The island of Kea in Greece, also known as Tzia by locals, is particularly popular among Athenians, many of them have a second home on this charming island considered one of the treasures of the Aegean Sea. As the first island of the Cyclades and the closest to the Greek mainland, it is easy to go there for a weekend away from the noise and bustle of Athens!
A big thank you to my friend Alex for sharing his travel tips about Kea!
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Why you should visit the island of Kea
For its beautiful white sandy beaches, its wild creeks, its turquoise sea, its pretty traditional villages hidden in the mountains, combining Cycladic and neoclassical architecture, its delicious cuisine… The list is long! You will particularly appreciate how calm Kea is: the island is still unknown to most tourists, it is a real paradise where the authenticity of its inhabitants will transport you a thousand miles away from your daily life.
How to get to Kea, Greece
Kea’s unspoilt beauty and tranquillity are easily explained by how difficult it is to get there as a tourist! Kea has no airport and the only ferry to the island departs from the port of Lavrio, which is not as easily accessible as the famous port of Piraeus near Athens. From Kea, you can reach the rest of the Cyclades by ferry via the island of Syros.
Getting to Kea from Athens
From Athens, there are different options to reach Kea. The best, in my opinion, is to rent a car in the centre of Athens or at the airport and take the ferry with it! Car rental rates are generally cheaper in Athens, as well as the price of gas (remember to fill up your tank before you leave!). Once there, it will be much easier to discover the island with a car!
The quickest way to get to Lavrio is to take the highway to the airport and then the main road to Lavrio. The port is about 60 kilometres from the centre of Athens, a short hour’s drive.
But my advice is to leave late in the morning and follow the road along the west coast of the peninsula: you will pass through the neighbourhoods of Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Lagonissi and enjoy beautiful views of the Aegean Sea before reaching Cape Sounio. There you can make a stop before heading to Lavrio and catch the ferry to Kea at the end of the day!
The crossing between Lavrio and Kea takes about 1 hour. To book your tickets, I recommend you to use the platform FerryHopper to find the best prices and cancel at any time if necessary!
Other ways to reach Lavrio:
By bus: take the KTEL bus from Mavrommateon station, not far from the centre of Athens. The journey takes just under 2 hours and costs €5. There is also a direct bus service from Athens airport to Lavrio that takes about 40 minutes, ask at the bus stand on your way out of the airport.
By taxi: expect to pay between €50 and €60 for a trip from central Athens to Lavrio, and around €40 from the airport.
Getting Around Kea
As I mentioned above, renting a car is the best way to discover the island. If possible, take a Jeep, it will be much easier to use on the dirt roads of the island! You can use Rental Cars to find the best rental offers in Athens. If already in Kea, you can go to the Leon Rent a car & bike shop right next to the port.
You can also take the bus, you will find the routes and timetables on this website (only available in Greek unfortunately but use Google Translation!), or use taxis which will take you everywhere on the island.
Where to stay on the island of Kea, Greece
Ioulida (also called Ioulis or “Chora” by the locals, which designates the main town of an island): the capital of the island of Kea, perched on the sides of the mountains. The view is spectacular. There are many small restaurants and cafes.
Korissia: the port of Kea, easy to reach and with nice shops to discover
Vourkari: well-known for its restaurants and nightlife, many sailboats and yachts anchor there.
Koundouros: ideal if you want to drop your bags and move around as little as possible, the main beach is family-friendly.
Spathi: for a complete change of scene, right in the heart of nature! It is a quiet and remote place, perfect to recharge your batteries.
If you have a car, I highly recommend the houses of our friend Alex who we stayed with during our trip: hidden among the olive trees, the property offers breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and the town of Ioulida. A great place to spend a relaxing holiday with friends or family! Check out the Old Wine Press and the Countryside Stone Cottage.
Villas in Kea
Hotels in Kea
Things to do in Kea
See the Lion of Kea
Guard and emblem of Kea, the Lion and its enigmatic smile are the subject of many legends. According to one of them, a ferocious lion appeared on the island when it was still called Hydroussa, and chased away the nymphs who lived there. The gods then caused a terrible drought, until the arrival of the demigod Aristaeus, son of Apollo and the nymph Cyrene. The statue dates from the 6th or 7th century BC.
To get there, follow the signs for “Αρχαίος Λέων” in Ioulida, or kindly ask for directions in a shop. Reaching the Lion (or rather climbing!) takes about 15 minutes! You can otherwise find its address on Google Maps here.
Walk around the capital of Ioulida
Lose yourself in the narrow streets of Ioulida and enjoy the peace and quiet, the beautiful whitewashed houses and the colourful churches.
Stop at the town hall square, contemplate the town hall’s neoclassical architecture and take a moment to play the curious human-sized chess set.
There, you will also find many cute taverns and cafes, so why not stop in one of them?
If you like history, visit the Kea Archaeological Museum, it is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm except for Tuesdays.
Take some nice pictures of bougainvillaea blooms, and walk around until you find the main town hall of Kea which you can only admire from distance. It is a beautiful monument built into the side of the mountain.
Finally, take the time to stroll among the beautiful boutiques and small shops of Ioulida!
Watch the sunset in Vourkari
Known for its seaside restaurants and lively bars in the evening, this fishing village just 2km from the port of Korissia changed a lot in recent years to become one of the highlights of Kea Island! Enjoy a walk along the bay towards Agia Irini before sitting on a terrace to enjoy a glass of excellent local wine while watching the sunset.
Visit the archaeological site of Karthea
A visit for the bravest among you! The ancient site of Karthea is located on the southeast side of Kea, and to get there, you need to hike for more than an hour under the sun. The return journey is twice as long: remember that you will have to climb the hills on the way back to reach your car. Another option is to go by boat!
There, you will find the ruins of the most important of Kea’s four ancient cities. Visit the two ancient temples and the well-preserved theatre, and take a dip in the crystal-clear waters to cool off!
Explore Kea’s underwater world
The island of Kea is full of underwater treasures and is a real paradise for divers! There are two shipwrecks to explore: the British liner HMHS Britannic, one of the largest liner wrecks in the world, and the S/S Burdigala, a luxury liner built in the late 19th century. Kea Divers organise dives every day!
Snorkelling enthusiasts will also be delighted by the many wild coves where multicolour fishes, octopuses, starfishes, squids and more can be observed! The coastline is very well preserved compared to islands like Mykonos or Santorini due to the lower number of tourists.
Hike around Kea
If you visit Kea in spring or autumn, you will surely be tempted to discover the island through its many hiking trails. Breathtaking landscapes, views over the Aegean Sea, ancient sites and monuments, lush nature in springtime… Surely one of the best ways to discover the beauty of Kea! You can find all the information about Kea’s hiking trails on Destination Kea.
The best beaches on the island of Kea, Greece
And of course, you can’t visit Kea without spending some time relaxing on its beautiful sandy beaches! The island of Kea has dozens of beaches and coves, some only accessible by boat. Even in the middle of August, it is possible to find a deserted beach on which to bask!
Spathi: long sandy beach facing east, perfect for a morning swim. There is a small café-restaurant on site, which is very convenient as the beach is rather isolated! To get there, you have to take a dirt road which gives off a lot of dust, better to take this into account if you are travelling by scooter.
Koundouraki: less crowded and smaller than the neighbouring beach of Koundouros, it is an ideal spot when the wind comes from the north. Perfect to spend a relaxing afternoon on the sunbeds of the cafe-bar located there. You can also do water sports.
Sikamia: a beautiful wild beach! Be careful with your car when taking the dirt road to get there. Also, remember to bring water and food with you, there is nothing there!
Xila: crystal clear waters, half-organised beach ideal for watching the sunset.
Kaliskia: accessible only by 4×4, a real heaven on earth with a crystal clear sea and guaranteed tranquillity!
Other beaches: Pisses, Gialiskari, Kambi, Otzias
My advice: before choosing which beach to go to, remember to check the wind direction and choose a protected beach! The wind is strong in the Cyclades. More information on the beaches of Kea here.
Restaurants, tavernas and bars you must try on the island of Kea, Greece
Arístos: One of the most famous taverns in Vourkari, especially for its fish dishes. A must-try is the lobster pasta dish, a real treat!
Vourkaríōn: The ideal place to enjoy excellent traditional Greek dishes with a beautiful view of Vourkari Bay and the sunset.
Steki: The reference in Ioulis for traditional Greek dishes!
Magazes Restaurant: Very good fish, and the best moussaka on the island!
Leon Bar: Only 10 meters from Steki, very nice bar to go to in the evening.
Kayak Ice Cream Store: Nice rooftop upstairs, ideal for a romantic drink!
ACQUA Bar: The busiest bar in Kea, great for dancing! International and Greek music.
Best time to visit the island of Kea, Greece
Due to its proximity to Athens, most shops remain open all year round, so you can visit the island of Kea any time! But the best time to enjoy its beautiful beaches is from April to October, with July and August being the hottest and most crowded months.
Map of activities
I hope you enjoyed this travel guide about the island of Kea in Greece! You can find more information about the island on Destination Kea. Have you ever been there? Do you have recommendations to share? Let me know in the comments below!
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