The natural beauty of this cluster of 220 islands in the Aegean Sea has for years drawn travellers by sea from Athens, but new flights make them easier to reach. British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) launches services from Heathrow to Mykonos and Santorini on 3 and 4 May, respectively, joining easyJet’s (0843 104 5000; easyJet.com) existing route from Gatwick to Santorini. Prices soar in summer and even the smaller islands get busy, so aim for May, June and September.
Mykonos and Ios are places to party. The former draws a more grown-up crowd – largely to the beach resorts of Paradise (paradise-greece.com) and Super Paradise (superparadise.com.gr) – while Ios attracts backpackers to lively bars in the hills of Ios Town. The San Giorgio hotel (00 30 22 890 27474; sangiorgio-mykonos.com) near Super Paradise has 33 “bohemian luxury” bedrooms, a restaurant, a pool and access to gorgeous beaches. Doubles from €150, B&B. In Ios, the Liostasi Ios Hotel (00 30 22860 92140; liostasi.gr), on a hillside above the town, has doubles from €60, B&B.
In hot water
It’s almost a shame to fly to the volcanic island of Santorini, such is the drama of the sea approach as you enter into the caldera and sheer cliffs, topped by sugar-cube houses, loom above you. Take a boat out to the outlying isles of Palea and Nea Kameni to wallow in hot springs and hike up to a steaming crater. Villas of Santorini (00 30 6936 3825 81; villasofsantorini.com) offers rental of three stylish houses from €225 per night for two people.
Off the beaten track
Folegandros retains an unspoilt charm. Make the sea voyage from Athens (four hours; seajets.gr) to be rewarded with donkey-dotted countryside, quiet bays and tavernas. i-escape has studios at Anemomilos Apartments from €130 a night for two sharing (0117 946 7072; iescape.com/anemomilos-apartments).
At Villa Sharona (020 7351 6384; sjvillas.co.uk) you can watch the sunset from its 15m pool, then dine on a terrace overlooking Mykonos Town below. Weekly rental starts at €1,000 per person based on 10 sharing, including breakfast, transfers and a welcome hamper. In Mykonos Town, the Hotel Belvedere (00 30 22890 25122; belvederehotel.com) is home to Nobu’s Matsuhisa Restaurant, a Martini Bar and spa. Doubles from €219 room only.
With the family
Unlike its arid neighbours, the second-largest of the Cyclades, Andros, is green and fertile. It’s also the most northerly of the islands, so it’s relatively easy to reach on a two-hour ferry trip from Athens. Sunvil Holidays (020 8758 4758; sunvil.co.uk) offers a week’s self-catering at the Marfo Studios in the resort village of Batsi from £603 per person, based on four sharing. The price includes flights from Heathrow and transfers.