Written by: Eleni Psaromialou
It wasn’t supposed to be a difficult question.
“Where are you going this summer?”
But like everyone who has children can attest to, the time of the year when you have to decide where you are going on vacation is quite the puzzle! As a parent, I often end up feeling like a tennis player that tries to score the most points while running around hitting a metaphorical ball that dodges the questions and expectations of some particularly hard to please children and some grownups. Every year, our foolproof plan of action is to pick an island in Greece. However, this year we decided to colour outside the lines and head somewhere in the mainland.
We all know what happens when you try to be adventurous and do something different, we went to an island!
It is of particular importance though, that this is not just any island, it is a precious island. Kythira!
The idea to visit Kythira had been brewing in our heads for so many years but there always seemed to be some kind of last-minute hesitation. By that stage, I was feeling a bit like the main character in the famous Greek movie “We Only Have One Life” that goes through life dreaming about Kythira convinced that it is the only place on earth where he can find peace and be in love. Sadly the movie character never got to go to the island.
Our holiday was finally starting!
There we were on the car driving in the Peloponnese Peninsula towards Kythira, everybody happy and excited. To make it a bit easier for ourselves we decided to break the trip in two by spending the night in Gythio. Wise choice! It made sure that both adults and children were well-rested and ready for the rest of our journey.
The trip on the boat was brief and pleasant. We sat at the upper deck the whole time enjoying the gentle sea breeze and the seagulls up above. Our arrival at the island coincided with lunchtime. We decided that was a great opportunity to sit right there at the harbour at a little tavern that was practically on the beach.
It instantly felt like we were always meant to be there.
Not only was the food amazing but the unique sensation of stepping our naked feet in the warm sand gave us the impression that the island was welcoming us and that we were already well connected.
For our sleeping arrangements, we picked something family-centred. A nice apartment inland with a great view of the hills that were full of low growing bushes, cypress trees and olive trees. The next morning, and every other morning after that, we enjoyed our breakfast at the terrace admiring the sunrise, while falcons flew near us. The owner of the house had also kindly offered as a breakfast choice different delectable Kytherian delicacies that included home-made rusks, tea and honey. We had also brought along some cheese, sesame bars (pasteli) and fruit so we were feeling full of energy. It was simple but authenticly Greek and it made us feel both proud and content.
Exploring the island was the next step. Kythira is an island that is easy to navigate. There are traffic signs everywhere and the scenery is so picturesque getting lost is never an issue. In our drive, we crossed through tiny and less tiny villages, all with different styles of architecture that is partly due to the many conquerors that came through the island.
If you stop to admire the villages you will be awarded the sight of churches, bridges, squares, convents, castles, olives presses and windmills.
The roads are narrow, snaking up and down the hills but the countryside is so pleasant as it unfolds in front of you. Bridges connect the land above streams and small rivers. Sycamore trees and reeds are all around.
Gorges with lush vegetation, waterfalls, and trails are all there waiting to be explored.
In addition to everything else, the island has an abundance of beaches to choose from depending on what you like and how far you are willing to drive. We visited many of them in order to get a full picture of what the island has to offer. What can I say, it was a hard task!
What we soon realized, was that they are all very different from each other. In terms of our favourite, we picked Kaladi. The kids loved jumping from the rocks into the sea almost as much as they loved snorkelling by the rocky slopes exploring and looking for crabs, seashells and octopuses.
Chalkos and Melidoni beaches were our second best. We felt so relaxed and we really enjoyed swimming and exploring.
The kids also loved to go around and pretend to be little explorers and we felt safe and calm to allow them to do that. Apart from all the swimming, we did some sightseeing. One of our favourite excursions was our visit to the castle, where we had a stunning view of the sea and Kapsali harbour. We also visited some of the nearby caves that have hidden churches beautifully adorned with religious frescoes inside.
Walking around, we saw and entered an old windmill, and an olive press factory, where we discovered the process of oil extraction and a pottery workshop, where my daughter was very astonished to see a girl around her age working. Her precision with the brush, painting gorgeous designs on the newly sculpted pottery made us stop and linger for quite a while.
Next, the bakery at Karavas, where we bought rusks, biscuits, nuts and honey. Breakfast as well as all other meals on the island far exceeded our expectations and were delicious, simple and respectful of the ingredients they contain. I would not be surprised to find out that Kythera is in a few years regarded as one of the major foodie destinations since all of the food we tasted was divine.
For dessert, which always follows a meal when you are in Kythira, we chose to try honey based almond cookies and spoon sweets. The children, as expected, went for the fresh ice cream which was prepared each day in different flavours at a nice bar in Chora.
As you wander around Kythira island, you might notice that it has a distinct feel and look different to that of all other islands. That realization makes sense when you find out how many conquerors have occupied this little island, as well as the pirates that have left their distinct mark. In addition to the people, religion has influenced the image of the island and that too soon becomes obvious by the number of churches and convents.
If pirate stories, myths and hidden treasures are something that peak your interest, Kythira has a lot to deliver. The sea around the island is full of shipwrecks. One of the most famous wrecks that happened off the coast of Antikythera provided historians with an abundance of precious artifacts. Included in their findings was the Antikythera mechanism a mysterious astrological object that was used as an ancient analogue computer.
To take you back to the beginning, travelling as a family can become quite complicated. It requires you to take the needs of everyone into consideration and that includes quite a bit of compromising. In Kythera, there was no wrong decision, no wrong hotel choice or restaurant. We were constantly in delight and we had a marvellous time. Our children will always remember our holidays as a place they felt safe and happy. The memories they created there will bring smiles for many years to come.
- This family trip to Kythira was one of our best. We might finaly have settled on a destination that everybody enjoys. Maybe next year we will see you there too!