Koufonisi is just a few square kilometers of arid Cycladean land somewhere between Naxos and Amorgos. But yet, on its land you will find some of the best beaches in all of the Aegean!
First impressions: Of all the islands in Small Cyclades, Ano or Pano Koufonisi, (Upper Koufonisi) – or just Koufonisi – with an area barely reaching just 5.7 square kilometers, is today seeing rapid development into a popular tourist destination. It has a permanent population of around 300 who are exclusively involved in fishing and tourism. Certainly Koufonisi is not the deserted island of earlier years, nor can the beaches considered to be isolated any more. Nowadays even in September you can find all the “tribes” of the world arriving here to be “baptized” in its azure waters.
A glance at history: The Koufonisia islands have been inhabited since prehistoric times. The site where Hora, the main village on Ano Koufonisi is now expanding, was probably situated an important Roman settlement. On the small uninhabited island of Keros, which almost touches Ano Koufonisi, important archaeological artifacts from the Early Cycladic era such as vases and figurines have come to light, and among them statuettes unique to the Cyclades depicting a flautist (‘The Avlitis’) and a harpist (‘The Arpistis’). In ancient times the island was called Kereia or Keria; the name is recorded in taxation records of the Athenian Alliance of 425 BC. Today the entire island of Keros has been declared an archaeological site.
Walks in Chora: The boat arrives at Koufonisi, mooring at the only village on the island. A little higher above the harbor lies the settlement of Chora – white island houses with blue doors and windows and lining whitewashed cobbled pathways leading up to the imposing church of Agios Georgios. Fortunately, no cars allowed. At dusk it’s is worth taking a walk as far as the shipyard, where the windmill stands, to watch as the sea is painted red and gold.
The beaches: All the beaches can be reached either by car or a by walking along a footpath.
Loutro: This tiny sandy beach near the harbor tends to get very crowded. A little further to the north at Parianos, you will come across another haven with its own beach.
Ammos: East of the harbor in Chora you will find this small beach with shallow waters and fishing boats. It is the favorite choice for local children and families.
Finikas: Right after the small village of Stoubo is Finikas Beach, covered with fine white sand and tamarisk trees. There are two tavernas and it can get quite crowded.
Fanos: After Finikas is the Fanos beach with turquoise waters and golden sand. There is a restaurant, a bar and rooms to rent.
Italida: Just 200 meters separate Fanos from the lacy coves of the “Italida” encircled by rocky cliffs, and most preferable by nudists.
Pori: You can reach the beach not only by car, but by tour boat also. Although it is quite popular, in favor of its big size it never really gets overcrowded.
The “Milk” of the Aegean – “Gala” Beach: This tiny beach can be reached by footpath from Pori. The beach is basically an open cave with a narrow connecting corridor to the sea, and owes its name “Gala” (Greek for ‘milk’) to the milky color of the frothing sea when the waves churn up the sand as they pass through the passageway. The famous Koufonisi caves with their deep azure waters are also to be found near Pori. They can only be reached by boat.
Excursions to nearby islands: Tour boats depart daily, weather permitting of course, from the port of Chora, making short voyages for a swim on the beaches of Kato Koufonisi, where there is a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, built on the ruins of an ancient temple (information Captain Prasinos tel +30 22850-71438).
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Copyright photo & text: Germaine Alexakis/ Views Of Greece
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