Cyclades Islands - Off the beaten track
Amorgos is an enticing option for those wishing to venture off the well-worn Mykonos-Paros-Santorini route. Its principal port, Katapola, is a pretty town occupying a large, dramatic bay in the most verdant part of the island. A smattering of remains from the ancient Cretan city of Minoa, as well as a Mycenaean cemetery, lie above the port. Hora (Amorgos), the beautiful, unspoilt capital, is 400m (1312ft) above sea level, and is often shrouded in clouds when the rest of the island is sunny. For breathtaking views, walk from the town down the steep hillside that leads to Moni Hozoviotissis, a dazzling-white 11th-century monastery that clings precariously to the cliffside.
If all you really want to do is lie on the beach cradling a book and bottle of sunscreen, head to the port of Aegiali, a laid-back town with a good beach stretching left of the quay. Pebbled Agia Anna Beach, on the east coast south of the monastery, is also decent. Amorgos is in the less-visited eastern Cyclades, just east of Naxos. There are daily boats to Naxos and four weekly to Mykonos and Syros.
Top-notch drinking water, dovecotes, mulberry woods and nut sweets are just a few of the attractions of Andros, the northernmost island of the Cyclades and the second largest after Naxos. Its main port is Gavrio, on the beachy west coast, but nearby Batsi is the island's major resort. It's an eye-pleasing town around a bay, with a fishing harbour at one end and a sandy beach at the other. Island tours leave from here, following old paths through beautiful countryside. On the east coast, Hora is an enchanting place with some fine old neoclassical mansions and museums, and a striking setting. Andros is well served by ferries, and has two daily services to Rafina on the mainland.
It may be tiny, but Delos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. The sacred island is the mythical birthplace of famous twins Apollo and Artemis, and it developed as a centre of Apollo worship in the 8th century BC. During Hellenistic times it was one of the three most important religious centres in Greece, and became populated by wealthy merchants and bankers. Most of the significant historical finds from the island are in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, but the site museum does have a modest collection, including the originals of the much-photographed plaster-cast lions that grace the Terrace of the Lions near the Sanctuary of Apollo. If you're feeling spry, climb up 113m (371ft) Mt Kythnos to get a terrific overview of Delos. The pathway is reached by walking through the Theatre Quarter, where Delos' wealthy built their houses.
You can't stay overnight on Delos, and excursion boats from nearby Mykonos allow visitors a maximum of only six hours exploring time. Bring food and water - there is a cafeteria on Delos, but it's not recommended.
Gorgeous Folegandros bridges the gap between tourist traps and underpopulated islands on the brink of total abandonment. The number of visitors is increasing every year, but most locals still make a living from fishing and farming rather than serving visitors ouzo. There are several good beaches on the island, but you've got to be prepared for some strenuous walking to reach them. Its capital, the concealed cliff-top Hora, is one of the prettiest capitals in the Cyclades, complete with a medieval kastro filled with cube houses draped in bougainvillea. Away from the capital you'll stumble across bucolic sights like haystacks, market gardens, goats and donkeys. Folegandros is just west of Sikinos, and has four weekly ferry services to Piraeus, Santorini and Naxos.
Santorini is regarded by many as the most spectacular of the Greek islands. Thousands come to marvel at its sea-filled caldera, a vestige of what was probably the world's largest volcanic eruption. Its landscapes of blue-domed roofs, dazzling white walls and black-sand beaches contrast the charming with the unearthly.
The eruption that caused the caldera is believed by some myth-makers to have caused the disappearance of Atlantis. The island's violent volcanic history is visible everywhere you look - in its black beaches, earthquake-damaged dwellings and raw cliffs of lava plunging into the sea. Volcanic activity has been low-key for the past few decades, but minor tremors occur pretty frequently and experts reckon the caldera could bubble up once again at any moment. For lovers of impermanence and drama, no other place even comes close.
To get some background into this island's extraordinary history, head to the Megaron Gyzi museum of local memorabilia in Fira, with fascinating photos of the town before and after the disastrous 1956 quake. The Museum of Prehistoric Thira houses impressive finds from the ancient site of Akrotiri, destroyed in the 1650 BC eruption. Look out for the gold ibex figurine, found in mint condition in 1999 and dating from the 17th century BC.
If you like your islands quiet and unspoilt, you'll find Sikinos fits the bill perfectly. There's not even a bank or petrol station on the island - but plenty of nice beaches and beautiful terraced landscapes dropping down to the sea. The Kastro is a cute and compact place with some lovely old houses and a fortified monastery above the town. The main excursion on this island is a one-hour scenic trek southwest to Episkopi and its church and monastery. Beaches to hit include Agios Georgios, Malta, Karra and Katergo. The western Cyclades island of Sikinos is north of Santorini, and has good ferry connections to Piraeus and neighbouring islands.