A Greek's Guide to the Quiet Island of Koufonisia | Greece
When most people think of Greece, naturally their minds conjure up images of Santorini and Mykonos. While those islands are popular for a very good reason, there are around 150 Greek islands that can offer the same magic, without all the crowds, still capturing that local flavor reminiscent of Greece during the 1960s. When summer rolls around, Greeks must answer one very important question: which island do I visit this year? Sounds terribly snobby, I know, but then again the Aegean is their backyard! As a native of Greece, my husband and I always seem to have a broad discussion answering that exact question, beginning around May. This year we are taking you with us to the small islands of Koufonisia, part of the Cyclades, where we share with you the stunning cliff sides, the quiet local life, and of course where to dip and splash around in that clear azure water - all the criteria for a perfect summer in Greece!
As soon as the ferry docks onto the port of Koufonisia, you are greeted by white washed walls and royal blue details; that picture-perfect postcard that is Greece. There is only one way to get here, and that is by a ferry direct from Athens or from the neighboring islands. Koufonisia is hidden between the larger and more known islands of Naxos and Amorgos, and is made up of two tiny islets; Ano Koufonisi and Kato Koufonisi. The latter remains uninhabited, while Ano Koufonisi has a small community of around 400 locals. Here you will find no real roads and very few cars, so you will most probably be walking or riding a bicycle! You can circle the island in a day by foot on the flat coastal path, with little or no company at all, and only the endless emerald-turquoise waters surrounding you. Right off the port you will spot Chora, the island’s center, where you can find a couple of general stores, seafood taverns, boutiques, and a tiny selection of bars.
Where to Stay
Oceanidis Residences | Ano Koufonisi | Rates start at $90
A ten-minute walk from Chora and a 15-minute walk from the beach, these rooms come equipped with a little kitchenette, a TV, and a small balcony/terrace with sea views. Free use of bicycles and snorkel gear is available upon request. A super plus is that they can deliver groceries, in case you are too busy losing track of time splashing around in the pool-like waters.
Portes Houses | Ano Koufonisi | Rates start at $200
A small family run property with only ten rooms. This property is a 2-minute walk from the beach and has small terrace with views of the Aegean Sea. The owners always try to make you feel at home, and serve a delicious breakfast on your terrace every morning. The interior design is one of our favorites.
Keros Art Hotel | Ano Koufonisi | Rates start at $150
An exclusive lifestyle hotel, a 15-minute walk from the port and just 100 meters from the main beach. The 23 rooms have private balconies/terraces with traditional pergolas. Includes delicious free breakfast every morning (we are suckers for breakfast)!
Where to Eat
Gastronautis | try the fried feta with tomato jam + tuna
Finikas | lunch with grilled octopus, fried calamari, and xoriatiki salad
Neo Remezzo | lobster spaghetti to DIE for - honestly, we came here almost every night
To Steki tis Maria’s | fish, fish, fish!
Where to Drink
What to Do
One comes to Koufonisia to escape their daily responsibilities, the perfect place to reset. Besides eating, you will be spending most of your time lying around private-like beaches, and swimming around the crystal clear and refreshing waters.
Italida/Platia Pounta | here will find Pisina; a deep natural pool between the rocks that connects through a small channel to the sea. Make sure to get here early, as it tends to fill up.
Lari | located on Kato Koufonisi, take a small boat across the channel to the islet and hike about 20 minutes to the spectacular waters of Laki. You could hike all the way to Nero beach, but make sure to take lots of water and necesseties with you since this island is uninhabited.
The greatest thing about Koufonisia is the ability to hike and swim anywhere! Hiking the small cliffs and finding the perfect spot amongst the rocks, with no one in site: that’s what I call a holiday. There are many places to explore that are waiting for you, all you need is a bathing suit, towel, and some sunscreen!