Kythnos is one of the western Cyclades Islands situated between Kea and Serifos. It is 104 km from the harbor of Piraeus. Kythnos has more than 70 beaches, many of which are still inaccessible by road.
The two settlements of greatest significance on Kythnos are the village of Messaria or Kythnos, known locally as Chora, and the village of Dryopida, also known as Chorio. Both have winding and often stepped streets, too narrow for any vehicles. They are quite picturesque but each in its own architectural style. Chora has the more-typical flat roofs of the Cyclades, while Driopida’s rooftops are slanted and tiled.
There is also a village called Kanala on the east side of the island growing steadily because of tourism, and many of the larger beaches are settled by a handful of residents. Agios Dimitrios, at the southern tip of the island, is a modern village, with small vacation houses on the hillside above a wide beach. On the northeast end of the island lies Loutra, the tiny village which is famous for its thermal springs with curative benefits, so it says. The bathhouse is still functioning and visitors may soak in its marble tubs for a modest fee.
The port is called Merichas. Many residents of the port speak at least some English, which is the most popular second language. Merichas is connected to Piraeus and to Lavrio by ferry boat, and the ride takes one to four hours, depending on the speed of the ship and the weather. Construction of a new mole to accommodate larger ferryboats was completed in 2008.
On Kythnos one of the oldest known habitations in the Cycladic islands, that of a Meolithic settlement (10000 BCE – 8000 BCE), has been found. You will find it at Maroulas on the northeast coast quite close to the village of Loutra. It is situated on the shore and a large part of it has been eroded into the sea. During excavating in 1996 intact human skeletons were found, along with stone artifacts and part of a floor pavement, which indicates a long-term settlement, probably of hunter-gatherers.
Traditionally the Kythnians mainly earned their living as they had always done: as shepherds or by fishing. The island had few natural resources and, lacking a deep-water mooring for boats, was rather inaccessible. Then, in the beginning of the 20th century, iron ore was discovered on the island and Kythnians were able to supplement their incomes by working in the mines. This went on until World War II, after which once again, the Kythnians were left without occupation and the young people left to find employment and a better life in Athens or abroad.
The Greek tourist boom beginning in the mid-20th century didn’t affect Kythnos at all since its harbor lacked a deep-water dock for ferryboats. Today, the island is a modern, prosperous place, with growing tourist trade. It is in the forefront of alternative energy experiments, with the establishment in 1983 of Greece’s first windmill park. With the addition of a photovoltaic system and storage batteries, the amount of diesel fuel required to supply the island’s electricity has been reduced by 11%. Numerous individual houses on remote coves are equipped with photovoltaic systems, and nearly all houses employ solar water heaters.
Kythnos, situated close to Athens, has become a fashionable island for vacation homes, as well as being an accessible destination for tourists. Besides its many beaches (around 70) and picturesque villages, it is also home to one of the largest caves in Greece, the Katafiki Cave in Dryopida. In the 1830s the cave was visited by the geologist Fiedler who described it as containing unique rock formations and speleotherms. It was the site of the previous mentioned iron mine until 1939 which today has been developed into a tourist attraction.
Things to do
Health travel: In modern times Kythnos took its second name, “Thermia”, from the hot springs, located in the picturesque cove of Loutra, on the northeast coast. The Baths which accommodate the unique thermal springs of the Cyclades have in recent years been developed for tourism, as well. There are two hot springs. The one, the Saints Anargyri is saline and located inside the spa. It has been operating for many years, and attracting many visitors. The second, called the spring of Kakavou, located 50 meters from the first, is containing iodide, bromide and chloride and the temperature reaches 52ºC. It seems that the springs are beneficial for the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and gynecological diseases.