By Thomas Panagiotopoulos

A very narrow channel of only 200 meters separates Pano from Kato Koufonisi, and for the last years they are both among the most attractive destinations in the Aegean.



For many years they were a very peculiar destination, with their own distinct character, which was probably set up by a particular class of people who visited them on a regular basis. They were considered to be the shelter for those who seek something more, isolation and unlimited freedom, out of the ordinary and far from the predetermined holiday style, in a totally pure landscape, unaffected by tourist development. Lately, however, things have changed. Pano Koufinisi has been an unprecedented, rapid tourist development gathering every year more and more people. But it is not the same with Kato Koufonisi.  The entire island has been nominated as an archaeological site and remains almost uninhabited.

Kato Koufonissi
ΚουφονήσιαWe gradually approached the windless cove which hosts the picturesque port of the island, located in the northeastern end. The unique and now deserted small village takes us back many years, when a dozen families lived in the few stone houses and most of them were from Amorgos. On the 15th of Augoust all the people from Pano Koufonisi are here. Since dawn the boats carry locals and visitors for free, to the big feast in the courtyard of Panagia. With smelt, donuts and lots of ouzo offered under the big reeds, the feast of the Virgin Mary is the most important event of Kato Koufonisi.

At the southern end of the bay, in front of the low stone houses, there is one more pier where we tied up. We took the road made of concrete following the small pier and a few meters away we reached the famous tavern of Venetsanos. It is open every summer and now it is the traditional hangout of Kato Koufonisi, a meeting point for the holidaymakers to have fun.

Many people visit the small tavern only to try the delicious lamb of Keros as well as John and Sophia’s incredible soup called “kakavia”.

Circumnavigation
ΚαστελλοιLeaving the harbor we sailed around the island, whose perimeter is no more than seven miles. With an oblong shape and large bays, it hosts beautiful beaches. First we wandered around the eastern side of the island, which is very well protected from the winds. In the southern part of the eastern side of the island, there is the most extended beach called “Nero”, which is the most beautiful and popular of Kato Koufonisi. The most attractive part of the beach Nero is that which is in front of the large palm tree. Here a deep stream flows, which is overrun with vegetation and it is the focus point of free campers. At this point, the beach widens substantially and the huge sea trees together with the palm tree look like a small oasis, with a touch of exotic tropical beauty. Hammocks hanging on the large tree branches, tents Όρμος Δέτηand improvised accommodation, barbecues and makeshift seats around, serve as a meeting point during the night for the permanent beach residents. Together, they are a big party and with guitars and songs entertain themselves nicely until dawn.

Passing by the southern cape of Nero we turn on the south side of the island, where there is the large bay Pezoulia. In the inner part of the bay there is the beach sharing the same name, which is sheltered by the winds and is a very good place to stay overnight.

Passing by the small bay of Agriomelissa in the middle of the island, we arrive at the northwest end. Here are Kastelli, which compose undoubtedly the most exciting place in Kato Koufonisi. The scattered rocks, which emerge from the turquoise waters in beautiful formations and the narrow beach below the vertical sharp rocks, will fascinate us.

Ano Koufonisi
Ano Koufonisi may well be proud of claiming the title of the clearest waters in  Cyclades. And of course, it is not by chance that it is the most popular and most developed island of the Small Cyclades. With many rooms to let, wonderful taverns by the sea and bars that have made history, it welcomes every year more and more visitors, who literally invade every corner.
Ano KoufonisiThe golden beaches and the fantastic turquoise waters that we find only in exotic places, the numerous small beaches formed by oblong strips of rocks which penetrate the sea for many metros create consecutive natural pools and sea caves. The latter are formed by countless hollow rocks which are the reason that the two small islands are named like that and are the main attractions that have made Ano Koufonisi famous.

Many people have described it as the “Mykonos of the Small Cyclades” because of the intense nightlife, but this does not mean that there are no quiet and picturesque corners for those who prefer to spend more calm and romantic evenings.

With a round shape and a perimeter of no more than six nautical miles, it is a small and almost flat island, ideal for a walking tour. The local residents are almost 350 but during summertime they are over 2000. The only small village on the island spreads around the extended beach of Ammos and gives us a first impression of the crystal clear waters and the quality of beaches that we will find there.

Ano KoufonisiAt the western end of the bay Ammos, there is the old pier where the small ferries tie. Next to the pier, the construction of the new marina has recently been completed, and it provides a significant solution to the issue of the yachts’ anchoring.

A little further in the west, there is the natural harbor of Parianos. Its entrance overlooks south, where there are two breakwaters of large blocks, making it the safest anchorage at all times. Here is, also, where all the fishing boats of the island spend the winter.

Circumnavigation
In Ano Koufonisi the “circumnavigation” can be done on foot, since it is in the most part an almost flat island and the distances are very short.

From the eastern part of Ammos to the northeastern cape of Pori the most beautiful beaches of the island extend in a row. In just two miles, there are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful beaches of the Aegean. For some Platia Pounta or else Italida as it is usually called is the best, while for others it is the more distant Pori. In fact, it is impossible to single out one. They all have fine golden sand and crystal clear turquoise waters, which give you a strong sense that you are in a tropical paradise.

The eastern edge of the bay Ammos is the starting point of the concrete road that goes along the coast and soon leads us to the beach Phoenikas. At the southern end of the beach there is a small concrete pier, while in the northern end a trail begins that leads to the long beach of Fanos. This is another exotic beach, where there is the café with the same name inviting you for a short stop. It is very nicely decorated, with low benches and stone paved streets next to the seashore, wishing to cool the people who walk and swim near the beach. A few steps away there is the famous Italida. It is the smallest beach that will surely make you lose your heart.  However, it is very difficult to find free space to put even a small towel, since it is the favorite beach of many visitors.

Ano KoufonisiIn Phoenikas, Fanos and Italida, the sea is so calm that makes us forget that we are in  Cyclades. But once we set out off the cape of Milonas, the breeze is getting strong and the sea is almost permanently white because of the waves. From the cape of Milonas to Pori we find successive narrow Valles, in the inner part of which there are very small pebbles.

Continuing our route in the distinct path we finally arrive at the northeastern end of the island, where there is the bay Pori. It is well formed with an almost circular shape, and this is where the most distant and longest beach of the island is. Covered with fine sand and crystal clear turquoise waters it attracts many visitors. However, in the extended beach, there is plenty of room for everyone.