Red Beach, Santorini
Santorini, also known as Thira and sometimes misspelt as Santorine is spectacularly situated on the edge of a dormant volcano (photos and information). Many believe that this is where the Atlantis legend began, when the volcano blew hugely in 1650BC, not only knocking off the local, highly civilised Minoans in their ‘island within an island’, but also sending out a tidal wave that would have destroyed many other Minoan sites and ships and closed the book on Minoan power in the Mediterranean.
Along with Mykonos, Santorini is probably the most expensive of the Greek Islands, but the teetering towns of Fira and Oia are spectacularly worth it.
Due to its volcanic soil most Santorini beaches – Perissa and Karmari are the best known- are layered with unattractive and sole-frying black sand/pebbles, though the water is clean and clear and snorkelling or scuba interesting.
The best beach is narrow, characterful Red Beach, with small red grainy sand partially covered in wood shavings to keep it cool, crystal water and rocks to offer snorkellers some action.
A fast ferry Mykonos to Santorini will only take a couple of hours in comfort.
*Milopotas and *Manganari beaches, Ios
Although reknowned as a young person party island, Ios is surprisingly tranquil during the daytime and sports two superb beaches. Excellent Milopotas is only 5 minutes by scooter from the town, a huge stretch of soft yellow sand and calm, clear water. Watersports and plenty of discreet, varied tavernas lurk adjacent.
Superb Manganari is even better but a long road or boat trip, little accommodation and not good for nipping back to rave in the evenings.
*Psili Ammos beach, Serifos
Psili Ammos means soft fine sand, and that exactly how this superb white beach is, along with clear water and a tree-lined shore. Accommodation and excellent tavernas nearby.
*Maragas and *Plaka beaches, Naxos
Rugged and mountainous Naxos is favoured by German hikers (photos and information) and has a pretty little, lively main town. Don’t even consider grotty Grotto, north of the town, though Agios Georgios at the south end is good for a town beach – fine sand, nice views, clear water and loads of accomodation and other services nearby.
A little further away and also popular is large, coarse sanded Agios Prokopios, and small, unnattractive Agios Anna.
The pick of Naxos beaches is the long stretch of dunes running from Maragas to Plaka. Soft sand, a scattering of trees, discreet services on a dirt road, almost turquoise water and lots of space make this an excellent location for layabouts. Nudists hang out in Plaka.
Kolymbithres beach, Paros
Although this is the transport hub for the Cyclades, Paros is surprisingly pleasant. The town has the usual little, white-washed labyrinthine streets (photos and information), some smart sunset bars and restaurants and a terrific church, the Ekatondapiliani – the oldest in use in Greece.
The countryside is a little on the dull side but beaches are quite acceptable. The two biggish ones sharing the town’s bay, Livadia and Krios, are both calm, clear, tree lined and well-taverned.
Paros’ east coast has some bigger beaches that are heavily promoted – such as Golden Beach – but Bugbog found them to be overly windy, with choppy water and hard sand – excellent for wind and kite surfers but not for sun bathing.
The prettiest beach on the island is undoubtedly Kolymbithres near the cute tourist town of Naoussa, with shallow aquamarine water enclosed by fine sand and strangely eroded rocks. Great for children, the only problem is size. . . it’s very small and will get crowded easily.