Kythnos is a laid back island with a traditional Cycladic main town (Hora) and charming villages. It is a great place for hikers with ruins and ancient monuments all over the island.
Taverna menus are loaded with salty Kythnos cheese, slow cooked lamb and goat, and seafood. Honey biscuits and strong Greek coffee accompany.
1. Visit the Katafiki Cave
The island’s most popular activity is to visit the Katafyki Cave, a stunning underground attraction. The cave is located in the village of Dryopida and gets its name from two things: Katafyki, meaning “shelter,” and Georgios Martinos, a Kythnian geologist who dedicated his life to studying it. The cave’s formations are truly spectacular and it’s a must-see for any visitor to the island.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the cave, consider taking a guided tour. Not only will you learn more about the cave itself, but you’ll also get a chance to ask questions and get to know other visitors from around the world.
There are a number of different tours to choose from, so be sure to check out your options before booking. The best time to visit the cave is in the early morning or evening so that you can avoid the crowds and enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings.
Another great thing to do on the island is to swim at Kolona Beach, a beautiful double sandy beach where you can enjoy swimming in the warm waters. You can also take a water taxi to the beach, or you can drive there on your own. The sunsets at the beach are also something that you don’t want to miss out on!
If you like to hike, there are many hiking trails on the island that can be enjoyed. You can find them by following the mule tracks that connect farms, villages, and seaside resorts throughout the island. You can see a variety of ancient sites on the island including a temple in the port of Vryokastro and the remains of an old aqueduct. There are also 128 country chapels in addition to the churches of Chora and Driopida.
You can also enjoy a variety of culinary experiences while visiting the island. The taverna menus are filled with salty Kythnos cheese, slow cooked lamb and goat, and seafood dishes. There are even a few wineries on the island that produce some solid wines. If you’re a foodie, then make sure to book a cooking lesson with a local chef who can teach you how to cook some of the island’s most delicious dishes.
2. Visit the Hot Springs
Kythnos is known as the ‘Bathing Island’ and its hot springs attract visitors from all over Greece. There are two thermal springs located in the village of Loutra and they have been used since ancient times for their healing properties. One of the springs is warmer and has a high concentration of iron while the other is more acidic with iodine. Both are believed to be good for skin diseases and gynecological problems.
Aside from the hot springs, there are many other things to see and do on this picturesque island. The island has a wealth of quaint villages, traditional churches and monasteries, historical monuments and beautiful spiritual sites. You can also explore the natural landscape with a hike, and this is particularly popular in spring and autumn when the weather is perfect for hiking on Kythnos.
Hiking is a great way to discover the island’s cultural roots, deep history and stunning natural beauty. You can follow old farming trails that cross ravines and end at a beach or visit archeological sites, Byzantine monuments and little chapels. It’s best to book a guided hiking tour with a local expert so you can learn about the history and culture of the area.
A hike around the village of Dryopida is a fantastic introduction to the island’s culture and way of life. The village is built in a valley hidden from the sea, which gave it an extra advantage against pirate raids in medieval times. The labyrinthine alleys of the village are charming and you can walk past a number of old buildings with basil pots on their window sills.
Another must-see is the impressive beach at Kolona, which has a long stretch of crystal clear water and golden sand. It connects to a small offshore island and is a wonderful place to relax. You can also visit the wind-protected beach of Naoussa, which has emerald waters and a magnificent view.
The tavernas of Kythnos are filled with salty cheeses and slow-cooked lamb and goat, as well as fresh seafood. Be sure to try a glass of the local wine, which Herodotus ranked among the luxury items of the ancient world!
3. Take a Tour of the Island
Kythnos is an open secret to the Athenians, a three-hour ferry ride from the city, where they flock for lazy summer weekends. The rest of the year, this lightning-bolt island is a bit of a rural revelation; a series of quiet, bucolic surprises with a handful of villages scattered around the coast and a network of mule tracks connecting remote beaches, small fishing towns and hills blooming with wild flowers.
The heart of the island is Hora (Kythnos Town), a quintessential Cycladic village with flat roofed white pill-box houses lining its narrow streets. It is a living museum of Cycladic architecture and has remained almost unchanged over the centuries. Take time to explore its charms, from the marble fountains and eerie silence of its medieval cemetery to the cafes and tavernas serving traditional dishes and ouzo.
If you’re interested in archaeology, head to the north of the island to visit Vryokastro, the ancient 10th century B.C. capital that once defended the island from invaders. The ruins are in a remarkable state of preservation, with the remains of walls and the foundations of temples, as well as two Hellenistic temples.
There is also a church in the village of Kanala with an icon painted by a Cretan painter, who took refuge on the island, believed to have miraculous powers. It’s packed with pilgrims on its feast day, August 15th.
Toward the west of the island is Kolona, where you’ll find extensive sandy beaches. You can also walk to the gorge in Agios Loukas for stunning views and swim in the natural hot springs at Potamia.
For the adventurous, a hike to the summit of Oria will reveal an impressive sight: the Castle of Oria, built 250 meters above sea level on a hidden rock offering breathtaking views. This imposing structure was the former capital of the island during the Byzantine and Venetian eras.
The northeast of the island boasts old windmills that were in full use until recently. They still have a picturesque character and are worth a visit, as is the nearby Folklore, Byzantine and recently opened archaeological museum, which contains treasures from both Vryokastro and Maroulas.
4. Visit the Beaches
A trip to Kythnos wouldn’t be complete without spending some time at the beach! The island boasts more than 100 beaches, all of them pristine and unspoiled. The majority are located outside urban areas in a natural setting, and they tend to not get as busy as swimming spots on other Cycladic islands. Some of the most impressive beaches on Kythnos include Kolona, where a strip of sand joins Kythnos to a tiny offshore island; Fykiada, a crescent-shaped sandy beach that looks like a fairy tale; and Skylou, whose waters are warm and inviting.
If you’d rather soak in the natural hot springs, head to Loutra on the southwest coast. The eponymous spa was used by Queen Amalia herself, and visitors have reported that the baths are still just as pleasant today. Be sure to book a ticket in advance, as the pools can get crowded during peak season.
There’s also no shortage of places to eat on the island, from the traditional tavernas in Chora to cafes that offer a range of sweet treats and drinks. The island’s renowned local ingredients are a big reason why it has such a strong reputation in Greece for delicious gastronomy.
One of the best things to do in Kythnos is to stroll around the streets of Chora, which are perfect for walking at any hour of the day. In addition to enjoying the picturesque village, you can also shop for handpainted textiles in bright colors, leather and wood objects, and ceramics. If you’re looking for something to take home, be sure to check out the local crafts shops that sell strangely formed shells and other handmade items.
Hiking is another great way to explore the island, and it’s particularly popular during spring and autumn. There are numerous hiking trails that allow you to discover the island’s cultural roots and rich history, including the archeological site at Vryokastro, Byzantine monuments, little chapels, water sources, and agricultural buildings with stone threshing floors. Be sure to book a guided hike so that you can learn more about the area and visit one of Kythnos’ most picturesque beaches.