“Farewell hustle and bustle” is the first thing that springs to mind as we ferry across the two small Greek islands in the Little Cyclades, which are separated by a mere 200-meter narrow strait. Pano Koufonisi and Kato Koufonisi, aka the Koufonisi Islands, offer the perfect opportunity for visitors to relax in serene coves characterized by shimmering golden sand, turquoise blue waters and a wide range of seafood.
A day at Pori Beach
Koufonisi has been a tourist destination only since 1965. Our host Vassilis, of ASTRA VILLAS, epitomizes the hospitality of the islanders. Together with his brother, he purchased a plot of land on which they developed 10 small villas in 2006. From there, Pori Beach - the largest of the island - is an easy walk.
Accessible by car, bike, or boat, Pori Beach is particularly popular because of its naturally formed rock swimming pools and the beautiful backdrop that is recreated by the vivid contrast of rocks, sand and water.
Scuba divers also come here to explore sea caves Xylobatis and To Mati Tou Diavolou. Pori Beach offers reasons to come also to those who are simply looking for an idyllic lunch of fresh fish while glimpsing at the shimmerling blue waters spreading in front of us. We went for the fancy restaurant, Capetan Nicolas, and tasted the lamb stew and chickpea puree; beetroot with sesame seeds and a refreshing orange mousse.
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The neighbouring islands
There is no doubt that exploring Koufonisi island by boat is the best way to access the lonely beaches where you can fish, dive and leisure in water sports.
We decided to charter a tour with Captain Kostas Prasinos, a former fisherman whose been at sea for most of his 75 years. Nowadays, he mostly ferries tourists to the most beautiful bays as well as transferring sick people over to Naxos by sea. He took us to the traditional and charming tavern on Kato Koufonisi where we enjoyed the familiar and friendly atmosphere as well as supposedly the best fish soup on the small Cyclades.
Boat connections to the neighbouring islands of Prasoura, Glaronysi, Voulgari, Tsouloufi, Lazaros and Megali are a great way for visitors to experience the paradisiacal landscapes and idyllic beaches around Koufonisi island. And keep in mind that, on bright moonlit nights, neighbouring Keros island resembles nothing less than a woman lounging in the waters of the Aegean Sea.
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Sustainable and exclusive
Mayor Antonis Koveos does not wish to expose Koufonisi island to mass tourism. He values a more sustainable form of tourism and doesn’t allow cruise ships to dock in the small harbour town (scarcely 400 inhabitants).
In the summer, 75 fishermen are enough to support the island’s entire demand for fresh fish. On the 15th of August, the fishermen sail in group to the neighbouring island of Kato Koufonisi, and are happy to take visitors with them. Given the manageable number of visitors, it is easy and uncomplicated to engage with the local population. Koufonisi has just 50,000 visitors per year.
The eponymous capital is a typical Cycladic fishing village with picturesque streets, whitewashed houses and characteristic windmill. The church at the centre of the village is dedicated to the island’s patron saint, Agios Georgios.
Folegandros, 40 km northwest of Santorini, also has its back turned to hectic activity. The absence of an airport makes the island only accessible by ferry. Less than 800 inhabitants live on Folegandros with only three of its villages inhabited the whole year round.
The main town of Chora, perched atop a 200 m high cliff offers breath-taking views; the whitewashed houses, with their colourful shutters and doors, recall children’s building bricks. A paved serpentine path leads up to the Panagia church where Ancient columns testify that prayers were being offered in pre-Christian times. The temple was dedicated to Artemis and her brother Apollo, as you can see by the inscriptions in the basement of the basilica. Looking at the bell tower, which incorporates a Roman torso, it is clear history left its mark.
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Windmills and Crown Princes instead of overcrowded resorts
The old Cycladic windmills prove that not much has changed over the years in Folegandros.
Nevertheless, the island is not missing on modern, Mediterranean-style villas that rise high above the shore and boost infinity pools with great views over the sea. Just like the taverns set in tiny terraces where to sit on small, colourfully braided chairs under twinkling fairy lights. Here you can taste freshly caught, grilled fish as well as meat seasoned with local herbs.
Folegandros enjoys a regal presence as it is the favoured summer holiday destination of Princes Paul and Nikoalos, the sons of the last Greek king, and their families.
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