(CNN) — Dazzling white rock formations, hidden caves and breathtaking beaches contrast with arresting blue seas to make Milos one of the most impressive islands in Greece.
This craggy volcanic island in the Aegean Sea is the most southwesterly of the Cyclades group, and is where the Venus de Milo, the most graceful marble statue of antiquity, was discovered.
With myriad nooks and crannies shaped by wind and water, and striking strands dotted around the coast, Milos is a captivating destination to while away a summer. "We Greeks understand -- and anyone who has traveled widely here knows -- that each Greek island is a small unique world. Milos, though, is special," says Milos resident Leonidas Fotinos.
"On Milos, the power and magnetism of nature really is strong, it overwhelms the area and its deep within us. That's why we love it here and why people who discover Milos love it too."
Fotinos, whose father was born on Milos, had a yearning to return after so many happy memories of childhood holidays here, and 25 years ago he did just that.
Since then he has seen Milos "discovered" as the perfect backdrop for Bollywood filming, fashion campaigns and video shoots that demand surreal backdrops.
"The variety of beaches here is truly unreal. In a small area of 150 square kilometers, you hop from one world to another," says Fotinos, who runs Small Islands, a tourism agency focusing on holidays on the smaller Cyclades.
Here's a look at the most stunning of the 77 beaches and swimming spots on Milos:
If a moon beach were to exist, Sarakiniko would be it.
Its bone-white contortions of sculpted stone, shaped and smoothed over time, create a striking contrast with the Aegean's sapphire and turquoise seas. A true lunar landscape on the shores of the Med.
Papafragas is named after a French monk who once hung out here.
At Papafragas, two huge rock formations meet over a sandy beach where dancing sunlight creates an ever-changing palette of sea colors.
Named after a French monk who lived there, the scene is framed by a fantastic cave carved out of the cliff's side.
In the nearby ancient town of Phylakope, the ruins of walls, buildings and tombs reveal a civilization that thrived during the Neolithic period.
Firiplaka lies beneath steep, coffee-colored cliffs.
A short hike brings you to a stunning crescent of pebble beach that has been carved into the face of steep, coffee-colored cliffs.
Sparkling waters lap the beach, while immense rocks pocked with little caves jut out of the shallow waters close to shore.
The climb down to Tsigrado requires strong nerves.
Accessing tranquil Tsigrado requires a bit of creative rock maneuvering -- a touch nerve-jangling if you don't like the idea of gripping your way down a three-meter curve of rock.
For those who don't mind the adventure and descending while hanging onto a rope (kindly secured there for security), this small secluded beach with pristine waters is the ultimate reward.
White-washed cube houses and colored boatsheds frame a sandy beach at Firopotamos.
Charming fishing houses with whitewashed walls and blue doors are a mainstay on Milos, and nowhere showcases them better than Firopotamos Beach.
This 100-meter stretch of sand is framed by white cube houses, with tamarisk trees clinging to the rocky shoreline. The Church of Saint Nicholas stands sentinel over the bay.
Kleftiko is popular with boat trips.
Only reachable by boat, Kleftiko is one of the most popular day trips from the port of Adamantas and there's a reason why. It's stunning.
The towering white rocks rise high above the sea with natural openings to swim through and caves to explore.
The name comes from the Greek word kleftes, referring to pirates that used to hoard their stolen loot in the secluded coasts here.
Sykia is sometimes known as the Emerald Cave.
Milos' mindblowing coastline steps it up a notch at Sykia. This beach inside a cave was created when the roof collapsed, leaving a round hole into which shafts of sunlight illuminate the dazzling waters below.
Sometimes known as the Emerald Cave, it's accessible by inflatable boats that are just small enough to pass through a crevice into the heart of this natural wonder.
Paliorema is a golden sandy beach backed by an old abandoned mining town.
Paliorema Beach is home to an abandoned mining town called Thiorihio.
The strange backdrop of old mining wagons and tools gives the impression of a beach in an open-air museum.
The golden sand, clear waters and colorful pebbles add to the unique scene. Best reached by a rural road from Zefyria or by boat.
Achivadolimni is popular with windsurfers.
Achivadolimni means "lake of shellfish." Look in the crystal-clear waters and that's what you'll see -- thousands of clams or conches living on the sea floor.
Popular with kitesurfers and windsurfers, waves here can reach a sizeable height when the summer meltemi winds blow.
Peaceful Alogomantra lies on Milos' northern coast.
At Alogomantra Beach, a vault-like stone formation hovers over a perfect strip of sand. This peaceful beach on the northern coast of the island is enhanced by the blue-green waters that lap the shore.