Koufonisia, an up-and-coming retreat
Not far from Schinousa is Kato (Lower) Koufonisi, right next to the eastern coast of Naxos and very close to Paros. Uninhabited since 1960s, this island is ideal for a one-day trip to relax and enjoy the raw beauty of the Aegean Sea. You can dock your boat in Panagia, the island’s old village, and swim in the beaches Detis and Lakoi nearby, both sandy and with crystal clear waters. Another option is the somehow bigger beach of Nero (‘water’) where you may meet other holidaymakers from Naxos and Upper Koufonisi. If you are lucky you may come across a wedding in the old church of Panagia and receive an invitation to the lavish dinner that usually follows a Greek wedding. If you charter a yacht in Greece and visit the Lesser Cyclades in mid August, don’t miss the feast of Holy Mary on 15th August. In the summer you can also try delicious fish and ‘meze’ at the traditional tavern of Venetsanos in Panagia.
Just 200 meters from Kato Koufonisi is located its bigger sibling, Ano (Upper) Koufonisi, a paradise of mindblowing natural beauty that is better explored by boat. This smallish island is the star of the Lesser Cyclades, massively popular among younger Greeks, especially from Athens. No car is needed here if you have arranged a boat hire in Greece, as this is the smallest island of the Cyclades that has a permanent population around the year. You can dock in the port right next to Chora, the only village of the island. On the southern and eastern part of the island you will find idyllic beaches such as Loutro, Parianos, Foinikas, Italida, Pisina and Fanos, as well as a rugged scenery of vertiginous cliffs. The highest point of the island is just 113m from the sea level, making this unique place a hiker’s paradise. Hikers will enjoy the route from Chora to the Church of Profitis Ilias on the top of the island, where you can admire from above the beauty of the Aegean Sea in the summer. On the north you can visit by boat the beach Pori, as well as the sea caves in Xilobatis: rugged rocks that shape coves, such as the famous ‘Devil’s Eye’, and small, enclosed beaches that look like natural swimming pools.
Keros, an ancient pearl
After a few days of relax and fun you can wave goodbye to Koufonisia and sail to Keros, a somehow bigger and different island. Although uninhabited today, Keros used to be a major hub of the Cycladic civilisation nearly 3,000 years ago. Some of the earliest and most splendid examples of Greek art, including the famous Harp Player and the flat-faced marble statues that inspired Picasso and Henry Moore, have been found in Keros. The island is a protected archaeological site and although you can dock your boat and visit its lovely beaches, you are not allowed to spend the night there.
From Keros you can sail to Amorgos in the eastern Cyclades or head back to Paros or Naxos. If you are in for something more adventurous, you can also visit dozens of smaller, uninhabited islets in the Lesser Cyclades where you can dock you boat and admire the rugged landscape of the Aegean sea. Some of them are Aspronisi, Avelonisia, Venetico, Glaronisi, Makares islands, Melantioi islands, Plaki and Tsouloufi.
Enjoy your trip in this amazing part of the Aegean Sea!