Kythera, Kythera, Kythira, Cythera, Kithira. An island by any other name would be so lovely.
Kythera is a small island off the coast of the Peloponesse in Greece. It’s large enough to feel you’ve got somewhere to explore, but you can easily drive around it in a day. This is great though, because it means that you can get to know it a little better by revisiting places and start to dig down a little and really get into ‘island life’. The main roads are excellent, there’s not much traffic and the driving is easy. There are dozens of beaches, many of them deserted, lots of villages and towns where you can while away the hours under the trees or in a bar or cafe, countless tavernas, and restaurants, history to see and experience and wonderful scenery and wildlife. In fact, it’s a perfect holiday island.
Most of the towns and villages are situated either in the interior or towards the eastern coast. Here are a few of the places we visited.
Chora (also known as Kythira): Kythera’s capital. So pretty to look at, perched high on a hill above Kapsali. Stunning architecture, tiny alleys, whitewashed buildings with blue doors, pathways strewn with potted plants (and yes, some of them in olive oil cans). Shops, banks and cafes here but it still feels calm and relaxed. A great town to walk around drinking in the history and atmosphere.
Kapsali: Look down at the marvellous double bay of Kapsali from Chora and prepare your camera, it’s a wonderful view. Then take the twisty, windy road down to the main tourist town of Kapsali. Hostals, cafes, hotels, restaurants, shops and holiday type businesses can all be found here, but remember, this is still a small and relatively undiscovered island, so calling Kapsali the ‘tourist capital’ of Kythera doesn’t mean you’re going to be squeezed cheek by jowl next to 5,000 other people on the beach. There’s plenty of room for everyone; it just means there’s more to do and more amenities.
Mitata: Our next stop after Diakofti. Mitata’s in the centre of the island – that’s a whopping 15 minute to the coast. A lush village surrounded by greenery and on the edge of a stunning gorge. Mitata saw the beginning of what we now know as our ‘Kythera refrain’ of ‘wow, stunning’, something we seemed to say 50 times a day. Mitata was hit by an earthquake in 2006 which shattered the church. The church sits right in the village square along with Mihalis’s Tavern which serves some great meals. You can eat sitting at tables just at the edge of the gorge for a real sunset treat.
Agia Pelagia: On the North East coast of the island. We spent a happy afternoon on the beach here. Quite developed but not overly busy or crowded. Plenty of accommodation and sea front shops and cafes. Lovely views over to the Peleponnese.
Avlemonas: On the Eastern coast of the island, not far from Diakofti. Avlemonas is a picturesque fishing village. There is no beach here, it’s too rocky, but there are small coves dotted around the village instead. The main inlet of Avlemonas features a ‘swimming pool’; steps in the rock leading down into the clear water making a quick dip very inviting.
Paleopolis: A lovely big, sandy beach is very close to Avlemonas. Paleopolis is not organized and there is no natural shade so take towels and umbrellas if you go.
Aroniadika: This village is more or less located in the centre of Kythera. We seems to pass though many times during our stay. Aroniadika has the nearest supermarket to Diakofti. There are also some lovely traditional cafes and restaurants on the road to Potamos
Paliochora: Paliochora is the ancient capital of Kythera. The village is on the edge of the Kakia Lagada gorge. When you visit Paliochora, the first thing you come across is the remains of an ancient Byzantine castle. Walking through the castle, you come across the ruins of the village, 70 houses and 23 churches, some with frescos still visible through the ruins. Paliochora is an amazing spot (‘wow, stunning’), high above sea level. It was conquered and destroyed by the pirate Barbarossa 1537, all of the inhabitants were killed or sold into slavery & was never inhabited again. There’s a footpath leading from Paliochora to Potamos. The walk takes about 2 hours.
Potamos: Potamos became our second favourite place in Kythera. It’s a bustling village with easy parking and lots of shops, banks, bars and cafes. There’s also lovely flea market every Sunday, a great place to buy olive oil, cheese, the local thyme honey (a Kythera speciality), and sundry bits and pieces, then sit in the square with a cool drink and watch the world go by. There’s a great bar/cafe, called Astikon nearly in the centre, we called in there a few times for drinks and snacks, it transforms itself into a music bar in the evenings too.
Diakofti: Diakofti is the port and a tourist resort in the east of Kythera, although to call it a ‘resort’ is stretching it a bit. It’s really a tiny, narrow ribbon of houses, hotels and apartments, ringing a gorgeous, long, white sandy crescent of a beach and an intense turquoise sea. Ferries arrive (and leave) for Piraeus, Souda (Crete) and Neapoli (Peloponnese). In the bay near Diakofti, you can see the Nordland, a merchant vessel which ran aground in 2000. The ship is still there and is now a weird kind of tourist attraction. Near the beach, there are a handful of seafood restaurants, tavernas and cafes. There’s a single small shop, although in typical Greek style it sells everything and anything, the local taxi hangs out around the shop too. The nearest supermarket is up the hill which rises behind Diakofti, past the airport and on the road to Aroniadika, maybe 20 minutes in the car.
Platia Ammos: A headland, a deserted beach and a lighthouse. Heaven!
Milopotamos: A pretty village surrounded by greenery and water. Start your visit with a morning coffee and cake in the square, under the planes. The traditional café under the plane trees in the square is a fantastic place to sit watching the ducks for morning coffee or even lunch. From here it’s a 10-15 minute walk through the village to the Fonissa waterfall which is a well signposted walk off the road, although when we were there, there was very little water due to a lack of rainfall over the Winter. From the waterfall, it’s possible to continue through to the watermills only one of which is still working. The later stages of the walk is extremely rough going, needing climbing ropes. Needless to say, we didn’t attempt it.
Note! In all of the above comments, when I say ‘developed’ or ‘busy’, I mean in a sleepy, Greek island type of way, rather than a frantic, beach-party type of way
Image of Kapsali by Nikos Roussos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/comzeradd/