If you’ve been to the Koufonisia islands, you probably know that it’s not unusual for visitors here to extend their stay past their planned departure. The first time, you might leave a few days later, but next time around it can be weeks, even a month. That’s because you can’t get enough of that relaxing Koufonisi energy, the amazing sea caves, and the warm Aegean light. There lies a small paradise, only 6 and a half hours from Piraeus!
If, however, it’s your first visit here, get ready to fall in love with Ano and Kato Koufonisi, the two beautiful isles separated by a strip of sea, only 200 m wide. To give you a headstart, here are 10 things you must do if you want to have the time of your life and keep coming back to the Koufonisia islands for more.
1. Leave your car back at the mainland
Or park it at your hotel until the day you decide to leave. Ano Koufonisi is quite small, so rent a bicycle or just hike, and you’ll discover every corner of the island in less than 3 hours! Take the island’s main path, enjoy a riveting view of the surrounding Aegean landscape, and wander away to some magical beach for a relaxing dip in the turquoise waters! If you’re tired, don’t hesitate to let a passing local give you a lift and a taste of their hospitality.
2. Explore the Ano Koufonisi Chora
The picturesque Chora, at Ano Koufonisi, is the only settlement of the islands. It’s a beautiful specimen of Cycladic architecture with its white and blue houses, the charming port, and the windmill dating back to 1830. Chora’s cobblestone alleys are full of traditional taverns, coffee shops, and little stores selling local products. During one of your strolls, don’t forget to visit the Church of Saint George, patron saint of the island.
3. Discover the island’s exotic beaches
The Ano Koufonisi beaches will leave you breathless with their fine powdery sand and the aquamarine waters. Finikas, Italida, Gala, the Devil’s Eye, Pisina, Pori, and the small secluded bays in between all stand their ground as equals against the world’s most famous exotic destinations.
4. Enjoy the water sports and the fishing
If you’re a water sports fan, join the surfers that rush to Pori and Platia Punta during wind season. Go to the sheltered Finikas, Fanos, and Italida beaches to enjoy some top-grade scuba diving. Are you the fishing type? Then visit some of the best fishing spots in the area at the Ano Koufonisi Northern caves or across the channel at Kato Koufonisi.
5. Try the fresh fish in the island’s taverns
The Koufonisia residents are mostly fishermen, and visitors come here for the abundance of fresh fish and quality seafood, the island’s flagship products. At the many fish taverns by the sea, you can taste all the traditional Cycladic dishes with the vast Aegean blue as a backdrop. The Finikas restaurant, located at its namesake beach, offers a variety of fish and seafood-based delicacies!
6. Explore the exciting Northern part of Ano Koufonisi
The island’s Northern side is mostly accessible by boat. If you have one (or rent one) get ready to discover many small secluded beaches hidden among the rocky cliffs. If you’re on foot, head North from Pori to reach the Xilobatis sea caves, the legendary hideout of the Aegean pirates.
7. Cross the channel to Kato Koufonisi
Catch a boat to Kato Koufonisi, the smallest of the twin islands, where you can find a few summer retreats, an abundance of sheep and goat herds, and the picturesque white chapel of the Virgin Mary. Enjoy the unspoiled sandy beaches of Nero, Panagia, and Detis, and make sure to try the Keros-bred goat meet at the island’s only tavern.
8. Plan a boat ride to Keros island
Keros, the little uninhabited island next to Koufonisia is a protected archaeological location. The Keros excavations have revealed rare specimens of the Cycladic civilization like the protocycladic cemetery, and the famous statuettes of the Harp player, the Flute player, and the Grand mother. There are no residents here, just free-range sheep and goats, and beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters.
9. Have unrivaled fun at the local fair
On the 15th of August, the day the Orthodox church celebrates the Sleeping of the Virgin Mary, ride the boat to Kato Koufonisi. Visit the chapel that dates back to 1561, where you can attend the day’s mass, and let the locals treat you to homemade delicacies afterward. On the way back, watch the boats race each other to the Ano Koufonisi port for a special kind of all-day party with traditional violin tunes and plenty of local food.
10. Mix with the locals
The island’s residents are a big part of what makes Koufonisia so unique and heartwarming. They’re always smiling and ready to help, guide you through, and initiate you to their relaxed lifestyle. During low season, you can spend more quality time with the people that spend their lives at Koufonisi, learn more about the place and get treated to food and rakomelo that’s made right in their loving homes!
Ano Koufonisi is the kind of destination you hear unbelievable stories about long before visiting it yourself. Its small size, the turquoise waters and exotic beaches, its picturesque settlement, the nearby islands of Kato Koufonisi and Keros, the delightful taverns and unforgettable residents are only a few of the things you’ll enjoy during your stay.
So, where are you going this summer?
Read also: September: The best time to visit the Koufonisia islands!