The Weekly Getaway: on foot around the turquoise waters of Koufonisia
Koufonisia once used to be a hidden gem of the Cyclades complex, most specifically Minor Cyclades, before the influx of avid travelers and tourists flocking the island during July/August slightly transformed its character. Yet though, the sense of remoteness and pure simplicity remains and is one of the best reasons for making it all the way down here.
As you approach the new port, tens of boats stand still on the turquoise waters of Ammos beach which is about the first thing that catches your eye! The moment you disembark is probably when you realize that you can almost go anywhere on foot - nothing else needed.
As you go towards the inner part of the main settlement of Ano Koufonisi, you notice a few local craft shops before you find yourself up on the main alley featuring a few restaurants, cafés and a few locals sticking around. The mornings here are quiet and the streets are filled with bright colors from the bougainvillea trees in contrast with the white backdrop. Most tourists whisk by the local bakery of Giorgoula for their morning take-away treats -try their myzithropitta, filled with local cheese!- as well as tending to last minute grocery shopping at the main mini-market as they leave for the beach.
The trek to the last and most popular point on the island, Pori beach, takes a good 20min on foot but the landscape, views and attractions are unrivaled. First stop is Fanos beach, a busy beac with a small café that you probably want to avoid. Try walking 3min further along the coast to at least get to Italida beach where the crowd is a bit more sophisticated with fewer kids playing around! No beaches on the island are organized but you probably knew that already!
The sun is hot and as you walk towards Pori beach you probably wonder whether there is an end to this long-winded trek. Fret not, next stop is the Piscine Naturelle, a small rock-bordered pond filled with sea water, perfect for a quick dip to cool you off. Further north and some good 250m down the path, one can check out the infamous cave named The Devil's Eye, a hollow rock that fills with sea water from underneath.
Finally, you're on Pori beach famous for its long sandy stretch and the beautiful turquoise waters! One thing is certain, besides the magnificent beach set-up, the food at Kalofeggo is divine! The porch outside is full of vibrant earthy colors with fresh-painted handmade tables and chairs, a few cedar trees making their way to the top of the roof and a relaxing mellow music plays low... just enough to complement the male cicadas, which are out on a singing call to attract the female ones, on the background. Chef Panagiotis will astound you with a simple, yet sophisticated menu. Wanna find out more?
If you rather prefer to have lunch closer to the main settlement, you can visit Captain Nicolas' taverna that enjoys a gorgeous view to the sea and offers some tasty seafood bites besides their classic lobster pasta and salad! Just across the street and down the hill, Karnagio is also a traditional Greek ouzerie for those seeking the real experience next to the water in a setting defined by the bright blue wooden tables.
Out and about
One of the main attractions of Koufonisia, is the multiple uninhabited islands in the near vicinity, including Kato Koufonisi. Traditionally a place that calls for some free camping and that is naturally full of impromptu tents all summer long, it also offers a unique experience even on a day trip. Captain Kostas is sure gonna give you a hell of a ride when you leave the main port behind and off to explore some picturesque coves and rock formations along the way to Nero beach. Just remember to leave your camera behind and take in every single moment of it. The loud Greek folk music complements the ride in a perfect and so unique way we wished we'd done it again!
If you're on a private rib boat or otherwise, it's also amazing to explore nearby Glaronisi and Keros, a bigger island next to Koufonisia that is largely occupied only by livestock and their visiting local farmers during the day. One of them is Michalios that also owns a traditional taverna in Ano Koufonisi offering tasty cooked meat dishes directly source from Keros.
Schinousa, Donousa and Iraklia should also be on your menu, as they tend to be even less busy and even more exciting... but that's a whole lot of a different trip!
- Kato Koufonisi - a visit to the small sibling of Ano Koufonisi, aka Kato Koufonisi, is a must! Get the boat that runs from the port every hour or so and ride with Captain Kostas and his Greek folk tunes - unbelievable experience!
- Pori - best beach in Koufonisia, with a long sandy stretch and two cafés on the backdrop. A bus service runs every hour or so if you don't have a car; otherwise, the footpath from the main settlement is a good 20min trek (but you can catch some great scenic landscapes!)
- Gala - beautiful turquoise waters in this cave north of Pori beach. Probably only a good spot for a few clicks. Make sure you also walk all the way up to the rocks that form a lunar landcape!
- Italida - small sandy beach accessible on foot (from Fanos beach) and by boat. Make sure you get early to get a spot, especially if you're there during August
- The Devil's Eye - scenic spot on the way to Pori beach, which is formed by a hollow rock and has water coming from beneath. Beautiful to the eye!
- Piscine Naturelle - beautiful natural little pool bordered by rocks (very close to The Devil's Eye). Also good for some quick diving off the rocks! Classic tourist photo opportunity
- Nero - best beach located in Kato Koufonisi; last stop on the boat service. The cedar trees create some great natural shade although most of the times the spot is occupied by happy campers of this "uninhabited" island
- Oceanides Residencies - very good option if you're looking for well designed clean rooms with some very friendly staff!
- Aegean Colors Houses - basic rooms in this white cubic formation of hotel buildings just outside the main settlement
- Gitonia tis Irinis - delicate rooms in this small settlement of apartments away from the crowds
- Ionathan Koufonisia Suites - this whitewashed boutique hotel opened in 2017, offering a very good option close to all the action of the main settlement
- Kalofeggo - arguably the best food on the island; make sure you go early, lay back and enjoy the view to the turquoise waters of Pori. Read our full review here
- Captain Nicolas - Greek taverna famous for its seafood and lobster pasta; read our full review here
- Karnagio - traditional ouzerie set on a gorgeous setting next to the water; kitchen opens around 18:00, offering many seafood treats and tasty bites!
- Strofi - divine souvlaki served right out of a small hole on the wall. Don't fret the queue as it tends to move fast!
- Fystiki Ice Cream - great tasting handmade ice cream without any artificial additives. Make sure you taste a coconut scoop!
- Sorokos - the best bar on the island in an idyllic candle-lit setting next to the water; also offers some sophisticated dishes although their highlight is not that. Best to stick to tasty cocktails and dreams!
- O Mylos - great view to the sea and an atmospheric/romantic ambience for an evening drink. Also nice to catch the sunset here