The best places to eat in Koufonisi include a few low-key beach bars serving affordable traditional Greek food and frappe, the typical coffee-based drink that goes well with any moment in Greece.
Koufonisia is a tiny archipelago with stunning beaches and a pristine environment that awakens to tourism with gentleness and refined authenticity. Located southeast of Naxos, and northeast of Ios.
Koufonisi awakens to tourism without losing its gentleness and refined authenticity. It is a secluded archipelago with Caribbean-like beaches and a unique atmosphere. The best time to visit Koufonisi is during June and September when the weather is warm and less crowded.
Koufonisi is made up of two islands: Pano (upper) and Kato (lower). The main port of Ano Koufonisi welcomes the ferries that arrive all year round and has a small village with traditional tavernas, bars and cafes. The rest of the island is arid and uninhabited, but is still stunning to explore on foot.
The most famous beach of Ano Koufonisi is Finikas, a tiny bay with crystal clear water and a beautiful sunset view. There are also other beaches to discover, including Foinikas, Loutro, Ammos, Italida and Pori. You can swim straight from the shore and snorkel to discover sea caves.
A must-visit on the island is Kalofego, a tavern with an off-the-beaten-path setting. It is located at the end of a small paved path, right by the sea. This is my favorite place for dinner in Koufonisi because the food is delicious and the setting is romantic. You can enjoy grilled fish, homemade pasta, salads and roasted goat.
Another great spot is Nero beach, which is a little harder to reach but worth it for the wild experience. It is a sandy beach with blue water and no shade, but it is gorgeous to swim in. It is popular with free campers and nudists. It is best to visit it on a day with no wind and bring water and snacks. Nero is also home to a little taverna where you can buy drinks and snacks.
Located at the edge of Pori beach on the remote island of Ano Koufonisi, Kalofego is a pleasant surprise. The abundant colors around, the mellow and toned down music and the heartfelt cooking will make your visit quite an experience.
Most tourists are so ecstatic about the long sandy beach and the cobalt waters of this island that they forget to stop by this lovely place. But this tavern takes it’s place among the best places to eat in Koufonisi, especially during peak season!
It’s a hippy-meets-hipster hangout, with rag rugs flung over curvy concrete benches and giant cacti growing in terracotta pots. You can cool off with an Aperol Spritz under the bamboo pergola and dig into delicious Mediterranean fare (octopus and black-eyed bean salad, roast goat with chickpeas). The owner is also a musician and plays impromptu sessions with his mates on summer evenings.
The sizeable fishing fleet on the islands ensures a plentiful supply of fresh fish and seafood, making grilled and fried fish, fish soup, vinegar-marinated octopus and stew as staples of the local cuisine. And the succulent goats grazing on the craggy terrain of both Pano and Kato Koufonisi are another mainstay on the menus – some island residents maintain herds on both islands, and the meat is as good as it gets!
There are a few high-end restaurants on the Island, but it’s important to make a reservation during the busy season. There are also plenty of smaller, more intimate eateries where you can enjoy fresh squeezed juices and healthy snacks at Laggona or try a scoop of the best ice cream in the Cyclades at Fystiki. And of course there are several bars where you can sip a cocktail and enjoy the sunset by the beach at Sorokos.
The island’s tiny main village has a handful of tavernas and hotels. In the summer, many of these are booked to capacity and difficult to get into – so book early and stay off-peak. Try taverna Kapetan Nikolas, where the cook has big experience in seafood cooking and the decoration is adorned with compasses and other sea related objects; Melissa for real home made food in the small streets of Pano Koufonisi; or the highly rated hotel Finikas for high-end suites with magnificent balconies and amazing views.
What makes Koufonisi special is its resolutely undeveloped character. Only two of its three islands are inhabited year round: Pano Koufonisi, where the main port receives ferries from Athens and other islands; and Kato (Lower) Koufonisi, which is windswept and virtually deserted, with its settlers limited to hardy locals and Athenian hippies who enjoy camping and frolicking au naturel on its string of astonishing beaches.
As a result, this is the kind of place where you come to relax and recharge your batteries, spend thoughtless hours on the beach, and share convivial moments with fellow travellers over a glass of wine or a plate of freshly caught seafood. For those looking for a little more excitement, the islands are surrounded by fjords and coves – some of which can be explored on snorkeling trips organised by most tavernas. Other activities include horseback riding, diving and fishing, and hiking to the highest point on the island, where you can see a fantastic view. It also boasts a surprisingly diverse flora. The island’s sheltered position in the Small Cyclades archipelago (which includes Iraklia, Donoussa and Schinoussa) means that it has a temperate climate all year round.
Fystiki Ice Cream
Koufonisi is a trio of islands, and although only about 400 people live here all year round it feels a lot more than that. The main island, Ano Koufonisi, is where the ferries arrive and the main port is located, and it’s here that most things are found, including low-key beach bars and taverns that serve up a variety of typical Greek food.
The most famous of the beaches on Koufonisi is Ammos Beach, and for good reason. It’s a stunning sandy beach with crystal clear waters that is perfect for relaxing and swimming. Like most beaches on the island, however, finding natural shade can be difficult, so it’s best to bring a parasol or beach awning.
Another great place for a bite to eat in Koufonisi is the taverna Kalofego. This is a restaurant, bar and shop all rolled into one, and the food here is fantastic. It serves a mix of Mediterranean and Greek dishes, including salads, homemade pasta and grilled fish. You can also try out their xynomyzithra (goat cheese and honey), or the sweet dumplings called xerotigana.
The tavernas on the island are all great, but if you want to try something different we suggest heading to Pori beach and trying out the restaurant-taverna Fystiki. They offer delicious, different and authentic Greek food in a chilled and relaxed environment. Their rakomelo, which is a super-sweet alcoholic drink made with cinnamon and honey, is also worth a taste. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, their ice cream is also excellent – especially the pistachio flavor! The ice cream here is made with the same quality you would expect from any premium brand in a supermarket.
The Koufonisi islands are a hidden gem for those that want to avoid the crowds of the bigger island chains. Here, you can find natural rock pools, sea caves, white sandy beaches and a charming traditional Cycladic town to visit. You will also come across a variety of places to enjoy freshly squeezed juices, healthy snacks and the most sophisticated cocktails with views to die for.
The sizeable fishing fleet based on the Koufonisia islands guarantees fresh seafood choices including grilled and fried fish, fish chowder and vinegar-marinated octopus. Local meat-based dishes are equally popular and include the grilled lamb of Keros and the delicious xerotigana (pork on the spit) from the neighboring uninhabited island of Amargos. Local cheeses are also worth trying along with rakomelo, the super-sweet drink of Koufonisia.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing meal, head to the stunning beach of Finikas where you will find a wonderful tavern right on the beach. The waters here are perfectly blue and the sand is very soft. The tavern on the beach serves amazing food and drinks at reasonable prices.
During the high season, the most popular restaurants on the Koufonisia Islands are full and it’s advisable to book ahead. If you can’t, there are a number of smaller spots to check out. Laggona is a great pit stop for freshly squeezed juices and healthy snacks, while Fystiki Ice Cream offers handmade ice cream without any artificial additives. Another great option is Sorokos, the most sophisticated bar on the island with a candle-lit setting and outstanding cocktails. The fusion of an alternative atmosphere and the best Greek cuisine makes this spot one of the must-visit places in Koufonisi.