The Alpine orogen in the Cyclades, wherein both high-pressure metamorphic rocks and ultramafic rocks co-occur, is a key area in studying the emplacement of mantle rocks into the crust. Within the Cyclades three distinct ultramafic associations occur: (1) HP-LT ophiolitic mélanges of the Cycladic Blueschist Unit (CBU) on Evia and Syros; (2) meta-peridotites associated with migmatized leucogneisses on Naxos, which represent the deepest exposed levels of the CBU; (3) a greenschist-facies metamorphosed dismembered ophiolite juxtaposed on top of the CBU by an extensional detachment on Tinos. Most of the Cycladic ultramafic rocks were serpentinized prior to Alpine metamorphism, suggesting denudation prior to reburial. The Naxos metaperidotites preserve, however, relict mantle assemblage and mantle-like oxygen isotope ratios, and thus indicate direct emplacement from the mantle into an underthrust continent during collision and HP metamorphism (M 1). Thus conditions for M 1 in the Naxos leucogneiss core are constrained by ultramafic assemblages to 550-650 °C and ≥ 14 kbar. Mafic blocks of the ophiolitic mélanges in the NW Cyclades span a wide range of chemical compositions indicating derivation from variable oceanic settings and sequential events of alteration and metasomatism. Given the comparable geochemical heterogeneity in the Syros and Evian mélange intervals, the garnet-bearing meta-basites of the Syros mélange record higher M 1 temperatures (450-500 °C) than the garnet-free epidote blueschists of the Evian mélanges (400-430 °C). It follows that going southeastwards from Evia progressively deeper (i.e. hotter) levels of the subducted plate are exposed. Correspondingly, temperatures of the M 2 overprint also increase from pumpellyite-bearing assemblages on southern Evia, through greenschists on Syros to upper-amphibolite, sillimanite-bearing gneisses on Naxos. The diverse P-T paths of the CBU form an array wherein the deeper a rock sequence is buried, the 'hotter' is its exhumation path. Such a pattern is predicted by thermal modelling of tectonically thickened crust unroofed by either erosion or uniform extension.