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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > October 2016 > Great Escape: CYCLADES

Great Escape: CYCLADES

Get your sea legs ready for an island-hopping trip, starting with ancient and modern side by side in the Greek capital, Athens, before flitting about on ferries to discover hidden coves, experience traditional rural life and fill up on local food, then finally kicking back to watch the world-famous sunsets.
The sleepy towns of Mykonos come to life as the sun sets and the heat of the day subsides
PHOTOGRAPHS ADRIENNE PITTS @hellopoe

Plan your trip

1 Marvel at wonders of the ancient world in Athens before hitting the capital’s cutting-edge bar scene (p52).

2 Get on your bike in Mykonos as you leave the town behind to explore the quiet paths that reveal rural life (p54).

3 Climb aboard a traditional boat for a trip around Paros and choose your own personal favourite of the many beaches (p56).

4 Take a short hop to Naxos to watch traditional crafts in action and feast on local produce among the olive groves (p58).

5 Do whatever you like during the day, but make sure you’re finished in time to enjoy the famous sunsets on Santorini (p60).

MAP ILLUSTRATION: ALEX VERHILLLE. PHOTOGRAPHS: ADRIENNE PITTS, © UNITED ARCHIVES GMBH/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

HOW TO GET THERE

Several airlines fly from the UK to Athens, including Aegean, BlueAir, British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair (from £65 one-way; easyjet.com). Flight time is 3½ hours. From Santorini, fly back with British Airways or easyJet (from £80 one-way; ba.com). If you’d prefer to bypass Athens, you can fly direct to Mykonos (from £65; easyjet.com).

HOW TO GET AROUND

Athens is an eminently walkable city, with most of the main sights contained within a small central area. Pre-book a taxi through your hotel to take you to Piraeus port (around £17). A number of different operators sail between the islands, and these should be booked in advance. Look at ferries.gr for up-to-date timetables. As a foot passenger, you need only turn up a short time before departure. It is easy to hire a car on each island: Mykonos (mykonos-rent-a-car.gr); Paros (acropolisparos.com); Naxos (europcar.com) and Santorini (kosmos-carrental.com). As the islands tend to have narrow roads, it’s best to plump for a small car. Expect to pay around £25 per day.

HOW LONG TO SPEND

With two nights in each location, you could cover all the activities and experiences covered in our feature and not feel too rushed. Obviously, the longer you have, the more opportunity you’ll have both to explore and to properly relax. Two weeks would allow a good balance between active days and do-nothing days. With three weeks, you could add in side-trips to the islands of the Small Cyclades, accessible from Naxos.

WHAT TO BUDGET

You can pretty much spend as much or as little as you wish in Athens and the Cyclades, with food and accommodation available at every budget. When planning, bear in mind that the more popular islands of Mykonos and Santorini tend to be more expensive than Paros and Naxos. As a rough guide, you could get by on around £30–£40 a day camping and self-catering, and on £100 a day staying in decent hotels, booking a few activities, and eating out every night. Easy ways to save money include booking on to the slower-running ferries rather than hydrofoils, renting a scooter rather than car to get around and visiting outside the peak summer season.

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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

Book for your ferry for an island-hopping trip around the Cyclades, hop on the legendary Sunset Limited train for a cross-state American adventure from New Orleans to LA, join us for some epic bike rides, learn about the final resting place of Noah’s Ark in Armenia, and book in for a cosy autumn break in our pick of the season’s best hotels.
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