Get your adrenaline pumping on this two-week adventure through the Cyclades. You'll hike, climb, paddle, and bike around some of the chain's lesser-known islands. Tackle Tinos' rugged Exomvourgo mountain, swim with the fish on a scuba diving excursion in Naxos, and enjoy a canoeing safari around Ios' pristine Mylopotas bay, and more!

Highlights

  • Hike the Tinos marble route
  • Go horseback riding on the beaches of Naxos
  • Catch a wave with a surf lesson at Kolymbithra Beach in Tinos
  • Take a sunset bike ride around Athens

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens, Welcome Dinner Athens
Day 2 Ferry to Tinos Tinos
Day 3 Marble Village Hike Tinos
Day 4 Rock Climbing at Exomvourgo Tinos
Day 5 Surfing at Kolymbithra Beach Tinos
Day 6 Ferry to Naxos Naxos
Day 7 Scuba Diving in Naxos Naxos
Day 8 Naxos Beaches and Villages Bike Tour Naxos
Day 9 Horseback Riding in Naxos Naxos
Day 10 Ferry to Ios Ios
Day 11 Canoe Trip in Mylopotas Bay Ios
Day 12 Return to Athens, Afternoon Bike Ride Athens
Day 13 Depart Athens  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Athens, Welcome Dinner

Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis
Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis

Welcome to Greece! You'll begin your trip in Athens, home to both the iconic Acropolis and so much more. The mythology of this spectacular city precedes it, with towering temples to Classical deities and the ruins of ancient marketplaces rubbing shoulders with lively nightlife, crowded flea markets, and contemporary cuisine. Make the most of your time in the city at some of these spots:

  • Check out the views of the can't-miss Parthenon. (Pro tip: The Parthenon is the temple, the Acropolis is the hill.) This temple to Athena has enchanted visitors since its construction was completed in 438 BC. It's probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of ancient Greece and is visible from many of the city's high points.
  • Stop at the sprawling National Museum for a crash course in ancient iconography. Be sure to seek out the room housing the Antikythera mechanism, essentially an ancient astronomical computer.
  • Visit a smaller archaeological site at the Tower of the Winds, then stroll down neighboring pedestrian Aiolou Street to stop at shops and cafes. 
  • Find your perfect souvenir or sun hat in the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market. 

In the evening, you'll sit down to enjoy either a welcome dinner with views of the Acropolis or wine tasting in a bar in downtown Athens.

Day 2: Ferry to Tinos

Panagia Evangelistria church
Panagia Evangelistria church

Take an early ferry to Tinos, one of the most overlooked islands of the Cyclades. Tinos has remained under the radar for many years, overshadowed by its celebrity neighbor of Mykonos and seen mainly as a religious destination. Those who continue to believe that, however, are missing out on an island with fascinating history and culture, winding streets, great outdoor activities, and glittering beaches.

The imposing Panagia Evangelistria should not be overlooked, as Tinos is also known as the island of the Virgin Mary. Its icon is believed to have healing powers, and the annual August pilgrimage is a key part of the island's identity as churchgoers crawl on their knees toward the temple as a sign of piety.

If pilgrimage isn't quite your scene, there are also nearly 80 windmills to be explored, Venetian ruins, hiking at Exomvourgo mountain, and beaches for any moods. Try the island's craft beer from Nissos brewery or sample the cheeses at the shop belonging to the Cheese Cooperative of Tinos. Keep an eye out for the many painted dovecotes around the island as well, small white pigeon homes dotting the countryside of which there are nearly 1,000.

Day 3: Marble Village Hike

Along the trail
Along the trail

Learn about the marble heritage and artists of Tinos as you trek past scenic landscapes on today's five-hour hike. 

You'll start in Isternia village, then walk the trail across the island toward Pyrgos, the largest village on the island. The town is known for its marble sculptors and as the birthplace of Yannoulis Chalepas, one of the most famous of those sculptors. Visit his home-turned-museum or the Museum of Marble Arts. In its halls, you'll learn how Tinian craftsmen start with slabs of stone and craft them into artful statues and other works from fountains and altarpieces to tower bells, palaces, and stadiums. 

Continue downhill to the settlement of Panormos and take a stop for lunch.

After your hike, relax at Kolymbithra beach, a protected cove on the island's northern side whose tavernas and clear waters are a short drive away.

Day 4: Rock Climbing at Exomvourgo

Marble in the wild
Marble in the wild

Scale the granite formations of Exomvourgo with today's outing. This central mountain offers craggy faces with more than 90 well-maintained routes for all climbing levels, from complete beginners to experts. You'll work with your guide to select the path that's best for you as you ascend with the help of top-rope equipment.

Reach the summit for 360-degree views and a Venetian castle that was once the capital of the island's defenses. Artifacts have been found on the mountain dating back to the Copper Age, so you never know what you may spot.

Relax afterward at Nissos microbrewery, whose wares you may have already sampled on the beach.

Day 5: Surfing at Kolymbithra Beach

Wade into the waves
Wade into the waves

Head out to Kolymbithra beach for some surf lessons and seaside chic surroundings. This protected cove on Tinos's northern coast is one of the island's best spots for water activities. You'll receive a 90-minute lesson from an experienced surfer who will have you hanging ten in no time.

If you aren't interested in surfing, stand-up paddleboarding is also available.  Stick around to practice your new skills for as long you like, or relax under the mushroom-shaped umbrellas. The beach is lined with tavernas using ingredients grown or caught on the island. 

Take a historical stop at the sanctuary of Poseidon, once one of the god's most significant ancient sanctuaries and also home to worship of Amphitrite. The archaeological site is located near Kionia beach and includes the main temple along with baths, an altar, and a fountain.

Day 6: Ferry to Naxos

Looking back from the Portara
Looking back from the Portara

Time to ferry over to bustling Naxos after breakfast. With an active main town where you can shop and admire the Venetian architecture, a historic Kastro (castle) area, and expansive beaches, the island offers opportunities for both laidback relaxation, as well as water or land activities. The rest of the day is yours to unwind as you choose. Try out some of these options:

  • Hike up to the summit of Mount Zas, the mythological childhood home of Zeus, the ruler of the gods, and the highest point in the Cyclades.
  • Head inland to the town of Chalki, home to the island's oldest market and a petite, shady square perfect for whiling away the afternoon. Stop at the kitron distillery to sample the local liqueur and learn about its distillation process over the years.
  • Visit the Temple of Demeter at Sangri on your way. Multiple deities of fertility were worshipped here, particularly the goddess Demeter. The temple was constructed in 530 BC, during the tyranny of Lygdamis, and represents a precursor of classical Athenian architecture. 
  • Stroll to the Portara, the entrance to the Temple of Apollo. Construction on the temple began in the sixth century BCE but was never finished, but the still-standing entranceway has become one of the hallmarks of the island. You can find it on the islet of Palatia, just over a causeway from the heart of Naxos Town (Chora).

For dinner, wander up the hill through the streets of the Kastro neighborhood to pick out your favorite of the area's tavernas, where you can sample the island's fresh produce in its best forms.

Day 7: Scuba Diving in Naxos

Explore underwater
Explore underwater

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to breathe underwater? If you want to find out but aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into a certification course, try it out in Naxos. You'll learn the basics of diving under the direct supervision of a PADI-certified professional, including what the equipment feels like in the water and underwater breathing.

After your lesson, you'll get to try out the real thing! There are several dive sites around Naxos available for your exploration depending on your preferences and the weather on the day. Most of them are roughly 30-60 minutes from the base, and include small rocky islands, reefs, and caves.

Or, if you're already a certified diver, join your guide and spend the day taking the plunge at some of the best dive sites around Naxos.

In the afternoon, enjoy the sea from the surface at St. George beach, a Blue Flag beach and one of the most popular on Naxos. Its location is protected from the winds, making its warm, shallow water perfect for families or anyone in search of a laidback sun bath.

Day 8: Naxos Beaches and Villages Bike Tour

Cycle by the sea
Cycle by the sea

Discover Naxos's hidden spots on today's two-wheeled tour. You'll bike with an expert guide through the villages and attractions on the west side of the island. The western coast is also home to some of the island's best-known beaches, including Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka, Orkos, and Mikri Vigla. 

On your way back, you'll see the villages of Vivlos, Agios Arsenios, and Glinado. The beginner-friendly route covers roughly 12 miles (20 km) and will take you about 2.5 hours. 

Spend the rest of your day exploring the main Naxos Chora, especially the Kastro district. Wind up the narrow streets to the Venetian Castle in the center of town, stopping at the neighboring Catholic church, Ursuline school, and Archaeological Museum along the way. Even the houses are part of the experience, once home to the descendants of Duke Venetians.

Day 9: Horseback Riding in Naxos

Meet some new friends
Meet some new friends

Get a different perspective on the island from atop one of its resident horses. The stable will work with you to create a ride that suits your age and skill level to maximize your experience and trail route. 

A trip to the village of Apiranthos is a potential ride highlight. Also known as the "marble village" due to its white architecture and marble stone streets, this mountainside spot offers inland views and a slew of museums and crafts to peruse. Listen for the local dialect among the residents, which has remained distinct from the rest of the islands.

Day 10: Ferry to Ios

The port at Ios
The port at Ios

Your next island awaits after breakfast! Ferry over to Ios, where lazy afternoons on the beach ease into a booming nighttime scene, with nightlife venues to suit your every possible interest. 

Mylopotas beach is the most popular choice for daytime, with its proximity to town and plentiful facilities. If you're in search of solitude, head out to the farther Manganari beach, a secluded, shallow bay known as one of the most scenic beaches on the island with its dark golden sands. 

In the evenings, don't miss Far Out Village at the far end of Mylopotas, a four-part beach club, campground, hotel, and spa, and one of the biggest hotspots on the island. It's the perfect place to meet some new friends and see where the evening goes.

Day 11: Canoe Trip in Mylopotas Bay

Paddle over the surf
Paddle over the surf

Set out across the surf in Mylopotas Bay. This half-day canoe trip departs from Mylopotas beach and will take you out to a cove and flat rocks perfect for catching some sun as you make your way across the waters of the bay. Enjoy a barbecue lunch that you can choose to share with the local moray eel and try out scuba diving with a trained instructor, or stick to swimming and snorkeling.

From there, paddle out to Kolistani beach, which is only accessible by sea. You'll have plenty of time to continue your frolicking on its sands before you paddle back.

Day 12: Return to Athens, Afternoon Bike Ride

Ride along shaded streets
Ride along shaded streets

Return to Athens in the morning.

Greet the city with a bike ride accessible to riders of all levels. You'll wheel past many of the highlights of the city over the course of three hours, complete with a coffee break at a cafe and ideal golden hour lighting for the perfect snapshot.

Your guide will tell you about all the spots you pass, starting with a spin through the National Gardens and a stop to watch the famous changing of the guards at the Parliament. You'll pass the Panathenaic Stadium and Zappeion exhibition hall next, followed by the Greek and Roman agora and ancient cemetery of Keramikos. The new Acropolis museum is along the route as well, accompanied by views of the Parthenon, Plaka neighborhood, and Cycladic architecture of Anafiotika.

You may have to walk your bike at some points, but it's all accompanied by insider tips on the best spots to eat and drink in Athens and plenty of breaks to take in the views.

Day 13: Depart Athens

Wave to the city
Wave to the city

Time to say farewell to Greece. Enjoy your final Athenian breakfast and sneak in some last-minute exploring before your transfer to the airport.

Map

Map of Active Cyclades: Tinos, Naxos & Ios - 13 Days
Map of Active Cyclades: Tinos, Naxos & Ios - 13 Days