Kythnos: space & secluded bays
Kolona, a strip of sand comprising back-to-back ‘twin’ beaches, is one of the most beautiful spots in the Cyclades
One of the western Cycladic islands, lying between Kea to the north and Serifos to the south, Kythnos is 56 nautical miles from the port of Piraeus, but only 25 from the port of Lavrio. With a total area of 99 square kilometers and a small population of 1,600, it is one of the most laid-back islands of the group, spared by mass tourism but typically Cycladic in character: a dry landscape with little vegetation, traditional white houses, narrow slate paved alleyways and stone steps, water fountains, arches, windmills and a large number of old churches – 359, to be exact. The reason Kythnos is one of the least touristically developed islands is perhaps the fact that it offers little variety and practically nothing that stands out – except its beaches. There are some 65 in all and rarely crowded, even in August. The result is ample space, tranquility and a minimal impact on the authentic ambience, something that Kythnos’s more famous Cycladic peers could only boast up to 30 years ago.
Despite the island’s proximity to the capital – especially by fast boats – in the last 10 years or so, those in search of secluded coves and diving or fishing opportunities will certainly not be disappointed. Kythnos’s most characteristic features are the village of Dryopida, the main town of Hora (also known as Messaria) and the dry-stone walls that crisscross the island. Merihas, at what is roughly the middle point of the western coast, is at the beginning of two roads. One leads north to picturesque Hora – 7 km away, built in the 17th century – and the therapeutic spa resort of Loutra. Near Hora is the first wind park for the production of electricity in the Cyclades, founded in 1982. The other road leads southwest to Dryopida and the many beaches along the coastline. Archaeologists speculate Kythnos was inhabited as early as 7000 BC. The island made a significant contribution to the development of the Cycladic civilization in the Middle Stone Age by being a major supplier of copper. Later, Aristotle praised the constitution of Kythnos for its prudent administration. Plato considered Kythnean cheese indispensable, while the Roman emperor Nero imported shiploads of it. From the road leading north, you will see some of the island’s best beaches, such as Martinakia, just a few dozen meters from the port.
Where to Eat
In Merihas, the tavernas and restaurants are lined up along the beachfront – Ostria is one good option. In Loutra, Araxovoli and Cavo Doro, on the water, are good for fish and appetizers, Koutsikos for roasts (family run and own sourcing their food); Katerina (the taverna further east, not the same named restaurant) in Schinaria for mainstream Greek dishes; Psipsina in Hora; Flampouria on the homonymous beach; you will also find tavernas at Aghios Stefanos and Aghios Dimitrios beaches.
Kythnos on the Map
Next are the white sands of Episkopi, from where you can continue on foot to Apokrisi and, further along, the wonderful Kolona – a strip of sand comprising back-to-back ‘twin’ beaches and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in the Cyclades. It can be reached either by boat or rough road. On the hills above are the ruins of Vryokastro, Kythnos’s ancient capital, from where the view is superb. Loutra Bay, at the end of the road and protected from the northerly winds, now has a modern marina. The therapeutic springs of Loutra, which have been known since antiquity and are unique in the Cyclades, are suitable for a wide range of ailments. The spa building was designed by Ernst Ziller, the architect appointed by modern Greece’s first king, Otto, who used to visit the facility.
Five km west of Merihas is Dryopida (known as Syllaka or Horio by the locals), which retains all the features of a traditional settlement, with white, tile roofed houses and where the people are known for their feisty character. The village has several pottery workshops and nearby is Katafyki, a cave said to be one of Greece’s largest, which will soon open to the public. About 4 km east of Dryopida are Naousa and Ai-Yiannis, two secluded and usually empty beaches. South of Dryopida, on the eastern coast, is the resort of Panaghia Kanala, with ample accommodation facilities and two fine beaches, Antonides and Megali Ammos. The area has the island’s only pine forest. Many pilgrims come to the local church on its feast day, August 15. At the southern end of the island, 10 km from Dryopida, is the Bay of Aghios Dimitrios, with a wonderful small sandy beach and rented rooms. The island’s municipality holds the Kythnia cultural festival every year throughout July and August.
What to Do
Katafiki Cave: A short walk from the village of Driopida you will find one of the biggest caves in Greece. Fiedler, a geologist, noted in 1841 the cave’s unique rock formations, describing them as rock curtains.
Hiking: If you like walking, the trails are easy to follow and pleasant in spring and autumn weather. Fun trails are from the port to Chora or Driopida, or from the port to the noteworthy beach of Kolona.