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!