The Cyclades - Great Expectations!

When you travel, expectation and reality can be two very different things.  My first trip to the Cyclades was filled with enormous expectations...one of quiet, golden sandy beaches, sea water in every shade of blue and food so divine, it was as if Zeus himself was in the kitchen!  And, the reality?  The Cyclades have been everything I have expected and more.  So much so, I have returned the following two summers, after that first trip, to explore more of this magical archipelago in the Aegean.  From the hills of Amorgos to the crystal-clear waters of Koufonisia, the glamour of Mykonos to the jaw-dropping drama of Santorini, the Greek Cyclades deliver.  The island rhythms are slow and enchanting, the people friendly and the breeze cool.  Roaming from one island to another is pure bliss; with the Cyclades making it easy to forget anywhere else in the world exists! But where should you visit in the Cyclades?  Top of my list is the island of Koufonisia, in the Minor Cyclades.  Located south of Naxos, Koufonisia is the whitewashed Greece from the pictures, but more than that it offers some of the finest sandy beaches that lead to the clearest azure waters I have witnessed anywhere in the Mediterranean.  Though, tranquil, Koufonisia has top quality seafood available in addition to the best grilled meats and gyros that Greece can offer.  It is no wonder this island is loved by holidaying Athenians! The glamazon of the Cyclades...actually, the whole of Greece, is the island of Mykonos.  The glitzy restaurants, glamorous beach bars and 5-star luxury resorts draw the rich and famous to this Aegean enclave in their droves.  But, I suggest you leave the Hollywood superstars and their superyachts behind and instead find your way to the beautiful town of Naoussa on the island of Paros.  Situated on the north of the island, this Greek gem is home to several fantastic beaches for you to explore, great restaurants and a maze of streets where you can marvel at and buy beautiful crafts and fashions from Greek designers.  Naoussa is as sophisticated as Mykonos, but with a more relaxed vibe of cocktails at sunset than magnums of champagne at the superclub! Then, finally...for many people the best comes last. I know nowhere in the world like Santorini.  With whitewashed buildings clinging to the rim of the caldera, the towns of Fira and Oia dominate the western side of the island. These buildings are home to some magnificent hotels and restaurants with even the most traditional tavernas basking in the sunsets that make this island world famous. Santorini is simply stunning! And, what should you do in the Cyclades?  Apart from the stunning natural sights and fascinating historical attractions, the Cyclades is all about the water and getting into or onto the Aegean Sea is a must!  So, whether you choose to dive in from the beach, take a boat trip or hop from island to island on the inter-island ferries - water will play a large and pleasurable part of any stay in the Cyclades. Having visited seven of the islands in the Cyclades, I know I have a whole host of great summers ahead of me exploring this amazing group of islands where expectation DOES live up to reality! By Mike Webb