11 must-do things to do in Kea

visiter kea grece montagnes villas mer

Are you heading to the Greek Cyclades and, in particular, the island of Kea? Here are the 8 best things to do in Kea, from sightseeing to swimming.

Kea is the island closest to the capital Athens. With a surface area of just over 130 km², it is mountainous and arid in summer. Unlike most other Cycladic islands, you won’t find your typical white houses here. Instead, the houses are cubic and built of local stone.

With its wild places, mountains and beautiful beaches, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy your vacation. All the more so as the address is quiet and still little known…

1. The island’s capital: Ioulida

ioulida grece ile kea

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Milan Gonda

The village of Ioulida (also known as Chora or Ioulis) is not to be missed. The capital of Kea is a fine example of Cycladic architecture. It lies on a mountainside, surrounded by hills and lush greenery. It boasts beautiful whitewashed houses and neoclassical buildings. The winding staircases and narrow lanes make for charming strolls. The cafés and taverns, particularly around the town hall, offer a well-deserved break in the shade. The view over the high valleys, with its plantations of oak and almond trees, is a sight to behold. Vineyards and vegetable gardens are also well developed. To learn more about Ioulida, visit its archaeological museum. The site features exhibits from the island’s ancient sites. In summer, it’s open Tuesday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

2. The lion of Kea

lion de kea en grece

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Violeta Meleti

The Lion of Kea was carved out of the rock in the 7th century BC. With his beautiful smile, the animal preserves the capital. He watches over it. It can be discovered after an easy fifteen-minute walk. Donkeys sometimes take the same route. The heat remains the main difficulty. Don’t forget to bring something to cover up and stay hydrated.

The lion of Kea symbolizes the famous lion that caused the nymphs to leave the island. Known at the time as Hydroussa, the humid, wooded island became a site of drought. The island soon regained its prosperity and the lion became the symbol of fertility.

3. North of Kea island

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / Mouchoir Photography

Vourkari is a beautiful fishing village set in a bay. Today, fishing boats stand side by side with tall ships and luxury yachts. After a stroll through the village streets, treat yourself. Restaurants and taverns invite you to sample seafood. Small art galleries abound. There’s even a small sandy beach to the right of the village.

At sunset, the archaeological site and church of Ayia Irini, located on the opposite peninsula, shine. You can walk to the lighthouse at Aglos Nikolaos and then on to Otzlas, the starting point for many hikes.

4. The south of Kea: villages and archaeological sites

site archeologique karthera ile de kea

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Violeta Meleti

The difference between the green north of the island and the much more arid south of Kea is impressive. From the village of Kato Meria, in the south-east of the island of Kea, a hiking trail leads to the ancient site of Karthea. It leads to the ancient site of Karthea. It takes 1h30 to walk up and 2h to walk back down. Temples and remains can be seen on site. For bathing enthusiasts, there’s a wild beach.

Other beautiful villages are well worth a visit. The Pisses valley, on the east coast, boasts a beautiful beach. Enjoy lunch by the sea in one of the restaurants.

Continue on to Koundouros. With its beautiful dry-stone houses, discover the local traditions. You’ll also discover well-restored mills and beautiful little coves. Nearby, the pretty village of Kambi is also well worth a visit.

5. The site of ancient Karthaia

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / Violeta Meleti

Karthaia was Kea’s most important city in ancient times. It was fortified and had six entrances. Towers protected the surrounding area. The city functioned independently, with its own laws. To get there, set off early in the morning from the village of Ioulida. Walk towards the village of Chavouna. Just before this village, you’ll find directions to Karthaia. Visit the site before taking a dip on Kaliskia beach.

6. The port of Kea: Korissia

kea port korissia

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Milan Gonda

Korissia is a port in a hilly bay on the west side of the island. It’s lined with beautiful white houses with red-tiled roofs. These are traditional buildings.

The statue of Kouros, dating from the 6th century BC, was located here. It is now housed in the National Archaeological Museum.

7. The monastery of Panagia Kastriani

monastere kastriani ile de kea

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Georgios Alexandris

In the north of the island, the monastery of Panayia is 12 km from Ioulida. Legend has it that shepherds saw a light at the top of Kastri hill around 1700. They dug at the precise spot of the light to find an icon of the Virgin Mary.

Since then, a church dedicated to Mary has been built. The building, in white and blue, has the colors of the Cyclades. The setting is serene and offers breathtaking views. The access road is a little winding, but easy to navigate.

8. The beaches of Kea

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / Christos Tsartsianidis

Now you can choose where to swim on the island of Kea. If you prefer a more intimate setting, head for the beaches that are difficult to access. Some are accessible by road, others just by foot. The must: beaches accessible only by boat.

Before setting off, beware of the wind. In this case, avoid the beaches of Otzias and Korissa. They offer little shelter.

Here are the most beautiful beaches of Kea:

  • Pisses and its crystal-clear waters. This beautiful beach is surrounded by trees.
  • Otzias is a large, partly developed sandy beach. It still has a wild feel, with its typical almond and olive trees. It is very popular at weekends. This beach should be avoided in windy conditions, but it remains the island’s largest beach.
  • Koundouros is the best beach on Kea and offers two areas. One is freely accessible, while the other is equipped with umbrellas, deckchairs and water sports facilities. There are showers, a play area and shade… In windy conditions, the beach is sheltered. With its shallow, crystal-clear waters, it’s easy to see why it’s so sought-after… A little further along the coast, you’ll discover Kampi beach with its vegetation or Liparo, a pretty, secluded beach.
  • Glaliskari is surrounded by eucalyptus and pine trees. It lies between Korissia and Vourkari. With its fine sand and trendy bars, it’s the perfect place to spend a lazy day.
  • Spathi is located in the north-east of the island. With its crystal-clear waters, this beach lies at the foot of an arid, rocky landscape. You don’t need to be loaded to get to this beach. The access road is complicated…
  • Discover also the wild beach of Sikamnia

9. Hikes and geological discoveries

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Photo credit: Shutterstock / siete_vidas

Hiking enthusiasts will be delighted. Kea boasts a number of ancient paved footpaths, recounting the history and evolution of the island’s relief.

Geology enthusiasts are also in for a treat. There are many small caves in Kea. Discover Kálamos or Áyios Timótheos. There are four ancient cities: Ioulis, Koressia and Karthaia: Ioulis, Koressia, Karthaia and Poiessa. Paved tracks are still visible.

10. Diving to shipwreck sites

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Photo credit: Allan Green, public domain photo, on Wikimedia Commons

Many shipwrecks have taken place around Kea. Today, some of them are open to the public. The first is the replica of the Titanic. HMHS Brittanic ran aground near the island’s port in 1916. Diving is only permitted for professionals.

Amateur divers can fall back on Patris, a Greek vessel dating from 1868. She rests near the Koundouros banks.

11. Birdwatching

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Photo credit: Shuttertsock / Korpithas

Birdwatchers shouldn’t forget their cameras. The island of Kea boasts the largest oak forest in the Cyclades. Birds are plentiful. Watching them is a real delight, especially at sunrise, when the island is very calm and nature takes over.

How do I get to Kea island?

From France

To reach Kea, you’ll first need to take a flight to Athens. Many airlines offer this service from France. But beware: prices soar in high season! To anticipate your departure and find a flight at the best price for your departure dates, check out the fares on Ulysse.

From Athens

Once you’re in Athens, you’ve got a choice. You can rent a car on arrival for a completely independent stay, or take a cab to the port of Lavrio. Either way, it takes just over 30 minutes to get there.

Finally, from Lavrio, take the boat to the island of Kea. Allow just over an hour for the crossing.

Note: you can also depart from the port of Piraeus for Milos. A stopover is made on the island of Kea.

Where to stay in Kea?

The island of Kea offers a wide range of accommodation options. You’ll find accommodation facing the sea, more confidential addresses, traditional lodgings… Here again, don’t hesitate to browse the offers on a hotel comparator, which, whatever your criteria, will offer you a wide selection of accommodation.

Looking for a more typical experience? Think local homes. In fact, Airbnb offers a number of homestays, in whole or shared accommodation, for an authentic stay!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Kea