Sailing holiday on the Small Cyclades

Sailing holiday on the Small Cyclades

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Sailing holiday on the Small Cyclades

What to know before your sailing holiday on the Small Cyclades

They are a group of small islands located just below the island of Naxos and between Amorgos, to the east, EIos, to the west. These are the islands (in order of size) of Iraklia, Keros, Donousa, Schoinoussa, Ano Koufonisi, Kato Koufonisi (together they form Koufonissia). Ano Antikeri, Kato Antikeri. Plus other islets. Overall, the archipelago consists of 32 islands and islets.

The largest of the archipelago is Iraklia with an area of 18 km2, while the smallest of the main islands is Kato Antikeri, with 1.1 km² of surface and 2 inhabitants. The most populated is Ano Koufonisi, with 399 inhabitants according to the 2011 census. The other inhabited islands of the Small Cyclades are Iraklia, Donousa and Schoinoussa. From an administrative point of view, the islands of the archipelago belong to the municipality of Naxos and the Small Cyclades, excluding Ano Antikeri and Kato Antikeri which instead belong to the island of Amorgos.

Hints of history of Cyclades islands

During the last ice age, the Small Cyclades were united in a single land. The melting of the ice and the rising of the seas, in 9,000 BC. it submerged much of the earth, forming small islands in the appearance they still have today. The islands were inhabited since the Stone Age. They developed during the Bronze Age, with the birth of the Cycladic civilization. Keros was the heart of this civilization, also known as the Keros-Syros civilization. 

Later the vicissitudes of the other Cyclades followed, with Roman and Byzantine rule, the Venetian occupation and the Ottoman conquest. In the Middle Ages the islands suffered a lot from pirate raids, so much so that there were periods in which they remained uninhabited, only to be repopulated again. Several areas of the Small Cyclades are owned by the Hozoviotissa Monastery on the island of Amorgos.

Small Cyclades

Why choose a sailing holiday on the Small Cyclades

The Small Cyclades are beautiful and peaceful islands. Off the beaten track, they offer natural scenery of exceptional beauty and peace, with solitary and silent beaches and an area suitable for excursions. Below is a detailed guide to these beautiful islands of Greece: the Small Cyclades.

Koufonissia or Koufonisia is the name used to refer to the two neighboring islands of Ano Koufonisi Kato Koufonisi, in the archipelago of the Small Cyclades. They are two islands of exceptional scenic beauty, with jagged and rocky coasts where suggestive caves open onto the blue sea.

Ano Koufonisi

It is the largest island, 5.8 km² in area and the most populated of the Small Cyclades. On the island there is only one village, Koufonissia or Chora, on the southern coast of the island, which is overlooked by beautiful beaches, with turquoise and emerald waters. Chiora is the classic village of white houses typical of the Cyclades and also the docking port for ferries. It stands on a natural bay with crystal clear turquoise water, where in addition to the port there is also a sandy beach. There is another bay, Parianos, further north with a dock and a bay for tourist boats.

To see the south-east coast of the island, with a series of beautiful bays: the beach of Fonikas, the beach of Fanos, that of Platia Pounta (Italida). White sandy beaches, Mediterranean vegetation, shallow seabed with crystal clear and turquoise water. 

The east coast, on the other hand, is more indented and rocky, with inlets, caves and natural pools, one of which is called the Devil’s Eye. Then we find the beautiful beach of the bay of Pori, with a rocky promontory at the tip of which overlooks the small beach of Gala Beach, a handkerchief of pebbles closed by rocks, and behind which, on the other side of the coast, the caves of Ksylompatis. One of the most suggestive coastal stretches of all the Cyclades. From the central heights of Ano Koufonisi you can admire a spectacular view over the whole island, the sea that surrounds it and the nearby Kato Koufonisi and Keros, up to Schoinoussa

kato Kofonisi

Kato Koufonisi

it is the smallest island, measuring just under 4 km², and is a rural area, inhabited by a single shepherd with his flock of sheep. On the island, there are some country houses, but also a tavern for tourists in the summer. Characteristic is the small church of Panagia, built on ancient ruins and overlooking the marina of Kato Koufonisi, where there is the pier for the landing of boats.

Mostly tourists, fishing, or service boats stop on the island. The island with its elongated shape and rugged coastline offers many bays and beaches, many beautiful and crystal clear water. One of the most famous and popular is Laki, on the south coast, with a pebble beach.


Iraklia, or Irakleia, is the largest by extension of the Small Cyclades, with an area of 18 km², but it is inhabited by just 141 people. It is the closest to the island of Ios and hosts two villages: the port of Agios Georgios and the capital of Chora, in the center of the island, also called Panagia, due to the homonymous church that stands out with its blue dome on the small town.

The island is very mountainous, especially towards the west, where the rocky coast is high. The beaches are concentrated in the eastern part. We point out: Tourkopigado Beach, a pebble bay at the bottom of an inlet, Livadi, with the ruins of the Venetian castle on the hill overlooking it, the small beach of the port of Agios Georgios. The island is an oasis of peace and tranquility.


The island of Schoinoussa is very characteristic. In the center of the archipelago of the Small Cyclades, it is located between Kato Koufonisi and Iraklia, south of Naxos. It has a very jagged perimeter and the islet of Ofidoussa which is almost an extension to the south. It has an area of 8.5 km² and 256 inhabitants. 

The origin of the name Schoinoussa is not known. It could derive from the corruption of the ancient name of Echinousa or from a Venetian nobleman named Schinoza. Despite its small size, the island really has a lot to offer, from natural to historical and cultural beauties. There are three inhabited centers: Chora, the capital of the island located in the central western part of the island, not far from the ports of Mersini, where ferries dock, in a bay on the west coast, and Mesaria, a village in the northern hinterland.

Inhabited since ancient times, Schoinoussa hosts archaeological sites of Greek and Roman ruins, a Byzantine church and a small medieval castle. The island also offers wild and unspoiled nature and many beautiful beaches, thanks to its rugged coasts. There are 17 of them, the most important of which are: Mersini, Tsigoura, Almyri, Livadi and Liolios.

most protected bay when cruising in Greece


The island of Donousa or Donoussa, located to the north-east, off the coast of Naxos, is the least easy to reach of the small Cyclades. You can take the ferry from Naxos, which however has to go around the top of the island, or from Amorgos. However, the beauty of the place and its pristine beaches pay off the effort. There are spectacular caves along the coast. Donousa has only one village, Stavros, where you can sleep and admire the white Orthodox churches.

Today uninhabited, but formerly one of the most important centers of Cycladic civilization, which flourished around 2,500 BC. The island of Keros today is part of the municipality of Koufonissia and rises in front of its two islands. It is famous for its archaeological finds, including the flat-faced marble statues that inspired Picasso. On the coast of Keros there are many suggestive bays, to be visited with boat excursions.

How to reach the Small Cyclades

The Small Cyclades do not have an international airport. The closest international airports are in Mykonos to the north and Santorini to the south. You arrive in the Small Cyclades with ferries or hydrofoils coming mainly from Naxos and other nearby Cyclades

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