The Cyclades islands lie in the central Aegean Sea to the south-east of mainland Greece. There are more than 220 in total but many are uninhabited, and only about 20 are regular holiday destinations.
The biggest tourist attractions are Mykonos and Santorini which have international airports. These are followed by Naxos, the largest island, Paros, Ios, Andros and Siros.
Other islands such as Amorgos, Anafi, Kea, Folegandros and Tinos have a more limited appeal or can be difficult to reach. That is not to say they aren't worth a visit; only that tourist numbers are relatively low.
The name Cyclades means 'circle', and they all surround the sacred island of Delos, now a historical monument, which lies off the coast of Mykonos.
The 'typically Greek' sights of white cube houses and blue domed churches perched on steep hillsides are most likely to be found in the Cyclades.
MYKONOS is probably the best-known tourist destination and a favourite hotspot for celebrities. Once a notorious gay hotspot it is now more family centred with long sandy beaches, a lively nightlife and stylish shops. Offshore DELOS was once the religious heart of Greece, and its many monuments attract millions of visitors to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
SANTORINI comes a close second to Mykonos for tourist numbers. An active volcano, its white cube house perch on the edge of a deep caldera offering staggering views and astonishing sunsets. Close to Santorini the island of ANAFI attracts far fewer visitors, mostly naturists and campers looking for a more secluded holiday getaway.
NAXOS is the ferry hub of the Cyclades, the largest and greenest of the group with fertile valleys nestled between impressive mountains and many fine sandy beaches.
Tiny DONOUSSA is a favourite day trip from Naxos with few tourist facilities outside the port but several secluded beach coves. Also close to Naxos, AMORGOS is a big draw for hikers and boats the Monastery of Hozoviotissa built into the rock with breathtaking skill.
Neighbouring PAROS boasts some of the longest beaches and good walking along ancient trails that crisscross the island. Offshore ANTIPAROS has haunting caves and beautiful beaches.
Walking trails also pattern the northern Cycladic island of ANDROS, famous for its mountain crags, stone walls and Venetian dovecotes.
Dovecotes are even more prominent on neighbouring TINOS, a notable religious centre that attracts pilgrims from all over Greece.
IOS was once a party island, and the capital still attracts summer clubbers, but elsewhere are vast beaches and intoxicating beauty.
Close to the mainland, KEA is noted for its oak forests and the scenic delights of small farms and picturesque beach coves.