Kythera

Kythera
Kythera (other spellings: Kythira, Cythera) is an island of Greece, historically part of the Ionian Islands. It lies opposite the eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is administratively part of the Islands peripheral unit, which is part of the Attica Periphery so that’s why we categorize it in Attica destinations, although it’s at large distance from Attica itself.

Kythera is a unique island in many respects. It has a long and rich history, dating back to the Neolithic period, and although considered to be a rather quiet island, it has just the perfect selection of the right kind of accommodation and entertainment a peaceful traveler is searching for. Crystal blue waters, characteristic architecture, exquisite local dishes and ingredients as well as many beautiful sceneries for nature lovers … and you never know, with a little bit of luck, you might catch the famous red tulips blossom in spring time!

Kapsali
Location: south (in a southerly direction)
Access: asphalt road
Type: large beach – pebbly sand, shingles, shallow water
Information: very busy, deckchairs/beach umbrellas, restaurants – snack bars, cafés, water sports, boat rental, fisherman’s harbor, nightly entertainment

Sparagario
Location: south (in a southeasterly direction), near Kapsali
Access: path from Kapsali or from the sea
Type: small beach – shingles
Information: isolated, rock climbing

Chalkos
Location: southeast (in a southerly direction), near Kalamos
Access: stony road
Type: average size – shingles, rocks
Information: very busy, deckchairs/beach umbrellas, snack-bar, blue-green waters with beautiful reflections

Vroulea
Location: southeast (in a southerly direction), near Kalamos
Access: stony road
Type: small beach – pebbly sand, rocks
Information: isolated, deserted, fisherman’s harbor

Fyri Ammos (à Kalamos)
Location: east (in an easterly direction), near Kalamos
Access: stony road
Type: large beach – coarse red sand, shingles, deep waters
Information: very busy, cave, deckchairs/beach umbrellas, snack-bar, beautiful colors

Kombonada
Location: east (in an easterly direction)
Access: asphalt road
Type: large beach – big shingles, rocks, deep waters
Information: isolated, deserted, romantic, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets

Kaladi
Location: east (in a southeasterly direction), near Paleopoli
Access: asphalt road and steps
Type: average size – shingles, rocks
Information: very busy, deep waters, ideal for diving from the rocks

Paleopolis
Location: east (in a southerly direction), near Avlemonas
Access: asphalt road
Type: large beach – pebbly sand
Information: the island’s largest beach, deckchairs / beach umbrellas, taverns

Diakofti
Location: northeast (in an east, northeasterly direction)
Access: asphalt road
Type: average size – fine white sand
Information: shallow waters, very busy, deckchairs / beach umbrellas, restaurants, snack-bars, cafés, port, fisherman’s harbor

Lagkada
Location: north (in a northeasterly direction), near Agia Pelagia
Access: stony road
Type: average size – pebbly sand, shingles
Information: deckchairs / beach umbrellas, snack-bar

Fyri Ammos (of Agia Pelagia)
Location: north (in a northeasterly direction), in Agia Pelagia
Access: asphalt road
Type: average size – coarse red sand, shingles
Information: very busy, deep waters

Agia Pelagia
Location: north (in a northerly direction), in Agia Pelagia
Access: asphalt road
Type: large beach, black-grayish sand
Information: very busy, deckchairs / beach umbrellas, taverns / restaurants, snack-bars, shallow water, fisherman’s harbor, port

Platia Ammos
Location: north (in an easterly direction)
Access: asphalt road
Type: average size – sand
Information: taverns, snack-bars, fisherman’s harbor

Limnionas
Location: west (in a northwesterly direction), near Mylopotamos
Access: asphalt road
Type: small size – fine white sand
Information: isolated, snack-bar, shallow water, fisherman’s harbor

Melidoni
Location: south (in a southwesterly direction but completely protected from the wind), near Drymonas
Access: stony road
Type: small size – golden sand, rocks, shingles
Information: very busy, deckchairs / beach umbrellas, snack-bar

Chora
The island’s capital, also called “Kythira” or “Chora” in Greek, is located in the south. The harbor of the city of Kythera is called Kapsali and together they form one of the most picturesque places in Greece. Chora became the island’s capital during the Venetian era, when it was moved from its initial location, Paleochora (a small 13th century Byzantine citadel) for security reasons.
The castle of Chora was built in 1503 on a small existing bulwark, and the village was built in front of the castle’s only entrance. The architecture of most buildings is typical of the Aegean Sea, but several have Venetian and English elements, a testimony to the owners’ high standing. The church towers of the myriad churches reach toward the sky and catch the eye of visitors as they behold Chora from the heights of the castle.

Avlemonas
A picturesque village by the seaside in the eastern part of Kythera. The architecture is typical of the Cyclades (a group of islands in the center of the Aegean Sea). Avlemonas is one of the most beautiful villages on the island, owing to the small inlets with their emerald-green crystal-clear waters. The short walks on cobblestone paths around the village are one of the best attractions for couples in love.
For families with children Avlemonas is an ideal setting. The village offers visitors a nice place to swim thanks to the small inlets, traditional restaurants where you can feast on fresh fish, small cafés on the seaside, and several concerts organized mostly in the summertime. If you wish you can even fish from the boulders or rent a small boat to admire the east coast from the sea.

Kythera Archaeological Museum
Unfortunately, Kythera does not have a museum that does justice to its history. The building that housed the Archaeological Museum was donated by the fraternity of Kythereans to the Greek government in 1975. The museum operated until 2006 when it was damaged by an earthquake and closed its doors to the public. The exhibition included grave steles, coins, vases as well as statues such as “Venus with Eros” and “The Lion of Kythera”. Most of the items found during excavations carried out on the island can be found in the warehouses of the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus. The Greek government is unaware of the cultural wealth of Kythera – and of the rest of Greece for that matter – considering the limited funds devoted by the government. This has damaging consequences for both the cultural identity of the Greek people and local economies.
Information:
Archaeological Museum
80100 Kythera
Tel.: +30 2736031739

Paleokastro
Paleokastro was the capital of Greece during the Greek Antiquity. It is located on a hill near Paleopoli and shows signs of dwellings dating back to the Geometric Period. In 1999 Kytherean professor and archaeologist Ioannis Petrocheilos did some archaeological digs at the top of Paleokastro hill, near the church of Agios Georgios (altitude: 323 m). The excavation revealed a sanctuary that was used from the Geometric Period up until the Hellenistic years. The studies carried out imply that it could be a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Venus. In Paleokastro there are also many ruins of buildings and walls of the old capital city and its acropolis. Objects discovered in the archaeological digs include vessels, incense burners, and bronze items (rings, buckles, etc.). The excavations continued for a few years.

The cave of Chousti and the sanctuary
The cave of Chousti is located in Diakofti, Kythera’s main port. The cave is located directly beneath the earth and has a surface area of approximately 800 m². A major archaeological study was initiated in 1998, thanks to which many objects belonging to several eras were discovered, the oldest ones being some pieces of ceramic dating back to 3800 B.C. Studies showed that the cave was used mostly as a place of worship of the goddess Venus. Outside the cave, going towards the village, are the ruins of another sanctuary.

Castello, the fortified castle of Agios Frangiskos
The Sea of Kythera is the western gateway to the Aegean Sea. It is often rough, which makes crossing it both difficult and dangerous. Specifically, Cavo Maleas, the southeast cape of Peloponnese, is one of the most dangerous in Greece. This is why it was necessary to have a harbor in Kythera to allow ships to find shelter in case of a rough sea. The port of Kastri, in the gulf of the former city of Scandia, and the one in Agios Nikolaos, both served as safe ports in the Antiquity.

The castle of Chora
The best preserved castle on the island. It was erected in the 13th century by the Veniers but it is very likely that it was built on the ruins of an old fort. It was restored in 1503 by the Venetians. It is made up of two parts, namely the inner castle and a more extensive outer wall that includes the area of Mesa Vourgos (“the inner town”). The inner castle includes the churches of Panagia Myrtidiotissa, Panagia Orfani, Pantokrator and Agios Ioannis. Also to be found here is the Historical Archive of Kythera located in the palace (the building that served as headquarters) as well as some nobleman houses. In Mesa Vourgos, in addition to the many nobleman houses, there are 14 churches. On the castle’s rockface, perched on the cliff, you will find a small yellow flower called “Sempreviva”, which means “that lives forever”. The view from the top is gorgeous.

According to Hesiod the sea of Kythera is the birthplace of goddess Aphrodite (Venus). Gaia (the Earth) wanted to punish her husband Uranus (the Sky) for forcing her to keep her children within the bowels of the Earth, so she called on them to help her get rid of their “wild” father. Cronus took a weapon and severed his father’s genital organs, which fell into the sea of Kythera. The foam thus formed traveled by force of wind to the island of Cyprus, where Aphrodite came forth.
The island of Kythera is at the crossroads of Mediterranean thoroughfares. It was probably during the Neolithic Period (towards the end of the 5th millennium B.C.) that the first inhabitants arrived in Kythera, as evidenced by the few pottery vases found in the cave of Agia Sophia in Kalamos. Before this, archaeologists believed Kythera’s earliest inhabitants dated back to the 4th millennium B.C., based on discoveries in the cave of Chousti in Diakofti and in the area surrounding Palaiapolis. The number of villages on the island grew significantly during the protohelladic period (3rd millennium). Towards the end of the 3rd millennium B.C. the Minoans extended their domination to Kythera, controlling the area and creating a maritime trading point in Palaiapolis, where there was once a bay (now covered with earth). Kythera is also one of the strategic sites in the Minoans’ fight against piracy in the Aegean Sea. In Vuono (also called Agios Giorgios) archaeologists found signs of a Minoan “summit sanctuary”, which served three different purposes: it had a religious function, it served as an observatory, and as a “lighthouse” for maritime navigation. In the late 15th century B.C. the Minoan colony followed the decline of Minoan Crete’s metropolitan territories, and it was exactly at that time that the Mycenaeans arrived on the island. As the Mycenaean empire declined the Dorians colonized the island (around the end of the 12th century B.C.); Kythera was then subordinated to the city-state of Argos. The time at which the Phoenicians arrived on the island still remains a mystery; this people had mastered the much sought-after art of extracting a dark red color from a rare mollusk called “porphyry” (Molinus brandaris). This color is one of the most expensive export commodities. According to Herodotus the creation of Aphrodites’s sanctuary is the work of the Phoenicians, who brought the worship of goddess Astarte in from the East.
In the middle of the 6th century B.C. and following the occupation of Mount Parnonas, Kythera was under Spartan sovereignty. In 424, during the Peloponnesian war, the Athenians occupied the island, which was delivered to the Spartans in 421 under the terms of the Nicias peace treaty. Under its Spartan domination the island was influenced by the worshipping of the Spartan pantheon, the Dioscuri, Alea, Poseidon (God of the Earth) and Hercules. As of the middle of the 5th century B.C. the god Asclepius was one of the gods worshipped in Kythera, under his Laconian name, Aiglapios.
In the 2nd century B.C., with the uprising of the “Free Laconians”, Kythera became independent; the inhabitants minted their own coins. As the Roman Empire expanded to the East, Kythera lost its strategic importance, and life on the island experienced no particular events. The maritime city of Scandia was completely destroyed by a massive earthquake in 375 A.D. All the buildings were wiped off the map and the ensuing tidal wave radically changed the shoreline.
In 395 A.D. Kythera formed an integral part of the Eastern Roman Empire. According to the excavations of both Huxley and Coldstream in Kastri the area of Palaiapolis was inhabited and served as a harbor until the 6th century A.D. In 673 the Arabs landed on the northern shores of the island of Crete and further attacked Kythera, wiping Scandia, its harbor and its fortifications off the map. After the second half of the 7th century Kythera was on a downfall.

Source: visitkythera.gr