The island that turns fantasy into reality

Ever wish you could take everything you love about Greece, roll it all up into one beautiful, pristine location and have it gloriously unfold at your feet? If this sounds like a place that can only exist in your wildest winter-blues fantasy, you’re wrong. This ideal vacation spot isn’t a dream – it’s waiting for you on the island of Kythera.

Rugged hills and mountains perfect for hiking. Cascading waterfalls that pool in blue-green tropical lagoons beckon you for a swim amid lush vegetation. White-sand beaches hugged by cliffs invite you in for a dip. Caves dot the shoreline, waiting to be explored. All this and more is what Kythera generously offers its visitors – and they inevitably fall in love with this stunning, hidden gem of an island.

And love is practically ingrained in the mythological DNA of Kythera island. Legend has it that Aphrodite (Venus), the Greek goddess of love herself, was born in the sea-foam off the coast of Kythera before being swept away to Cyprus. In his Iliad, Homer also mentions Kythera and the island’s strong link to the goddess of love, as the Kytherean goddess feeds love itself. Hopeless romantics will feel right at home here, as ancient texts suggest that those who embrace their love on this island will unlock a secret, hidden passion.

Once you set foot here, it’s easy to understand why Kythera and love become intertwined. Located off the southern coast of the Peloponnese, the island reigns at the crossroads of vital East-West sea routes in the Mediterranean and is blessed with beautiful vistas all the way to Crete and the Aegean on clear days. Highly coveted, it was occupied by a number of powerful civilizations ranging from the Minoans and Mycenaeans, to the Venetians, British and French. And this history bequeathed the island a veritable treasure trove of archaeological, cultural and architectural sites that leave tourists and locals enamored with everything Kythera has to offer.

Enchanting towns and villages

 Kythera has few large hotels and this has served to preserve the island’s authentic local flavor and its unique architecture that combines a gorgeous blend of Venetian, Cretan and Aegean flourishes. Instead of large resorts, it boasts a plethora of tucked-away villages and towns filled with locals who embrace visitors with their enthusiastic Kytherean hospitality and happily argue over where the best places are for tasting mouth-watering island dishes and house wines.

Not-to-be-missed is the island’s capital, called Chora, which lies under the watchful eye of a sprawling 16thC Venetian mountain-top castle. Located in the south, the town fans out in a labyrinth of narrow alleys and archways. What’s truly original here is how Kythera “borrowed” the traditional Aegean backdrop of huddled whitewashed homes and then added its own finishing touches: bright yellow doorframes, orange-painted ground floor facades and sky-blue doorways. And yellow is a color you’ll see splashed everywhere, in honor of the island’s mascot – the sempreviva flower. Found only in Kythera, this dainty yellow flower has the amazing ability to remain fresh and seemingly in bloom long after it’s been picked. The Venetians were so taken by its almost magical eternal quality they called it the “sempre vivere” – always alive. Take your time to explore this beautiful town tinged with yellow light and archwayed shadow and meander through the multitude of shops (where you can find unique souvenirs featuring the sempreviva flower) and cafes. The closer you get to the castle, the deeper you’ll travel through history as the oldest medieval and Venetian homes cling close to the castle walls. Make sure you find a place to marvel at the sunset from this height. And don’t forget to visit the Archaeological Museum that features masterpieces such as a 6th century  BC marble lion and a Renaissance statue of Aphrodite and Eros.

If you’re yearning for some outdoor adventure, head to Mylopotamos village halfway up the west coast of the island. Here you’ll find a bubbling creek that crosses through the village – home to flocks of ducks – and then leads to a series of waterfalls (called Neraida or Fairy Falls by the locals), watermills and tropical lagoons. If you’d rather begin the day sedately, take a seat under the plane trees and order breakfast from the traditional Greek café close to the village church. Close to the village and built into the rock of the ravine you’ll find the monastery of the Virgin Mary of the Orphan. Once you’ve explored, head to Kalami beach – remote and deserted, you’ll feel like you have the whole island to yourself.

The island that boasts it’s the birthplace of the goddess of love must have a town that encompasses everything you’d look for in a romantic night out. Kythera doesn’t disappoint. Kapsali town, close to Chora, is framed by a forest of pines as it lines two quaint little coves. Completing the picture-perfect image is a traditional lighthouse, while a stone bridge connects the town to the capital’s seaport. As you walk hand-in-hand through the cobblestone streets, make your way to the chapel of St. John that’s literally built in a cave.

No Greek summer is complete without a little bit of culture, and for this there’s no better village than Karavas. It’s the northernmost village on the island and it’s widely known as the most beautiful remote town in Kythera. A strong sense of community led to a commitment to the arts, and the group called “I Portokalia” (the Orange tree) – so named because of the ancient orange tree that graces the village – organizes a number of events in the summer. But that’s not all Karavas has to offer. Lush green trees surround stone homes and cute gardens while tall plane trees hide the springs of Amirali that gush out from marble lionheads.

For more of a taste of Greek culture, the island boasts a mini-version of ancient Epidavros theater close to Kapsali village. This stone amphitheater, called Zeidoros, hosts a number of events throughout the summer, including plays, exhibitions, and a number of concerts that range from classical to jazz music.

If you’re game for a day-trip, sail to Antikythera island, Kythera’s smaller twin. Home to only 30 inhabitants, this wind-sheared, rugged island was used for shelter by pirates. Although tiny, it offers a number of attractions, including a main town called Potamos with only a few homes and two traditional cafes, Apolytaras Lighthouse and Saint Myronas church. Make sure you visit Aigilas archaeological site where you can wander through the remains of walls, a quarry and a number of rooms. End your trip by going to Xiropotamos beach – you won’t regret it!

Kythera – an oasis for eco-tourism and nature lovers

This island offers a dizzying number of sports and nature-related activities for its smaller size and everyone will undoubtedly find something that intrigues or excites them. Hikers, walkers, canyoners and mountain-climbers – you’re in luck because you’ll have so many places to explore, you won’t know where to begin. And, despite the fact that many parts of Kythera are arid, bird-watchers and fauna-enthusiasts will find a variety of species to observe in both the dry and greener areas, including reptiles, hedgehogs and migratory birds. Spelunkers will also find Kythera a cave-rich island with fascinating formations that will intrigue enthusiasts.

Begin exploring this beautiful island by hiking up the series of waterfalls and lagoons that start in Mylopotamos village. Follow the signs next to the village café – they will take you to Neraida (Fairy) waterfall. Further up you’ll find a masterfully restored traditional watermill called the Filippi watermill. Then, make your way back to the village square and follow the red signs downhill. This trail – at times barely visible and difficult to hike through – takes you through a web of watermills and tropical lagoons whose cool aquamarine waters lap up against plane and fig trees, thickly intertwined with creeping ivy. In fact, this part of the island is so tropical a European explorer once named an island in Tahiti the New Kythera.  Why not take a dip to cool off and let Kythera transport you to even more exotic locations?

If you’re an adrenalin junkie, Kythera’s rugged, wild landscape offers ravines and canyons which will test even the more experienced mountain-climbers. Some locations of interest for the more athletic visitors include Kakoplaka in Kalamos, Sparagirio, Kakia Lagada ravine, and Faskomilies mountain. If you’re really out to test your endurance, try hiking through Tsakonas Gorge. The trail begins at the bridge between the villages of Mitata and Viaradika and will guide you to stunning lagoons, watermills and the Black Cave.

And if you love caves, make it a point to visit the large number and variety of caves in Kythera. Some are easily accessible, including Agia Sofia Cave (Saint Sofia cave) in Mylopotamos village which affords incredible sea views and is often part of a guided tour in the summer. What makes this cave special is the small chapel devoted to Saint Sophia that lies within it, where you’ll find an altar complete with 18thC artwork. Beyond the chapel lie cave chambers complete with stalactites and stalagmites tinged with a red, white and black pattern. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot a very rare species of insect, an arthropod called Kithironiscos paragamiani, that is only found in Kythera.

Sun, swimming, and shopping – Kythera-style

 Of course a holiday in Greece isn’t complete without lazy days basking in the hot sun with cool waves lapping at your feet. And Kythera will blow your mind with the sheer number and variety of beautiful beaches and exotic blue-green seas just waiting for you to kick back and relax. Ever wonder where Paris and Helen of Troy met for the first time? And where they were when they fell so madly in love? If you want to see the stunning backdrop that framed and even heightened their instant devotion to each other, head to Melidoni beach. Kythera, as the birthplace of the goddess of love, provided the iconic lovers with a view that was, literally, to die for. Melidoni offers swimmers white-sand beaches in a small cove that hugs crystal-clear blue waters. You’ll find this oasis close to Drimona village, by Agios Kosmas monastery. If you really want to capture the romance, you can rent a fishing boat and sail in from Kapsali bay.

Throughout the island you’ll find hidden beaches and tucked-away coves that are waiting to be discovered. These more deserted beaches offer privacy that’s rivaled by none. A perfect example of this is Sparagario beach. It offers you your own little slice of the perfect Greek summer – and you can only access it by pedalo (water bike) or if you swim there. Located close to Kapsali, it’s huddled under Chora’s Venetian castle. For those who like to hike and then dive in to cool off, go to Kalami beach. Its white-pebbled beach dips into striking green water and you’ll have to follow the dirt road from the Virgin Mary of the Orphan monastery and then hike the rest of the way. And if you like to combine some sight-seeing with a swim, head to Agios Nikolaos beach in the north of the island. It’s named after the chapel of Saint Nicholas and you’ll be able to languish in perfect cool waters under the watchful eye of Moudari lighthouse.

And after a day full of sight-seeing, sports and swimming, you’ll have a plethora of tavernas and restaurants to choose from. Fish dishes hold a place of honor in most menus, but you’ll also find mouth-watering vegetarian dishes that feature eggplant, pasta, and mouth-watering cheeses and grilled vegetables. During the day, make it a point to pop into a local bakery and sample traditional Kythera olive-oil rusks spread with local Kytherean honey and juicy –and very rare – peaches from Mitata village.

But before you go, stock up on sempreviva. You’ll find them featured in an assortment of very tasteful souvenirs that won’t only remind you of a perfect holiday, they’ll also remind you year-round of how taken you were with Kythera. And you’ll fall in love all over again – and it’s a love that, like the flower, will last forever and tide you over until you inevitably return to this stunning, one-of-a-kind island.

 

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Location - Kythera

Kalami beach

If you want to feel like you’re the only person on the island, head to Kalami beach. Accessible from Virgin Mary of the Orphan monastery, it features stark white pebbles and light green waters.

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Melidoni beach

Visit the beach where Helen of Troy and Paris first met and fell in love. Fine sand and beautiful blue water will invite you in for a refreshing dip.

Find Out More

Paleopoli beach

A pebbled beach with deep-blue, crystal-clear waters offers a unique sight – rocks that look like Swiss cheese. If you continue swimming, you can access the next bay as well.

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Kythera is a stop for migratory birds that fly south to Africa for the winter. A number of species is found on the island, including eagles, hoopoes, falcons, buzzards, partridges, ravens and goldfinches. The island has filed for Natura 2000 status because of its biodiversity. A number of canyons and gorges offer plenty of opportunities for avid birdwatchers, including Tsakona and Kakia Lagada canyons and Mylopotamos gorge.

Photo: www.mylopotamo.gr

Corine ecosystem (western part of the island)

Rare migratory birds can be found here as the very diverse landscape ranges from olive groves and gentle hills to valleys and gorges and a cedar forest in Mylopotamos. Predatory birds can be found here.

If you love being immersed in nature and would rather spend your nights gazing up at the stars, stay at Kythera’s municipal camp-site. It’s near Kapsali and engulfed in pine trees. As it’s a small camping area, contact the municipality (tel. +30 2736031580 and +30 2736031213).

Photo: visitkythera.com

Adrenalin junkies will revel in the stunning canyons and gorges that attract canyoners to Kythera from around the world. Most routes are challenging and are best suited to more advanced and experienced enthusiasts. As always, take all the safety precautions and always ask a local for information and advice.

Photo: www.pyrgoshouse.com

Kakia Lagada Gorge (near Trifillianika village and Paleohora)

This route begins near Paleohora and the Byzantine remains of the citadel. A difficult route, it requires at least two hours and the proper equipment. This gorge affords stunning views of the island’s rugged and wild landscape. You’ll come across a lake in your trek.

Tsakonas Canyon (near Mytata and Viaradika villages)

This route will lead you through a winding path that unfolds to reveal hidden churches (literally in the rock) and refreshing springs. It ends up at Paleopoli.

Avid – and experienced! – cyclists, Kythera beckons you! This island is wild, rugged and dotted with innumerable hills, so if you’re a cycling fanatic and are in excellent shape you’ll find trails that take you through pristine landscapes and quaint traditional villages. Take your time and explore, but a mountain bike is recommended for the more difficult trails. Always wear a helmet.

Photo: www.astartihiddenretreats.com

This island is so beautiful you’ll be compelled to explore every inch of it. And when you return for lunch or dinner, a veritable feast of mouth-watering local products and dishes awaits you.

Photo: www.funkycook.gr

Delicious local products for all

Stop by a bakery for some fresh Kytherean rusks, made with extra virgin olive oil and whole wheat flour and baked in a traditional wooden stove. This centuries-old Kytherean rusk is perfect for breakfast or with lunch. For a delicious snack, spread some local honey on it for an extra-special treat. Beekeepers on the island supply locals with varieties of honey you’ll want to take back home with you. And they also produce cheeses that will impress even the most difficult connoisseur.

Photo: www.tastefull.gr

One local product that mustn’t be missed is the local variety of peaches. Grown in Mitata village, this variety is a cross between an apple and a peach and is extremely rare but very succulent. They’re so delicious, the locals insist Aphrodite inspired their production. The local extra-virgin olive oil is famous for its taste and its organic status.

Kythera for vegetarians

Although Kythera offers visitors a variety of delicious meat and fish based dishes, vegetarians will find the menu limitless in the number of options they can choose from. Kolokithopita me xinohondro is a pie made with courgette and feta cheese, while Louvia tiganita offers fried beans that make the perfect appetizer.

Kythera is also famous for its desserts, such as an almond-based pastry called Rosedes and a variety of pumpkin pie that includes raisins and is called Kolokithopita glikia.

Photo: www.funkycook.gr

Kytherian wines and more

And of course no Greek holiday is complete without tasting the local wines. Kythereans are very proud of the wines they produce and often swap stories about their wineries that end up inspiring an unofficial wine-tasting competition. Mitata village hosts a wine festival each summer which showcases the white and rose wines the island is famous for. Also try the local Kytherean drink, called Fatourada, made with tsipouro and tangerines.

Photo: www.funkycook.gr

Kythera is the island of surprises, and hiking is the best way to discover its secrets. Kythera Hiking is a program that includes eight amazing trails in Kythera. Rich in history and in Nature, these trails offer an insider’s view to the island of Aphrodite.

Photo: Paths of Greece

M1: Chora - Kapsali

Trail M1 links the picturesque capital of Kythera, Chora, to the twin bay of Kapsali. The trail winds through the mansions of the inner Venetian city, passes by the impressive Castle, and gently moves toward Kapsali, offering unlimited views to the surroundings. It is one of the best trails to start exploring the island.

M11: Kapsali - Livadi

Trail M11 goes from Kapsali to the commercial city of Livadi, which is locate on the most fertile valley of Kythera. Using old stone paths, it climbs over cliffs, and passes through agricultural lands. Through this trail, one can visit the cave of Agia Sofia in Kalamos, with a church by the same name built inside the cave.

M15: Lourantianika - Kapsali

Leaving the farmer’s village of Lourantianika, with the 15th century St George church, the trail enters a magical cypress forest, ideal for a picnic and some relaxation. As soon as it reaches the top of the hills, it offers panoramic views towards the capital of Kythera, Chora, and the Venetian Castle. The path descends gently toward Kapsali.

M19: Avlemonas – Agios Giorgis

Trail M19 is most probably the oldest trail of Kythera, and one of the oldest trails in Greece. It links the picturesque village of Avlemonas to St George church, on top of the hill. The place where the church is today used to be a Minoan Peak Sanctuary. According to archaeologists, the trail has remained the same from the times when the Sanctuary was in use!

M31: Potamos - Paliochora

Starting from the largest village of Kythera, Potamos, trail M31 first reaches the old village of Trifyllianika. From there, a medieval path once used by the pirates of Barbarossa leads to the haunted citadel of Paliochora. The latter used to be the capital of Kythera during the Middle Ages. After being conquered by the Pirate Barbarossa, it was never been inhabited again. Today, the surrounding landscape with cliffs of 200 meters all around the ruins adds to the dramatic character of that place.

M36: Diakofti – Agia Moni

From Diakofti, the main Port of Kythera, an impressive manmade trail climbs the mountain to link the village to the Monastery of Agia Moni. The views toward Maleas Cap in the Peloponnese, as well as the contrast of the dry mountain and the turquoise waters of Diakofti together with the smells of sage and thyme, will enchant every explorer!

M37: Diakofti – Kolokotronis Monument

Trail M37 is the old road that linked Diakofti, the main port of Kythera, to the rest of the village. As Diakofti was a Phoenician settlement, the trail is most probably very old… It passes by old settlements before reaching the monument of Kolokotronis, a hero of the Greek Revolution. Vegetation around this trail is very rich in heather and the best time to hike it is late autumn.

M41: Mylopotamos Watermills

Trail M41 is supposed to be the most impressive of all trails in Kythera. It explores an unexpected valley of giant plane trees, waterfalls, numerous colorful plants and 23 old watermills. The trail is in reality an open air museum, where one can see how back in time man and nature lived in harmony. The trail starts and ends at the village of Mylopotamos, and it is easily combinable with a visit to the Venetian Castle of Kato Chora.

Kythera is an island of mountains, and this rugged landscape offers adrenalin junkies a number of reasons to explore Kythera in a more intense way. Mountain climbing has become a favorite sport here, and is becoming increasingly more organized for visitors.

Photo: www.pyrgoshouse.com

Faskomilies climb
A rugged climb, it affords excellent views at the top.

Kakia Langada climb (from Agia Pelagia village)
This climb takes you to the lake near Kakia Langada canyon and up through challenging treks. It’s for experienced climbers.

Kakoplaka (near Kalamos village)
This is a rough route and climbers must be experienced. It starts in Kalamos village.

Sparagario climb
There are boulders close to the beach and once you get to the top you can walk down through the stunning canyon.

Ceramic art and pottery is a staple activity and passion on almost all Greek islands. Kythera is no exception, and the local pottery products are a wonderful way of taking a little bit of the island back home with you.

Photo: koritsiagiaspiti.blogspot.com

Kythera will enchant you with the sheer number of beautiful beaches that dot the entire island. Pebbled shores, white sand, aquamarine water – you’ll be enthralled.

Diakofti beach

Shallow waters and a sandy beach make this ideal for everyone. Visit the Nordland shipwreck here.

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Firi Ammos St. Pelagia beach

Bright-red pebbles make this stunning beach unique.

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Fourni beach

This is another beach that offers perfect privacy. It’s small and quiet and you’ll have your choice of sand or pebbles.

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Kalami beach

If you want to feel like you’re the only person on the island, head to Kalami beach. Accessible from Virgin Mary of the Orphan monastery, it features stark white pebbles and light green waters.

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Kalamitsi beach

Close to a canyon, this beach is known for its rugged landscape, huge boulders and wide stretches of sand.

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Lykodimo beach

Combine cave exploration with swimming at this gorgeous beach. Make sure you go at sunset and you’ll be impressed.

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Melidoni beach

Visit the beach where Helen of Troy and Paris first met and fell in love. Fine sand and beautiful blue water will invite you in for a refreshing dip.

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Paleopoli beach

A pebbled beach with deep-blue, crystal-clear waters offers a unique sight – rocks that look like Swiss cheese. If you continue swimming, you can access the next bay as well.

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Platia Ammos beach

This isolated beach combines a pebbled and sandy shore.

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St. Nicholas beach

When you’re done exploring Moudari Lighthouse, take a dip in the sparkling waters of St. Nicholas beach.

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Kalami beach

If you want to feel like you’re the only person on the island, head to Kalami beach. Accessible from Virgin Mary of the Orphan monastery, it features stark white pebbles and light green waters.

Find Out More

Melidoni beach

Visit the beach where Helen of Troy and Paris first met and fell in love. Fine sand and beautiful blue water will invite you in for a refreshing dip.

Find Out More

Paleopoli beach

A pebbled beach with deep-blue, crystal-clear waters offers a unique sight – rocks that look like Swiss cheese. If you continue swimming, you can access the next bay as well.

Find Out More

Located at the crossroads of vital Mediterranean trade routes that played a pivotal role throughout history and with an excellent vantage point that overlooked the Ionian, Aegean and Cretan seas, Kythera was an island highly prized by conquerors. Minoan, Mycenaean, Phoenician, Byzantine, Venetian and British forces occupied this prime strategic jewel and left their unique mark in Kythera’s archaeological record.

Photo: abramis.gr

This island provided sanctuary to diverse groups ranging from pirates, colonists and refugees from the Neolithic era onward. Masterpieces such as a 6thC BC marble lion and a Renaissance statue of Aphrodite and Eros, probably crafted in Venice, are among the artifacts unearthed in Kythera.

Paleohora (near Kastri)

Ionian Islands / Kythera
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Paleopoli

Ionian Islands / Kythera
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Kythera offers spelunkers a multitude of caves to explore, all of them unique and stunning in their beauty. In a number of them you’ll find chapels dedicated to St. Sophia with intricate artwork that decorates the altars. All are archaeologically important and artifacts were found throughout.

Photo: Pethrus

Kythera is both wild, arid and rugged as well as lush and green. Mylopotamos village leads to a series of waterfalls and watermills and feature enticing aquamarine lagoons fringed with plane and fig trees as well as thick ivy. You’ll think you’ve been transported to an exotic Caribbean island. Canyons and gorges dot the island and offer stunning vistas and ecosystems, while mountains and hills define the island’s landscape.

Biodiversity

Kythera offers nothing if not variety – the island is a candidate for Natura 2000 statues. And with good reason. Corine ecosystem comprises cedar forests, olive groves, mountains and hills that sustain a healthy and pristine ecosystem that includes migratory birds.

Hytra Islet

Ionian Islands / Kythera
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Known for its rugged, wild landscape, many assume it’s inhospitable to wildlife. They’re wrong. A number of species can be found in and around Kythera, including the Mediterranean seal, passing whales, falcons, owls, vultures, hedgehogs and reptiles.

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