Kythira (Italian: Cerigo) is an island of Greece, historically part of the Ionian Islands. It lies opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is administratively part of the Islands peripheral unit, which is part of the Attica Periphery (although at large distance from Attica itself).
Some versions of the myth of Aphrodite have her born near the island of Kythira, for which reason she is called “Cytherea”. Kythira was a stopping place for trade and culture between Crete and the Peloponesus, so these stories may preserve traces of the migration of Aphrodite’s cult from the Middle East to mainland Greece.
For many centuries, while naval travel was the only means for transportation, the island possessed a strategic location. Since ancient times, until the mid 19th century, Kythira had been a crossroads of merchants, sailors, and conquerors. As such, it has had a long and varied history and has been influenced by many civilisations and cultures. This is reflected in its architecture (a blend of traditional, Aegean and Venetian elements), as well as the traditions and customs, influenced by centuries of coexistence of the Greek, Venetian, Ottoman and British civilisations as well as its numerous visitors.
Coordinates: 36°24′N 23°0′E
The island is close to the Hellenic arc plate boundary zone, and thus, a highly seismogenic part of the region. Many earthquakes in recorded history have had their epicentres near or on the island.
The Kythirian Straits, formed by the southeastern peninsula of the Peloponnese and the islands of Elafonissos and Kythira represent one of the most dangerous navigational hazards in the Mediterranean. The majority of sea-traffic transiting from Athens, Istanbul, and the Black Sea heading west of the Aegean Sea pass through the straights and are often subject to strong winds and shipwrecking on Cape Malea.
Transportation: The island in the past has been plagued by a poor infrastructure, exacerbated by the effect of weather on transportation during the winter months. However the construction of the new port in Diakofti along with the renovation of the island’s airport have significantly reduced these effects. A new road from the island’s most populated town of Potamos in the north to the island’s capital of Chora in the south is currently in the planning and development stage.
Trekking in Kythira: Kythira is a mountainous island that offers some beautiful walks. Between all these mountains, valleys and mountainsides there is a whole network of tracks and trails. In the past, when there were no automobiles and people were working in the field, trails were used to cut distances and time. Those trails still exist today, some of which are well hidden underneath Kythira’s vegetation. We will show you some paths that are in good condition and that hikers often take. (more info…)
Fishing in Kythira: You have come to the Sea of Kythira, the richest sea of the Mediterranean. Do you like to venture out on the rocks with a fishing rod, or are you partial to greater adventures and you would like to borrow a small craft to go fishing in a bight? Seek all the necessary information from the port authorities, and off you go! A whole school of fish will be on your plate at lunchtime. Common fishing techniques include net fishing, long line fishing, pole-and-line fishing and harpooning. (more info…)
Canyoning in Kythira: A wild and very beautiful gorge, also known as Kakia Lagada. It starts in Palaiochora, a Byzantine citadel formally called Agios Dimitrios, and stretches all the way to the northern coast of Kythira, east of Agia Pelagia, to Limni (the lake). The mouth of the gorge forms a lake, hence the name of the place. Walking along the gorge is a difficult task and requires proper gear. In two places you will need to use a rope. In the winter it is impossible to cross the gorge as the waters form several deep lagoons here and there. (more info…)
Bicycling in Kythira: Cycling in Kythira requires the muscles and the lungs of an athlete. As you get to know the island you will understand that this is far from being the ideal place for cycling! That is, unless you have a craving for rugged trails, since Kythira is an island of hills. Nevertheless, there are places where cycling is easier, such as Agia Pelagia, Diakofti, Palaiopoli and Avlemonas, as will as some trails in Kalamos, Livadi, Logothetianika and Gerakari. You can also go on asphalted or stony paths. You need to be extremely careful on asphalted paths as automobiles drive at high speeds and visual range is limited because of bends in the roads and plants that sometimes grow in very thick patches along the road. (more info…)
Birdwatching in Kythira: One of the most beautiful villages close to nature is Milopotamos, a traditional village with lush vegetation and abundant waters. Heart of the village is a stream that crosses it, leading to the Neraida (Fairy) waterfalls and to Milli where nature blossoms. The bravest visitors can dive in the waterfalls and follow the water flow through the valley of the watermills.
Landscapes of similar beauty can also be found in the area of Portokalia in Karavas in the north of the island, as well as in Vrisi between the villages of Mitata and Viaradika, which can be easily crossed on two streams, enjoying a beautiful route.
A rather difficult route is the one through the canyon of Paleochora, where the scenery is amazing but also quite inhospitable.
The gorge is a passage of migratory birds and there is significant presence of the Cretan maple and other species of plants. In any case, prospective walkers should be cautious to take all the necessary measures for their safety.
An equally important “passage” for migratory birds is the island of Antikythera. In recent years there has been considerable scientific activity from the Greek Ornithological Society and a Bird Station with several bird-watching spots operates, offering an alternative form of tourism and promoting the island’s sustainable development.
Archaeological Museum of Kythira
Unfortunately, Kythira does not have a museum that does justice to its history. The building that housed the Archaeological Museum was donated by the fraternity of Kythireans 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 Kythira”. 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 Kythira – 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.
After many years of work in Kythira the Greek Department of Byzantine Antiquities exhibited a valuable collection of Byzantine and meta-Byzantine works of art in the small meta-Byzantine chapel of Analipsis in Kato Livadi. The Metropolitan Church of Kythira donated several of those pieces. There are also some Byzantine frescoes as well as icons and various church service items. Since the Byzantine legacy is much too large for this small museum most of the pieces are kept in the warehouses of the Metropolitan Church of Kythira.
Accommodation on Kythira
• Kythira Island Project (KIP)
An introduction to a range of KIP research activities dedicated to studying the long-term cultural and environmental history of the island of Kythira (Greece) and its place in a wider world.
Kythera-Family.net aims to preserve the rich heritage of this wonderful island. Members of the community are invited to submit their family collection of stories, photographs, recipes, maps, oral histories, historical documents, songs and poems, home remedies etc. to the site.