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Why Should I Visit Kea?

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Kea at a glance

The birthplace of major lyric poets and philosophers of antiquity, the mythical home of water nymphs, and the site of four major city-states of the ancient world, Kea (also known as Tzia) has a rich history that lives on to this day in every corner of the island.

This unique destination in the western Cyclades, with its exceptional archaeological treasures, impressive architectural heritage, and numerous monuments of popular culture, has an enigmatic charm all its own.

Even its abundant natural landscape, with a verdant green interior boasting luxuriant vegetation and plentiful springs, has myths and stories to tell. Picturesque churches stand in clearings in the dense oak forest, vineyards are cultivated in valleys that lead to idyllic coves with emerald waters, and ancient paved footpaths criss-cross plains dotted with orchards.

In Kea, visitors will discover a paradise for hikers as well as an aquatic playground full of legendary shipwrecks for scuba divers to explore. Elegant and sophisticated, Kea is the perfect place to spend a quiet weekend break but also to enjoy the nightlife beneath the starry sky. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit if you choose one of the ferry tickets to Kea.

10 reasons to visit Kea
  1. To walk the colourful streets of Ioulida. Built on three hills, the island’s capital retains its traditional character and distinctive artistic atmosphere. See the beautiful mansions in the Kastro neighbourhood, as well as traditional houses with red-tiled roofs, picturesque churches, and numerous wall fountains.
  2. To see the sunset from the Venetian fortress in Ioulida, built in 1210 using stones from the walls of the ancient acropolis.
  3. To admire the famous Lion of Kea in Ioulida, an imposing 7th-century-BC stone sculpture carved out of the rock. According to legend, the beast was sent by Zeus to scare the local water nymphs off the island.
  4. To discover Kea’s ancient oak forest, the only one in the Cyclades (unsurprisingly, given their dry climate), which covers the Hill of the Prophet Elijah and has been declared a protected natural monument.
  5. To visit the excellent Archaeological Museum, one of the most important in the Aegean. Its collection takes visitors on a journey into the ancient history and pre-history of Kea, from the 7th century BC to the 2nd century AD, through finds unearthed at the island’s ancient cities. Admire the sculptural decoration of the pediment from the Temple of Athena in Karthaia, as well as proto-Cycladic marble figurines from the prehistoric settlement near Agia Irini.
  6. To enjoy the sea view from the courtyard of the Monastery of Our Lady of Kastriani, the island’s protectress. Built on the edge of the imposing Kastri Hill, the historic monastery dates from 1700.
  7. To explore the archaeological site at Karthaia, the most important of the island’s four ancient city-states. According to historians of the time, it was a dazzling star of classical civilisation. Admire the walls of the ancient Acropolis, parts of the Doric temples of Pythian Apollo (530 BC) and Athena, as well as the Ancient Theatre.
  8. To go to the unique Story Festival, held in July, when traditional folk tales are narrated beneath the full moon in an atmospheric journey through popular legends.
  9. To discover a hiking paradise along the island’s enchanting trails, 65% of which are stone paved and follow the ancient road network of Kea. The routes go through dense oak forest, and pass by beautiful churches, stone windmills and fields with traditional farm buildings. It is worth following the “Aristaios” path, the ancient road that joined the city-states of Ioulida and Karthaia and crosses Mount Prophet Elijah, the island’s highest peak.
  10. To investigate the famous shipwrecks of Kea. These include the Britannic, built in 1915, one of the largest ocean liners of its time and the sister ship of the Titanic, which sank off the coast of Makronissos during World War I, and the luxury steamship Patris, which went down in 1868 near Koundouros.
The top 5 beaches

Spathi: One of Kea’s most beautiful beaches, with fine golden sand, tamarisk trees, and limpid blue waters. It has a beach bar that attracts mainly younger people and it can be reached via a dirt road.

Otzias: The island’s longest beach is a 700-metre stretch of golden sand around a sheltered bay with clear azure waters bordered by tamarisk and eucalyptus trees. The sea is shallow, making it ideal for families, while it also has sunbeds, umbrellas, cafes and tavernas. It is bracketed by two small white churches: that of the Holy Saviour at one end and St. George at the other.

Poisses: A large beach with golden velvety sand and translucent turquoise waters on the edge of a green valley of olive groves. In addition to the straw umbrellas, sun loungers, tavernas and mini-market, there is also a net for beach volleyball fans. It is well worth visiting if you choose a ferry ticket for Kea.

Sikamia: One of Kea’s most beautiful beaches enjoys an exotic setting of pristine beauty. The crystal-clear emerald waters lapping at the sand and shingle shore make this an idyll well-worth seeking out, even though it is quite difficult to reach (via a dirt road). There are no facilities here, so make sure you bring everything you need, including water.

Xyla: Kea’s most exotic beach is a paradise for would-be castaways and lovers of seclusion. With its sand and shingle and deep azure waters, it is an impressive setting. Amenities are limited to a few umbrellas, so make sure you have all the necessary supplies before you go. Access is via a dirt road.

Don’t leave Kea without…
  • Exploring the lush green region of Milopotamos and admiring the old water mills, unique examples of vernacular architecture in various colours. Most of the eleven date from the period of Ottoman rule and are powered by a fast-flowing spring.
  • Seeing the historic Town Hall (1902), an impressive neoclassical building designed by Ernst Ziller. The façade is adorned with clay statues of Apollo and Hermes, while the western side incorporates an ancient female sculpture and a relief carving of a classical scene.
  • Taking an afternoon stroll around the picturesque Vourkari, a fishing village famous for its popular bars and seafood tavernas. Lit up at night, the tiny harbour full of yachts is unforgettably beautiful.
  • Stopping in the main stegadi (covered passageway) on Piatsa Square to admire the murals by the famous Greek artist Alekos Fassianos.
  • Visiting the old Enamel Factory in Korissia, one of the most important monuments of industrial culture in Greece. Operating between 1927 and 1957, it once produced the largest number of enamelled household utensils in the Mediterranean. The site is dominated by an imposing 45-metre-high chimney.
Tasty experiences
  • If you choose one of the ferry tickets to Kea, don’t miss the opportunity to try paspala (a local speciality with pieces of pork meat, eggs, and tomato).
  • Enjoy tsigaropita, a local bread containing tsigara (pieces of pork fried and preserved in its own fat), along with eggs, milk, aniseed, and sesame seeds.
  • Sample Cycladic loza (smoked pork), likened locally to prosciutto, and smoked sausages.
  • Drop by the famous seafood tavernas in Vourkari to enjoy fresh fish and other dishes such as lobster linguine and sea urchin salad.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with tsagalo (a dessert made with almonds) and delicious fruit preserves.
  • Enjoy the strong red mavroudi wine from the local vineyards.
  • Don’t miss melitzanorizo (aubergine and rice) and kokoras krasatos (Greek-style coq au vin).
  • Taste the local cheeses: spicy kopanisti, sour xino, salty xirotiri and ladotiri (“oil cheese”).

The oak trees that cover the mountains of Kea were once an important part of the local economy. Acorn shells contain large quantities of tannin and other substances used in the processing of leather, and the island once supplied them to tanneries throughout Greece, and in other European countries. As the use of modern chemicals became widespread, the cultivation of the oak tree went into decline. Today, the island’s forest is a protected ecosystem of unique value.​

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