Although the Cyclades are generally known for their traditional white houses with flat roofs, rather too often dubbed 'cubist' by many writers, and for being windy, dry and rocky, there are exceptions to both of these stereotypes, and there is also much individual character that distinguishes one island from the next.
Of these islands, those most taken over by tourism are Mykonos, Ios, and Thira (Santorini), with perhaps Paros following those, though one can escape the crowds even on these if one visits during the off season, with very early spring allowing the opportunity to see them greener from the winter rains, though cold weather can often persist up until late April or early May.
Kea with red tiled roofs and neoclassical buildings in its lovely main village of Ioulidha, and some oak forest, green valleys, orchards, and good beaches, a good island for hiking.
Andros with its elegant 19th century buildings in its lovely capital which sits on a spit of land projecting into a cobalt sea, and also with some fine walking country and secluded beaches.
Kythnos, a small very dry island only two hours by regular ferry from Athens, is also popular with Athenians. It has a pleasant Cycladic Hora, and an atypical village with red tiled roofs that some find reminiscent of Tuscany, Dryopidha, with a beaches here and there, but mostly a long way down.
Serifos, though also dry, is known for its Hora, which perches high up on a rock several miles up a winding road from the harbor, Sifnos has some lovely unspoiled villages on its eastern side of the decidedly Cycladic character, though they get very crowded in summer.
Milos is a dry volcanic island with some fine rock formations, as is neighboring Kimolos, and has gotten touristic late in the day, Folegandhros has a stunning inland Hora perched high up over the cliffs, Sikinos is singularly quiet, for the simple reason that it is fairly nondescript, though there is an old Kastro with some 18th century houses, and walks to good enough beaches.
Ios has a well deserved reputation as the hangout for young folks who drink a lot, though in the off season one can visit it's outstanding Cycladic Hora (main town). Naxos and Paros both have beautiful 'labyrinthine' old market towns, though the waterfront of Naxos is prettier, and its Venetian Kastro quite extensive and fascinating. Naxos also has exceptional sandy beaches that go on for miles, though sadly, the sandy road that flanks them has gotten built up during the past ten years; the same island also has interesting traditional villages and some very fine mountain country.
Paros also boasts good beaches, and many hop over to the smaller neighboring island of Andiparos. Amorgos has a lovely harbor and a fine old Cycladic Hora up the hill several miles, as well as some nice walking country; Syros is famed for its port of Ermoupolis with its lovely paving stones, shipbuilders' mansions and neoclassical buildings, churches and fine squares, and also for good beaches, Tinos has a glitzy church where pilgrims flock on the 15th of August in its unprepossessing harbor town, but some fine villages around the low hill of Exombougos, and many dovecotes. Dilos (Delos) is an ancient holy shrine visited by many from nearby Mykonos.