Due to inexpensive ferry tickets and a mere two-hour trip from the Athens city center, budget-conscious travelers are choosing Kea* over more popular Cycladic islands such as Santorini and Mykonos. Picturesque with terra cotta roof-lined hills, windmills, and a rugged terrain, Kea is less spoiled and easier to get to then the aforementioned “fashionable honeypots” (The Telegraph). Its port is frequented in the summer by island-hopping pleasure boats and it’s a favorite weekend getaway for Athenians year round. While over half of the island’s traffic is domestic, Kea has all of the ingredients necessary to become an international destination, a transition already underway.
Nature lovers delight in the island’s careful balance between commercial and residential growth with protected, wild spaces. Stone villages stacked on craggy cliffs are linked by approximately twenty two miles of footpaths (60% of which are paved) which grant access to 3,000 varieties of flora, century old forests of Oak and Plane trees, and ruins like the island’s symbol, a nine meter-long stone lion dating back to the 6th century BC.
The island’s residents and municipal government are devoted to maintaining the island’s traditions: native stone architecture, natural conservation, and agriculture. The Red Tractor Farm
, a member of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF
) offers guests the opportunity to volunteer with pruning, olive collecting, and wood cutting in exchange for groceries and bungalows. ”Kea could become known as the eco-island if there are more of us offering a variety of eco-aware travel experiences,”says Red Tractor Farm’s Marcie Mayer, who is also starting an acorn initiative
to produce acorn oil and
mill acorn flour. Initiatives like hers are gaining nationwide recognition and drawing European and US tourists searching for offbeat adventure.
Kea boasts traditional villages or “Choras
” with sophisticated nightlife springing up around the port of Korissia and the laid back fishing village of Vouraki. Every July there’s a fairytale festival
with storytelling events in both Greek and English, another sign of the island’s oncoming international appeal. The unique combination of timeless tradition with 21st century progress is sure to get Kea on more travelers’ radars.
*Kea is also known as Tzia, or Zia, the name used by the islanders.
Sunset view of one of the island's famous churches, Agia Irini