Kythira is full of legends, and its name comes from the word “keftho”, which means to hide something.
In Greek mythology, Kythera is (next to Cyprus) the island of Aphrodite. The goddess of love was born there from the sea foam and came out on the island. To the memory of this myth, Antoine Watteau dedicated two of his paintings called “Boarding for Kythera”, and they are today in the Louvre and the city museum in Berlin.
Legends say that Aphrodite herself hid couples in love and her secret lovers right there. As her shelter, she chose gorges with thick fog, which the locals call Kacifara and small beaches that connect the eastern coast of the island with fine sand and small pebbles.
Kythira is an island located opposite the southeastern part of the Peloponnese. It belongs to the group of Ionian Islands, although it is quite far from them. The island is strategically located between the mainland of Greece and Crete, and from ancient times until the middle of the 19th century it was a crossroads of merchants, sailors, and conquerors, which is why it has a long and varied history.
The capital of the island is Kythira, also known as Hora, which is the name for the capital of most Greek islands. It is located in the south of the island, on the hill above Kapsali beach. The place is dominated by the Venetian fortress from 1503, inside which are the ruins of old buildings and several Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches. In the fortress, itself is the Historical Archive of Kythira, which contains texts and documents from the 16th century.
Archaeological Museum is located at the entrance to the city. It is open every day except Mondays. Here you will see the famous sculpture “The Lion of Kythira”, a bronze figure of Athena, a clay mask of a medusa, and various other exhibits.
Kythira is a beautiful town, with one main street that closes to cars at 7 p.m., lots of shops with souvenirs and pottery. Tucked away in that same street are a couple of cafes and a few taverns. You can also see a nice square, as well as shops with local products, olive oil, faturad, local wine, various jams and honey.
Kapsali stretches along the foothills of the Hora and has a city beach, next to which there are taverns and cafes.
Kapsali has two bays, one where there is a beach with taverns and a promenade, and the other where there is a harbor with anchored boats. The two bays are separated by a promontory on which a lighthouse and a small church rise. From there, there is a beautiful view of Kapsali, Hora with the fortification and the phenomenal beach of Spragario, which is located opposite the lighthouse and at the foot of the fortress.
Potamos is a village close to Agia Pelagia and the largest village on the island. An open-air market is held here on Sundays, when the islanders come out to the central square and present their local products.
Agia Pelagia is the oldest and one of the largest places on the island of Kythira and is located about 25 km north of Hora. This place used to be the main port where ferries from the Peloponnese docked, but today it is the port of Diakofti. Agia Pelagia is a popular tourist resort, with a large selection of hotels and restaurants, and there are numerous beaches in the immediate vicinity. Tourist boats occasionally go from here to the beautiful island of Elafonisos.
Avlemonas is considered the most beautiful village on the island of Kythira due to its exceptional natural environment with small bays and lush vegetation. The landmark of this place is the Kastelo, a small Venetian fortress built at the entrance to the harbor that served as an observation post, and today is a tourist attraction.
The village of Livadi is located about 4 km from Hora and it is a tourist-developed area that has a lot of facilities, including accommodation facilities, catering facilities, and various shops. It is known for the specific Katouni stone bridge built by the English Commissioner Maxwell. The bridge is 110 m long, has 13 arches, and is the largest bridge of this type in Greece. From Livadi you have easy access to other interesting points of the island.
Another important site is the Byzantine Museum, which is housed in one of the rooms of the post-Byzantine church and contains numerous murals, paintings, and objects used for religious ceremonies. An English school built in the Gothic style can be interesting to visit.
The most important archaeological site on the island is the Paliochora, the Byzantine capital of Kythera. It was built in the 12th century in a deep wild canyon covered with huge rocks that juts out onto Kakia Langada beach. This was once a place where residents sought refuge from pirate attacks. Although the walls of this city looked impregnable, the Pirate Barbarossa conquered and destroyed the city in 1537.
Kythira is also rich in natural attractions. The waterfall located near the village of Milopotamos is particularly interesting. The “Neraida” or “Fonisa” waterfall is 20 m high and is located in an idyllic setting with streams, bridges, and rich vegetation of poplars and sycamores. The bravest can take a bath here, although the water is extremely cold. Walking further from the waterfall you will come across a set of old abandoned mills and smaller natural lakes.
One of the most impressive parts of Kythira is the small island of Chytra or Avgo (which means “egg”), which is located a short distance from Kapsali beach. The island is very steep and rocky, and on the southern side, there is a cave where you can see an enchanting spectrum of colors from the reflection of the water. Also, some rare and protected species of falcons nest here, as also the local flower “Sempreviva”.
Sempreviva is a small yellow flower. It looks like it’s dry, but it’s not. When you pick it, you can put it in water, but even if you don’t, it won’t wither, but will look exactly the same as when it was fresh. Sempreviva means “life forever”. This flower can be found in almost all souvenir shops and costs 1-3 EUR, depending on the size.
The cave of Agia Sofia is located a few kilometers from the village of Milopotamos. It covers an area of about 2,000 m2, but a 200 m long section is available for visitors. Due to the morphology of the rocks, in the cave, you will see stalactites and stalagmites in interesting color variations. In addition to the 13th-century murals inside the cave, a church dedicated to Saint Sophia can be found here. The cave is open for visits during the summer season, and the guides will introduce you to its history.
By the way, Kythira became the first Greek island to develop a “via ferrata”, a special network of trails that combines hiking, canyoning, and climbing, which makes it even more attractive for adventurers.
Beaches of the island of Kythira
The most popular is Kapsali, which offers a wonderful view of the fortress in Hora. One part of the beach is sandy, the other pebbly, and the sea is crystal clear.
Halkos beach near the village of Kalamos is surrounded by large cliffs, covered with white pebbles, and the water is extremely clear and blue. Fyri Amos is a long beach with reddish sand and pebbles, once awarded with the Golden Sea Star.
According to many, Kaladi is the most beautiful beach on the island of Kythira. It is pebbly, with a turquoise sea, and is divided into three parts, and at the very end, there is a small cave. A dirt road leads to the beach, followed by a descent down 120 stone steps.