Iraklia is a quiet island in the Small Cyclades that’s perfect for escaping from reality. It has beaches to forget your worries and tavernas that are traditional in spirit yet refined in taste.
You can reach Iraklia by ferry from Athens or other islands of the Small Cyclades. Ferry tickets can be booked online at Ferryhopper.
Iraklia is the smaller of the four inhabited islands that make up the Small Cyclades. It’s easy to visit as a day trip from Naxos, Schinoussa, Koufonisi, or even the main island of Crete, but you’ll need to spend at least one night here to get a feel for the island.
It’s not a place for raucous partying or big-name restaurants, but if you love swimming at pristine beaches, eating local cuisine, and enjoying majestic sunsets, then you’ll be in heaven on this island!
Most travellers stay in the tiny village of Agios Georgios on the north end of the island. Here you can find accommodation options that range from simple tavernas to luxurious resorts. Those who want to explore the island further should book their accommodation in one of the other villages. The largest village on the island is Panagia, which is also where you’ll find a few restaurants and some cute little shops.
Livadi Beach is the most popular beach on the island, and it’s easily accessible from Agios Georgios by bus or taxi. It’s a pretty bay with a fjord-like shape that’s perfect for swimming and relaxing. It’s worth checking out Tourkopidago beach, just south of Livadi, which is a gorgeous stretch of white sand with crystal clear waters. Just be sure to watch out for sea urchins!
Iraklia also has a number of other beautiful beaches that you can only reach by boat. You can join a tour from the port of Agios Georgios or Panagia. Alimnia is another beautiful beach on the south end of the island that’s sheltered by towering cliffs. It’s a beautiful sand beach with crystal clear water, and you can snorkel right to the edge of the wreck of a German WW2 seaplane!
If you’re looking for some nightlife on your Iraklia trip, there are a few bars to check out. The rooftop bar En Lefko is a great option, and it’s known for its scenic views and delicious cocktails. Another great option is Surfin Bird, which also serves food and drinks.
Aeolos, the larger of the two main islands in Iraklia is home to a couple of good places to eat. The first is the simple but cosy O Pefkos, where you can try local dishes such as fasolakia (grilled meat or chicken) or moussaka and pastitio. Prices are cheap and the restaurant has a nice setting next to a small hill.
Another tavern in Aeolos worth visiting is Akathi, where you can try traditional Greek recipes in a magnificent setting with spectacular sea views. The menu is extensive and offers all kinds of seafood, including grilled octopus.
There is also a good choice of hotels in Aeolos, the swankiest being the Aeolos Beach Resort, located on high ground above the village. This all-inclusive resort is recommended for families and offers spacious rooms with large outdoor spaces, but some people might struggle with the steep footpaths to the rooms.
On the other hand, for those looking for luxury, there is also the Iraklia Hotel & Spa which offers top-notch accommodations and a stunning setting right by the beach.
Iraklia is a beautiful island that gives you the chance to forget about the everyday stresses of life and enjoy some real rest on perfect beaches with crystal clear waters. The landscape is rustic and the inhabitants are warm and hospitable. It is also a great place for hiking and enjoying the wonderful sunsets.
A unique experience on Iraklia is to visit the old church of Panagia or the Church of the Presentation of Mary. This is one of the most iconic buildings on the island and it features classic Cycladic architecture. The blue top dome stands out amongst the green hills of Iraklia and it attracts lots of visitors.
During the day, you can also take a boat trip to nearby islands such as Donousa, Koufonisia and Schinoussa or just spend some time on the beach. Iraklia is also a great place for snorkelling as there are many fish and other wildlife in the surrounding seas. There is a great variety of plants and flowers on the island as well, which makes it a fantastic destination for nature lovers.
3. En Lefko
The island of Iraklia is a place where you can truly relax and enjoy your holidays. Serene moments on stunning beaches with turquoise waters, walks in picturesque settlements with simple Cycladic architecture and quiet nights in tavernas are just some of the things you can experience here.
The tavernas of Iraklia offer delicious Greek cuisine and seafood pasta dishes. There are also several restaurants that offer pizza, such as En Lefko. The restaurant’s owner Giannis Gavalas has worked in high-end restaurants in Athens and Mykonos Island, but he wanted to open his own place on Iraklia where he could serve the food that he loves most. The restaurant’s dishes combine traditional Greek ingredients with modern culinary techniques.
Iraklia is part of the Small Cyclades, which includes four inhabited islands (Iraklia, Donousa, Koufonisi, and Schinoussa) and two uninhabited ones (Keros and Kefalonia). It is located to the west of Santorini and is the largest island of the Small Cyclades. It is a very green and mountainous island with a lot of pine trees, and there are also several hiking trails on the island that you can explore.
The best thing to do in Iraklia is to take a walk around the village and enjoy the beautiful scenery and fresh air. You can also visit the Cave church and the ruins of a hilltop castle. In addition, you can go on a boat trip to explore the heavenly beaches of Iraklia.
Another must-visit attraction on the island is Merichas, where you can see impressive vertical cliffs that plunge into the sea. The area is a natural paradise and is perfect for bird watching. You can also swim at the beach of Tourkopidago, which is a wonderful and isolated beach with a unique fjord-like shape.
You can get to Iraklia by ferry from the mainland port of Naxos. Book your ferry tickets online at Ferryhopper to save time and money. The trip to Iraklia will take about 2 hours. Ferries run regularly throughout the day. It is advisable to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak season.
4. Surfin Bird
Iraklia is the most underdeveloped island of the Small Cyclades and it’s perfect for people seeking decentralization and hourless relaxation with majestic sunsets and pristine beaches. Here, you’ll swim at secluded beaches, hike to the Cave church and the remains of a hilly castle, dive to sunken planes from WWII and enjoy fine cuisine in one of the best restaurants on the Aegean Sea!
I’ve been to the other three islands of the Small Cyclades (Donousa, Koufonisi, and Schinoussa) and Iraklia is definitely my favorite due to its utter isolation and wild nature. I’ve never felt so detached from the rest of the world and so completely at peace!
The island is a paradise for hikers as the paths are well marked and easy to follow. You’ll also find a handful of taverns and cafes on your way from the port of Agios Georgios to Panagia Chora and at Livadi. Many of them are tucked in the hilly village and serve fresh seafood, meat dishes, and traditional Greek dishes such as succulent goat meat in red wine sauce or lobster pasta.
Tourkopidago beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on Iraklia, located two kilometers southeast of Panagia Chora and reachable by car, scooter or one of the bus services. This narrow windless beach has a fjord-like shape and crystalline turquoise waters. It’s ideal for swimming and relaxing but watch out for the sharp sea urchins!
Surfin Bird is an all-day bar-restaurant with a relaxing beach vibe. It serves breakfast, comfort food, local products, homemade sweets and ice cream as well as cocktails. It’s open from May to October and is one of the best places to eat in Iraklia for lunch and dinner.
Iraklia is easily accessible from Piraeus and Athens with multiple ferries crossing throughout the year. There are also multiple intra-cycladic itineraries connecting Iraklia with other islands in the Small Cyclades. If you prefer to fly, there are several air companies that operate throughout the summer and Iraklia can be easily reached from the Athens airport. There’s a range of accommodation options to choose from on Iraklia ranging from basic studios to luxury villas and everything in between.