Kythnos walking holidays
In Roman times, Kythnos was known as Thermia, for the hot springs around the village of Loutra that to this day are known for their medicinal qualities. But soaking tired muscles in the baths of Loutra is just one of many pleasures to be gleaned from walking holidays in Kythnos. Surrounded by the endless blue of the Aegean Sea, this is one of the least developed of the Cyclades group, and so a quite rare opportunity to explore ways of life in the traditional, laidback communities that you walk through. Its low-key atmosphere, as well as the island’s proximity to the capital (just three hours by ferry from Piraeus or two from Lavrio) makes it a frequent weekend getaway for Athenians, but to date there is little sense that this popularity is detracting from Kythnos’ unique appeal. Outside of July and August you’re going to encounter few foreigners here.
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So, what makes Kythnos such a gem among Greek Islands walking holidays? A large part of it is the island’s superb network of footpaths, often along old mule tracks, that were originally carved to enable people to easily get around between villages, farmland, vineyards and beaches. These trails, which are still used today by farmers and shepherds, remain perfectly walkable, and will take you across gloriously wild countryside, past whitewashed churches, Byzantine castles perched on dramatic headlands, and isolated beaches shaded by tamarisk trees where you can take your boots off for a paddle or a well-deserved swim. Add in the fact of the island’s low elevation (300m maximum), as well as vegetation as fragrant as it is colourful, and Kythnos is walking bliss.
The island has over 50 sandy beaches and calm, deserted bays, many of which can only be accessed on foot. The most well-known is Kolona, a narrow strip of sand that connects Kythnos with a nearby islet. Packing a swimming cozzie, snorkel and towel in your daypack cannot be recommended enough. Something else you won’t regret bringing when you set off each morning will be your appetite. You’ll often pass small tavernas where you can taste the famous salty cheese, as well as lamb, goat and fish dishes, sweet biscuits and local wines. Many traditional Greek island communities have sadly been thinned out as people feel forced to leave to find employment, so you may be surprised to realise the huge positive impact you can have just by pausing to savour a well-earned lunch or by walking with a local guide.
Walking on Kythnos can take you to an enormous variety of places: archaeological excavations, where you can discover an ancient port and city with temple remains; old mining works; a vast natural cave where the island’s inhabitants sheltered during WWII, or to workshops on cookery and pottery that help rural ways of life survive. You might hike with an expert on Greek wildlife to learn about Kythnos’ reptiles, and birds such as the emblematic Greek small owl, other birds of prey, warblers and partridges. You’ll also have the chance to attend a panagiri church celebration if on while you’re there, watch performances of lute and fiddle and if your legs are up to it, join in with some traditional dance.
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Centre-based trips see you stay in guesthouses or locally run hotels in the hora (the main village on a Greek island) or the port, Merichas. Over trips of around four to six days, during which you can see a great deal of the island, you can expect to be walking for around four hours each day covering 10-12km. The terrain is not especially demanding, and anyone of reasonable physical fitness should have little difficulty. In fact the hardest part will be resisting the urge to dawdle constantly in the face of this scenery.
Kythnos walking holidays are typically small group tours which follow set dates and itineraries (typically running from March to November) and will be led by local guides – and that’s important to mention, because walking with a local person beside you who knows the landscape, the culture, the traditions, and frequently the people in the villages you pass, adds so much more to the experience. This is the type of place you excitedly tell fellow walkers about when you get home, and then feel a slight twinge of regret afterwards that you didn’t keep the secret to yourself.
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