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Kea:
A Fairytale Island

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Discover Kea

Kea is a beautiful island in the western Cyclades, close to Athens. It is also known as Tzia. With its long history, it boasts major archaeological sites, iconic architecture, and unique monuments that testify to its glorious past.

Notable for its wonderful natural landscapes, this fairytale island is perfect for nature lovers and walkers, who can follow its ancient paths to discover dense oak forests and enchanting valleys situated next to idyllic beaches with emerald waters.

 Kea is a marvellous destination for a weekend getaway, but also for longer holidays, as there are so many places to explore here. Cosmopolitan and authentic, it offers an unforgettable high-class holiday experience that will beguile even the most demanding visitor.

3 memorable experiences on Kea
  1. The atmospheric Story Festival, held in July, which introduces visitors to a world of fables with fairy tales narrated beneath a full moon.
  2. An afternoon stroll around Vourkari, a picturesque fishing harbour with famous nightclubs and countless yachts, which is even prettier when the lights come on at night.
  3. If you choose one of the itineraries to Kea, you’ll have the opportunity to wander around the site of the old Enamel Factory (1927-1957) in the port of Korissia and admire its imposing 45-metre-high chimney. It is among the most important protected industrial monuments in Greece.
Beaches of Kea

The island’s coastline offers a wide variety of beaches, some large and well-known, which are easy to reach by land or sea, and others that are more secluded, tucked away in locations of rugged splendour to be discovered by those who love exploring. They all have heavenly crystal-clear waters in shades of turquoise. Be sure to visit:

  • Exotic Sikamia, a single beach of unspoiled beauty where the sea is a limpid emerald green. It is a magical spot, but access, via a dirt road, is relatively difficult. The shore is fringed with large tamarisk trees for natural shade, but there are no tourist facilities, so make sure you have enough food and water.
  • Peaceful Otzias, the island’s longest beach, in a gorgeous, enclosed bay backed by eucalyptus trees standing on low green hills. There are amenities here such as sun loungers, umbrellas, cafes and restaurants, while the shallow sea and sheltered aspect make it suitable for families. At either end are the dazzling white chapels of the Holy Saviour and Saint George.
  • Beautiful Poisses, next to a wonderful valley of olive groves. Combining golden velvety sand with crystal-clear waters and plenty of tamarisk trees, it has umbrellas, sunbeds, tavernas, and a volleyball net. It is worth staying until evening to see the fabulous sunset.
  • The cosmopolitan Koundouros, surrounded by hills verdant with Mediterranean vegetation. The sand is golden and the blue-green sea is pleasantly shallow. Facilities include sunbeds, umbrellas, and a beach-bar.
  • Attractive Yialiskari, a narrow strip of sand in the shade of tall eucalyptus trees and exotic turquoise waters. There is a beach-bar here.
  • Xyla, an oasis of golden sand and shingle for those seeking seclusion, where the sea is deep and bright blue. Apart from a few umbrellas and sun loungers, it has no amenities so make sure you have everything you need before you go. Access is via a dirt road.
Postcards from Kea: 10 things not to miss

Ioulida
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.

Karthaia
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.

Tastes of Kea

In addition to the usual Cycladic fare, Kea has some authentic dishes of its own.

The island’s most traditional offering is paspalas (pork with eggs and tomatoes).

Other favourites are tsigara (pork preserved in its own fat) and tsigaropita (a pie with tsigara, eggs, milk, anise and sesame seeds). Delicious loza (a kind of prosciutto) is also made here.

Other delicacies worth trying if you choose one of the ferry tickets to Kea are melitzanorizo (aubergine and rice), kokoras krasatos (Greek-style coq au vin), and lobster linguine. Accompany your meal with mavroudi, a strong locally-produced red wine.

Before you leave, treat yourself to tsagalo (a dessert made with almonds).

MAP OF KEA
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