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KYTHNOS is one of the Cycladic islands closest to Athens. However, it remains one of the least known and explored corners of the Aegean archipelago.

The island is alternatively called Thermia, from the hot springs in Loutra, which used to be a major draw in the 19th and 20th centuries, but seem to be fallen by the wayside in the last few decades. The northern part is where most of the life of the island takes place, with the little towns of Mericha, Loutra, Chora, the capital, and Dryopis. The southern part of the island is almost uninhabited, with the exception of the resort area of Panagia Kanala, host of the Church of Panagia Kanala, and the small bay of Agios Demetrios, at the southern tip of the island, which has experienced some building activity in the last few years, and is the site of about two dozen summer homes of Athenian weekend travelers. The island boasts of 65 sandy beaches, which are its main tourism draw. Most of these are accessible only via dirt road, but most of these roads are decently passable. You probably shouldn't try them with your brand new, low front Alfa Romeo, but most other cars are appropriate. In addition, there are daily cruises from Merichas to some of the best beaches on the island. The landscape is Cycladic and austere, but interesting because of the endless miles of Kythnian stone hedges that criss cross the land and delineate properties, and the more than 350 small churches that dot the slopes of the hills that make up Kythnos. The earliest archeological finds on Kythnos are Paleolithic and date from the 8th millenium BC. The island was inhabited during antiquity by Dryopian exiles, who left Evia seeking a better life after a series of natural disasters. The island flourished during classical antiquity and produced a number of artists and poets, while it participated in the Battle of Salamis with one triere, i.e. a warship propelled by three rows of oars. That was the highlight of Kythnos' participation in great historical events. After that, it lived life pretty much as a backwater of the Athenian Alliance, the Roman and the Byzantine Empires, the Venetian commonwealth in the Aegean, and the Ottoman Empire. In 1830, Kythnos, along with the Cyclades, became part of the newly established Greek Republic.

Today the island has about 1,650 permanent inhabitants, who live off mainly fishing and agriculture and, in the last few years, tourism. Contrary to most of the rest of the Cyclades, Kythnos maintains a sizable farming industry, mainly livestock and honey production. The island produces quality beef, lamb and baby goats, interesting local goat cheeses, and good honey.

 

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