Lonely bays with transparent waters
Golden sandy beaches, leeward lonely bays, sea caves, transparent blue-green waters, fresh fishes and sea-food, walking and bicycle, sea excursions by caiques; all these in Kouphonissia, the two neighboring islands of the Small Eastern Cyclades, which year by year attract more and more visitors.
Kouphonissia, the Pano Kouphonissi (Upper) and the Kato Kouphonissi (Lower) are located opposite to the southeastern coast of Naxos, north of Schinoussa. They are separated by a channel of 200 m width. Their name is due to the hollow ( kouphia in Greek) rocks at many points of their coasts. The hollows are caves opened by the waves, which also formed wonderful small sandy beaches.
The upper (northern) island, usually called just Kouphonissi, has an area of 5, 7 sq km. Its shape is round and the land rather flat. The highest peak is Prophetes Elias at 114 m. The 300 residents live in Chora, the unique settlement of the island.
The Kato Kouphonissi has an area of 4, 45 sq km and it is long, from southwest to northeast. Its length is 5 km and its width 1 km; opposite to its northeastern coast is the islet Glaronissi and at a small distance the uninhabited island of Keros , where very important findings of the famous Cycladic Civilization have been discovered. Kato Kouphonissi is almost uninhabited. Since 1992 the construction is forbidden. This island and Keros constitute a protected archaeological region.
Kouphonissi is connected by ferry boat with Piraeus, Syros, Paros, Naxos, the other Small Eastern Cyclades, Amorgos and Astypalaea. Moreover during the summer it is connected by sea jet with Piraeus, Mykonos, Melos, Pholegandros, Ios, Santorini and Amorgos. Kouphonissi and the other Small Eastern Cyclades are connected by the boat “Skopelitis” with Naxos and Amorgos. In special occasions a caique is ready to depart from Kouphonissi to Naxos and the islands around.
In Kouphonissi we can use a car. But we can go everywhere by foot. Three hours are enough for the round of the island. We can also use a bicycle; there are bicycles to rent. Or we can take a caique. From the harbor of Chora caiques connect every hour the most distant beaches and Kato Kouphonissi; they also make excursions to the islets around.Those who sail can tie up their yacht at the mole for the yachts, where they can also refuel. There is a place for reparations, too. The leeward bays mainly on the southern coast offer safe anchorage.
There are hotels and rooms to let in Chora and near the beaches Phinikas and Chorokopou, the one beside the other at one and a half km east of Chora on the southern coast; in Charokopou a camping site, too. Restaurants and taverns in Chora and Pori, at the bay with the same name on the northeastern region. In Chora, post office and one ATM.
Κoufonisi - Tour of the island - The beaches
Chora is the only settlement of the island, located beside the port at the middle of the southern coastline. It is picturesque with narrow streets and whitewashed small houses. The church is dedicated to Aghios Georgios. On the western side of the port a windmill accomplishes the Cycladic landscape.
Chora is the starting point for the round of the island; a path follows the coast near wonderful sandy beaches and caves in the rocks. We can also go to the northern region taking the interior path leading from Chora to the chapel of Prophetes Elias and Pano Meria (Upper Place).
West, close to Chora is the beautiful site Loutro where is the small church of Aghios Nickolaos. Here is the old dockyard where the work continues according to the traditional way. Above a windmill, old Cycladic construction, stares around. Then we arrive in Parianos, a bay on the western coast, enclosed by a small peninsula from the south. It is the shelter for the fishing boats of the island. Kouphonissi has the greater number of fishing boats in Greece in proportion of the number of its residents.
The beach of Chora is Gialos with shallow waters. The path follows the southern coast on the east and then turns north upwards to the eastern coast. Small bays with wonderful shores are formed one after the other.
On the northern coast after the site of Pano Mylos stretches the beach of Phinikas with taverns and rooms to let. Near is the beach Charokopou, next the beach Phanos and further the beach Platia Pounta or Italida, preferred by the nudists at the past.
After Platia Pounta are the pissines (swimming pools), as the tiny bays with little caves and small beaches are called; refuges for two, as they say on the island.
On the northeastern edge the beautiful bay of Pori is formed with a large sandy beach. On the other side is the beach Gala (Milk) with white small pebbles. The bay is enclosed on the north by the peninsula Xylobatis where is an attractive sea cave.
In the port of Chora we can take a caique to Kato Koufonisi; during the summer are departures every hour. We can also visit the small Glaronissi.
Kato Koufonisi has no permanent inhabitants. The only constructions are the little church of Panagia built on ancient ruins near the mole and a few fishermen’s houses. But we can taste good food in a well known fish-tavern operating during the summer.
The mole is located on the northeastern coast. Opposite is the islet Glaronissi with wonderful blue-green waters and sea caves.
Kato Koufonisi is well-known for its fascinating sandy beaches. Those who love nudism will find here their refuge.
One nice beach is near the mole. But the best are on the south where we can go by boat. In Detis bay are two sandy beaches. Next is Nero (Water) the most famous sandy beach. Further is Pezoulia and directly opposite on the northern coast Phykio.
Events - The residents are hospitable and their festivals is a good opportunity for amusement and learning their traditions. On April 23, the holiday of Aghios Georgios. The last Saturday of June the fisherman's feast; sea-food and wine. On July 20, the holiday of Prophetes Elias. On August 15, the holiday of Panagia.
Local cuisine and products - Fresh fishes and sea-food; local dish, as in the other Eastern Cuclades, the patatato, meat in tomato sauce with potatoes; meat of savage goat-ling from Keros; from the cheeses, xinomyzithra; from the sweets, pasteli and xerotegana.
Activities - We can enjoy walking, natural life and above all the sea, although Kouphonissi becomes more and more cosmopolitan; windsurfing, mainly in Pori, and diving; fishing, most at the rocky caves on the northern coast of Pano Kouphonissi and on Kato Kouphonissi.
The last years those small islands became well known as most of the Cyclades islands. However, they remain little paradises of calm and natural life. In most occasions the car is not necessary. We can go almost everywhere on every island by foot and by sea taking a caique.
On the north east of Naxos, is Donoussa. South-southeast of Naxos, are the islands of Pano Koufonissi, Kato Koufonisssi, Keros, Schinoussa and Eraklia. Donoussa, Pano Koufonissi or just Kouphonissi, Schinoussa and Eraklia are inhabited.
The main feature of the islands is the beautiful beaches with golden sand and clear blue-green waters. The few little settlements keep the folk Cycladic architecture and the residents are hospitable and smiling. The fishing boats bring fresh fishes and sea-food in the taverns; there are also local dishes with meat, pastry and cheese.
The Small Eastern Cyclades are connected by boat with Piraeus and other islands. Moreover Kouphonissi is connected by a sea jet. There is also a local connection between the four islands, Naxos and Amorgos.
Only few details are known about their history except Keros. According to some archaeological findings the islands were inhabited the years of the famous Cycladic Civilization, flourished during the Early Bronze Age (3200 – 2000 BC). One of its centres was Keros, where very important findings were discovered. During the 17th and 18th century, one of the periods of piracy in the Aegean Sea, the bays of the little islands, as well as of other islands, were pirate bases.