I want to give a mighty ‘shout-out’ and a hearty recommendation to visit the Greek island of Kythira.
Kythira lies south of mainland Greece and is accessible by sea or by air from Athens. Two airlines offer flights to the island; Aegean /Olympic (which I highly recommend) and Sky Express. The latter being generally the cheaper of the two. (It’s worth remembering the phrase “caveat emptor”; buyer beware when dealing with Sky Express.) Aegean /Olympic Airlines helped us when Sky Express canceled all our flights.
I am told that the sea crossing by ferry from various ports while time-consuming is most enjoyable.
Greece has many islands, with estimates ranging from somewhere around 1,200 to 6,000, depending on the minimum size to take into account. The number of inhabited islands is variously cited as between 166 and 227. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_islands_of_Greece for additional details on the many islands of Greece.)
The question I am frequently asked by family and friends is “why Kythira”?
Here is my explanation.
A couple of years ago we enjoyed a wonderful 10-day cruise around the Greek islands and visited a number of the more developed, touristy ones. The trip left us wanting more.
In late October/early November 2020 – yes, during corona – we undertook a road trip exploring northern and western Greece. The roads, for the most part, were empty, as were sadly the hotels, but the spectacular Fall (autumn) coloring of the trees was purely magically.
This gave us the drive to want to discover yet more of the beauty of Greece. The dilemma was, mainland or islands, and if islands which one or ones?
The website, run by Efi Kalogirou is chockablock with information, ideas, and tips, as are her newsletters. A must-read for anyone planning on visiting Greece. Efi is contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org, and of course, she is on Facebook and Linkedin.
As often happens, with a partial solution there comes another problem.
So we decided that we would visit a Greek island. We are not into discos, pubs and all the glitter of the main tourist islands, we sought something different. But what?
Research, research, and yet more research led me to Kythira. Accessible by sea or by air, not one of the main tourist islands, ideal for an active holiday combined with sea, sun, and beach, excellent local food and wine, and a feel of Greek island rural life.
In addition to singing the praises of Efi Kalogirou and definitelygreece.com, I wish to give honorary mentions to the following, who helped make our Kythira experience that much more enjoyable.
We undertook several activities with Frank van Weerde of Pyrgos House - https://www.pyrgoshouse.com. Excellent experience, professional and fun. Dutch by birth, Frank is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the island; its history, fauna, and much more. The hikes (there are currently 100 kilometers of trails on the island, with more being cleared each year), and sea kayaking was just amazing. Kythira is an ideal location for adventure, active vacations whether hiking, cycling, canoeing or sea kayaks and much more.
I appreciated Frank’s viewpoint that while the island supports tourism, the island also wants to monitor numbers to not overload the island with tourists.
For those history buffs like me, the island is overflowing with castles, forts, and old churches to explore. The island is steeped in history given the many foreign rulers down the centuries. And for those who are in photography, not me I hasten to add, the island is a paradise to capture with an abundance of a spectrum of nature.
Kythira holds a special place in the 1942 battle for the Greek island of Crete. The southern Kythira port of Kapsali displays a plaque at the harbor entrance to the officers and sailors of HMS Gloucester, which was sunk with all hands during the battle for the control of Crete. On the promenade of Kapsali, another plaque is displayed honoring the memory of all the allied forces who took part in the defense of Crete.
You can read an account of the battle for Crete and the sinking of HMS Gloucester at https://budleighpastandpresent.blogspot.com/2020/12/ww2-75-26-may-1941-sad-story-of.html
Given that except for a few taxis, there is no public transport on the island, a car is essential for exploring Kythira. The team at Panayotis rent a car was most helpful in supplying us with a car at Kythira airport. Tip; don’t penny-pinch, a car on the island is a must if you want to get the maximum from your visit. However, a word of caution, the roads of Kythira are hilly, with tight bends, narrow arteries – sometimes just wide enough for a single car – and, almost no illumination at night. Driving is not for the fainthearted but, master your fear and you will have a most amazing experience.
Romantica Hotel in Agia Pelagia. In addition to the house we rented in the village of Karavas (in the north of the island), we also had a couple of rooms at this wonderful hotel. Excellent location, with a swimming pool, enjoyable breakfast, and a wonderful beach just a few hundred meters away. Highly recommend the hotel.
Agia Pelagia also has several excellent restaurants. Enjoy an evening meal on the beach overlooking the sea. Consider a light jacket or similar, although not cold, sometimes the breeze can be strong. Also take into account that Greeks tend to eat dinner late, usually starting around 9:00 pm.
Efi, in one of her emails to me pointed out the variety of local food. Although there were a couple of bummers, on the whole, we had many, simply wonderful meals, including local wine, olives, and of course olive oil. I can highly recommend the Skandeia restaurant; we eat at the restaurant several times and were never disappointed.
And the village Karavas proved a wonderful base for our activities and exploring the island. And, Karavas boasts a delightful family bakery, (formally an olive oil-producing workshop, where the original equipment is still in view, and the bakery management is happy to discuss and demonstrate) provided oven-fresh bread, and more every morning.
The big debate on leaving Kythira is, do we visit the island again or, now having had a taste of a small, less tourist island, opt for another similar Greek island next time around? This is the problem we are facing.
Kythira is amazing, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity of visiting the island, and I heartily recommend the location to anyone – regardless of age – for is looking for an active vacation coupled with beaches, good food, and wonderful, friendly people.