Kythnos is a unique island that for many years was left out of the tourist development of the other islands of the Cyclades. This is the reason why both the place and the people still maintain their simplicity. It is a barren island, a mountain peak in the middle of the sea, but its every inch is dug and shaped by man. The stone walls, the stone farmhouses and the small white churches are everywhere on the island and along with the low and round thorny bushes, create a wild and at the same time pleasant landscape. This landscape combined with peaceful beaches (most of them easily accessible), traditional villages, and hospitable people make a visit to Kythnos unforgettable.
The first inhabitants of Kythnos were Dryopes and their mythical king was Kythnos (hence the name of the island). The most important archeological site of Kythnos is Vryokastro, which was inhabited from the 10th century BC until the first period of the Middle Ages. Later (probably from the 12th century AD) the island is referred to as Thermia (Θερμιά), due to the existence of hot springs in the bay of Loutra. In the past, barley flourished in Kythnos and the main buyer was the Fix brewery in Athens. Other products of the island are honey, figs, and wine. Finally, Kythnos has a long tradition in pottery and there are still several workshops that produce useful and decorative utensils.
We start our tour on the island from its capital, the beautiful and idiosyncratic Chora (Χώρα). Although it is not built in an impressive location like other Greek islands’ capitals and does not have visual contact with the sea, it still has a unique atmosphere. On the main street are all the shops, bars, and restaurants, and after that starts a labyrinth of quiet alleys with courtyards, balconies, passages, and arches where the locals carry on their everyday life. It is this simplicity and unpretentiousness that leave no visitor unmoved. And of course, no walk in Chora is complete without a visit to the traditional patisserie Panochori (Πανωχώρι) on the main street for sweets and desserts.
Apart from Chora, however, the island is also proud of another beautiful mountain settlement, Dryopida (Δρυοπίδα), located in the southern part of the island and built between two hills. The main feature of the village is the tiles that cover the roofs of most houses, which is due to the development of ceramic art in the village in the past. Not far from the village’s centre is the Katafyki Cave (Σπήλαιο Καταφύκι) which contains stalactites and stalagmites, but also natural galleries and artificial openings. In ancient times it operated as an iron mine, an activity that was repeated after the founding of the Greek state and today is open only for guided tours. The village itself is a small pleasant labyrinth with small shops, taverns, and cafes scattered around every corner.
The next stop on a tour of the island must be the port of Loutra (Λουτρά), which means baths and owes its name to the hot springs that have operated here since antiquity. At the entrance of the port dominate the bath buildings. There is an older building designed by Ziller, visited by King Otto and his wife Amalia, and a newer one built in the 1960s. Today both buildings are out of order and the water from the hot springs is poured through a small canal into the sea. The rest of the settlement is a beautiful port with a marina for yachts, restaurants, and a few shops. A pleasant surprise on a walk in the Loutra is the handmade ice cream served by the restaurant Gefsisthea (Γευσιθέα). Just 4 km from Loutra, the small settlement of Agia Irini (Αγία Ειρήνη) with a few houses, the homonymous church and the best restaurant on the island is perhaps the most unexpected picturesque corner of the island [photo at the top].
Finally, no one leaves the island without visiting the church of the patron saint of Kythnos, Panagia Kanala (Παναγία Κανάλα), which is located in a small forest (with the only pines trees on the island) and overlooks the homonymous bay, a small village and the beautiful sandy beach of Megali Ammos (Μεγάλη Άμμος). According to the local tradition, the icon of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) kept inside the church miraculously emerged from the sea and was located by fishermen in the canal between Kythnos and Serifos, hence the name of the church. On the rocks just below the church, Molo All Day Cafe offers unique view of the bay and a relaxing atmosphere.
But Kythnos also has one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. Kolona (Κολώνα) Beach is unique mainly due to its geomorphological peculiarity. It is essentially a strip of sand that connects Kythnos with the islet of Agios Loukas (Άγιος Λουκάς), at the top of which is the picturesque church of the same name. The strip looks like a column (kolona in Greek) and gives the beach its name. The sea is located on both sides resulting in two beaches with deep blue waters and golden sand. There is also a bar with sun loungers and various facilities. However, the access to the beach, which is mainly through a difficult dirt road, is a matter of concern for many visitors (read here our memo with detailed information on how to access the beach).
Apart from the two beaches that we have already mentioned, the island has other beaches that are worth visiting (most of them unorganised). The most popular are Episkopi (Επισκοπή) and Apokrousi (Απόκρουση), both with clear waters, beach bars and sunbeds. Other beaches that we have singled out are the three consecutive beaches of Naoussa or Aosa (Νάουσσα ή Άοσα) – Kouri (Κουρί) – Zogaki (Ζογκάκι) which are joined by steps and in their centre the picturesque church of Agios Eleimonas (Άγιος Ελεήμονας) dominates the view. Another quiet and beautiful beach is that of the small settlement of Lefkes (Λεύκες). Finally, a more isolated but very impressive beach is Agios Nikolaos (Άγιος Νικόλαος) near Kanala. Generally, the beaches on the island are many and every visitor can single out his/her favourite.
The food in Kythnos is also excellent and is based on local products and the simplicity of Greek cuisine. It is worth trying local thermiotiko (θερμιώτικο) cheese and sfouggata (σφουγγάτα), which are small fried cheese balls. Also, the island is known for two traditional sweets, amygdalota (αμυγδαλωτά) and pasteli (παστέλι).
From the restaurants and taverns we visited at the island we can easily distinguish the following :
- Arias (Άριας): The descendants of the lighthouse keeper of the area have created a beautiful setting (and the best restaurant on the island) in the small bay of Agia Irini and serve delicious and quality food (mainly seafood). Flawless service, unique atmosphere, and fresh ingredients guarantee an unforgettable experience by the sea.
- To Steki tou Ntetzi (Το Στέκι του Ντέντζη): On the main road of Chora, this tavern is the most famous on the island and not without reason. It has a beautiful picturesque courtyard where you can enjoy unique dishes from a variety of appetizers and grilled meats, all of which are excellent.
- Other places worth mentioning are Psipsina (Ψιψίνα) in Chora, Koutsikos (Kούτσικος) in Loutra and To Chartino Karavi (Το Χάρτινο Καράβι) in Dryopida.
During our visit to the island, we stayed at Kythnos Bay Hotel, a recently renovated hotel in the centre of Loutra very close to the sea . The hotel is spotlessly clean, has a very good breakfast and the staff is very friendly and informative.
As the ship departs from Merichas (Μέριχας), the island’s harbour, the visitor has a feeling of completeness. Kythnos offers its visitors everything in an unpretentious and simple way. The unique dry landscape, the hundreds of small churches scattered everywhere, the beautiful beaches, the villages, and above all the people of Kythnos create a unique picture, which is hard to forget.