The Quiet Aegean Escape Islands
George Papadellis | SG Head
Sophia Parastatidou | SG Team | MA Candidate - ACG Apprentice
Koufonisia is not one island but three small islands: Ano Koufonisi (or Upper Koufonisi), Kato Koufonisi (or Lower Koufonisi) and Keros. Koufonisia islands are so close to each other that the only thing that separates them is the amazing blue waters of the Aegean Sea. Located on the south side of Naxos and the west side of Amorgos, a fact allowing one-day trips, they are considered the top spot of Cyclades. As for the name’s origin, the most accepted version claims that the gulf between Koufonisia and Glaronisi was called “Koufos Limin” (meaning deaf port) and this inspired the locals to use the modern name Koufonisia. The only thing that is sure about Koufonisia is that they are way better than they look in photos… and we can guarantee this as their visitors and fans.
Ano Koufonisi, the most organized of the three islands, is the ideal option for nature lovers and alternative personalities. It is excellent for free campers, and it has unorganized, private, quiet beaches to let the visitors enjoy its nature’s sounds, smells and beauty. It has many bars, traditional taverns, restaurants, apparel shops, and many attractions, such as the two ports, the piscatorial shelter, and the churches of Agios Georgios, Agios Nikolaos, and Profitis Ilias. The population of Ano Koufonisi is mostly fishermen and tourists. And it is so tiny and enjoyable that you can go everywhere on foot or by bike or by the unique taxi service of the island. Kato Koufonisi is an uninhabited hidden gem that one can visit only by boat from Ano Koufonisi. It has an enormously beautiful and wild landscape, full of sea caves and isolated coves, perfect for exploring and photo shootings. Keros is an almost uninhabited archaeological site that combines the archaeological wealth with the fantastic view of the sunrise and the picturesque natural landscapes. It has only very few houses and the famous small Panagia church built on the top of ancient ruins. One should definitely not miss the famous full-moon nights in Keros.
Interestingly, there are so many fun facts about Koufonisia. First, when they were dominated by the Venetians and the Ottomans, together with all Cyclades islands, the locals used to join the forces of foreign pirates, who used Pano Koufonisi and Kato Koufonisi as a shelter or sea channel. Second, locals say that the Koufonisia islands’ shape looks like a female figure, specifically the mother born on Koufonisia island on the first full moon of the 21st of June. Third, Koufonisia is the only destination in Greece that can fit different preferences on a separated geographical basis, i.e., the Ano Koufonisi provides a more luxurious and fun experience, the Kato Koufonisi is deserted and perfect for free camping and wild adventures, and Keros is an uninhabited, protected archaeological site that many visitors discover in well-organized one-day trips. Fourth, the Chora of Ano Koufonisi has the typical aesthetic of Greek islands: the white windmill, the fishermen on their “cauiqes” (small boats), the white and blue painted houses, the buildings that match perfectly with the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean Sea. Fifth, despite the size of the islands, the fishing fleet of Koufonisia is considered the largest.
Koufonisi is famous for its exotic, wild and pure beaches with the magical power to relax. At Ano Koufonisi, visitors can walk or ride their bikes and reach every beach easily, as they are one after another in a row. For those bored to get active, small boats can take them to every beach. The most popular beaches are Foinikas, Gala, Loutro, Italida and Pori. Fanos and Platia Pounda are also good. In Kato Koufonisi, the most famous beaches are Nero, Detis and Panagia, and one can get there by small boats from Ano Koufonisi. Nero has a unique character and it has one of the most magical landscapes. Most travellers claim that Pori and Gala are the best beaches of Ano Koufonisi, as they are very close to each other and have a unique landscape. Gala (means milk in Greek) was named after the wild waves that crash on the caves and the blue waters that turn white. The waters of Koufonisia are immaculate, crystal clear, enormously turquoise and cold.
Koufonisia are beloved by visitors because they combine a perfect natural landscape with picturesque exotic beaches. They are an ideal destination for those seeking peace, relaxation, quietness, and escape from stress and the problems of everyday life. Visitors enjoy walking around, swimming, biking, hiking, or even doing just nothing! Koufonisia is a chance to experience the power of “nothingness” and appreciate the power of slow pace of life! If anyone gets bored, there are many one-day affordable trips to Kato Koufonisi, Keros, Naxos and Amorgos. A visit to the beautiful Church of Agios Georgios in the main Chora of Ano Koufonisi is also worth the while, and it can be combined with watching the sunset with a pistaccio (fistiki) ice-cream (one of the tastiest ice creams ever)….
During a day of walking, biking, enjoying spa waters and spending time with “nothingness”, one needs to find right places to taste traditional Greek flavours. For the morning, the traditional bakery “Giorgoula” serves the most amazing Greek pies and sweets. For brunch, “Kalamia” has excellent dishes to choose. For lunch, “Foinikas” on Foinikas beach has authentic Greek recipes with local ingredients. Other excellent taverns to #EatLikeALocal, as Madam Ginger mentions on her official website with perfect food recommendations for the Greek Koufonisia islands, are “Captain Nikolas”, “Mixalios Grill House”, “Souvlaki sti Strofi” (takeaway), “Aneplora” and “Kalofego”. As for cool drinks by night, “Milos Bar” has excellent cocktails and a unique view, as it is located on a small hill under the windmill, and “Sorokos Bar” has excellent drinks and finger food. And for a wild nightlife … there is no in Koufonisia apparently.
One more thing that makes Koufonisia so special is the festivals! One of the best is the Koufonisia Classical Music Festival that takes place every year since 2016 in the Michailidis Residence in Ano Koufonisi. This venue that brings culture closer to the Cyclades is organized by the artistic director, conductor, and pianist Kornilios Michailidis, it hosts “highly acclaimed, world-class artists from Koufonisia Greece and abroad, offering unforgettable moments to the audience”, and it offers international classical repertoire and melodies of the Aegean cultural heritage. The Fisherman Festival is a regional festival taking place every June, during which fishermen cook fish soup and enjoy their catches. The feast day of Agios Georgios is celebrated every year in the memory of the protector of the Koufonisia island with a long walk in the “flower streets”, return of the icon of Saint George to the church and celebration with local food, music and dances. The festival of Panagia (Virgin Mary) takes place on the 15th of August, with people gathering in the church of Kato Koufonisi, enjoying free traditional Greek food, heading to Ano Koufonisi to watch the fishing battle held, and celebrating the battle winner with drinks and dances!
Koufonisia is the place that makes all visitors consider if magic exists! It is impressive how the vibes of an island can drive out all worries and make the end of vacations a bad dream.