A Cyclades island conveniently located within close proximity to Athens, Kea, also called Tzia, is a perfect destination for a weekend escape or quick sailing trip away from the city, while also serving as a great choice for an extended holiday break. The rich blue waters hugging the remote beaches along the island’s east side promise visitors a reinvigorating experience.
Make your first stop Ioulida, also Ioulis, one of the most charming main towns in the Cyclades islands. The town hall – designed by Ernst Ziller, the architect behind prominent buildings in Athens, Patras and other Greek cities between the late 19th centuries and early 20th centuries – is shaped amphitheatrically around an enormous rock and was constructed over the remains of a medieval castle. From here, a passable trail running downhill and headed towards Otzias passes by the Lion of Kea, an ancient-era lion sculpted on a rock.
For a completely original place to spend the night, head to the Panagia Kastriani monastery on Kastri hill’s peak, is recommended. Built on the edge of a cliff and offering a breathtaking view, this all-white monastery was built at a spot where an icon of the Virgin Mary was discovered. Accommodation for a night at some of the cells is offered to visitors for a symbolic fee. A major traditional feast (panigiri) is staged here annually on August 15 to celebrate the Assumption of Mary. It draws considerable numbers of people from all over the island.
Kea can be reached by ferryboat from Lavrio, 60km southeast of central Athens (one hour/25 euros return).
Kea is home to four ancient cities. One of them is the ancient site of Karthea. A boat ride will get you there, but the 45-minute walk is well worth it for the outstanding scenery you’ll experience along the way. The route includes a wall surrounding the acropolis and foundations of temples. Diving enthusiasts will be dazzled by the sizeable rocks that have survived over the centuries at the ancient pier. Aim to arrive at dusk or dawn for an unforgettable experience.
Another point of interest is the Aghia Marina Tower, a four-sided structure dating back to the 4th century BC. Part of the tower still stands 20 meters tall, a testament to its original dimensions. In the 16th century, this tower was incorporated into the precinct of the post-Byzantine Aghia Marina monastery and perfectly preserved, including the roof and balcony, until the mid-19th century. It has provided information concerning unique ancient architectural traits found only on this structure.
Once you’re done exploring, the island’s coastline offers a wealth of beaches. Many visitors prefer the cosmopolitan beach at Koundouros, which has become a popular spot for holiday homes in recent years.
For a more peaceful experience, head to nearby Koundouraki, or the succession of more remote, pebble beaches to the south.
Taverna Tis Annas (Tel. +30 22880.21.137) in Otzias offers a wide variety of casserole dishes and pies, the pepper pie (pipperopita) being particularly special.
Simos (Tel. +30 22880.24.280) in Kato Meria is ideal for local culinary delights, including paspala (pork pieces with eggs and tomato) as well as rooster in wine-flavored sauce.
Ennea Kores (Tel. +30 22880.21.702), situated in Vourkari, is the place to indulge in lobster spaghetti.
Also in Vourkari, Strofi Tou Mimi (Tel. +30 22880.21.480) is great for fresh fish.
Steki (+30 22880.22.088), in Ioulida, serves crispy zucchini balls with parsley dip, savory herb-scented sausages and other delicious specialities.
Visitors may purchase honey, honey-and-sesame bars (pastelia), caper, and abourkouna, a syryp-immersed sweet, at Aristeos (Tel. +30 22880.21.345), on the road towards Hora, the main town, while approaching from the port.
There’s no question that the natural beauty of Κea is concentrated in the oak tree-filled hinterland and its cobbled paths, ideal for trekking. The majority of these end up at impressive beaches. Should you decide to take any of these trails, be prepared for uphill return routes – in most cases.
Popular spots for swimming, especially for families, include Otzias, offering a golden sandy beach and dense tamarisk coverage, and Poisses. On the road towards Kastriani, Xyla and Spathi beaches offer alternative cosmopolitan flair. Various conveniences nowadays offered in these areas have made them popular for visitors seeking a more organized and comfortable swimming experience.