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Kea: Korissia and Vourkari

Livadi, Kea, Greece

Korissia (Livadi)

Korissia Beach, KeaThe port of Korissia, also known as Livadi, is the first place you will see when you arrive on the island since this is where the ferry docks and unless you come by helicopter the ferry or yacht is the only way to get here. There is a long sandy beach, a couple well stocked supermarket, several restaurants, cafes, bars and a hotel or two. Above the port on the hill of Agia Triada are the ruins of the ancient acropolis and what is believed to be an archaic temple dedicated to Apollo. The statue known as the Kouros of Kea in the National Museum in Athens was found here. Livadia was pretty much deserted during the centuries of Ottoman rule but in 1922 it was repopulated by refugees from Asia Minor. For ferry watchers it is a good place to be because ferries from Lavrion sail back and forth several times a day and a few times a week the ferry from Syros makes an appearance here. You can catch the bus to Ioulis (or Hora as we locals call it) from here and there are taxis that will take you anywhere when they are not taking somebody else. You can also rent motorbikes if you can find the guy who rents them. Cars too. If you get to the rental office and nobody is there, there should be a number posted on the door. If it is August they will be there but they probably won't have any cars so it does not really matter. But you can also rent from Swift in Athens and drive the car to the ferry which is always a fun experience.

Korissia, KeaIt is hard not to notice the large smokestack and the ruins of the Enamel and Metallurgy factory that sits in the valley of Livadi. The factory which was owned by Ioannis Gleoudis had 900 employees who produced enamel products, canteens, helmets and other equipment during the pre-war period. Because of this factory and the coal supply center for steamships at Agios Nikolaos, the people of Kea were able to survive during the years when many other islands were destitute. There is something about having a big old deserted factory on a small greek island that makes you realize that these places did not spring up out of the sea as tourist destinations. Islands like Kea existed before tourism and they will probably exist after tourism too. For me, seeing the remains of an old factory is as interesting as the ruins of an ancient temple and in most cases leaves less to the imagination. If you walk up the road to Ioulida about 100 meters or so on the left you will come to an outdoor museum that has equipment from the factory. When the factory closed many of the people who worked there and lived all their lives on the island had to move to Athens. A few have moved back and some have their family houses here which they visit in August, summer weekends and at Easter.

Livadi, kea, beachThe main beach in Livadia is a long sandy stretch that lies at the end of the valley anchored on one end the small church of Agios Giorgos and on the other, the shops and restaurants of the port. There are a several good restaurants and cafes to hang out at and there are two hotels, one apartment style overlooking the beach from the town called the Hotel Karthea, and the other the new Hotel Porto Kea which is as close to a luxury resort as you will find on the island. There are several hotels and rooms to rent in the valley if you want to be close to the port and the beach. The best choice is the Red Tractor Farms Guest House which is part of an eco-tourism enterprise run by Marcie and Kostis Marulis, two pioneers on the island. The only time you will have a problem getting a room is in August and maybe during holiday weekends. The Red Tractor Farm itself is one of the most interesting and beautiful spots in Korissia with several acres of olive trees, orchards, and grape vines, a rural paradise within the town limits. Completely eco-friendly it is the perfect marriage of tradition and environmental responsibility and could serve as an example as what the future of tourism in Greece should look like, symbolized by the giant stone egg that greets guests on their arrival. There are a couple more hotels in the valley, a few minutes walk from the port and they are listed on the hotel page.

Korissia, ferryAs ports go Livadia is not too bad for swimming since the bay is so big and the rough seas of the Cava d Oro flush it out from time to time. In fact Korissia is a really nice place to swim. With so many other great beaches on the island where you can go and probably not see another person the best reason to swim here is if you happen to be staying nearby or you find the antics of other people on the beach entertaining or you want to be close to somewhere for lunch. But Marcie from Red Tractor Farms swears the sea here is the cleanest that you will find in any port and swims across the bay just about every day. The Hotel Porto Kea has taken over their end of the beach and keeps it clean and beautiful and the town takes care of the rest. The Ammos Cafe is your typical Greek beach bar except they don't beat you over the head with bad music, they have great coffee and some nice food including a very good club sandwich, and a friendly staff and great beach lounge chairs and umbrellas. They are also the home of Kea Divers who do scuba diving and snorkeling trips. 

Korissia beachAt the far end of the beach is a small church dedicated to Saint George and just beyond that is the Villa Maroulis, owned by one of the old families who came to the island from Asia Minor after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The valley of Livadia was later populated by refugees from Asia Minor who came to Kea in 1922 after the exchange of populations which was initiated with the policy of ethnic cleansing by Attaturk and the burning of the city of Smyrna by the Turkish army. Though Ioulida (Hora) is the capital of the island, and actually the administrative capital of the island of Kythnos as well, the commercial center is Korissia-Livadi where you will find most of the banks, hardware stores, electronic shops, supermarkets and since this is the point where the ferry comes in, the primary transportation hub of the island, if you want to call it that.

Korissiai, KeaThere are several good restaurants in Korissia. One of the best among them is Magazes, owned by fisherman extraordinaire Stefanos Alexander, who is so talented they say the xifia (swordfish) swim into the harbor just to tell everyone in fish heaven that they were caught by him. Of course Magazes specializes in fresh fish but they also have many meat dishes and feature some island favorites as well as a few dishes from famous chef Aglia Kremezi who lives nearby. Other restaurants in the port include Lagoudara which has the usual island dishes and some very nice salads. The famous Rolando has opened his world renown restaurant in Korissia and some of his fans are happy they don't have to walk up the hill in Ioulida anymore. There are two souvlaki-shop/psistarias that serve grilled meats and salads. But if you are adventurous walker or have a car go across the bay and follow the road sign to Fotomari, just beyond the Hotel Porto Kea and go to Filipos Psistaria for the best grilled meats and the best view as well. On weekends in the summer he often has whole goats, lambs and pigs roasting on his rotisserie. One restaurant you may not want to overlook is the taverna To Steki tou Stroggili which is in an old mansion above the port on the road to the church right above where the ferry comes in. Dimitris and his small staff have a variety of local and regional dishes in a traditional Greek taverna setting. Very nice wine, grilled meats, lots of oven dishes, salads and mezedes if you just want to come and drink ouzo and watch the view. Take the road up from just before Magazes.

Korissia, KeaAs for cafes there are a number of those too. Korissos is the most traditional and has great espresso and many people go here because it is the descendent of Tzimis which was the cafe everyone used to go to because it was right across from where the ferry docked. Check out the little yogurt shop and the wine bar right on the waterfront almost next to each other. The wine bar, called Oinothiki plays jazz and swing and also has beer, a large and descriptive wine list, and some very nice appetisers to go with your drinks. There are bread shops on each end of the port and both have tiropitas and spanakopitas and lots of sweets and baked goods as well as some traditional products from Kea like the pasteli, a seseame honey candy that makes a great gift for friends back home. If you have friends closer than a ten hour flight get some of the local sausages or the loza, smoked pork loin, a Kean version of proscuito, from the butcher with the big Fasianos painting. But for more sensible food gifts go to Aristeon on the road to Ioulida, on the left just past the oasis-like valley of Milapotamos, where the road starts to climb. They sell all sorts of local wine, tsipuro, pasta, canned fruits, cheeses, sweets and even fresh local vegetables.

Gialiskari and Vourkari

 Galiaskari beach, kea If you follow the coast road past the beach and around the peninsula you come to a nice little beach called Gialiskari that sits in a cove shaded by eucalyptus trees. It is pretty packed with people in the summer but the water is blue, and beautiful and like the beach in the port not bad for a harbor beach. However, with all the other clean beaches on the island that face the open sea it seems silly to swim here despite the convenience unless you live nearby and don't have a car. This is also where my daughter likes to go though on a normal day it seems like the only people actually in the sea are the tourists. The bus passes by here several times a day in the summer and so you can stay in the town of Ioulis and be able to swim here. Most people prefer to take the taxis though to not be at the mercy of the buses schedules which can be infrequent and sometime non-existent if it is not July or August.

Galiaskari Beach, KeaIf you are the hiking sort, there is an incredible walk from Ioulida on the old stone roads that bring you to the main road a mile or so from Livadia, passing through farms and springs along the way and providing some great opportunities for photographs. When you reach the bottom all sweaty and tired you have the refreshing sea and a nice cold beer or water or even lunch from the beach cafe. The density of the development in between Gialiskari and Vourkari is something to marvel at and for half a million euros you can buy a small house right above the sea close enough to hear your neighbors arguing at night. Swimming off the rocks between Gialiskari and Korissia is pretty nice, particularly towards the end of the peninsula where it faces the open sea. Nice snorkeling as well and there are interesting and often large fish to be seen. For people like me who don't like sand, (to me sand is just another species of dirt) the rocks are a good option for sunbathing too (not that I do that either) since they are flat and you can easily get in and out of the sea in most places when the water is calm. When it isn't calm you probably won't be on the rocks anyway.

Greek islands, Vourkari, Kea Further along around another bend is the yacht harbor of Vourkari which has several seafood restaurants and is where all the people who are sailing the Cyclades come. The name Vourkari comes from the word vourkos which means mire (as in a swamp), not to be confused with votro which means sewer as in you don't want to swim here. The bay of Voukari looks almost like a lake and is the most sheltered spot in the large harbor which is why it is popular with the yachters who know they will get a good night's rest, even when the waves are like mountains outside the harbor. The boats dock up, parallel-parking style right on the street and the waitors, when they are not too busy, run out to help by catching the lines and shouting directions and encouragement to the sailors. When the boats are secured the captain, crew and passengers cross the street for an ice-cold beer, a couple ouzos and mezedes or a seafood dinner. Most of the restaurants serve lobster too. The seafood is generally pretty fresh since the fishing boats are based here. A progressive mayor (Yia sou Nikos) a few years ago convinced the island to deal with some of the problems which afflict many islands in Greece, beginning with the sewage problem in Vourkari, by putting in a whole new system in the summer of 2005 and then widening the road in 2009 to alleviate the nightmare of trying to drive through here or park during August and summer weekends. Of course like many progressive mayors in Greek villages and islands he was not re-elected, but he has left behind some good things and improved life on Kea.

Art SA Gallery, Kea There are a couple galleries that have exhibits by famous artists both living and dead. Boyrkariani was established by Nikos Dalaretos, and set an example with the quality of the exhibitions and the fame of the artists who exhibited there. Previous summers the gallery has featured exhibitions by Lisa Sotilis, Giorgio de Chirico and the famous architect-turned-water-colorist Tom Cullins who actually lives on the island and paints. The gallery has now moved upstairs off the street into the old house that used to be the Dalaretos family house and has become ART S.A. run by the charming Sotiria Antonopoulou. Inside the gallery is a small bookstore where you can buy prints, books and postcards of the works of other artists including the island's most famous artist: Aleko Fasianos, the guy whose painting you will see everywhere. This is a place that should not be missed and may be worth going out of your way to get to if you have a sailboat or yacht at your disposal and a true love of painting and sculpture. (For more information on exhibitions at ART S.A. Gallery you can contact Sotiria at info@art-sa.gr Tel: 0288-21458. Fax: 22880-21337). The Gallery has yet to have an exhibit featuring the works of Dellapizza but I am sure that will be remedied in the very near future, hopefully as soon as they read this or someone asks them why they have not had one already. Also check out the small shop next to the mini-market with the odd futuristic name of Pyx 1 S that is a boutique-gift shop with lots of cool stuff from Thailand, run by the lovely Vasso where you can find some amazing clothes and art that you would not expect to find on a Greek island.

Vourkari Bay, KeaVourkari is also the nightlife and party area of the island and I know because I had to fight with my daughter who wanted to go down there every night of the summer. There are several cafe-bars and music clubs packed with boaters and Athenians and you will feel like you are in Mykonos. They stay open all night, or at least I assume they do because my daughter does not get home until morning. (This is normal in Greece). The most well known bar-club is the Vinylio Cafe-bar where DJs play music late into the night in what is considered by the hip Athenian youth to be one of the best bars in the Cyclades. Other clubs come and go every summer so rather than tell you the names of them, which may be changed by the time I even have typed this sentence, I will just say that from the restaurants walk to the end of the bayand follow your ears to whatever clubs have opened this summer. In general the club season is July and August and then it gets pretty quiet.

Vourkari Bay, KeaAs for restaurants your best bet is Kalomira which is at the beginning of the road to Otzias at the end of the bay, and the big psistaria-souvlaki shop which is one of the last buildings in Vourkari if you are going towards Otzias. There are a couple fish tavernas (maybe down to one) right there where the boats come in but I have not eaten there in years even though I live on the island. One of these days I plan to. Actually I have not eaten here since Thalia moved to Athens 5 years ago taking her delicious Anatolian mezedes with her. The best time to be in Vourkari is Sunday afternoon as the Athenian weekend boats are leaving and the sailing charters are arriving. There is nothing more enjoyable than eating grilled sardines, drinking an ouzo and watching the new sailors attempting to parallel park for the first time.

Vourkari, KeaAcross the bay is Agia Irini, where the ruins of a temple to Dionysious, the fortified walls, tower and gate of the Bronze Age settlement that once stood here. There are also ruins from the Hellenistic period as well as the Minoan and Mycenean periods including the impressive Mansion of the Master. There is a fence around it so unless you are an archaeologist you can't get in but you can still get a good view by walking around. There is the remains of an old steel-hulled ship in the small bay next to the site. Further along the Kokka peninsula are the ruins of the Michalinos Coal Company which used to supply steamships and the area known as Katsonis Crossing where Captain Lambros Katsonis dragged his ship across the isthmus and escaped the Turkish fleet who thought they had him trapped. At the very end is the Lighthouse of Agios Nikolaos which sits on the location of an ancient temple to Posideon, the stones of which can still be seen. On the nearby peninsula of Kefela close to Agia Irini, are the ruins of a very large temple from the 6th Century BC and the remains of some Neolithic tombs.

Korissia, churchIn summary, as far as this part of the island is concerned, if you want to be close to the sea and the restaurants and shops then your best bet is to stay at the Red Tractor Farms Guest House which is one of the few places that will offer you privacy in a country setting while at the same time enable you to walk to the ports of Korissia as well as the yacht port of Vourkari and give you a choice of two nice beaches and half a dozen decent restaurants to eat at without having to drive. But as I have written numerous times in this guide, the best beaches and the most beautiful parts of the island are accessible only by car so unless you are the type of person who can hike up and down mountains for ten hours a day, even if you stay down here you will want to rent a car. If you are the type that must stay right on the beach then the Porto Kea Suites is your best option, ditto for those who need a swimming pool even when the sea is just a few steps away. If you are the type who wants to be on the beach and in the town and have a balcony with a view of both then the Hotel Karthea is for you. And with or without a car there is enough to see and do in this area to keep you occupied for three or four days if you throw in a day or night visiting Hora. If you are here on a boat you will find Korissia-Livadi a little more entertaining than Vourkari with more in the choice of restaurants and shops for provisions.

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