprehensive way than that given to the major Cycladic islands.
The Small Cyclades
- Iraklia, Heraklia, Herakleia, Heracleia
- Kato Koufonissi
- Ano or Pano Koufonissi
Ironically, in ancient times, these islands were densely inhabited and are still jammed with largely unexcavated gravesites from that period. The island of Keros has recently produced many early Cycladic artifacts. Neighboring Naxos, with its rich reserves of raw materials, shadowed these thriving settlements.
Of these islands, Schinoussa is possibly the best known, and is a common stop on scuba tours and yachting adventures. Pano Koufonissi is the most "developed" and is beginning to attract a following. But it is still relatively unspoiled.
Getting to the Small Cyclades from Piraeus or Rafina is simple, and there is also a variety of boat transporation available from the nearby larger islands. Caiques, a type of small boat, serve the function of taxicabs or buses in this part of the Aegean, and can be hired from the small ports on the islands. The individual islands can also be reached by helicopter, but that is not exactly a budget option.
Accomodations are not to international tourist standard, and often consist of rooms in private homes or tavernas. In recent years, more standard but generally small hotels have been constructed in the Small Cyclades. To underscore the remoteness of these islets, I haven't been able to find a locally-based travel agent, even with the help of GNTO. Check in with agents on Naxos or Amorgos .
These islands are not mini-Mykonos -nightlife is virtually non-existent. But it's a great spot to relax, and absorb equal amounts of Greek sunlight and fresh Aegean air.
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