Kea island Greece, the small hidden gem in the Cyclades

keaKea or Tzia  is a small island in the Cyclades in Greece that got known to the modern world when Titanic’s sister ship Britannica sunk here in 1916. The wreck is still here, and there is constant activity around it.
The island in itself is a charming little paradise and it is still a very genuine place to visit. There are a few taverns and cafes, and the pace is slow and comfortable. Kea is an excellent alternative for those who want to get away from the busier islands, but still don’t want the total quiet. The islanders here live mainly off agriculture, stock-breeding and fishing.

Kea is a peculiar case of an island. Partly wronged because as close to the coast of Attica, as an easy weekend destination, it is underestimated by many, as something that is not an island or as much an island as others.

If you go for a few days, you will go to the essentials. And most are stacked on the same beaches, the same taverns. But all this is not a one-way street. As is the case for all the islands of Greece, if you have the appetite to look for something more, if you have the appetite to see what others do not see, you will discover on this island small well-hidden personal paradises.

Kea is the nearest Cycladic island to Athens has its hidden beauties and to discover them you have to walk in the countryside looking for old cobbled streets, oak forests, secluded stone houses, tower remains, with most important the tower in Agia Marina, which is also one of the tallest surviving monuments of the Mediterranean , monuments of the Middle Byzantine period such as the monastery of Agia Anna, the church of Agios Apostolos in Elies Katomeria and the church of Agios Panteleimon in the area Nero.

keaThere are many cosmopolitan Athenians who have found a permanent sanctuary in the mildly developed tourist area of ​​Koundouros and yachts who choose to moor in the picturesque seaside village Vourkari, which has the most fashionable restaurants and bars on the island, although the port, Korissia, is beginning to to compete in evening entertainment. Weekenders also prefer it, after discovering the beaches, they make an appointment in the afternoon in Ioulis to chase the sunset and to look for the ruins of the Venetian castle, its ancient rock-carved lion and its simple neoclassical buildings.


ancient-keaKea was once called the Water Island, Ydroussa, and it is believed that the name is connected to the water nymphs, that lived here according to mythology. Because it was such a pretty island, the gods’ got jealous, and sent a lion to ravage the land. The nymphs fled, and as a subsequence, the island dried out. The Keans then asked Apollo’s son Aristaeus for help, and he built a temple to Zeus, who apart from being the highest god, also was the one who sent rain. This pleased him, and the nymphs and waters returned, giving Kea a fertile soil with good crops.

The island has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and later on, in the 6th cent., The poet Simonides was born here. The island was quite prosperous and it was known for its Kean Law, which made all citizens who lived to be 70 commit suicide by drinking hemlock, which still grows on the island. In the 13th century, the island was ruled by the Venetians, and 300 years later by the Turks. Meanwhile, Kea was often raided by pirates, and the locals suffered greatly. It is therefore not surprising that Kea was one of the first Greek islands to enrol in the War of Independence in 1821. In 1930, it was liberated.

What to see

Ancient Karthea

kartheaOnly by boat or on foot can one reach the archeological site of the most famous of the four autonomous ancient cities of the island, where the feasts of Pythian Apollo were held. The citadel, built in an idyllic landscape, is surrounded by a polygonal wall. In its southern part have been identified the most important monuments, such as the foundations of the propylaea, the temple of Athena , the temple of Pythian Apollo, while the existence of other sanctuaries, dedicated to Hermes, Demeter, Artemis and Asclepius, is testified. Swim and dive with a mask in the bay of Poles, right in front of the archeological site, to see the submerged stone masses, parts of the pier of ancient Karthea.

The Town Hall

Impressive neoclassical building with original decoration, has the signature of the architect Ernst Ziller, as well as the neoclassical building that housed the primary school.

Settlement of Agia Irini

Opposite Vourkari you will see the lighthouse of Agios Nikolaos, the first to operate in the Cyclades. Right next door are the remains of an important prehistoric settlement, which was founded during the Late Neolithic period (3300/3200 BC) and was inhabited until the end of the Late Bronze Age (1200/1100 BC).

Panagia Kastriani

The imposing all-white monastery of the patron saint of the island is located southeast of Otzias and is built exactly where the icon of the Virgin Mary was found. Approaching you will see that inside the courtyard there are two churches – the oldest is from 1910 – as well as rooms that accommodate visitors for a token amount. The festival that takes place here on the 15th of August is one of the most important on the island.

Lion of Ioulis

Archaic sculpture carved into a rock “protects” the capital of the island. As the legend says: the island was inhabited by nymphs, until a terrible lion came and chased them away to take the place of Kares, Leleges, Phoenicians, Pelasgians and Ionians.

Archaeological Museum of Ioulis

The museum exhibits are shared on two floors of a building built in 1970. The first floor houses findings of historical times (7th BC-2nd century AD) and the second floor findings of the prehistoric period. Some of the most impressive are the clay statues of female figures from the settlement of Agia Eirini from the 15th century BC. and the sculptures of Karthaia, which are reminiscent of their modern style of ancient Athens.

Enamel factory

Since 1957, when the first factory for the production of enameled utensils in Greece closed, the building is in ruins, although today efforts are being made to function as an exhibition space. This quaint ruined industrial landscape is located 200 meters to the right of the port. Some of his machines are exhibited by the Association of Friends of the Enamel Factory in a municipal area.

What to Do

paths and walks in KeaIn recent years, the number of walkers who follow the marked, easy, for the most part, paths to find the most beautiful “hidden landscapes” of the island. Kea, with a network of trails with a total length of 36 km, is considered an ideal place for those who love hiking. In recent years, walking tourism has developed significantly, and in fact the paths of Kea have been characterized as a Network of Routes of Cultural Interest. Twelve routes have been selected, on which wooden signs are placed that guide walkers safely.

The tour of the -mainly- cobbled paths is enchanting, as walkers cross them through oak forests, admire the beautiful wildflowers, meet traditional stone fountains, and whitewashed, picturesque chapels, ending in either small ornate chapels. . Those who decide to walk them sometimes have the opportunity to “transport” to the distant and fascinating past, as they walk in the footsteps of ancient Keia, since many of the routes were part of the road network that connected the four city-states and have a strong history and archaeological interest.

ioulis keaIoulis is the main town of the island, built on a rock, eternally facing the sea. Some rightly describe it as one of the most beautiful villages of the Cyclades, due to its natural beauty and construction. Do not faint and walk to the lion carved on a rock, at the top of the city. If your car and legs can withstand it, drive to the ancient settlement of Karthea, located near the southeast coast. A walk that you should definitely do is at the Monastery of Panagia Kastriani. A building built on a remote rock on the north side of the island. The monastery is not so beautiful, but the view of the rocks below and the endless blue, since Kea is the northernmost Cyclades, is magnificent.

On many of the beaches of Kea there are water sports and beach volley. If you like fishing, you won’t be alone, and there is also a mini golf course.

Go at the monastery of Kastriani for a walk. For believers and unbelievers this walk. The monastery of Kastriani, like all monasteries basically, is strategically located. In one of the northernmost points of Kea, to look fearlessly at the North with the wind hitting it mercilessly almost every day. But its beauty is so eerie, the rocks and coves beneath it are so impressive, such is the serenity in the noise of the air that is really worth the 15 minutes from Otzias.


kea-beachThere are many sandy beaches on Kea, and just to mention a few, there is Otzias, Koundouros and Korissia. At Koundouros you’ll find most of the water sports.

Otzias beach, with a few sunbeds, shallow waters and shade from tamarisk trees along with the sandy but not great beach of Korissia and the large, organized in a part, beach in Poisses are the favourites of the families.

Kundouros beach, dotted with country houses, is full of pebble coves, the sandy Xyla beach is the most exotic of the beaches and Spathi, Sykamia and Kalydonychi, a little more isolated and accessible only by dirt road with crystal waters.

Many beaches are not approached by a simple car. And there are too many of them, especially on the East Side. Psili Ammos with very fine sand, while next to it there is Kalydonichi, with pebbles and green waters.

Below is Agios Filippos where the ravine ends from the mountains of Agios Symeon. The rocky beach of Karthea which is accessible either by the sea or by an ancient path, to reach almost the southernmost part of the island and the beach Stefa, which is completely protected from the North and the “meltemi” ( Summer wind).

xyla-beach-keaXyla has one of the best beaches in the Cyclades,  this small bay in the west of the island always has clear waters, icy waters and an image that from morning until sunset looks magical. With few houses on the opposite hill and people battling for shade in August, Xyla – just 15 minutes from the port – is probably the most beautiful (easily accessible) beach on the island. Stay there until late in the afternoon, to watch the sunset fall behind Attica.

In Vroskopos, Kalogiros and Kalamitsi for their wild beauty. All three are beaches on the west side, between Xylas and Koundouros. Beaches that are difficult to reach even with a good car. But it is precisely these “deceptive” beaches of the west and east (Kalydonichi, Sykamia, Kaliskia) that make Jia stand out so much. A beauty enjoyed by those who approach them by boat and sailboat, a beauty that they have not yet managed to step on with a bar and houses around.


kea-nightlifeThere is not much nightlife to talk about for Ioulis and Koundouros that seem to be the best places to go for a bit of it, but the two villages rather have taverns and cafes than bars and clubs.
The centre of nightlife in Kea is in Vourkari, the small port of fishermen and sailors, in the wider bay of Korrisia, it gathers the tourists at night. You start with fruitful cocktails in Afro bar, it is a narrow bar, but it is an ideal first stop for a pleasant night on the island.

Coca is now one of the most historic bars where you can have a drink, with patrons not giving up, even in the morning. At Vourkari as well the bar Vinyl has dominated for many years. It is the place that everyone who has ever visited Jia has gone through.

kea-nightAnd not unjustly, since both on the terrace opposite the bar, and inside its four walls, some very nice parties are set up every night. The truth is that if something is to happen on this island, it will happen on Vinyl. Faberzeus cafe, which, thanks to its very nice terrace, is full during the day. The only sure thing is that the morning appointment is given in the central bakery in Korrisia.

At Zeus Faber opened a few years ago, it was the alternative to the classic values ​​of the island. It is now the established hangout for the first drinks of anyone who decides to go to Vourkari for a drink. Not that he has to go anywhere else. Nice cocktails, nice music in a bar that you hope to have every day near you and in the city. On its terrace for more relaxed, in its inner bars if you have the appetite to dance a little. Potis has made a very nice shop that is very likely to bake you every night to spend it from 10 to 03:00 with his drinks.

Eating out

eating-out-in-tziaIf you can stand the savory, try the traditional meze loza (salted pork) that tastes good with fresh salad and sour (soft white cheese). The local honey smells of thyme and oregano and made with it is the local pasteli (Candy with sesame seeds and honey).There are some excellent local specialties to be tried out in the taverns of Ioulis, Koundouros, Korissia and Vourkari. The local sausages, pork dish “Paspala”, cheese and wine are a must, as well as some of the sweets made of local honey.

enea-koresBelow you will find various food suggestions for appetizers, for fish, for whatever your appetite craves. In Filippas, on the hill above Gyaliskari, watching the sunset, you will feel that you are in a snack of the Galatian village of Asterix!  With grilled piglet, awesome steaks and skewers and all kinds of meat, with the stamp of the owner who has been raising his own animals for so many decades now.

At the “Enea Kores” for the most beautiful fish of the island. Many claim this title but the chef has set up one of the most beautiful restaurants on the island and the fish he serves are incomparable. From brood and octopus to fresh fish and lobster spaghetti. Its tables overlook the bay of Vourkari and if you catch one of the tables by the sea you will have the opportunity to spend one of the most idyllic afternoons or evenings on the island. The icing on the cake is the fantastic orange pie with ice cream after the meal.


There are not many tacky souvenir shops on Kea, in stead, you’ll find a lot of handmade ceramics, carved wood and leatherwear. Before leaving the island, make a stop at the shops of the port to get the established souvenirs and local delicacies, such as pastries, sausages and jams, so that when you return to the city you have the taste of the island with you.

Getting Around

There is a local bus which will take you to the main villages. Most Athenians take their cars with them, you can rent bikes on the island.

Getting There:

It is a little bit difficult to get here since there are not many boat connections. The best thing to do is to fly to Athens, and then take the ferryboat or hydrofoil over.

Facts about Kea

Size: 131 sq. km
Population: about 1800
Cash machine: Yes
Highest Mountain: Prophitis Elias, 568 m
Phone numbers
International code: 0030
Local code: 22880
Port Police 21344
Tourist Information:
Tourist Police: 21100
Telephone company (OTE)
Taxi: 22444