Where to stay: Poseidon of Paros mixes whitewashed Cycladic architecture with flagstone walls, and is strategically poised between Golden and New Golden beaches (you'll see windsurfers shredding the water during afternoon drinks). The place also does a steady business with weddings.
Poseidon, Golden Beach, 84400, Paros; +30 22840 42650; doubles from $130
Best beaches: Milos
Every islander has their favorite beach, but none of the Cyclades promises the number and diversity of beaches as volcanic Milos.
Some have white sand, some black, some are rocky, others offer the satisfying sensation of crushed shells underfoot, with water ranging from emerald to aquamarine to cobalt blue.
With a heavily indented coastline (on a map Milos resembles a mutated crab) and pretty little coves at every turn, Milos has about 80 fine beaches, many only accessible by boat.
While each has its charm, some should not be missed.
Sarakiniko, a beach of brilliant white pumice, looks truly otherworldly (many liken it to the moon).
The three beaches of Paliochori are cupped by towering rock formations, its pebbles are multicolored and the sea water has warm pockets where it's fed by hot underwater mineral springs.
The small Tzigrado beach is flanked by headlands, and can only be accessed by boat or by a ladder down the cliffs.
A cave borders the even tinier Papafragas beach, while the rock walls that enclose it give the water the appearance of a river starting in the sand.
At Paliorema beach you can wander around an abandoned sulfur mine plant, see the wagons used to transport the chemical and look for sulfur crystals growing among the rocks.
Where to stay: Since visitors will likely camp down at a different beach every day, it makes sense to stay close to the main port of Adamas where taxis and boats are easy to organize.
Villa Notos has simple rooms in Cycladic colors of blue and white (some have terraces), Greek-made Korres toiletries, pretty views of Adamas Bay and is within walking distance of the town's restaurants.
Villa Notos, Adamas, 84801, Milos; +30 22870 28200; doubles from $52
Best for nature lovers: Ikaria
This rugged, wing-shaped island on the cusp of the Cyclades and named for Icarus -- the son of Daedalus who fled from Crete, got too close to the sun and tumbled into the sea just offshore -- has gained fame for the longevity of its residents.
Their diet, strong community and daily exercise mean Ikarian men are four times as likely as American men to reach the age of 90, according to a study by the University of Athens Medical School.
The 99-square mile island is basically one large mountain, peaking in the central Pramnos-Atheras range. For such a small area, the geographic variation is astounding -- Ikaria has rivers and tiny lakes, high forests of pine and oak, and hills at every turn that combine to make Ikaria an Elysian Field for outdoor buffs.
Ikaria's network of mountain paths known as monopatia is an informal web of routes that connects villages. The hiking guide "Round of Rahes on Foot," published by the local municipalities, details tracks and trails on the west of the island and also maps out a 15-mile tour along monopatia through the hills and villages of northwest Ikaria.
The trek brings hikers through farmland, bush, forest, past lakes, along donkey tracks, skirting goat herds and introduces visitors to the unhurried pace and uncomplicated nature of Ikarian life (this is an island where bakeries use the honor system).
After a hard day of tramping, trekkers can rejuvenate aching muscles at the mineral bath houses of Therma (whose waters, according to the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, have the highest concentration of the therapeutic element radon in Greece), or look for the steam rising from various spots around the coast like Lefkada, where heated water emits and joins the Aegean.
Where to stay: Fittingly Villa Dimitri has studio rooms and apartments terraced into a hillside near Armenitis, the steps an ideal preparation for the walks and inclines ahead. Whitewashed rooms have private terraces and views of the Aegean.
Villa Dimitri, Armenistis, 83301; Ikaria; 30-22750-71310; doubles from $55
Best Robinson Crusoe destination: Koufonisia