The Weekly Getaway: the elegant nature and architecture of Kythira
Discovering new places is always fun, especially when real life beats your expectations. This was the case of Kythira, a mid-sized island off the eastern part of the Peloponnese, and this general feeling of good vibes that I got as I first set foot on a warm August evening in Chora just as the sun was setting. Magical!
Chora and Livadi
We started from the picturesque little neighbourhood of Mesa Vourgo right beneath the Castle of Kythira, a maze of little churches and small houses dating back to the 16th century, and started our ascend to Chora through the little alleys and small steps leading to the main street. The sun was almost about to set and the various little shops were opening for their night shift as travelers stopped left and right for the occasional photo opp.
Through the years, Greeks, Ottomans and Venetians have all left their mark on its architecture and culture, which now resembles an interesting mix of what the Cyclades, Crete and the Ionian islands have to offer. The island’s most characteristic monument is the Castle of Chora, dating back to the 13th century when Kythira was dominated by the Venetians that features an array of little churches and great view spots to the little islet of Hytra. Commerce and tourism traditionally flourished in Kapsali, a nearby seaside settlement, although Chora with its cute little alleys has been becoming the main centre of gravity for the past few years.
Living history behind, we go past Karavas that trades traditional rusks in various flavours, and find ourselves outside Kythira's most recent addition to the food scene: Bon Bon Fait Maison. The brainchild of Kriton Poulis, a Parisian resident in the winter and co-oner of Kilikio shop, opened last year and offers the best ice cream and crepes we've tasted for quite some time now. Breakfast place Fossa is also a must-visit spot of the island for some hearty traditional dishes with a modern twist that was created by Antonis Stathis, a London barista by profession but avid Kytherian at heart.
A few kilometers down the road from Chora we get to Livadi to enjoy some nice traditional dishes for dinner at Pierros. Even though everything is literarily on the main road of the island, the restaurant is quite cosy and is a good option for not driving out too far out.
East-side beaches and Mylopotamos
Although the island has a lot to offer as far as the beachtime goes, most of them are either west or east. Heavy on the eggs front from Fossa, we started first exploring the west side of the island with an aim to reach Kalami beach, infamous for its hard trek down. Unfortunately we hadn't heard of the pre-requisite for sports shoes (for some better grip), but even so we managed to get ourselves down to this magical place after a steep descent to the blue oasis. A remote beach with small pebbles and one of the most amazing backdrop of step rocks - perfect if you're looking to get way from the umbrellas and the loud families.
On the way back, we stopped at Mylopotamos to take note of the notable waterfall and the old mill along the same path. The Platanos taverna didn't have much to offer as far as food went, but the setting underneath the walnut trees was indeed rewarding. A sip of some Greek coffee to wash down the dessert and off to a beautiful balmy evening back to Chora.
A bit further north lies the beach of Skylodimou. Again, pebbles, unorganised and a nice rocky backdrop. Melidoni is a nice option for an organised beach close to chora towards the same direction more or less with Sparagario beach (next to Kapsali) being the more alternative option for youngsters.
East-side beaches and Avlemonas
On a different day, we venture out to visit the east-side beaches of Kythira with the first stop at Fyri Ammos. The road from Chora is 12km long but the turns right and left make it a long one, with a magnificent volcano-like red cliff backdrop to compensate us as soon as we set eyes on this coast. An organised beach with a lot going for it - remote, quiet and with a great view to the Cyclades (when the winds are not blowing).
A few kilometers south another one, Halkos, for the more familial gathering (as this is much closer to Chora) but equally picturesque. No matter where we sunbathe, we always end up at the lush veranda of Filio taverna for a homey feast - try their oil bread, their vrehtoladea salad and their tsiragotika sausages - divine!
Finally, with a few days just left, we also make it to Kaladi beach with a series of two pebbled beaches and a small cove. The descent of 150 steps is quite ok despite the fact that this beach doesn't offer umbrellas; there is plenty of shade from the rocks for everyone and even a delivery service from the canteen above for whatever you need... otherwise just wait again for the way back and stop at Filio!
For the more daring ones, the road to Avlemonas, a nearby cute port, is only 15mins away where you can feast over some seafood meze and fish (at last!) at Skandia before you make your way back to Chora.
Kastro - old castle with a few churches at the top of Chora, nice to catch the sunset
Roussos ceramics - head to Roussos for beautifully decorated ceramics painted with the island's colours and motives.
Avlemonas mini market - handpicked fleur de sel - a great gift option for your foodie friends.
Kalami - the most remote and most beautiful beach on the island. You can park past the church as you drive on a narrow dirt road for 400m and then follow the path to the right. The last 10m you have to climb down with a rope! Make sure you get enough supplies!
Kaladi - unorganised pebbled beach with an interesting rock formation separating two beaches and a smaller cove. Canteen on top also does delivery service down the 150 steps
Halkos - organised beach with relatively easy road access and umbrellas. There’s a small canteen for snacks, coffee and drinks although you’d like to combine this with a meal at Filio on the way back
Fyri Ammos - long pebbled organised beach with a very steep cliff backdrop (reminding of Santorini’s rock formations) with a small canteen at the back. Very similar to Komponada. Can also be combined with Filio for lunch
Sparagario - unorganised small protected cove next to Kapsali beach. Need to access through a 10min trek on a dirt road
Melidoni - organised and relatively protected beach from the winds
Filio - best taverna food in a veranda setting under some nice shade from the trees. Devilishly tasty tiganopsomo (fried doughnut-like dough bread) with tomato sauce and grated local cheese, great tsiragotika sausages and vrehtoladea salad. Also ask for specials of the day as they farm their own meat and vegetables, as well as produce their own rose wine. Best to reserve if you plan to visit past 5pm. Full review here
Familia - upscale creative Greek cuisine in Fratsia village for dinner. All of their pasta dishes are delicious, as well as their French fries sprinkled with garlic oil and rock salt. Best to reserve the day before. Full review here
Pierros - basic taverna in Leivadia, serving traditional Greek dishes like rooster with tomato sauce, slow cooked lamb with potatoes etc
Bon Bon Fait Maison - known for their delicate ice cream as well as for their savoury crepes, galettes! Breakfast is also good although they don’t do a crepes service. Kriton making the ice cream; soon to open a new outpost in Athens too. Full review here
Boat trip with Spyros: In a two/three-hour excursion Captain Spyros takes you to the uninhabited island of Hytra and beaches inaccessible by car. His jolly spirit and factoids on Kithira are worth it!
Magos -this fish taverna in Kapsali is an institution among locals who swear by its fresh fish
Tony's - a stylish pizzeria with an amazing view of Hytra and the Kithira castle. Fresh ingredients and thin dough, even pizza snobs will be sold.
Choraki - one of the two bars in Chora, also serving on Sochora’s boutique shop’s veranda at the back until late
Mercato - also on the main road of Chora but usually attracting a younger crowd
Banda Landra - seaside bar at Kapsali, sometimes featuring the infamous Kormoranos parties
Koukos - cocktail bar on the road from Kithira to Kapsali. Good location for sunset drinks.
Astikon - famous for its live music performances and legendary dance parties, Astikon has become an institution in the Potamos village