Kythera, squeezed in between Crete and the Peloponnese but forming part of the Ionian islands, is according to the French poet Charles Baudelaire in his poem Voyage to Kythera, the ‘Island of sweet secrets, of the heart’s festivals!’
The ancient myth that referred to Kythera as Aphrodite, the goddess of love’s, birthplace has been the inspiration for the paintings of celebrated artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Jean-Antoine Watteau. Now, a trip to Kythera is the symbol of a burning desire, a hankering for beauty; and not unjustly so.
• Hora, the capital of the island, stretches out around the 13th century Venetian castle and provides an overwhelming view to the Cretan Sea. On the cliffs around the castle a small yellow jewel of a flower grows; sempreviva is peculiar to the island. Little white houses squeeze each other to fit in the narrow cobbled streets that go winding uphill and past tiny little churches and Venetian mansions with beautiful gardens. Your need for a rest will be met at the cafes of the two scenic squares of the village. But if you feel like having a delicious meal or a drink, walk downhill to Kapsali.
• Kapsali could be said to be the busiest spot for tourists. Full of cafes, tavernas, bars and boasting a marina too, Kapsali is where nightlife is fun and energetic.
• Kythera’s aficionados agree that Avlemonas, with its crystal blue waters, picturesque bays, typical Cycladic houses and cobblestone paths, is the island’s most beautiful village. Getting there from Hora gives the visitor the chance to pass over the bridge of Katouni. Built in 1826, legend has it that the British High Commissioner had fallen in love with a young local woman and had this bridge built so that he could go and visit her easily.
• Chytra or Avgo (meaning ‘egg’ in Greek) is a spectacular rocky island, located just short of the port of Kapsali. The sea cave on the south side fascinates visitors with the water reflections creating a riot of colours and designs. The cave is home to seals as well as to endangered species of falcons, which build their nests on its rocks. The rugged terrain of Chytra is another spot where sempreviva blooms. But do not try to collect it yourself! The slippery ground makes it difficult for people other than experienced locals to carry out the task. Access to the rocky island is possible by private boat.
• Potamos is the largest village of the island. Even on a cool winter day, when the inhabitants of Kythera generally stay in, there will always be conversation and activity at the cafes on the central square of Potamos. On Sundays, the flea market is just another excuse for the villagers to go out again, meet their friends, have a meze and ouzo, and enjoy the atmosphere of their fantastic island. And guess what: they are open and friendly and welcome visitors to join them! Don’t forget to visit the historic building of the English school. In the summer, musical concerts and theatre take place in the open air municipal theatre, which is located at the east, towards Agia Pelagia.
• Agia Pelagia is one of the largest villages of Kythera. People tend to stay here not only because of the beautiful beaches, but also for caving. The 120m² cave of St Sophia (one of the three of the island with the same name) and the cave of Aphrodite in the ravine of Galani are definitely worth a visit. You are going to love the island anyway; but for those who might wish to spend the rest of their lives on Kythera, their fate might be decided by the spring at the entrance to Agia Pelagia: legend has it that if you drink water from the spring, you’ll get married on Kythera.
• Mylopotamos was founded by the Venetians. The Saint Mark’s Lion, symbol of the Serene Republic of Venice, still adorns the gate of the remains of the castle (built in 1565) in the Kato Hora neighbourhood. The village is known for its running waters, plane trees and ponds, the traditional architecture and the astonishing drops of the Fonissa ravine. Walk down the ravine to marvel at a spectacular row of watermills and waterfalls. You’ll be in awe when you will have reached the quiet beach of Kalami. Mountaineering equipment recommended.
• Lush Mytata enjoys its position among trees, shrubs and plants and exhilarating views to the gorge of Tsakonas. This rich vegetation is the habitat of a variety of nectarines unique to this place. Before savouring their taste, this fruit will bring a delightful sensation to your touch; that’s why the locals call them the ‘breasts of Aphrodite’.
• With architecture recalling the southern Peloponnesian, Aroniadika is a traditional village that never fails to impress visitors. Visit the Paleochora Castle, the Byzantine capital of the island. The castle was built in the 13th century, but was destroyed by the Turkish pirate Barbarossa in 1537. Nowadays the whole area has a wild, almost supernatural beauty. On the walls of some of the ruins are marvellous frescoes.
• For fans of agrotourism, Kalamos is the place for you. The farming heart of the island beats here. Vegetable gardens, orchards, and vineyards provide the locals with the fruits of Kytherian nature – and are available for you to taste in the tavernas of the area.
• Diakofti is the main port of the island and is a busy village where you can stay, eat and swim. An 800m² underground cave, where very important archaeological finds have been brought to light, is also here.
This list could go on for pages and pages. To write about the numerous, picturesque, quiet or busy, sandy or pebbly beaches of the island is a pleasure. To limit oneself to mentioning just a few of them is a challenge. Off we go:
• Kaladi: A beach that should not to be missed when visiting the island: with crystal clear turquoise waters and greyish pebbles, the beach of Kaladi is one of the most beautiful in Greece. It is located in the eastern part of the island, close to Paleopolis. A dirt road and 120 steps will take you down to it. Don’t expect to find a beach bar, so be well-prepared.
• Melodeon: Clear waters and sand with small pebbles, combined with a spectacular view overlooking Chytra. Visitors will find a canteen in which beach parties are organised day and night. This small creek is located in the southwestern part of the island and is accessible by car through the dirt road for Drymona.
• Chalkos: With pebbles and fine turquoise waters, this popular beach lies a few kilometres away from Kalamos. It is well organised, with canteens and a spacious car park.
• Fyri Ammos: There are two beaches with this name on the island. If you must choose which one to visit, we suggest the one located just outside the village of Kalamos. Awarded for its natural beauty and crystal clear waters, the beach is a popular attraction.
• Kakia Lagada: Another Blue Flag award winner, this very well organised beach is also know for its beach volley tournament. This is the place for relaxed swimming with a view towards the coast of the Peloponnese.
• Fournoi: Clear waters and greyish pebbles form an idyllic landscape that offers peace and relaxation.
• Diakofti: White sand and shallow waters make this beach ideal for children. Visitors will find many tavernas with fresh fish and traditional Greek dishes. The shipwreck ‘Navagio’, a popular tourist attraction, is not far from here either.
• By plane: flights everyday to and from Athens.
• By boat: The island is connected to the ports of Neapolis and Gytheio in the Peloponnese, to the port of Kissamos in Crete, and directly to the port of Piraeus too.