The Cyclades are one of the Greek islands group in the Aegean Sea, south-east of the mainland of Greece and an administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago. The name refers to the islands around the sacred island of Delos. The Cyclades is where the native Greek breed of cat (the Aegean cat) first came from.
The Cyclades comprise about 220 islands, the major ones being Amorgos, Anafe, Andros,Paros,Antiparos, Dalos, Eschate, Ios, Kea, Kimolos, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Syros, Tinos, and Thira or Santorini. Most of the smaller islands are uninhabited.
It is hard to articulate precisely why these islands have so captured our imagination; though beautiful, there is nothing voluptuous about them. Dry mountainous, and rough-coasted, the Cyclades are a granite and limestone archipelago in the Aegean Sea east of the Peloponnese.
The quality and general aspect of a trip to the Cyclades depend crucially on the season. Late autumn and winter are characterized by much farming, many name-day festivals, carnival festivities leading to Lent's austerities, and the world's best citrus fruit. But most hotels, restaurants and shops, and cafes are closed, and in inclement weather there is little to do. In summer the islands give themselves over to European and Athenian sun-seekers.
The islands are agricultural, and donkeys loaded with produce are a good place to shop.
The Dodecanese, is another group of islands literally meaning "twelve islands".It is a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, off the southwest coast of Turkey, southward of the island of Samos and northeastward of the island of Crete. They have a rich history, and many of even the smallest inhabited islands boast dozens of Byzantine churches and medieval castles.
Kalymnos Island Kos Island
The Argo-Saronic Gulf islands are havens from Athenian metropolis, easily accessible by Flying Dolphin hydrofoil from Athens port of Piraeus. The nearest to the mainland, and usually within sight of Athens ( except when the weather is particularly muggy) is mountainous Aegina. Beyond Aegina is the small island of Poros, with its white houses crowded right next to the channel separating it from the Peloponnese. Hydra is farther yet, a rock mountain of an island with one of the loveliest harbors in the Aegean. And finally there is Spetses, with the gentlest, greenest landscape of the islands. During the summer months all the Argo-Saronic Gulf islands are crowded, for they are the weekend playgrounds for many Athenians - some people even commute to the Piraeus from Aegina every day.
Scattered, as their name implies, like seeds in a stiff breeze, most of the northern Sporades island Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos, and the smaller outer islands - are an extension of Mount Pelion in Thessaly, and they look at it. Their slopes are covered with dense pine forest interspersed with olive, cypress, plane, and fruit-bearing trees, and they are crisscrossed with springs and streams.
Though the islands were inhabited long before antiquity, few vestiges of the distant past remain on them: centuries of plunder and a number of serious earthquakes have erased all but a few traces. The islands share a common history, having been conquered by anybody and everybody who coveted a base in the Aegean, from the Macedonians to Romans to the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks.
Thanks to improved mobility in the forms of airplanes and hydrofoils, the islands have recently become very popular with tourists, and each has its special appeal. Gentle Skiathos, closest to the mainland and the most developed, is lively and sophisticated; Skopelos, just to the east, a "masculine"island, is steeper and better preserved; Alonissos, still farther east and lacking many amenities, is rustic and wild. And Skyros, so far flung off the east coast of Evia(Euboea) that it seems to have no connection to the others, resembles one of the Cyclades more rugged, less wooded, its traditions still thriving.
Crete, like all of the great islands of the world, is exposed on every side to influences that have come freely from the sea, at the same time,it has enjoyed a great measure of isolation. In this regard it is like a mini-continent, and its location, ecological peculiarities, geography, flora and fauna have imposed a peculiar character on the people and their history and culture. The rich embroiders of the island, its architecture, music, cuisine, customs, and the people themselves continue to show signs of influences - Anatolian, Greek, Arab, Egyptian, Venetian, Ottoman - that reveal the history of the Great Island, as it is still called in Greek.
Opportunities to enjoy authentic food while in Crete, are limited unless you are invited to a wedding, a baptism or someone's home. Nonetheless, it is possible to find restaurants that have kitchens still determined by tradition. You can also enjoy a wide variety of sweets, including pastries and fruits and nuts in syrups. The wines of Crete are justifiably famous and do not include retsina, a dubious intruder from the mainland. The national drink of the Cretan, however, is not wine but tsikoudia which is made from mulberries or the remains of pressed grapes.
Crete has four main urban centers along the northern coast: Herakleion, Crete's administrative center and the getaway to Knossos and other Minoan sites, in the middle of the coast; Aghios Nikolaos, a resort town east of Herakleion; Rethymnon, about 80 km west of Herakleion; and Chania, still farther to the west. These towns are connected by a fine national highway that makes travel between them not only convenient but quick.
The Ionian Islands are the remnants of a long, submerged mountain range lying between Italy and Greek mainland that once stretched from Trieste down to Crete. Although the greeks call them eptanisa(Seven islands)that is really a misnomer; there are at least 17 inhabited islands and countless deserted islets in this archipelago. Traditionally, the seven major Ionian Islands, proceeding from north to south, are Corfu, Paxi, Lefkada, Ithaca, Kefallonia, Zakynthos and Kythira.
Lush, fertile, gentle and sophisticated the Ionian Islands often seem to be more Italian than Greek. Though this may be partly due to similarities in landscape, it is also a consequence of six centuries of occupation by a succession of Frankish feudal lord followed by the Venetians.
All the islands are dotted with Italianesque basilicas and bell towers; the icons inside them are painted in a more realistic style than their counterparts on the Greek mainland or in the Aegean ; and the local dialects are filled with Italian words.
Ithaca was the name of the island home of Odysseus in the epic Ancient Greek poem The Odyssey by Homer.
The islands of Limnos, Lesvos(also called Mytilini after its capital)Chios, Samos and Ikaria are very close to the coast what is now Turkey, which was once Byzantium and earlier the Ionian coast of Greece. These islands, sometimes called the Eastern Sporades, came under Greek jurisdiction only a generation ago, and their people have little to do with distant Athens. yet the islanders here have been Greeks for thousands of years.
The sunset over the glittering sea takes your breath away as the red glow illuminates the rolled-up sails on fishing boats, and a few lights drift out through the dusk towards the Asian shore.
Accommodation in these islands consists of hotels and rooms to rent.