The renegade Cycladian island is completely different from its neighbors. Unapologetically authentic, Kea refused the white and blue color scheme and has a distinct style of its own. Also known as Tzia, this dreamy Greek oasis is sometimes referred to as “the Athenian secret” due to its proximity to the violet-crowned city and is considered to be a popular weekend getaway.
The perfect location for those who want to experience Greece like a local, this mysterious island barely has any tourist resorts and is completely free of any crowds. Considering the fact that Kea has very few hotels and only one ferry connection from the somewhat obscure Lavrio port, the only way to comfortably explore it is by cruising with a luxury charter yacht.
With dozens of turquoise beaches without so much as a footrace in the sand, Kea is a real hidden jewel waiting to be discovered. A favorite hangout spot for Athenians, many of whom own their second homes here and visit for a few days via private vessels, the island flaunts almost deserted dainty coves, puzzling prehistoric remnants, polished Venetian towns, and Byzantine and Ottoman architectural gems.
The main attraction of the island is the Lion of Ioulis, a sculpture somewhere around 600 BC - according to Greek mythology, the Tzia was once a residence of water nymphs so beautiful that they made the gods jealous, so in turn, they sent a lion to ruin the homeland. One thing is for sure - the island was indeed populated by lions in the classical period.
The viridescent Kea is covered in olive groves and pine trees - the lush, unspoiled nature adds to the calming atmosphere of this terracotta-colored island. One of the largest in the Cycladic archipelago has managed just fine without tourism for over 5000 years, and the locals don’t seem too eager to embrace it. Thanks to the aloof mentality of Tzians, you’ll be able to roam the villages freely without worrying about tourist traps. Here, you’ll be drinking wine, swimming, and dining with the locals, and experiencing the Aegean seas like it was before intrusive tour guides, activity pamphlets, and club promoters.
Hurry up and embark on this lovely journey before the word gets out and enjoy the allure of this under-the-radar Greek shelter that will exceed your expectations in every way.
Best Villages in Kea
Discover the enthralling landscape and lush surroundings and stroll around the sleepy villages with salmon pink and peach facades, cobbled streets, and unique architecture. Although the villages are quite small, they offer a unique glimpse into the Greek lifestyle without makeup.
Situated on the northern side of the island, the main town of Kea will make you feel as if you’ve somehow traveled back in time. There’s no traffic in Ioulida - all cars must be left at the city's gates before entering. You might even stumble across people riding donkeys to transport construction materials - the town simply refuses to embrace the modern way of living and proudly protects its lifestyle against fads and fashion. The stunning Ioulida seduces with its rugged appeal and surrounding countryside. Near the entrance, you’ll find the Kastro district, with an acropolis and remnants of ancient fortresses and fortifications, remains of a Venetian wall, and the grotto church of Agia Paraskevi.
As you roam through the ancient area, make time to visit the Panagia Kastriani monastery. Perched high on a rock, it offers spectacular views of the sea and is probably the only site that resembles the architectural styles of a neighboring island. If you don’t feel like the uphill walk, you can reach it by scooter to marvel at the inimitable azure vistas and see the two whitewashed chapels and a church.
History enthusiasts might want to visit the Archaeological Museum with permanent exhibitions of artifacts discovered through excavations on Kea, some of them dating back to the Post Neolithic Age. On the east side of the village, you can find the abandoned Agia Anna monastery. Built by the Byzantines in the 16th century, the site was once an important spiritual powerhouse, but today it’s mostly used as a sunset viewing location.
And of course, don’t forget to take the old stone road from the Koundouris Spring to visit the archaic stone sculpture of Stone Lion who allegedly drove all the nymphs from the city.
The legend says that Kea, which was once populated by nymphs and known as Ydroussa or the water island, provoked the rage of gods with the beauty of its nature and nymph residents. The gods then sent the lion to cause an exodus of these mythical creatures and dry out the lands. The locals then asked Aristaeus, the son of god Apollo, for help, who then built a temple devoted to Zeuss, who was pleased with the act and brought the nymphs and the rain back to Kea. The stone lion, whose creator is unknown, rests with a smile on his face adding enigmatic charms to the sleepy town.
The main part of the island is the gorgeous Korissia, famous for the statue of Kouros, an ancient statue that dates to the 6th century BC. Although the monument is now part of the exhibition of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, this scenic port town is still very much worth a visit. Located in a natural harbor and surrounded by hills that look as if a sepia effect was applied to them, the nonchalant village of Korissia seduces visitors with its tranquil allure and nonchalant beauty.
Adored by yachties who flock to the village in search of authentic scenery and turquoise seas, Vourkari is considered to be the safest bay in the Cycladic archipelago and provides marvelous wind protection. In this quiet fishing village, you’ll be able to see the most luxurious superyachts moored right next to traditional “kaekia” bringing their daily catch of seafood to traditional restaurants. Nearby, you can explore the prehistoric Copper Age settlement with a prehistoric villa - Agia Irini, which flourished around 1500 BC before getting destroyed by a disastrous earthquake at the height of its power.
Best Beaches in Kea
After visiting the sandy beaches of this little-known Greek island, you’ll wonder why it’s not flocked by tourists. With dozens of incredible coves and secluded sandy havens scattered across Kea, you’ll be able to enjoy endless beach days without ever being disturbed by loud tourists or noise from tacky bars.
The most popular beach on the island is located on the northwest side and attracts visitors with translucent seas, verdant acorn trees, and charming scenery. Adored by yachting aficionados who come to relax on this laid-back beach, Koundouros is protected from the north winds and is considered a fantastic bay for an overnight moor. You can walk around the sandy oasis to explore the restored stone mills.
If you’re looking for a place to surrender to the beauty of the sapphire color seas and rest far from curious eyes, visit Orkos, a seductive and intriguing beach on the northeast coast of the island. Virgin nature, sweeping views of the blue sea, and shade from the pine trees make this one of the prettiest secluded beaches in Greece.
When talking about isolated beaches in Kea, it’s impossible not to mention the stunning Liparo, a picture-perfect beach with golden sand and turquoise seas. Located on the southwest coast of this Cycladic island, Liparo is an ideal spot to enjoy a relaxing day in an Eden-like setting.
The entire beach looks like a vintage photo from the 60s - the muted sand hues and translucent glittery seas make Otzias is one of the most popular beaches on Tzia.
Just 10 km from the main town, you’ll find the 800 meter-long tree-lined beach with plenty of room for all visitors. Otzias is one of the few beaches on the island that are exposed to the Meltemi winds, making it a great choice for charter guests looking to test out the water toys provided on board their charter yacht.
A stunning beach considered to be among the most beautiful on this Cycladic island, Pisses is an enchanting cove surrounded by hills full of fragrant flowers and fruits. You’ll find remains of the ancient city of Poiessa on the top of the hill - with so much to do, many choose to drop their anchor here for the night and continue enjoying the intriguing beach tomorrow.
Thanks to fertile lands and a warm climate, Kea flaunts delicious local produce artfully used by talented chefs in rustic tavernas and luxurious hotspots. Whether you want to eat like a local or enjoy a lavish fine dining experience, you’ll be spoiled with choice when it comes to picking out a restaurant.
An iconic restaurant in the main town, O Paparounas deserved its cult status with a friendly philosophy and mouth watering meals. The staff here goes the extra mile to make their guests feel at home and offers traditional Greek dishes like zucchini balls and calamari prepared in the most skilled manner. In spite of its popularity, the restaurant preserved its authentic appeal and is the ideal spot for a delicious family lunch.
To Spiti Sti Hora
A unique culinary concept that blends rustic vibes with a glamorous setting, To Spiti Sti Hora is a true gem located in the Ioulis. The best place for sunset viewing, this restaurant overlooks the hills and mountains and offers modern and impressive dishes presented in such a way it can be hard not to take photos.
Located just by the Archeological Museum in Ioulis, Kylix is a chic restaurant that offers fine Greek cuisine with a creative twist. The terrace offers fantastic views of the city, making it ideal for a romantic dinner or a fun gathering with friends and family.
Breeze Finger Food Bar
Whether you’re looking to indulge in a creative breakfast - the eggs benedict are our recommendation - or enjoy colorful cocktails at sunset, this stylish bar in Vourkari won’t let you down. Relax with views of the yacht-sprinkled turquoise bay and let the world pass you by!