This little island is not “selling” anything. It is not “shouting”, but it is always there, waiting for you. Waiting for the few, getting off the “Skopeliti Express”, the few, who know why they are coming. They know the truth about this island and its people, about their contagious, guileless smiles and the strange, innocent conspiracy of which you will become a member before you know it. Iraklia is yet another of the islands known as the Smaller Cyclades.
Where is Iraklia island?
Iraklia is situated in the heart of the Aegean Sea, hiding between Naxos and Ios. This incredibly charming little island belongs to the stunning island group of the Smaller Cyclades, along with Koufonisia, Schinoussa, and Donoussa. Most importantly, it has managed to stay undiscovered by the mass visitors, keeping its charm intact.
Map of Iraklia
Iraklia – Where to stay?
The beaches in Iraklia island are non-organized, but they have the crystal-clear turquoise waters so characteristic for the beaches of the Smaller Cyclades. All the beaches have kept their natural charm and they are in walking distance from your accommodation. Insiders know that Iraklia is the perfect island for hiking and free camping in nature. Thanks to the short distance between the Smaller Cyclades and Naxos Iraklia, Koufonisia, Schinoussa, and Donoussa are great for island hopping as well.
Villages in Iraklia
There are only two villages in Iraklia Greece. Panagia (or Pano Chorio) is located at the centre of the island, and Agios Georgios (Kato Chorio) is the main port. They both are built in the traditional Cycladic style with whitewashed houses, but the port of Agios Georgios has more touristic facilities like studios and taverns. All around the little port you will find hotels and some good beaches. If you like to stay in nature, Iraklia is known for its free camping in the beautiful landscape of the island.
Iraklia Beach Guide
The beaches in Iraklia are gorgeous, long, and non-organized. The main beaches of Iraklia are Agios Georgios beach, Livadi beach, and Port beach, but walking along the coastline of the island you will find plenty of unspoiled beaches.
- Livadi beach – Non-organized, sandy, secluded, and located on the north-eastern coast of Iraklia just 1,5 km from the port
- Agios Georgios beach – Non-organized, sandy, located at the harbour. Rooms to rent nearby
Things to see in Iraklia
Church of Virgin Mary
The church of Virgin Mary is to be found in the village Panagia. Every year on August 15 there is a great festival dedicated to Virgin Mary (Panagia).
Caves in Iraklia
In the southern part of the island, you will find the most impressive Cave of Saint John (Agios Giannis). It is a real treasure of Iraklia – the entrance to the cave is an exceedingly small opening in the rocks, barely leaving a human body to pass. Three impressive, successive cave halls with stalactites and stalagmites formations have been explored but it is expected to be much deeper. Must be visited with precautions since it is slippery in many places and not that well-lit.
A second cave in Iraklia is yet another Greek cave claiming to be that of Polyphemus, the Cyclops. According to the myth, the Cyclops was living here when he was visited by Odysseus who blinded him to escape. Because of his mad rage the Cyclops threw stones to sink Odysseus’ ship. The stones he threw are, according to the saying, those of the two islands Avelonisia, Mikros (small) and Megalos (big) Avelas to the southeast of Iraklia. You will find the cave of Polyphemus close to that of Saint John.
Church of Agios Georgios
The church of Agios Georgios (Saint George) was built next to the port and gave the name to the port as well. It is the most important church in Iraklia and a celebration every year on April 23 is held by the locals to honour their saint.
Chapel of Prophet Elias
The chapel of Prophet Elias is situated on the highest point of Iraklia island. You can make a stop there on the trekking path from Panagia.
The castle (Kastro) of Iraklia
Above the beach of Livadi you will find the remains of a castle of Hellenistic Period (323-316 B.C.). It is built at a strategic point on a small hill overlooking the Bay of Livadi and the open sea. The atmosphere is quite special up here and it is worth the climb walking among the ruins of old buildings and fallen walls while enjoying the view and the tranquillity.
Iraklia – What to do?
Hiking in Iraklia
Iraklia is a mountainous island. Enjoy the view from different points like Papas Hill and the ancient castle. The hiking paths are generally good, and most beaches can be easily reached on foot, but there are a few rough paths where you need to be in good physical condition to pass. Hiking is quite popular in Iraklia because of its wild natural landscape.
Birdwatching at the Wings of Meriha
At the Bay of Meriha you will find a tall, vertical cliff dropping from a height of 100 m straight into the sea like a tall wing. These cliffs are impressive like huge monsters with vibrant colours and strange formations. Here you will observe vultures by the name of Gyps Fulvus circling around the cliffs, they are members of a colony living in Iraklia.
Papas Hill is the highest point of the island with its 418 metres and here you can admire the view of all the islands around Iraklia. This point is perfect for birdwatching since some rare bird species can be spotted from here, among which are the Gyps Fulvus.
Boat trips to beaches and islets
Another great option for activities in Iraklia is going on boat trips. Cheap daily cruises with fishing boats will take you to beaches and islets only to be reached by boat. Enjoy the days swimming and snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters, while taking in the fabulous underwater world. If you love to merge into nature, you will fall in love with Iraklia!
How to reach Iraklia?
To reach Iraklia from Athens you must embark a ferry to one of the bigger nearby Cyclades islands like Naxos, Paros, or Amorgos. There is one ferry line 3 times per week directly from Athens to Iraklia, but the trip lasts almost 7 hours. It is better to use the local ferry, by the name Express Skopelitis, which departs from Naxos and Amorgos for the islands of the Smaller Cyclades almost daily.
Iraklia has (like the other Smaller Cyclades) no airport. The nearest one is Naxos National Airport “Apollon”. It receives domestic flights from Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”. The flight from Athens to Naxos lasts about half an hour. Naxos airport does not receive flights from abroad. From the airport at Agios Prokopios you will have to take a taxi or shuttlebus for Naxos Town and embark the local ferry Express Skopelitis.
Weather and climate in Iraklia
Iraklia is enjoying the same good weather as all the Cyclades islands, with sunny summers and windy winters. During summer, the sun is shining about 15 hours a day. Some days are hot, reaching 40°C, but fortunately a light breeze is blowing during the afternoons cooling down the atmosphere. During the winter months the winds can blow strong and temperatures are low, but hardly ever below 5 °C. During spring and autumn temperatures are at moderate levels with a few showers.
How big is Iraklia?
It has an area of around 18.000 km², being the biggest of the Smaller Cyclades, and its coastline length is 30 km. It has a population of about 150 people.
The two settlements, Ag. Georgios (the port) and Panagia, are joined by a 4 km long tarmac road. The distance from the port of Naxos is 18 nautical miles. Iraklia has several beautiful beaches, most of which are connected by walking paths.
Facts about Iraklia
- No banks, but one ATM
- No petrol stations
- There are no authorities other than the municipality office
- The only way of transport is a minibus that goes from Ag. Georgios to Panagia
- and the beach Tourkopigado.
- You can rent scooters and motorbikes as a mean of transportation.
- There are 2 dispensaries and a doctor.
- You will find water supply for yachts at the port.
Your holidays in Iraklia will be calm, private, and secluded, therefore it is perfect for you who want to “pull the plug”.