Kythera: The Ethereal Island
You might be intrigued by the name, initially. It bears strong resemblance to the Anti-Kythera mechanism; the famously first analogue computer in the world found near in its sister island, Anti-Kythera. Of course, islanders will gladly tell you that its claim to fame is of much higher pedigree; this is after all, the birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite, as they are wont to argue. Anathema to Cyprus. But surely no sweat off Kytherean’s back. How could it? They get to live in Greece’s iteration of paradise. And that’s what Kythera really is, in the end. A verdant, plush, quiet island. The order of the day includes long hikes around the canopy, with frequent stops to gaze at nature, followed by lazy afternoons by the beach after a lugubrious fish lunch. You’ll come across rivers, waterfalls and some of the best beaches this side of the Aegean. And probably best of all, you get to do that without the masses.
Situated just under the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese peninsula, and smack bang in the middle, between the Aegean and the Ionian seas, Kythera is a mixture of the iconic white-washed cubist Cycladic architecture and the azure, deep turquoise emerald waters of the Ionian. Now, that’s something you can only see in a handful of islands and even there, restricted to small pockets. Kythera is awesome that way.
WATERFALLS & BEACHES
Kythera’s main attractions revolve around nature. In particular, the eco trails that take you around the green mountainous interior. The waterfalls of ‘Fonissa’ and ‘Neraida’ are beautiful, if slightly cold, even in summer months. Along the ravine you’ll find several watermills and abandoned bridges, and following it down will take you to the scenic beach of Kalami. Of course, beaches are abundant. Melidoni, Kaladi, Chalkos, Agios Nikolaos, Lagada or Platia Ammos beaches are some of the other showstoppers, but venture further and you’re bound to find hidden gems along the way, of the kind that require a boat ride to get to it.
CASTLES & MONASTERIES
But that’s not all there is to see. The Venetian presence is never too far away this part of the Aegean. They upped sticks in the mid17th century, but not before they left us with their indelible signature castles, of which there are a few in Kythera. There’s the 16th century ‘Kastelo’ in Avlemonas as well as the one In Paliochora, which was famously sacked by the pirate Barbarossa. In Mylopotamos, deep in the verdant jungle, the castle is somewhat in ruins but that won’t stop you from basking in its old timey aura. And of course there’s Fortetsa, or the Castle of Kythera, built in the 13th century with stunning vistas.
If one tires of castles theres always the Caves of Agia Sophia, full of stalagmites and stalactities, and replete with an indoor church called, you guessed it, Agia Sophia. And if that’s your thing, definitely hoof it to the monastery of Mytidiotissa. This chapel has nice back story to it, and the trekk to get to it is as scenic as they come.
The intrepid will want to hop over to Elafonissi (Deer island in Greek). This small stretch of land offers a singular oddity; pink sand. Take a small taxi boat to take you there. It’s no more than a half hour away and it is absolutely well worth it. Alternatively, one can visit Antikithera, again, a small boat ride away, with pristine secluded beaches and so few people, the government is paying 500 euros to families to go and populate it. We could think of far worse places to start a family, and we suspect the authorities must be inundated with requests. You heard it here first, folks.
It really bogles the mind that Kythera is still unknown and unsung to the wider world. And apart from Italians and Australians it seems to have gone unnoticed in most other corners of the world. We’re pretty sure that won’t last. This island is way too beautiful.