The island complex of the Cyclades is a region in Greece, which is characterised by long and rich history through the centuries. Some Cycladic islands, such as Santorini, have developed Neolithic civilisation, which dates back in 4,000 B.C., while other, such as Delos, Naxos or Milos were renowned city-states during the Classical and Roman Times. Vacation in the Cyclades is a journey in time, a true cultural trip that can of course be combined also with the stunning turquoise sea, the exotic beaches, the tasteful cuisine, the nightlife and the shopping. If you are interested in the history of ancient Greece, these archaeological sites and monuments are definitely worth visiting during your summer holidays. You can visit by ferry all of the following islands with great flexibility. Get ready for an unforgettable cultural island hopping in the Cyclades!
For the lovers of history, the island of Delos near Mykonos is unique. According to mythology, Delos was the birthplace of God Apollo, and the ancient Greeks considered it a sacred place, building the Temple of Apollo and a theatre for theatre performances. In the archaeological site of Delos, which is located in a very close distance to Mykonos and is connected with it by boat several times in the day, you can also see the Avenue of the Lions to the way to the ancient temple and admire the findings of the excavations in the Archaeological Museum. Other fascinating landmarks in Delos are the House of Dionysus, a luxury private house, the Doric Temple of Isis, the Hellenistic Agora as well as the House of the Naxians.
Akrotiri site in Santorini is located on the southern side of the island, in a close distance to the famous Red Beach. It is visited by thousands of visitors each year thanks to the amazing findings of an ancient fully-working and developed settlement, which was constructed around 4,500 B.C. The ancient town of Akrotiri was covered by ashes and lava due to the enormous volcanic eruption around 1,650 B.C., and thus, it was preserved intact through time, just like Pompeii. The settlement is maybe the place of Plato’s inspiration for the story of Atlantis. During the excavations, have been discovered frescoes, pottery, furniture, advanced drainage systems and several buildings. The place is like a whole village, where you can walk around and admire this Cycladic civilisation, while many artefacts are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Thera in Fira, the capital of the island.
Portara is the symbol of Naxos and the first thing you will see on the cliff above the port, on the islet of Palatia, as the boat approaches the island. Portara (or Great Gate) is a gate, which is the only remain of the ancient Temple of Apollo that was constructed on the island in the 6th century B.C., when Naxos was at its peak of glory. The myth says that the islet of Palatia is the place, where the Minoan princess Ariadne was abandoned by her lover, Theseus, when he killed the Minotaur in Crete. Portara is a true jewel, which can be seen from everywhere in Naxos reminding its glorious past.
Naxos was an important city-state in ancient Greece, and thus many historical sites are to be found there, not only Portara. In the 6th century B.C., it was constructed the ancient Temple of Demeter, the goddess of grain and agriculture. It is located in a short walking distance from the village of Ano Sangri, and it is an ideal place to explore the ancient architecture of Naxos. You walk through this hiking path admiring the nature of Naxos, and then you reach this temple, which impresses with its unique architecture and the beautiful location.
Ancient Thera is an ancient city on the island of Santorini in a close distance to Kamari, which dates back in the 9th century B.C. Particularly noteworthy ruins are the Agora and the main square of the city, the Basilike Stoa, which was the centre of the public life, the Roman theatre, the sacred area dedicated to Hermes and Herakles and private dwellings. Ancient Thera is the place, where you can be informed about the history of Santorini after the eruption and the destruction of the Minoan civilisation. The most important archaeological remain, which has been found there, is the statue of Kouros, which is now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
On the top of the hill near the Catacombs, stands the well-preserved Ancient Theatre of Milos that the Romans built during the Hellenistic Period (3rd century B.C.). This theatre was used to organise festivals during the antiquity, and nowadays, the locals also use it for many cultural events and theatre performances during the summer period. It is built in a prominent spot, on the hillside, overlooking the port and the magnificent Aegean Sea.
The site of Skarkos is an ancient settlement in Ios, built in the early Bronze Age (3,000 B.C.), and it is considered as one of the most significant prehistoric settlements in the Aegean Sea. This city was built on terraces, and you can admire there the streets between the houses as well as the walls of houses and public spaces. Excavations have unearthed small artefacts, such as marble figurines, obsidian ware, amphorae, seals, ceramics, stone vessels and tools.
Outside the village of Melanes, in the countryside of Naxos, can be seen a remarkable statue of Kouros. It lies on the ground, at the exact position, where it was found by the archaeologists. It is 6 meters long and dates back to the 7th century B.C. Historians believe that this huge statue represents either a god or a local hero. Another Kouros statue is located 200 m from the first, and there is also a third statue in the village of Apollonas. This statue, which looks like hidden on the ground, is the perfect opportunity for you to learn about the ancient history of Naxos, admiring this treasure in its natural place and not inside a cold museum.
At Moundoulia Hill, above Katapola port in Amorgos, excavations have found ruins of a Minoan settlement, which dates back to the 10th century B.C. The ancient site dominates a building that was dedicated to gymnasium type activities, but you can also admire other findings, such as the ruins of a Hellenistic temple, a sanctuary from the Geometric period, a lavatory and a statue.
The Venetian Fortress of Naousa in Paros is located in the old port, being the landmark of the picturesque seaside town of Naousa. It was constructed in the 15th century by the Venetians as a watchtower for pirate and enemy attacks. This castle is one of the best preserved medieval remnants in the Aegean Sea, a perfect site to understand how the ancient history is combined with the medieval culture in the Mediterranean Sea.