Kithnos at Sunset
Written by Missy Johnston
The small, mountainous island of Kithnos, Greece in the Cycladic Islands has a harsh volcanic terrain with many pretty bays and anchorages. Known for curative hot springs both today and in Ancient times, which drew people from surrounding islands to visit in the hopes of being healed by the waters.
Although there is little vegetation, locals grow olives and make wine. This is also an island known for capers, which can be found in a variety of container sizes, in virtually every village. And, the island is unique in the Cyclades with varied architecture and modern towns.
The island was probably settled by the Driopes in the 12th century BC, led by King Kithnos. Their society, which was well organized, impressed Aristotle, who called the island state, “ideal”. The ancient historian Agisidimos and the painters Timanthis and Kydias came from Kythnos.
Ownership of Kithnos passed through many hands from Ancient Times to today. The Macedonians conquered the island in the 4th century BC, being followed by the Romans in the 2nd century AD who used the island as a place for exiles. Later, this island also passed through the hands of the Venetians and Turks.
What to See and Do on Kithnos Island, Greece
Chora: The island’s capital has lovely churches with fine wood-carvings and icons. Built on a hilltop and surrounded by farms, this is a classic Cycladic village of white houses and narrow streets built starting in the 17th Century deliberately up in the hills out of sight of marauding pirates. The church of Agia Triada in this village is the oldest on the island. The church of Saint Savas was built in 1613. In Messaria Square is the church of the Panagia; the center of activities on the 15th of August, the feast day of the Virgin Mary.
Loutra: Meaning literally “Baths”, Loutra is named for the hot springs in the center of town that run across the beach and into the sea. The presence of hot mineral springs in Loutra and their therapeutic properties has been known since ancient times giving the island the name of “Thermia” by which Kythnos island was then known. In town is a Spa designed by Ernst Ziller that was frequented by King Otto and Queen Amalia. Today, the Spas of Kythnos include a spa unit with hydro massage & 14 baths all belonging to the EOT (The Hellenic Tourism Organization). However, for those not interested in a Spa or paying for the right to receive the therapeutic benefits of the waters, the Springs run out of the Spa building into a small pool built from rocks for anyone to enjoy. Loutra has a great protected harbor for sailors. Tavernas ring the harbor offering a variety of local fare, some with chairs and tables right on the water.
Kolonna and Fykiada Beach: A “double” beach with a long sandy thin stretch of sand out to a point of land separating the two beaches, this is a lovely location to anchor and enjoy swimming and water sports.
Driopis: An inland town, like Chora, Driopis is also a maze of little winding streets between white buildings, however unlike the buildings in Chora, these buildings have slanted roofs covered in ceramic tiles, as this area has always produced ceramics, which are still being produced today. Here there are many churches as well as a folklore museum. In the church of Agios Georgios is a small Byzantine museum.
Flambouria: A small village southwest of Chora, and on the water, where the Church of Pangia Flambouriani is located, southwest of Kithnos town. According to legend, there are traces in stone steps between the Aegean Sea and the church, left from the steps of the Virgin Mary. Fragrant lilies bloom in the area in the summer.
Panagia Kanala: Inside the monastery of Panagia Kanala, situated near the village of Kanala, is the icon of the Virgin Mary. It was found in Kanali and according to tradition is the work of Luke the Evangelist. Scholars, however, attribute it to a 15th century folk artist. This icon is said to have miraculous powers and is often visited by those who believe.
Festivals: With 359 churches there is a good chance a festival might be occurring somewhere on the island when you visit with music, food and dancing with villagers dressed in traditional costumes. Festivals on this island can last all night and well into the next day. The islanders of Kithnos are considered some of the best traditional dancers in Greece. The primary instruments played for dance music during these festivals are the violin, laouto and the tsambouna, bagpipes made of goatskin, which have been played in the islands for thousands of years.
Kithnos is known for its very traditional products like amigdelota (almond cookies), thyme honey, sausages, ceramics and wine. The pottery, cheese and wine of Kithnos were famous as well in antiquity. This is a quiet little island where locals live as in yesteryear, and many feel that when visiting Kithnos, one will see the “real” Greece.