- Region : Ionian Islands
- Population: 4000
Kythira or Kithira, an island for all tastes, individual and unique where there is something for everyone, a great option of travelers seeking quiet and relaxing holidays.
Kythira is located right below the Peloponnese and offers a unique natural beauty and sightseeing attractions, along with amazing beaches… popular Agia Pelagia, Hora and its castle, Kapsali and Avlemonas, Mylopotamos waterfall and cave.
Kythera, according mythology, is known as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. According to legend, she was born from the seed of Uranus, the God of Heaven, when his genitals fell into the sea after they were cut off by his son Cronus. Aphrodite rose from the foam of the sea. After she had risen Zephyrus, the West wind, blew her in a shell to Cyprus.
Today this mythological occasion is recalled by “the bath of Aphrodite”, a hollow peak in a rock at the beautiful beach of Palaiopolis.
Kythera officially belongs to the Ionian islands (together with Corfu, Zakynthos, Ithaca, Kefalonia, Lefkas and Paxos). However it is located much further south at the southern tip of the Peloponnese at the mouth of the Laconian Gulf. The island lies at the crossroads of 3 seas, the Ionian, Aegean and the Cretan Sea. With its surface area of 284 km 2, it is one of the greater of a total of approximately 1,400 Greek islands.
The island is cut by gorges and valleys that can hide secret treasure. On the eastern side the island mostly slopes down gradually to the sea ending at some beautiful beaches. This in contrast to the western side which often descends with a spectacularly steep drop into the Ionian Sea.
The most beaches of the island are mainly found in the east and the south. There is a variety of beaches, few of them with pebbles and other sand and some are characterised by a beautiful red colour.
How to get there
You could get to Kythira either by ferry or plane.
The airport of Kythira is located on the northern side of the island. It receives only domestic flights from Athens and the flight time is 1 hour. In summer, it also receives air connections with other Greek airports, such as Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Aktion/Preveza and Corfu. These connections are operated by Olympic Air.
There are ferries to Kythira from the port of Neapolis, a small port town in southern Peloponnese. These ferries run almost daily (6 times per week) and the trip takes 1h30min. There are also year round ferries to Kythira from Gythio, Peloponnese and Kissamos, Crete 3 times a week. In summer, direct ferries depart from Piraeus to Kythira and Antikythira once per week. You could find all ferries schedules and book on line your tickets here.
Where to stay
Xenonas Fos Ke Choros, (guesthouse light and space) is a small charming hotel with only 4 guest rooms, located in the heart of the island of Kithera, in a beautiful natural environment surrounded by cypresses, right in between the two picturesque villages of Aroniadika and Pitsinades. Each lovely, comfortable room has its own spacious private terrace with panoramic views of the Ionian sea and large parts of the island.
Lusso Eleganza Abitazione a small complex with five boutique villas in Kythira, elegantly appointed on the top of a hill at Kalamos area. A great location to enjoy tranquility and magnificent views over two beautiful valleys and over to the Aegean sea. Ideally located only ten minutes from three wonderful beaches, including Chalkos, Kapsali and Fyri Ammos, and close to many fine restaurants in the city’s capital, Chora, Kapsali, Livadi and Kalamos.
What to see & Do
History of the island : There is evidence that Kythera was inhabited from a very early date and certainly in prehistoric times. In antiquity many different populations settled here, leaving their mark and mixing with the locals. The first were the Minoans and Phoenicians, then came the Mycenaeans, Laconians, and at some point, the Athenians. In the Hellenistic and Roman eras the two islands faced declined and became almost deserted. The island bore the brunt of pirate raids and along with the other Ion- ian Islands immediately after the fall of the Byzantine state in 1204 came under Venetian rule. After the first period of Venetian rule, administration was ceded to the noble Marco Venieri, in the next four centuries until the fall of the Venetian Republic, at which period links were forged with Monemvasia and Crete. After the Venetians, the island fell into the hands of the French and then in 1800 became part of the newly established Septinsular Republic of the Ionian Islands. However, in 1809 it came under an extended period of British Rule, with its characteristic development projects and creative public action accompanied by the oppression of the locals. In 1864, the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece marked the point when Kythera became an integral part of the Greek state and its history since has been that of Greece.
Visit the small and picturesque villages and feel like you are hundred years back. Chora, Frilingianika, Aroniadika, Potamos, Mitata, Mylopotamos, Dokana, Kypryotianika, Pitsinades, Aloizianika, Logethetianika and Karavas.
Spring is maybe the best time to visit Kythira for flower lovers. Kythira has a few unique species of flowers.
Dozens of beaches surround the island. Many are only accessible by sea. Outside the main season the beaches are almost deserted and you can imagine yourself on a deserted island. Beaches as Kaladi, Firi Amos, Limni, Routsounos, Melidoni, Kalami and Chalkos are often only accessible by dirt roads in poor condition, but your efforts will be rewarded.
Every year, the Municipality of Kythera or- ganises the “Journey to Kythera”, an annual municipal festival with many cultural and art events from May through October.
Visit the ancient city of Paleochora. This was the Byzantine capital of Kythera, surrounded by a number of deep gorges. The people thought it would be safe from attack. But in 1537, the Turkish admiral Barbarossa with his Algerian pirate fleet attacked the island and conquered the town. In order not to fall into the hands of the pirates, hundreds of inhabitants of the town jumped to their deaths into the canyons. Since then the town has been abandoned. Walls have collapsed and roofs are missing. Nevertheless the mysterious atmosphere, the unique location and spectacular natural environment leaves you with a memorable impression.
A must visit to the capital city of Kythira, Chora, is a unique town, founded in the 13th century by the Venetians. It has a medieval character with many narrow alleyways. Immediately below the renovated Venetian castle lies Mesa Vourgo, a protected area. It was built in the 16th century with houses in the Cycladic style and a large number of churches. Inside the renovated Venetian castle, built in 1503, there are still a number of special post
There are plenty Byzantine churches to visit, as Ayios Ioannis Prodromos, Panayia Orphani and Panayia Myrtidiotissa.
Kapsali Village, a port that is located on two horseshoe-shaped bays. Between the two bays there is a small peninsula with a church and a lighthouse built by the British. The sandy beach of Kapsali is largely protected from the wind by the natural bay. On the rocks above the town is the monastery of the Apostle John. This was built in his honour in 1592 and is called Agios Ioannis Engremnos. The church is located in a cave is where the Apostle John lived before he travelled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote his ‘Revelation. At the end of the second bay you will find the Lazarete, a historic building with unique architecture that served as a quarantine site for sailors.
In a gorge just outside the village of Mylopotamos (translated ‘Mills on River’) the waterfall Nereida is located in beautiful surroundings. This is also called the Fonissa (murderess) waterfall named after a murder which took place there according to legend. The gorge runs right down to the sea where it ends at the magnificent beach of Kalami (Greek for bamboo). On the seabed just off the coast are some old cannons which are remnants of a sunken ship.
In Kithira you can enjoy some great English architectural works such as the English School in Melapidia and the bridge of Kadouni with a length of 110 meters, it is the longest stone bridge in Greece.
Visit the renovated Archaeological Museum at the entrance into Chora, the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art Collection at Kato Livadi, the “Lourandos” Folk Art Collection in Chora and the Museum for Coats of Arms, in the impressive Venetian Castle of Chora. There are also private exhibitions and art venues to visit.
Enjoy the natural beauty of the island, that include impressive ravines, such as Kaki Lagada in Agia Pelagia; its caves, with the largest being Agia Sophia in Mylopotamos; as well as the coastal area of Ochelles, which yields the schist slabs that are a main element of Kythera`s architecture (called `cheloplaka` in Greek).
The wonderful clean seas of Kythera are ideal for scuba diving and sea sports.
In addition, the special position of the island lends itself wonderfully to windsurfing, sailing, skiing, diving and, of course, fishing. There are beaches to suit all tastes.
The island is also known for its caves. The most famous being that of Agia Sofia in Mylopotamos, with exceptional Byzantine wall paintings, which can be visited during the summer. The sea cave of the small island Hytra opposite Kapsali is impressive and there are boat trips to it daily.
There are plenty walking trails that have been marked and mapped, passing by old water mills, green meadows, waterfalls and areas of great natural beauty. Hiking is a great way to discover Kythera`s hidden treasures. There are also dirt tracks suitable for cycling.
The people of Kythera are particularly religious. The island has almost 350 churches! The pride and joy of all Kytherians is Panagia Myrtidiotissa, in the west of Kythera, a site at which a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary was discovered and which attracts thousands of pilgrims from the whole of Greece, particularly for its celebrations on September 24th. Another major pilgrimage is the Monastery of Agia Moni, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. George. The icon found refers to the Virgin Mary as Our Sole Hope «Moni ton pandon elpida» and was therefore named Agia Moni. Local saints are Osios Theodoros and Agia Elesa. The Byzantine Monastery of Osios Theodoros is of exceptional architecture. Saint Theodoros lived and died here and is celebrated on the 12th of May. Saint Elesa was martyred in Kythera in 375 AD by the hand of her own father. A magnificent church was built on the site of her martyrdom and celebrations are held there on the 1st of August. An important monument is the cave church of Agios Ioannis en Krymno (St. John on the cliff face), above the forest of Kapsali. The island has exceptional Byzantine churches with noteworthy murals. The most important being Agios Andreas at Livadi and Agios Dimitrios at Pourko. There are tens of post-Byzantine churches. Each with something special for the visitor to admire.
Antikythera is located to the south of Kythera and has only a few perma - nent inhabitants during the winter. The island comes to life during summer, as a lot of people originating from the island have holiday homes there. The island has a modern heliport, a Medical Station, a good road network that connects its roughly 10 settlements, as well as modern mobile te - lephony networks. On August 17th, Antikythera celebrates its patron saint, Saint Myron, at the small Monastery of the same name with a great traditional religious and folklore event, including traditional Cretan dance and music. The island’s inhabitants are descendants of Cretans and the island has been settled for approximately 300 years. The traditions, customs, music and dialect spoken are similar to that of Western Crete. Antikythera boasts the only Bird Observatory in Greece, operated by the Hellenic Ornithological Society. The observatory aims to enable bird watching for almost 250 species of birds recorded on the island, as well as to protect the Eleanora’s falcon. Antikythera has the largest colony of these sea falcons worldwide. Every August, archaeological excavations continue at the ancient “Castle” at Aegila, the ancient capital of the island. Volunteer students are in charge of the excavation, and visitors can participate in the dig. Visitors can enjoy the sea at the beaches of Xeropotamos or Potamos, as well as the stunning beach of Kamarela. The island’s walking trails are gradually being restored and entice you to hike in an environment un - touched by humans. The Lighthouse of Apolytara, at the southernmost tip of the island, is defi - nitely worth a visit. The Water Mill of Andronikos and the building which housed the exiled Ionian Politicians for 5 years during the British Rule of the Ionian Islands (19th cent.) are located in the settlement of Potamos.
The attention of the international scientific community island has been focused on Antikythera, since finding the world famous Antikythera Shipwreck a few meters from the north-eastern shoreline in 1900. The most important ancient wreck in the world yielded many ancient works of art, including the Youth of Antikythera (Ephebe), the Philosopher and the famous Mechanism, considered to be the first computer in history. It is a time mechanism with dozens of high precision gears, rotating around many axes, just like a mechanical watch. It was manufactured approximately 2000 years ago and was used to exactly calculate the position of the Sun, Moon and possibly the planets in the sky. It also calculated the phases of the Moon, foresaw eclipses and determined the date on which ancient games were held.
Where to eat & drink
Kithira offers excellent food and there are many exceptional local products. Kythera is famous for its thyme honey, which for many years has maintained its exceptional quality and is rated amongst the best in the word. Kythera also produces premium quality olive oil and wine.
Cheese is sold in the traditional open markets of Livadi and Potamos (on Sundays), where producers also sell locally grown wholesome vegetable and fruit.
The local traditional cuisine is famous for its sweets. There is a great range of traditional sweets to try including macaroons, rozedes, xerotigana, Mylos paste, pastitseta and many others.
Taste the local liqueur known as Fatourada, a type of tsipouro (grappa) to which sugar, cinnamon and cloves are added.
Bakeries of island offer superb products. Do not miss the local oil rusks are made according to a centuries old recipe and stand out.
The island’s restaurants offer a wide range of local food, meats and traditional recipes to suit all palates.