Koufonisia, the hidden gem of small Cyclades

koufonisiaNestled in the heart of the Aegean Sea, the Koufonisia islands are a serene escape, offering golden beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a glimpse into a lifestyle untouched by time.

Koufonisiα consists of Lower and Upper Koufonisi and belong to the cluster of small Eastern Cyclades. Kato Koufonisi is almost uninhabited, while a characteristic of the island is the small church of Panagia which is built on ancient ruins at the pier. It is worth visiting for its enchanting beaches.

In Pano Koufonisi, the smallest and most populated island of the Cyclades, you will be welcomed by the white windmill that dominates the left of the port and the picturesque image of fishermen in their boats. Above, the country spreads out with the traditional Cycladic colour.
Beautiful sandy beaches will welcome you along the entire length of the island’s coast.

The calm sandy beaches are succeeded by wild rocks and caves dug by the waves. If you follow the path that unfolds parallel to the southern coastline of the island, you will be able to choose the beach that suits you. Some of the options you have are Harokopou beach and Platia Pounta which attract the most people, Fanos and Pori.

Be sure to visit the fishing shelter, the carnage, the mills and the churches of Agios Georgios, Agios Nikolaos and Prophet Ilias. On full moon nights you will enjoy images that will fascinate you. The view of Keros in the moonlight is unique since, according to the locals, it looks like a reclining female Cycladic figurine at night.

Also, it is worth visiting Keros for swimming, in the little port of Parianos, but also to admire the magnificent sunrise from there. from reality, since they offer calm and relaxed holidays.

Mythology and History

Koufonisia, comprising the islands of Pano (Upper) and Kato (Lower) Koufonisi, and uninhabited Keros, are steeped in mythology and history. According to legend, Koufonisia were the dancing grounds of the Cycladic figurines, mystical idols made thousands of years ago, linked to ancient rituals and worship.

Historically, Koufonisia has been a quiet witness to numerous historical epochs. From Byzantine rule to pirate invasions, and from the Venetian era to the modern Greek state, each period has left its mark on the islands’ culture and architecture. The archaeological site on Keros is particularly significant, having unveiled some of the most important Cycladic artifacts, which are now displayed in museums worldwide.

Culture and the People

cultureThe islands’ culture is deeply rooted in their maritime history, traditional crafts, and the daily lives of the local population, which has remained remarkably intertwined with the rhythms of nature and the sea.

The people of Koufonisia maintain a way of life that has been passed down through generations. Much of their days are shaped around the sea, with many locals still engaged in fishing as their primary occupation. This close relationship with the sea is not only evident in their daily routines but also influences local customs, festivals, and cuisine.

Traditional boat building, once a common skill on the island, still survives with a few craftsmen continuing to construct the typical Cycladic fishing boats known as ‘caiques’. These boats are a common sight in the small harbors, painted in bright colors and often decorated with the eye of Osiris, believed to protect the fishermen from harm.

Festivals are a part of life in Koufonisia. The most significant celebrations occur during the summer months, aligning with the Greek Orthodox calendar. One of the highlights is the feast of Agios Georgios (Saint George), the island’s patron saint, which is marked by a grand communal feast, music, dancing, and religious processions. These events are a vibrant display of local culture and provide an opportunity for visitors to experience authentic Greek island festivity.

Panigiria, or religious festivals, are not only religious in nature but also serve as communal gatherings that strengthen the bonds among residents and between the locals and visitors. During these festivals, everyone gathers in the main square or by the church, sharing homemade food, wine, and traditional music, often continuing well into the night.

Artistic expression in Koufonisia often reflects the island’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. Local art may be found in small galleries or craft shops where artisans sell handmade jewellery, textiles, and paintings that often depict marine and Cycladic themes.

Music is an integral part of life here. Beyond the contemporary music that might be heard spilling from the bars and tavernas, traditional Greek music remains a staple at most social gatherings. The sound of the bouzouki and lyre is commonly accompanied by singing in both formal and informal settings, creating a melodious backdrop that enhances the island’s atmosphere.

Things to do in Koufonisia

boat-toursVisiting Koufonisia is like stepping into a beautifully serene, postcard-perfect world where the pace of life slows to the rhythm of the waves. Here, the options for activities reflect the tranquil charm of the island, appealing to nature lovers, adventure seekers, and those looking to unwind alike.

One of the most popular activities in Koufonisia is exploring the island’s stunning natural landscape. Hiking is a delightful way to take in the breathtaking scenery. The island features a network of trails that connect the small villages to remote beaches and hidden coves, offering panoramic views of the Aegean Sea at every turn. These paths wind through aromatic herb fields and past traditional whitewashed houses, immersing hikers in the natural and cultural beauty of the islands.

Cycling is another fantastic way to tour Koufonisia. Bikes are available for rent, allowing visitors to pedal their way around at a leisurely pace. The relatively flat terrain makes it easy to traverse the small island, visit its beaches, and stop at local tavernas for a taste of the regional cuisine without becoming too fatigued.

For water enthusiasts, Koufonisia is a haven. The crystal-clear waters invite visitors to dive in and enjoy a variety of aquatic activities. Snorkelling is a particularly popular pastime due to the visibility and the abundance of marine life in the turquoise waters surrounding the island. More adventurous souls might opt for scuba diving excursions that explore deeper waters and underwater caves.

Boat tours also offer a splendid way to see the coastline from a different perspective. These tours can take you around Koufonisia and to neighbouring islands, often stopping at secluded beaches that are otherwise inaccessible. Some tours include traditional fishing trips where you can learn about the local methods and catch your own fish, possibly spotting dolphins along the way.

local-cuisineThe culinary experience in Koufonisia is deeply rooted in its fishing tradition. Local tavernas serve up fresh seafood caught daily, cooked to perfection with local herbs and olive oil. Dining here is not just about nourishment, it’s a cultural experience, often accompanied by Greek music and the laughter of fellow diners.

In terms of relaxation, the beaches of Koufonisia are the perfect retreat. With several stunning options to choose from, you can find everything from bustling beaches with sun loungers and bars to tranquil stretches where the only sounds are the seagulls and the lapping waves. Spending a day sunbathing, reading, and swimming is a must-do for any visitor.

Finally, the culture of Koufonisia is best experienced through its people. Engaging with locals and participating in any festivals or events that might be occurring can deeply enrich your visit. These events are a vibrant spectacle of music, dance, and traditional customs that provide insight into the soul of the Cycladic islands.

In Koufonisia, the activities available help visitors connect with nature, indulge in new experiences, and leave feeling refreshed and enchanted by the island’s untouched charm. Whether you’re wandering a dusty path by the sea, snorkelling among fish, or enjoying a sunset dinner at a beachfront taverna, Koufonisia offers a slice of paradise for every type of traveller.


Koufonisia is renowned for its idyllic beaches, each offering a unique blend of natural beauty and serene atmosphere. From secluded coves to stretches of soft golden sand, here’s an in-depth look at some of the most enchanting beaches on the islands:

koufonisia-beachesPori Beach is often regarded as the jewel in the crown of Koufonisia beaches. Situated on the eastern end of the island, it is well worth the trek or bike ride. The beach is famous for its expansive stretch of fine, golden sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, making it a paradise for swimmers and sunbathers alike.

The natural beauty of Pori is complemented by its peaceful ambiance, often broken only by the sound of waves. Nearby, there are a few small cafes where visitors can grab a bite or a refreshing drink.

Also known as Platia Pounta, Italida Beach is a favorite among nudists and those looking for a quieter alternative to the more populated Pori Beach. The water here is exceptionally clear, ideal for snorkeling, and the sand is wonderfully soft. Italida offers minimal amenities, which preserves its untouched, natural charm, making it perfect for a day of undisturbed relaxation.

Fanos is another popular beach on Koufonisia, known for its friendly atmosphere and well-equipped facilities, including sunbeds and umbrellas for rent. The beach is slightly smaller and more enclosed than Pori, providing a cozy, family-friendly environment. The waters here are calm and shallow, making it safe for children to swim. A beach bar nearby serves snacks and drinks, adding to the convenience of a day out at Fanos.

koufonisia-beachLocated close to Chora, Finikas (also known as Charokopou Beach) is less crowded than Pori and Fanos but just as beautiful. This beach is loved for its laid-back vibe and traditional Greek tavernas lining the shore, where you can enjoy local dishes with a view of the sea. The water at Finikas is clean and inviting, with natural shade provided by tamarisk trees lining the back of the beach.

Gala is a unique and somewhat hidden spot on Koufonisia. Accessible only by sea or through a narrow path, the beach is actually a natural sea pool surrounded by rock formations. The water inside the pool is deep blue and refreshingly cool, offering a unique swimming experience that feels like being in a large natural aquarium.

The island of Kato Koufonisi is just a short boat ride away and features several pristine beaches that are much less frequented than those on Pano Koufonisi. Here, visitors can enjoy complete solitude on beaches such as Loutro, a sandy cove with no amenities but stunning natural beauty, or Detis, the old pirate bay, which is perfect for adventure seekers.

Where to stay

Koufonisia’s range of accommodation options ensures that whether you are looking for luxury, comfort, or a connection with nature, you will find the perfect place to stay. Each type of accommodation offers a different experience, but all allow you to enjoy the stunning beauty and relaxed pace of life that Koufonisia is known for.

Koufonisia features a variety of hotels, from boutique establishments offering luxurious amenities to family-run businesses that provide a cosy and intimate experience. Many hotels in Koufonisia are designed to reflect the Cycladic style, with white-washed walls, blue accents, and minimalist décor that complements the surrounding seascape.

Bed and breakfasts and guesthouses are perfect for travellers looking for a homely touch. These are usually owned and operated by locals, offering insight into the daily life of Koufonisians. Rooms in these establishments are often decorated with personal touches and provide a cozy, rustic experience. Breakfast is usually included, with homemade Greek specialties served every morning.

For an authentic Greek island experience, consider staying in one of Koufonisia’s traditional studios. These are typically smaller than apartments and are equipped with basic kitchen facilities, making them ideal for couples or solo travellers. Studios often have private verandas with lovely views, perfect for enjoying a morning coffee or an evening glass of wine.
There is a well-equipped campsite on Pano Koufonisi, located near some of the island’s most beautiful beaches. The campsite offers basic facilities and is a budget-friendly alternative to hotels and apartments. It’s a great way to meet other travellers and enjoy a laid-back, communal atmosphere.


restaurantKoufonisia may be known for its serene landscapes and tranquil days, but as the sun sets, the island reveals a charming, albeit low-key, nightlife that complements its laid-back atmosphere. Here’s a deeper look into the nightlife that Koufonisia has to offer, perfect for those looking to unwind after a day in the sun.

Despite its small size, Koufonisia hosts a variety of options for evening entertainment, mainly centered around its main village, Chora. The nightlife here isn’t about loud clubs or wild parties; instead, it focuses on relaxed and friendly environments where you can enjoy good music, delicious drinks, and the warm Greek hospitality.

The bar scene in Koufonisia is quite vibrant, with several small bars and lounges offering a cozy setting for an evening out. These establishments typically feature comfortable seating arrangements, either plush indoor settings or breezy outdoor terraces, where you can sip on a cocktail or enjoy a local beer. Many bars also host live music events, ranging from traditional Greek music to more contemporary bands, creating a lively but not overwhelming atmosphere.

One of the popular spots is Sorokos Bar, located directly on the beach. It has been a favorite among both locals and tourists for many years, known for its friendly service and stunning views of the sea. Here, you can enjoy a cocktail as you watch the sunset.

Occasionally, informal beach parties are organized by local bars or spontaneous groups of young locals and tourists. These gatherings are perfect for those looking to enjoy a relaxed night with new friends. The parties usually feature bonfires, impromptu music sessions with guitars and other instruments, and a lot of dancing.

Restaurants and Tavernas

koufonisia-townEvening dining in Koufonisia is an event in itself. The island’s tavernas serve up fresh seafood and traditional Greek dishes that are rich in flavour and heritage. Many of these tavernas have outdoor seating, allowing diners to enjoy their meals under the stars. After dinner, it’s common for some of the local establishments to clear the floors for a bit of dancing. Greek nights, featuring live music and traditional dancing, are a fun way for visitors to immerse themselves in local culture.

If you go up the cobblestone road towards the village for the first time, you will certainly be impressed by a queue forming in front of a small window. It is the legendary Strofi, the oldest and most traditional kebab shop on the island. It has been present since Koufonisia was a place of alternative tourism, with camping both organized and free.

Strofi still retain its fame, mainly because it didn’t skimp on quality, but also kept its prices relatively. The fire is lit in the early afternoon and extinguished late at night. If you’re hungry at 9pm, when most people are, be prepared to wait. The wrappers are slim, but the demand is also high.

A classic afternoon walk in the southwestern part of the island, from where you can see Glaronissi and Schinoussa in the background. Somewhere there is also the  Stecki of Maria. It will instantly text your nose. You will feel the octopus on the grill even if you are heavily congested.. Those octopuses that have been caught in the morning are dried in the sun all day .

The best place to eat meat is Mihalios tavern. You will not find the tavern in the central settlement, nor in any alley. It is somewhat “tucked in”, about 50 m. inland on the road that goes from the main settlement that exists in Koufonisia to Finikas. You will be fully compensated with its authentic cuisine and roasts. It can also be a pleasant break if the holiday menu you have planned constantly includes fish.

Moving Around Koufonisia

Despite its small size, Koufonisia offers several convenient options for getting around the islands, allowing visitors to explore its scenic beauty at their own pace. Whether you prefer to walk, bike, or take public transport. Walking is perhaps the most rewarding way to explore Koufonisia.

The distances between points of interest are short, and the paths are generally flat and scenic. A leisurely walk allows you to appreciate the stunning vistas of the Aegean Sea, discover hidden nooks, and truly soak in the tranquil atmosphere of the islands.

For adventurers, a hike from Chora to Pori Beach is highly recommended. This trek not only offers panoramic views but also passes through several beautiful beaches that are perfect for quick dips.


Renting a bicycle is a fantastic way to get around, especially for covering longer distances across the islands. Bike rentals are available in the main village (Chora), and the terrain is mostly gentle, ideal for cycling. This mode of transport gives you the flexibility to stop at will, perfect for photographers and nature lovers who want to capture the enchanting landscapes. The ride along the coastal road from Chora to Pori Beach is particularly picturesque and is a favorite among cyclists.

Motorized Vehicles

For those who prefer motorized transport, motor scooters and ATVs are available for rent. These can be a great option if you want to save time or if walking and cycling are not feasible. They offer a quicker way to navigate between different parts of the island and can be rented by the day from local operators in Chora.

Public Transportation

During the summer months, when the tourist population is at its peak, the local government operates a mini-bus service that connects the main village with popular destinations like Pori Beach, Fanos Beach, and the port. This service is usually scheduled with the ferry arrivals and departures, making it convenient for day-trippers to move around the islands.

Taxis and Private Transfers

While traditional taxis are not common on Koufonisia, there are several private operators who offer taxi services using small vehicles or mini-vans. These can be arranged at the port or booked in advance through your hotel. This is particularly useful for groups or those carrying lots of beach gear.

Boat Services

An intriguing way to travel around Koufonisia and to the adjacent islands is by boat. Local fishermen often offer rides to the more secluded beaches and caves that are not accessible by land. Additionally, regular boat tours are available that can take you around Koufonisia or to nearby islands such as Keros and Schinoussa, providing a different perspective of the Cyclades.

Best time to visit Koufonisia

The best time to visit Koufonisia really depends on what you want to get out of your trip. For beach lovers and those looking to enjoy a lively holiday atmosphere, summer is the ideal time. If you prefer milder weather and fewer crowds, consider visiting in the shoulder months of April-May or September-October.

However, for a quiet retreat to truly unwind and experience the local lifestyle without the distractions of tourist activities, winter could be the perfect season. Regardless of when you choose to visit, Koufonisia offers a beautiful escape into the charm and beauty of the Cyclades.

High Season: Summer (June to August)

Summer is undoubtedly the most popular time to visit Koufonisia. The weather is at its best, with long sunny days and temperatures ranging from 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F). This is the perfect time for beach activities, swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying the vibrant nightlife.

Pros: The sea is warm and inviting, ideal for water sports and swimming. All tourist facilities, shops, and restaurants are open, and the island buzzes with energy and excitement. Cultural festivals and local celebrations, such as the Feast of Agios Georgios, offer visitors a chance to experience traditional Greek festivities.
Cons: This is the peak tourist season, so the island can get quite crowded, and prices for accommodations tend to be higher. Booking several months in advance is advisable to secure your preferred lodging.

Shoulder Season: Spring (April to May) and Fall (September to October)

Spring and fall are considered the shoulder seasons in Koufonisia. The weather is milder compared to summer but still pleasant enough for outdoor activities and exploring the island.

Pros: Fewer tourists mean a more relaxed atmosphere and shorter lines at popular attractions. The temperature is comfortable for hiking and cycling around the island. In spring, the landscape is lush and vibrant with wildflowers, while fall offers the chance to witness the grape harvest and the production of local wines and spirits.
Cons: Not all facilities may be open, especially in late fall, as some businesses close down after the summer rush. Sea temperatures in spring and late fall might be a bit too cool for some swimmers.

Low Season: Winter (November to March)

Winter in Koufonisia is quiet, and many would say quite magical. The island experiences cooler temperatures, ranging from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F), and the pace of life slows down even further, providing a reflective and peaceful getaway.

Pros: You’ll experience the island almost like a local, with very few tourists around. This is the best time for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy the tranquillity of the island. Accommodation prices are at their lowest, and the scenic beauty of the island is enhanced by the serene winter atmosphere.
Cons: Many hotels, restaurants, and shops may be closed for the season, and the weather can be unpredictable with some rainy days. Outdoor water-related activities are limited due to the cooler sea temperatures.

How to Get there

By Sea

Ferries from Piraeus: The most common way to get to Koufonisia is by ferry from Piraeus, the primary port of Athens. The ferry ride can take anywhere from 4 to 7 hours depending on whether you opt for a direct high-speed ferry or a slower, conventional ferry that makes stops at other islands. During the summer months, there are usually at least one or two departures per day.

Ferries from Rafina: Occasionally, there are ferry services from Rafina port to Koufonisia, especially in the high season. Rafina might be a more convenient starting point if you are coming directly from the airport as it is closer than Piraeus.

By Air and Sea

Fly to Naxos or Mykonos: An alternative route involves flying from Athens to a nearby island such as Naxos or Mykonos, both of which have small airports and receive flights from Athens and various European cities. From these islands, you can catch a local ferry to Koufonisia. The flight from Athens takes about 45 minutes, and subsequent ferry rides from these islands are relatively short (about 1-2 hours).

Traveling from Other Greek Islands

Koufonisia can also be reached from other islands in the Cyclades like Santorini, Paros, and Amorgos.

Island Hopping: Frequent ferries connect these popular islands with Koufonisia, particularly during the summer months. This can be a great option if you are exploring multiple islands in one trip.

Traveling from International Destinations

If you are coming from an international destination, here are a couple of pathways you might consider:

Through Athens: The most straightforward route for international travelers is to fly into Athens and then continue by ferry from Piraeus or Rafina.

Through Other Cycladic Islands: Some travellers choose to fly into another major Cycladic island such as Mykonos or Santorini, which have international airports and offer seasonal flights from European cities. From there, you can transfer to a ferry to Koufonisia.

Local Transportation Upon Arrival

Once you arrive in Koufonisia, the need for public transport diminishes greatly due to the small size of the islands. Most places can be easily accessed on foot, by bike, or by renting a scooter. There is also a local bus that runs during the summer months connecting major points on the island, including beaches and the port.