Spread across three hills, the picturesque capital of Kea stands out for its superb neoclassical architecture. It is also adorned with pretty churches, numerous neoclassical fountains made of marble or stone, and stegadia (covered passageways). Make a stop at Piatsa Square to see the delightful stegadi with murals painted by the celebrated Greek artist Alekos Fassianos.
The fortress at Ioulida
Ioulida’s medieval fortress, in the north of the town, dates from 1210 and was constructed from parts of the island’s ancient Acropolis. Today, only some remnants of the ancient wall and the fortress can be seen. Around them is the Kastro neighbourhood, which has magnificent views, especially at sunset.
The Lion of Kea
Carved out of a slate rock in east Ioulida, this striking 8-metre figure of a lion dates back to the Archaic period (7th-6th century BC). According to legend, the fearsome beast was sent to the island’s forests by the gods in order to scare the local water nymphs, thereby causing a drought.
The oak forest
The ancient oak forest on the slopes of Prophet Elijah Hill is a unique phenomenon in the arid Cyclades. In the past, the acorn shells of the majestic trees contributed to Kea’s economy, as they were used in the tanning of leather, while today, the forest is recognised as a valuable ecosystem and has been declared a protected monument.
Kea Archaeological Museum
This is one of the most important museums in the Cyclades, as it houses finds from Kea’s history and prehistory (from the 7th century BC to the 2nd century AD). They include a pediment from the temple of Athena at ancient Karthaia, early Cycladic figurines carved out of marble and unearthed at a prehistoric settlement near Agia Irini, and the famous kores, ornate clay statuettes of female figures.
The Monastery of Our Lady of Kastriani
Built at the top of the imposing Kastri Hill, this historic monastery dedicated to Kea’s protectress is among the loveliest in Greece. The location, chosen when a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary was found here by shepherds in 1700, has stunning views of the sea.
The largest of the island’s four ancient city-states has been described as a dazzling star of classical civilisation. Visitors to the archaeological site can see the ruined walls of the ancient Acropolis, parts of the Doric temples of Pythian Apollo (530 BC) and Athena, and the Ancient Theatre.
The New Town Hall
This impressive building with neoclassical pediments and a colonnade was designed by the great German architect Ernst Ziller and has been restored as a protected monument.
Trails of Kea
The best way to get to know the history and culture of the island is to walk its twelve ancient, paved paths. The “Aristaios” trail follows the ancient route that joined the city-states of Ioulida and Karthaia via Prophet Elijah Hill.
The shipwrecks of Kea
The seabed around the island is a unique underwater museum with four historic shipwrecks of the 19th and 20th century. These include the Britannic, one of the largest ocean liners of its time, which sank in 1916 and was later located by Jacques Cousteau off Makronissos.