Kea Island is the closest to Athens that feels like it is the furthest. Situated on the north-western side of Cyclades complex, Kea offers the opportunity to visit an unspoilt paradise with ancient monuments, breath-taking sea views to the Aegean Sea, an unparalleled countryside with the age-old stone pezoules (short walls detaining the soil in steep hills) and an oak-covered interior. With its mild climate, Kea is splendid almost all year round for holidays, being just an hour boat-ride from Attica and 1 hour from Athens International Airport. Its economy is mostly based on tourism, backed by bee-keeping, agriculture and stockbreeding.
Rich in cultural heritage, the island thrives in sites, from Medieval Latin and Orthodox temples and castles to ancient theatre and prehistoric sites to exquisite examples of rural vernacular architecture. Its interior is covered in Royal Oak trees, a unique forest in Cyclades islands. Protected by NATURA 2000 European Network, the island is a paradise for walking and hiking providing an extended network of ancient trails and stone paths, criss-crossing the whole countryside.
Its ancient name, Tetrapolis, refers to the 4 ancient city-states, the ruins of which are still much admired by present day visitors.
Chora, as locals call Ioulida, the capital of the island, is a tightly-built urban settlement with medieval cobbled steps, stone arches and cute little piazzas. One of the 4 ancient city-states of the island, impressive Ioulida stands proudly on the backs of a hilly landscape, just 5.5km from the port of Korissia. The only town built in the mainland, it has been the centre of the islands political, cultural and commercial life for centuries. As customary, all island families used to own a house in the capital to which they moved from their farmhouses every Sunday to buy necessary provisions or during important religious celebrations. The interesting geomorphology of the location allows for panoramic views and a highly intelligent use of space for planning private and public spaces.
This more than 2500 years-old settlement is still interesting today for travelers: picturesque coffee shops, authentic taverns, high-profile restaurants, lively bars and local products shops give life to present-day Ioulida. Its location offers unobstructed views way beyond Kea itself.
During your stay, you’ll definitely visit Vourkari: a marvel to the eye, the almost circular bay of Vourkari has been inhabited for thousands of years, providing absolute shelter from northern winds and high seas. No more than 2 km from the main port, the traditional once- fishing village has been turned into a cosmopolitan venue for yachts and sailing boats, with picturesque restaurants, elegant clothes and souvenir shops, relaxing coffee shops.
Vourkari is also unique for its exquisite natural surroundings and its cultural heritage: The Lighthouse of Saint Nicolas, dedicated to the patron of seafarers, the Orthodox Church of Agioi Anargyroi, the prehistoric site of Agia Eirini, one of the most important in the Aegean, dating back in the New Stone Age (Neolithic-c.3000BC). A tiny orthodox church built within the remains of the ancient fortifications, makes an ideal combination of cultural pluralism. The Docks of Koka, part of the Industrial Heritage of the island, the remains of the 19th century coaling station, its buildings and its docks and the Lambros Katsonis’ strait with its revolutionary history.
Poisses village is famous for its inviting long sandy beach with crystal clear waters at the feet of an open plain, between steep mountains! It is a family-friendly beach, facing west and offering ideal sunsets. Enjoy the shade of armyrikia, typically Cycladic trees which thrive on sand and salty water But it’s so much more…Situated in the south-west side of the island, the land of Poisses is about 15 km from the port of Kea and about 8 km from the capital, Ioulida. One of the 4 ancient city-states of the island, Poiessa was founded in 7th-6th century BC. Remains of the ancient walls can still be seen on the left hill of the bay.
Orchards and olive groves cover the fields and there are a great number of vegetable gardens around. Halfway to Poisses, you can make a stop and admire the Agia Marina Tower, unique in Cyclades, considered one of the tallest buildings of its time in the Mediterranean Sea (4th century BC)! With its 5 floors at 19,5m, it was used as a defense mechanism-an observation tower, part of a wider network of ancient Kea towers. Next to it, a cute, more recent chapel dedicated to Agia Marina.
Koundouros, just a few kilometers after Poisses, is a lacework of beaches looking to the southwest, offering a number of well-protected shores for swimming and water sports. Beach bars and restaurants are open all day long. The architecture of modern villas, built with local rock blends perfectly with the traditional windmills, which have been transformed into luxurious lodgings.
Lygia and Kabi, with a picturesque traditional tavern overlooking the bay are marvellous beaches towards the same direction. Easily accessible by car, they offer a more peace and quiet atmosphere.
One of the most visited ancient trails leads to Karthaia, in Poles, one of the 4 city-states of antiquity. Recently restored, there are temples and an ancient theatre along with remains of the settlement. The EUROPA NOSTRA Award for Cultural Heritage was given to the works done in this archeological site, allowing the visitor to take a travel to time. There are also 2 beaches next to archeological site with crystal-clear waters. The landscape and seascape are unique and a sight not to be missed! Allow a full day for the excursion to Karthaia.
Other fascinating off-the-beaten track beaches are Spathi, with a sandy beach and a beach restaurant-bar which also has some deck-chairs on the shore, Xyla a few kilometres from Korissia port and Liparo, if you don’t mind the long dirt road (though you’ll be compensated immensely by the unspoilt scenery). Psathi and Sykamia are also remote with some kilometres of dirt road but certainly worth a visit!
Impressive Cycladic-style churches and white-washed chapels are scattered around the island. Traditional practices and customs are still present in the island’s everyday life. Panygyria, local feasts celebrating saints and patrons are organized year-round: starting early in the morning with a Greek Orthodox religious ceremony, and lasting until the small hours of the next day with lots of wine, local delicacies and of course island folklore dancing, make sure to join one if you find out the date and place!