General Information on Kythira
Kythira belongs to the Ionian islands. It is located opposite the eastern tip of the Peloponnesus peninsula, has a surface area of about 280km² and is inhabited by approximately 3,400 people. The rugged terrain is a result of prevailing winds from the sea which have shaped its shores into steep rocky cliffs with deep bays. Despite the fact that it is considered an Ionian island, Kythira resembles more to the Cyclades islands in terms of architecture and landscape. Since World War II, most of Kythira’s inhabitants have immigrated to Athens or Australia. That’s the main reason why many of the island’s villages are deserted. Tourism is still quite undeveloped here and Kythira looks like a calm refuge, with astonishing deserted beaches and traditional villages.
History of Kythira
Kythira is known as the isle of Aphrodite, goddess of love, for mythology says that Gaia (Earth), who wanted to punish her husband Uranus (Sky) for all the evils he had caused her, called her children and asked them to kill their father. Cronus killed his father by cutting him into pieces. Those parts fell in the sea near Kythira and formed two islets. The falling blood touched the sea foam, creating Aphrodite. The first temple for the worship of Aphrodite was found on Kythira and that is why Homer and Hesiode called it the holy island. However, despite the efforts, mostly by Heinrich Schliemann, to find of the remains of the temple, nothing has been found.
The island of Kythira was inhabited during the Minoan period (3000-1200 B.C.) as well as the Mycenaean period (1400-1100 B.C.). There are very few archaeological finds on Kythira, still the earliest finds of local pottery date to the 3rd millennium B.C. It is known that the island was mainly under Sparta’s control and it continued to be inhabited during the Hellenistic and Roman period. In the 7th century, Kythira was part of the Byzantine Empire. Emperor Constantine gave the island to the Pope who, later on, gave it to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 1207, three years after the Franks captured Constantinople, Marcos Venieris became the Marquis of Kythira.
After the Franks, the island passed to the Venetians who tried to fortify and inhabit it as soon as they realized its key position. Venetians governed the island until 1797, except for a small period during which the island was under the rule of Russians and Turks. The Venetians were followed by the French who occupied the island and established a democratic regime. In 1800, all Ionian islands became a semi-independent state under the supervision of the Sultan. With the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, Kythira went again under French domination until 1809, when it came under English rule. By the end of 1815, the Ionian islands became an independent state and in 1864, they were united with free Greece.
Towns & Villages in Kythira
Hora or Kythira: The capital of the island, Hora, is situated on the southern tip of the island on a high hill. Narrow paths with white cubic houses, old mansions, Venetian buildings and many others which were built during the English rule form this unique village. The settlement is dominated by a Venetian castle, built in 1150, inaccessible from the sea.
Mylopotamos: It is a beautiful medieval village which is divided into three settlements: Kato Hora, Limionas and Agia Sofia. The village of Mylopotamos is very verdant and set in a wooden valley. The main square is very attractive with a small church and a café standing under the shadows of the trees and a waterfall called “Neraida”. Kato Hora is the settlement with the oldest traditional architecture, mostly Venetian. From there, a stone paved path leads to the astonishing cliffs of Limionas, a rocky bay with fine white sand. Mylopotamos offers a few hotels, one restaurant near the waterfall and one lovely café.
Potamos: It is the largest village of Kythira, 19km from the capital of the island. The main square of the settlement is the busiest part, especially on Sundays when all inhabitants visit the weekly market. This traditional village offers some really nice sites to visit, such as the beautiful bridge from the English period, a Byzantine church dedicated to Saint Theodore and many more. South of Potamos, the nice rocky beach of Agios Eleftherios, surrounded by huge cliffs, is an excellent place to enjoy a calm swim. The village has a large number of shops, hotels, rooms for rent, restaurants and taverns.
Avlemonas: It is a small picturesque port and fishing village with two taverns, located on the eastern side of Kythira. This is the place where archaeologists spent years searching for evidence of the Temple of Aphrodite. They didn’t find anything that could prove the existence of the Temple, which is mentioned by Homer. This lovely and calm village has a wonderful pebbled and sandy beach, quiet and beautiful.
Agia Pelagia: The village of Agia Pelagia is one of Kythira’s two main ports. It is located on the north coast of the island, 28km from Hora. The village is suitable for staying close to the sea and has a lot of hotels and rooms for rent. The beach of Agia Pelagia is very good, sandy, long and organized.
Livadi: It is the nodal village in southern Kythira and the most important commercial centre. It is situated on the central road, 5km from Hora. Interesting sites to see in Livadi are the churches of Agios Andreas –built in the 15th century– and the Panagia of Kouteletou – built in 1551. Both churches have fine frescoes and amazing view of the sea.
Beaches in Kythira
Platia Ammos: It is located in the northwest coast of Kythira, near the verdant village of Karavas. The beach is sandy and very long. It also offers a superb view of the Peloponnese and it is very quiet due to its distance from the main villages of the island.
Kapsali: The beaches are located near the village of Kapsali, 3km from Hora. These twin beaches have pebbles and crystal clear waters. Between the two, the second from the road is the more popular and has a line of restaurants and cafes. These two beaches are, by far, the most crowded of the island.
Kaladi: The beach is situated at the eastern part of Kythira, near Paleopoli. It is a place you should not miss, as it is the “trademark” of the island. Apart from the extremely nice beach and the wonderful crystal-clear waters, superb caves and rocks coming from the sea surround Kaladi beach, giving a unique atmosphere to the place.
Agios Nikolaos bay: This majestic bay is located at the northeast of Kythira, near the village of Avlemonas. The coast forms a small beautiful sandy and unorganized beach with small, scattered rocks.
Komponada: This is a very different and unique beach located at the eastern part of the island. The scenery is wild with big rocks spread around the bay. The beach has dark pebbles and the waters are wild and deep. It is unorganized, remote and strange. It is definitely worth a visit and an overnight stay.
Melidoni: It is a small and quiet beach, located at the southwest part of Kythira. The beach lies in a closed bay and has sand and crystal-clear waters. It is organized and, during summer, parties are usually held here.
Firi Ammos: There are two beaches in Kythira by the name “Firi Ammos”. The most known of which is located in the southeastern part of the island and you can reach it by the road that passes through Kalamos. This beach has colorful pebbles, it is very busy and definitely worth a visit. The second beach by the same name is not known and it is located next to Agia Pelagia, about 500m to the east. This beach has deep red pebbles, which give an exotic feel to the place. It is also very quiet and of course unorganized.
Top Things to Do in Kythira
1. Paleohora: It is the deserted Byzantine capital of Kythira. Agios Dimitrios, as it was named then, was built on the northeastern part of the island, on a hilltop at the head of the amazing Kako Langadhi gorge, where two deep canyons join. The village is an excellent example of the 13th century Monemvasia’s architecture. Paleohora is fortified, located lower than the surrounding hills but it is invisible from the sea, protected from pirate raids. However, in 1537, the Janissary pirate Hayredin Barbarossa found it and destroyed it. The city has never been reconstructed because tradition says that it is a place of bad fortune. The city is full of Byzantine chapels and churches with wonderful wall paintings and frescoes. The surrounding landscape is also amazing, as the gorges form a small lake of great beauty and ecological value.
2. Panagia Myrtidiotissa Monastery: The monastery of the protector of the island lies in western Kythira. According to the legend, a shepherd saw an angel in his sleep, indicating a point in the region where an icon of Madonna lay on a myrtle. The shepherd found the icon the next day and took it to his house in the neighboring village of Kalokairines. At night the icon disappeared and returned on the myrtle. The shepherd saw the angel again, who told him the icon must stay near the place it was found. So the shepherd built a small chapel on the location. Nowadays, this small church remains intact, but there is also a big temple, built in the 19th century, and the monastery.
3. Museums: There are two interesting museums at Kythira: the Archaeological Museum and the Byzantine Museum. The first one was built in 1911 in order to house the Kytherian Association. In 1979, the building was given to the Greek State with the purpose of becoming a museum. Nowadays, the Archaeological Museum houses samples of prehistoric vessels of the Minoan and Mycenaean period, marmoreal, sculptures, but the most important exhibit is the archaic lion of Kythira. Many more archaeological finds, due to lack of space, are now housed in the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus. The Byzantine Museum, located in the capital as well, houses collections of Byzantine and Post Byzantine art. The museum offers a fine and rare collection of fragile paintings and frescoes from abandoned churches, found by the Greek Department of Archaeology.
4. The cave of Agia Sofia: The cave is situated in a steep rock 60m high, outside Milopotamos. It is one of the most beautiful Greek caves and took its name after the chapel of Agia Sofia, which stands at the entrance. The chapel was built in 1785 in honor of Agia Sofia, whose corpse is said to have been found here. The cave interior is divided in numerous chambers. In the main chamber, you may find a small lake with beautifully colored waters. The walls are covered in stalactites and stalagmites of several sizes, as well as amazing murals from the 11th and 12th centuries.
How to Reach Kythira
Air: There are daily flights between Kythira and Athens. New services now connect the island to Heraklion, Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Kerkyra.
Ferry: A ferry service operates between Piraeus, Kythira, Antikythira, Kastelli-Kissamos (Crete), Kalamata and Gythio. Twice a week the ferry runs directly between Piraeus and Kythira (6½ hours). Check with the local port authorities, as there may be sudden changes at the normal routes.
Getting Around in Kythira
There is no regular public transport on the island. There are many taxis, but the best way to see the island and explore the small villages and the beaches, which have difficult access, is in your own vehicle.
You can also Rent a Car in Kythira using Greece.com's Kythira Car Rental Engine.
Weather in Kythira
The climate in Kythira is very humid in springtime, hot in summer, mild in the short winter, and hot in autumn, favouring the growth of a rich flora. Kythira is one of the top-ranking islands in the Mediterranean, in terms of longest sunshine. Because of strong winds that blow throughout the year, the sea surrounding Kythira is still very clean and unpolluted.
Top 10 Destinations in Kythira
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Map of Kythira