|Naxos, Santorini, Kea and Kithnos
(Piraeus, 103 nautical miles.) The biggest and most fertile
island in the Cyclades islands, Naxos
lies almost in the centre of the Aegean. Naxos Town (also known
as Hora), the capital and main port, is crowned by the
ruins of a Venetian castle. A little way out of town,
the Pirgos Bellonia (Bellonian Tower) was built
under Venetian rule (note the Lion of St Mark emblem) as a safe
haven from pirates. The island is particularly noted for
its numerous sand beaches, and just south of Naxos Town
lies the bathing areas of Agios Georgios, Agia Anna and Agios
Prokopios. The island’s second town and port, Apolonas,
also has a very nice beach. The inland village
of Halki has a medieval fortress and numerous Byzantine churches.
Through summer, there are daily flights from Naxos to Athens.
(Piraeus, 127 nautical miles.) Considered by many as
the most beautiful of all the Greek islands, Santorini
(also known as Thira) was formed by the eruption of a now dormant
volcano around 1600 BC. Arrival by ferry brings one to the west
side of the island, with the whitewashed cliff top villages of
Fira (the capital) and Ia (the
Aegean’s most photographed town) overlooking the circular
caldera (an enormous depression created by a volcanic explosion).
A steep winding path leads up from the harbour of Skala to Fira,
where one finds many outstanding hotels, chic restaurants and
bars, and a vibrant nightlife. The Archaeology Museum,
displaying finds from the excavations at Akrotiri, is worth visiting.
From Fira, a mountain path leads along the cliff edge to Ia, noted
for its attractive white buildings with blue
domes. On the east side of the island lie the
archaeological remains of Ancient Thira, a Dorian
city dating back to the 9th century BC. Akrotiri
is also of great interest for the relics of the Minoan
civilisation which were buried under lava following the
eruption of 1600 BC; about 40 buildings have been discovered to
date. The 18th-century Monastery of Profitas Ilias
on the island’s summit and the swimming
beaches of Kamari and Perissa
are other attractions. Through summer, there are regular flights
from Santorini to Athens.
(Piraeus, 42 nautical miles.) Kea is dotted with small
cultivated valleys, fruit orchards, sandy beaches, clusters
of whitewashed houses, several windmills and a large number of
churches. Not far from the port of Korissia lies the chief settlement
Hora (also known as Kea Town). The Convent
of Panagia Kastriani, overlooking Otzia Bay, is worth
visiting. At Koundouro and Pisses,
there are outstanding swimming beaches.
(Piraeus, 54 nautical miles.) A small island, the harsh
landscape of Kithnos is softened by fig trees and vineyards. Most
hotels can be found in the small port towns of Loutra
(noted for its warm medical springs) and Merihas.
The main town, Hora (also known as Messaria),
is built into an infertile hillside. White Cycladic cottages,
churches with frescoes and icons and the islanders’ hospitality
combine to make Kithnos ever more popular with visitors in search
of beauty and peacefulness.