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Kea Greek Island of Mystery


By deTraci Regula
Greece Travel Expert, about.com
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A quick trip from the Attica Peninsula brings visitors to the Greek Cycladic  island of Kea, yet this island is well off of the usual tourist radar. The island is beautiful, with a few mysteries to entice visitors. Kea's unique position off of the coast made it a desirable stopping area for ancient shipping and trade, and the island was intensely farmed to provide provisions for ships passing nearby. The island is covered with a tight network of ancient terraces which line the hillsides and climb up to the top of virtually every peak on the island. While terracing is common on other Greek islands and on the mainland, it seems that terracing was an obsession on this particular island. It had a larger population in ancient times than today, when only about 2000 residents call the island home - and some of them move to Athens in the winter.

Kea has its own local mythology which has also persisted from ancient times. The local lore insists that the island was originally founded by nymphs associated with  the star system of the Pleiades.

Supposedly, these nymphs did not care for the competition from local human women and were said to kill them. The island of Kea is also home to a large unusual carved stone lion, the "Lion of Kea", which grins from one side of a small valley just outside of the capital town. It's reached by a cobblestone paved donkey path leading from the town, an easy walk of about 15 minutes. Who really carved the lion, and why it was carved at all, is unknown. The pose resembles some ancient Egyptian carved lions, but with a whimsical almost Cheshire-cat expression which is decidedly not Egyptian. Local lore says it depicts a lion which drove away the women-killing nymphs and that this rock was carved to commemorate the heroic lion.

Like most of the other nearby Greek islands, Kea endured a succession of overseers, conquerors, and invaders. It began as an outpost of the Cycladic civilization, characterized by fine abstract marble statuary, then was under Minoan control, followed by the Myceneans, the Dorians, the Ionians, the Macedonians, and the Romans. Finally Kea came under Byzantine control, but that control could be lax and the island was still subject to depredations from Slavs, Goths, and the Normans - originally Vikings. In 1207 the Venetians took hold of Kea and while oppressive, their 300 year reign was calmer.  Then it was time for the Turks prior to ultimately uniting with Greece in 1832.

The Elixos River runs through Kea and has a number of water mills on it. Some of these can be seen in the area of Mylopotamos (Floodmill).

Ports of Kea[post_ads_2]

Vourkari - This is the main port for yachts traveling in the Greek islands, with an active "yacht culture" consisting of surprisingly upscale shops and boutiques and a handful a restaurants. For culture vultures, the ancient settlement of Ayia Irini is a short walk around the end of the bay. Many large ceramic statues of women with Minoan-type dresses which leave the breasts bare. These are on display in the Archaeological Museum up in the capital town of Chora, also called Ioulis.

Villages of Kea

Chora or Ioulis - This is the main town and capital, which crowns the island. It's located inland and above the port of Korissia, and can be reached by a short drive from the port. As with most Greek island towns, there are the remains of an ancient castle and of an ancient temple in the town. In this case, the temple is one dedicated to Apollo. It's  also sometimes just referred to as "Kea" as well.
Koundoros - Located on the other side of the island from the port.
Otzias - A pretty little village surrounds this small cove.

Sightseeing on Kea[post_ads_2]

Monastery of St. Marina - Saint Marina is associated with safe travel on the sea and of reaching a good harbor. She is often venerated on islands. The Monastery of St. Marina is about two miles away from Chora by the good secondary road going southwest from Chora.

Monastery of Panagia Kastriani - Located about three miles beyond Otzias, the monastery has limited lodging available for travelers.It's located in the northeastern portion of Kea. Take the eastern road leading from the village of Otzias.

Kefala - This ancient early Bronze Age site has some low-lying ruins dating from that time. It's a beautiful location by the sea.

Ayia Irini - Check locally for open hours. Closed Mondays. Ayia Irini is small and tightly packed with structures, some of which stand several feet tall. It's eay to sense the crowdedness of life in the Bronze Age and to get a sense of how claustrophobic the villages could be in that time period.

Poles - Another pretty bay on the island of Kea, with some ruins from the ancient Ionain town of Carthea. It's reached by the southwestern road leading from Chora.
Mylopotamos - Folklore Museum of Kea
Events on Kea


Storytelling Festival of Kea - Held each year for the past 15 years, this festival draws a crowd of locals, international presenters, and tourists. Dozens of storytellers have a strict 10 minutes to tell their story. The first day of the festival includes storytellers from around the world, telling stories in their native languages. Then, the tone switches to be more solidly Greek.

How to Get to Kea[post_ads_2]

Kea is located just 16 miles from Lavrion, the southernmost port on the Attica peninsula. Lavrion itself can be reached by car or bus from Athens.  It can be reached by small boats from the Attica peninsula. It is also a stop on some small yacht cruises out of Athens, and is a popular yachting destination for independent sailors as well.  The port of Korissia offers anchorage for yachts.

Note:  if you are booking tickets to Kea, it is sometimes called "Tzia" insitead and spelled that way  in Greek.

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Travel Magazine: Kea Greek Island of Mystery
Kea Greek Island of Mystery
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