Kea has so much to offer it is difficult to distil in to such a short guide. “The Gateway to the Cyclades” at only 13 nautical miles from Attica, Kea (also known as Tzia) is the closest Cycladean island to Athens, although it feels much further away and for an island so close to Athens it is remarkably unspoilt. It’s proximity to the mainland means that it is ideal if you want to combine Athens with some beach time.
Historically, Kea has the remains of a Bronze Age settlement at Agia Irini dating back as far as 3300 BC which is thought reached its peak during the late Minoan and Early Mycenaean period (between 1600-1400 BC) acting as a “hub” between the two cultures and becoming an important trade centre.
During Archaic times Kea was divided in to four Polis (City States) and the ancient pathways between the four are still walkable today. The 5th Century BC remains of one of these Karthaia are an impressive site nestled in a beautiful position and only reachable on foot or by boat. The sea in front of the remains is crystal blue and a beautiful place to swim and snorkel.
Another City State was Ioulida or the current capital (Hora) lying in the north of the island at an altitude of 352 metres, closed off to traffic (apart from the odd donkey) Iouida is like no other Cycladean capital with its red tiled roofed house spilling down from its mountain slopes. Labyrinthine alley ways lead to squares and deserted windmills. There is also a Neo-Classical town hall. The area of Kastro still has remains from Archaic times.
Within walking distance of Hora is proudly overlooking a beautiful valley is Kea’s mascot, the Lion of Kea. Carved in stone this 6mtr Lion who looks like he is smiling is at least 2500 years old. The reason the lion is here is the subject of many myths.
The main port of Kea is Korissia again built on the remains of one of the City States it is a small pretty port which has a few shops and some good bars and restaurants
Kea was also historically known as Hydroussa and because of its plentiful water supply, Kea like Andros has a verdant green interior with the only forest of Royal Oak’s in the Cyclades. An island with mountains, valleys, springs, ancient pathways and history. Kea also has caves, plenty of beaches and is an ideal place for snorkelling and scuba diving.
The island in itself is a charming little paradise and it is still a very genuine place to visit. There are a taverns and cafes, and the pace is slow and comfortable. Kea is an excellent alternative for those who want to get away from the busier islands, but still don’t want the total quiet.
Kea is suitable for all types of holiday maker and makes a good combination with Athens, Kythnos and Syros. However, Kea is so seductive you may not wish to leave!