Lying discretely between the better-known islands of Sifnos and Milos, Kimolos is ideal for those seeking a calmer experience in an enchanting setting with fascinating historical monuments and geological attractions. The island features a unique variety of rocks, where the white colour of “chalk” dominates (Kimolos comes from Kimolia, which means chalk in Greek). In Venetian times the island was known as Argentiera (Silvery) because of its silver-white reflection against the waves.
The main town of Kimolos boasts many charming old houses and buildings – dating from more prosperous times – that are now being restored. The main town is built around a Venetian Castle of the 17th century. It includes the Palio Horio (old town) and the Neo Horio (new town), with beautiful white houses and traditional windmills. Because Kimolos is less popular and touristy than other islands, the local inhabitants are reputed for their friendliness.
The port of Kimolos is the community of Psathi on the eastern shores of the island, only 1.5 km from Horio (main town). A characteristic of this settlement are the “sirmata” with their colourful cave doors by the coast where the fishermen tie up their boats.
Overall, this island has very varied coasts, some with abrupt sharp rocks and others with windless sandy beaches. It is a generally mountainous island with highest top that of Palaiokastro (397 m). Its ground is barren and its subsoil volcanic. Due to its mountainous nature, the island offers interesting topography with sandy beaches and large areas covered with prickly pear. Also, marine sediment with petrified shells and scallops aged two million years have been found on the island.
The north-western part of Kimolos and the neighboring island of Polyaigos, including the sea that surrounds them, feature strongly in the NATURA 2000 network, with a variety of rare marine species.
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On the coastal cliffs of Polyaigos, Eleonora’s falcons (Falco eleonorae) build their nests. This falcon winters in Madagascar, while in the spring it migrates to the Mediterranean in order to breed. The young birds leave their nest at the beginning of August. It is estimated that 75% of the world population nests in the islands of the Aegean. The fate of this threatened bird of prey, therefore, is in our hands!
On the cliffs along the coasts of the two islands, nests of the shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), known also as “kalikatsou” are common. You may see this bird standing on the rocks in the sun with open wings to dry itself, or plunging into the sea, its long neck extended, to catch fish.
Photo: Вых Пыхманн
A rare species of eagle, the Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) nests on the heights of Polyaigos. While not classified as endangered on a world scale, its population is decreasing continuously and in Greece the number of recorded nesting pairs does not exceed 100. The Peregrine (falco peregrinus) and the Long legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) are also common on the two islands. Finally, particularly during the spring migration, several species of aquatic birds can be seen in small wetland areas.
While the food is traditionally Greek, the islanders are known for their special kind of pizza called Ladenia, made with oil-based dough, tomato and onion. The meze dishes are also worth sampling in general.
Photo: Andreas Petrakis
The walks suggested will enable you to visit the whole island and to visit places which cannot be reached by car/ Walking at your own pace, you will be able to see the island close-up. The routes are suitable for average walkers and the highest you will climb is 350 meters. You will need solid footwear, as the paths are stony and sometimes rough.
Each season has its charm, but the best time to walk on the island is the spring. The hills are bright green and covered with every colour of flower. In summer, you should set out early, so as to walk before the hottest part of the day, when the best place to be is on the beach.
In summer take your swimsuit because all the routes lead to fine beaches. At the end of each walk, apart from the first, you can return by water taxi or fishing boat (“kaiki”), as long as you have arranged it in advance. Make sure that the weather will allow the trip on the day you want to head out. Returning by sea allows you to take in the magnificent coastal scenery of Kimolos and Polyaigos.
Start from the central square of Horio and walk in the direction of Psathi. At the baker’s, take the left fork and just after you pass the Farmers’ Association building, turn left, following the orange arrows. From here to the top of the hill the paved path is one of the most beautiful in the island, maintained in excellent condition. Shortly before you reach the top, turn right to visit the chapel of Pantokratoras. The chapel itself is usually closed, but the spectacular view of the east coast and Polyaigos will reward you for your effort.
Continue along to the derelict windmills. This region is named Xaplovouni, which is thought to be a corruption of the word Klapsovouni, the hill of tears, since, according to tradition, sailors’ wives went there to look for the boats returning and cry, longing for their men. As evident from the many threshing floors and half-ruined windmills, in the past this area was the scene of constant busy activity.
If you do not have enough time, from the windmills you can go down to the other side of Horio. If you wish to continue, turn right and proceed along the stone wall in the same direction, with the quarries of Prassa in the distance. After 300m, you start to go down towards the petrol station. The road, which in winter turns into a stream, is not in the best condition, as it is not used anymore.
Cross the road and you come to Ag. Nikolaos. Continue along the coast to the south, first on a path and then on a dirt-road leading to Horio. If you are not too tired, we suggest you cut off to the left a little before Ag. Nektarios, and go down to the sea (a swim would be an excellent idea) and then continue along the coast through the picturesque houses and past the boat-house caves of Goupa. You can return from the main road.
Route 2: Horio - Skiadi - Mavrospilia
Duration: 3 hours
Level: easy up to Skiadi, then medium.
The departure point is the OTE (telecommunications) building. Heading out of the village, turn left shortly before the church of Ag. Efstathios following the blue arrows. The first hour of this walk is the same as the walk to Paleokastro (indicated by the red arrows). Leave the village and take the right-hand road at the first fork. Where the road ends, turn left. Don’t take any of the smaller paths which you come across but keep on the wide, mostly well-paved track.
Roughly half an hour after you pass the chapel of Ag. Anargiri, you’ll see the chapel of the Profitis Elias a little further on, off the track on your left. Roughly 45-50 minutes from Horio, you go left, still following the blue and red arrows. Alternatively, you can reach this point by motorcycle – up to here the track is reasonably negotiable.
The path, which starts to narrow, continues along the slope – on your right is Mount Sklavos (you will see the radio transmitting dish on the summit). Leaving the mountain behind, you will reach a point where two paths diverge. For Skiadi you continue straight on, following the blue arrows while for Paleokastro you turn right. Starting your way down, you can see Skiadi, even if the path is not very clear. Skiadi itself is a remarkable geological formation – a rock, perhaps three metres high and three or four metres wide, sculpted by the wind into the form of a mushroom.
If you want to continue towards the sea from Skiadi, head down the steep slope into the deep valley on your right (90 to your previous course). The path is difficult to find, and you may have to make your way through the low scrub vegetation. Once you reach the valley bottom (about 10 minutes), however, you will again find a good wide track on your left following a stone wall. Follow the track in the direction of the sea and it will lead you to Mavrospilia beach.
Route 3: Horio - Paleokastro - Agioklima
Duration: 3.5 hours
Medium to difficult
From Horio follow the path towards Skiadi, as in route 2. When you reach the point where the two paths divide, turn right, following the red arrows and continuing with Mount Sklavos still on your right, This path has an impressive view of the rocky west coast of the island. Directly north of Mount Sklavos, which is the highest point of the island, is Paleokastro. The path passes Paleokastro to the west and does not continue up to the top of the mountain. For those who want to enjoy a panoramic view of the Aegean, the ascent is easier from the eastern side.
From this point you can return or go on to Agioklima beach. The path goes gradually down until you reach a hut and a stone threshing floor. Immediately beneath you is Agioklima bay, with its two small beaches. Unfortunately, for the last 200 metres the path disappears, but the descent is not dangerous.
Route 4: Horio - Monasteria - Soufi
duration: 2 hours
From Horio the path to Monasteria, marked with red arrows, goes in a straight line due north. Take the road which leaves Horio to the north (the continuation of the main street). At the exit from the village the road forks to either side of Ag. Efstathios (a distinctive church, painted in a grey and white pattern). Take the right fork and follow the paved lane downhill into the valley, to the only stone bridge on Kimolos. Don’t cross the bridge, but take the left fork, climbing up the hill and leaving the chapels of Ag. Pnevma and Ag. Zoni on your right.
After about 1 km, you come to a dirt-road. Turn right onto this road and follow it downhill for roughly 400 metres to where the dirt-road bends to the right. Turn left onto a smaller track, heading for the beehives on the hillside in the distance. After two or three hundred yards a smaller path leaves the track, at an acute angle, on the right hand side and bears away uphill. Follow this path up the right-hand side of the valley, heading for the pass to the right of the high mountain and the abandoned huts at the top.
Before you start to descend, stop and enjoy the view of Monasteria. See across from west to east, the islands of Serifos, Antiparos, and Sifnos. The path down to the beach is easy, following the right-hand side of the valley. Take care as you descend, as in places the path has been eroded by rain. The church there is dedicated to Virgin Mary, with a festival in her honour onsite every year on August 15.
To reach Soufi, cross the beach and at the end turn left and then immediately right. Soufi offers shade and is ideal for a swim as it is protected from the wind, whatever the weather.
Route 5: Horio - Ellinika
Duration: 2.5 hours
Starting at the church of Ag. Haralampos, set off along the asphalt road that leads to the port. Take the second turn on the right and immediately afterwards turn left, following the brown arrows. The route follows a paved path that in places has been replaced by a dirt road, with splendid views of the beaches in the south of the island.
Stop to see the chapel of Ag. Panteleimonas and to admire the landscape. Roughly 600 metres further on, the path bears to the left and you come to the asphalt road. Turn right and at the second bend before the road begins to go uphill, you turn left onto the next path. Continue until you reach Dekas beach. Beyond Dekas is Ellinika, and then Mavrospilia.
Route 6: Epano Mirsini to Faros (Polyaigos)
duration: 3.5 hours
Giving directions for this walk is more difficult, so you might need a compass or GPS with you. From the point which boat drops you off at Epano Mirsini, follow the green arrows. Pass behind an old stone hut and begin the ascent through the ravine from Kato Mirsini on your right. Climb to the top of the ravine and then follow the ridge to the East. Skirt the highest point of the island, leaving it on your right and begin to descend the ridge bearing to the north-east. If you have the time and the energy, a detour to the summit is not difficult.
As you continue, the path becomes clearer and you climb to a vantage point (a small pillar) in front of you. As the map depicts, the descent to the lighthouse is from the northern side of the bay. The sea appears splendid from above and a plunge in it is a must in the summer. If by mistake you find yourself on the southern side of the bay, (on the right-hand side as you face the sea) do not climb down, but turn back again to the path.
This is an island for hiking. There are many good walks with different sights and natural attractions. One cautionary word though, there are some snakes on the island, so sticking to the trails and avoiding thick bushes would be wise. One snake – a type of viper – will require antivenin immediately. Nonetheless, prudent trekking can be very enjoyable on Kimolos. Adventurers have hiked from Psathi over Chorio to the bay of Monastiria and back, covering the island on foot. A couple of suggestions are:
There are hot springs in at least two areas (Prassa and Agioklima), but they have not been developed yet. The high temperature of the water (46–50C) was the first clue to the existence of underground geothermal reservoirs, later confirmed by drilling. The heat stored in these reservoirs is an exploitable form of energy. Today, the geothermal energy is used for water desalination plants. However, it is likely that there are deeper and hotter reservoirs, which could be used directly for the production of electricity.
Photo: G.A. Ventouris
While Kimolos is not reputed for its beaches, the long, deserted beach of Mavrospilia is worth a visit, so is the beach at Aliki. The area of Goupa offers cliffs that give you access to the water as well. For those seeking a more spectacular beach experience, take a taxi-boat to the little island Polyaegos.
Very little is known about Kimolos in the earliest period. The earliest evidence of human habitation is provided by Neolithic finds on the East coast, at Provarma. On the west coast, at Ellinika, graves and pottery from the Mycenean era (around 1500 BC) up to the late Hellenistic period (1st century BC) have been found. Finds from around the 7th century (the geometric period, named after the style of vases) such as an ancient cemetery containing 22 graves and a large quantity of pottery suggest that there was once a thriving settlement on the island.
Photo cover: www.wondergreece.gr
An ancient city once stood on the present-day islet of Agios Andreas, which at that time was joined to the island of Kimolos. An earthquake of unknown date must have caused the submergence of the land between, and separated Agios Andreas from the main island. Today you can see the ruins of the ancient city both on the island and beneath the sea.
Similarly, there is little evidence for the history of Kimolos during Classical and Hellenistic times. In the Classical period, Kimolos was a member of the Athenian Alliance. The main town was still in the same place, the most fertile part of island. As it is obvious from the coins found dating back to this period, the goddesses Athena and Artemis were worshipped on the island.
The last mention of the ancient city is in Roman times, when according to Pliny there was extensive exploitation of the “Kimolian Earth”, mainly used at this time as a soap. The settlement of Paleokastro, below the summit of the highest mountain in the island, is from later times, boasting remains such as polygonal walls and a gateway on the western side known as ‘Portara’, and traces of buildings and cisterns.
The Castle of Kimolos is found in the upper town where the old village once lay. The houses are built side by side as if part of the castle wall, complete with small windows to help keep invaders at bay. Medieval houses can still be found around the abandoned yet picturesque streets of this part of town.
Due to continued pirate raids, a second wall around the first fortification was added in the 16th century. It was also rectangular in shape with a tower in each corner and two gates.
The eastern gate was built in 1646 according to ints inscription. At one point the castle had 400 small two-floor houses, sharing them with domestic animals. The back of the houses formed the castle’s external walls. Poverty reigned on Kimolos in those times due to the pirates raids.
Countless caves are hidden around the island, which was a veritable pirates’ lair for centuries. The pirates spent the winters on the island enjoying the bounty of their catches from around the high seas. The most well-known is the cave of Vromolimni which can be accessed by donkey, by foot or by boat from the main port. The cave of Gerakia is also worth visiting with its pumice. Other caves are carved out of the rock in the same area, some of which are reputed to still be unexplored.
An abundance of churches, some dating as far back as the 16th century, are interesting to visit. These include Panagia Odigitria which dates from 1592, Agios Ioannis Chrisostomos, Metamorfosi Sotiros, and Panagia Ikonomou among others.
The presence of people from antiquity has shaped the current vegetation, dominated by shrubs and sparse scrub, alternating with traditional crops. Although this kind of vegetation is not particularly impressive, it is of great biological interest, because of its diversity. The total number of recorded species of plants on the island is 185, 32 of which are regarded as especially important, since they are either endemic, rare or endangered. Those figures, however, are almost certainly an underestimate because no systematic survey has been undertaken.
In the coastal area, among rocks above the sea and on exposed slopes, you may find shrubs such as the Spiny Knapweed (Centaurea spinosa) and Spiny Chicory (Cichorium spinosum) while the Rockrose (Cistus), a heather species (Erica manipuliflora), the Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) and, less commonly the Thorny Burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum) cover much of the interior. Sometimes, the shrubs form a more or less dense scrub (“garrigue”) with juniper (Juniperus phoenicea) and mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus). Denser thickets (“maquis”), where juniper and mastic tree dominate, together with wild olives (Olea europaea), cover the gullies, while the natural vegetation invades abandoned terraces as well.
Photo: Gymnasio Kimolou
On Polyaigos the only human intervention is through the grazing of sheep and goats, which are relatively few in number. That is why the vegetation is characterized by the presence of denser thickets of the same species, together with occasional shrubs of strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) and Phillyrea media, which occur in the numerous gullies running down from the mountains to the coast.
On the hillsides maquis alternates with garrigue on the rockier slopes where the vegetation cover is sparser. The broken terrain with the many small valleys and gullies creates a variety of environments supporting a corresponding variety of species. In less favourable areas the ground cover is heath, cistus, spiny knapweed and helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum).
Photo: Gymnasio Kimolou
The rugged coasts of the two islands have their own characteristic species, such as the Amaranthus (Limonium) and the Shrubby Orache (Atriplex halimus). A variety of plant species occur in the small wetlands, on the sandy beaches and at the mouths of streams.
A number of aromatic plants, such as the caper, the fennel, the thyme, the savory, the rosemary and many more, which are used in the local cuisine, are found on the two islands. In the autumn and winter, local people collect mushrooms and wild herbs, and use them as supplements in many traditional dishes. Finally, many species are known for their healing qualities and are still used today for medical purposes.
The island’s reptiles are typical of the Western Cyclades, where two endemic reptile species, the lizard Podarcis milensis and the viper Macrovipera schweizeri, are the most likely to be seen. These are among Greece’s rarest endemic vertebrates.
The lizard, Podarcis milensis, is restricted to Kimolos, Milos, Polyaigos and Antimilos. It is nearly 20 cm long. The males are vivid in colour with light blue spots during the reproductive period, while the females are brown. You can see lizards almost everywhere, particularly in the walls.
Photo: Benny Trapp
The viper, nicknamed ‘therio’ (monster), is limited to the islands Milos, Kimolos, Polyaigos and Sifnos. It is brown and grey and about one metre long. Its head does not have the characteristic ridge of other viper species. It is worth noting that it is a shy creature which will usually flee as soon as it senses a human presence. They are, however, venomous and you should be careful not to step on one by accident. They can even be deadly for young children or allergic people. During spring and autumn they lie on rocks in the sun, while in the summertime they spend most of the day hiding.