A Weekend on Kea: The Perfect Island Getaway

A short ferry ride from Athens, the Cycladic island of Kea is ideal for a weekend getaway and the first swim of the summer.

The ferry ride from the port of Lavrio to the island takes only one hour. Kea, an island of 2,500 inhabitants, is an ideal destination for short getaways. Apart from quaint villages and beautiful beaches, the island has numerous attractions and opportunities for outdoor activities. The ferry docks in Korissia, and the island’s main town is in Ioulida, which is further inland. Although these two towns offer the most options in terms of accommodation and food, the settlements of Vourkari and Otzia to the north and Poisses, Kato Meria and Koundouros to the south are also popular.

The Lion of Kea is one of the most impressive sights. This archaic lion sculpture from the 6-7th century BC was carved from a solid piece of rock just outside Ioulida. Aghios Nikolaos’ lighthouse in Korissia is also of interest, and it is accessible via a short, easy path. The lighthouse was built by the French Lighthouse Company in 1831 and it was the first lighthouse to be lit in the Cyclades. The lighthouse provides a panoramic view of Korissia’s bay. The 45-meter chimney of the enamel and metallurgy plant that operated on the island from 1927 to 1957 may be visible in the distance. Although the plant has been designated as a historic site, it has yet to be converted into a museum; the machinery strewn across the courtyard was collected through private initiatives.

This time of year, just before the high temperatures of summer, is ideal for exploring the island’s numerous hiking trails. The twelve routes span 36 kilometers and have been designated as “Routes of Cultural Interest” because they incorporate historical and cultural elements of the island. Many of the trails are paved with cobblestone and their history dates back many decades, as they used to be the only way for the island’s inhabitants to travel between the villages. The “Aristaios” route, which once connected ancient Ioulida to the ancient city of Karthaia, runs through the island’s hinterland and is 12 kilometers long. The 4.5-kilometer “Drys” route begins at the Byzantine monastery of Episkopi and travels past a spring and an oak forest before arriving at the beautiful sandy beach of Sykamia on the island’s northeast. The “Ydroussa” route, which passes through ravines and shady hillsides, ends at the beautiful beach of Spathi.

Kea is known for its thriving scuba diving tourism. In 1975, Jacques Cousteau discovered the “HMHS Brittanic,” the sister ship of the Titanic, which sank in November 1916 while transporting injured British and Commonwealth soldiers in open waters off the island’s harbor. In 1868, the steamship “Patris” sank off the coast of Koundouros while transporting passengers from Piraeus to Syros. Since 1916, the French ocean liner “Burdigala” has been at the bottom of the sea off the island’s west side. The island has numerous certified scuba diving schools that organize dives for experienced divers at shipwrecks.

Where to eat

“Oikos Kea” (Korissia, Tel.: (+30) 22880.225.07) is an all-day restaurant that serves coffee, brunch, delicious pizza, pastries, and select meat and seafood dishes.

“Karthaia” (Kato Meria, Tel.: (+30) 22880.242.80) is a traditional Greek taverna that serves homemade appetizers such as fried tomato balls and fried cheese pies, Greek traditional dishes such as veal stew and rooster in a wine sauce, and grilled dishes.


In the narrow streets of Kea, “Steki” (Ioulida, Tel.: (+30) 22880.220.88) serves a small menu of delicious dishes such as stuffed eggplants baked in the oven, homemade stuffed vine leaves, local sausages, and sujuks.

For those who prefer Greek traditional dishes made with local ingredients, “Perasma sto Gyristi” is a must (Kastanies, on the road towards Ioulida in Kato Meria, Tel.: (+30) 22880.240.14).

This article was previously published in Greek at kathimerini.gr.

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