Be prepared to be charmed on Kimolos Island
What is it about volcanic Greek islands that draws me in? Is it the formations, rock formations, chiseled thousands of years ago by Mother Nature, creating hidden beaches, cracks and crevices and magical places? Is it the fact that many beaches can only be reached by boat? This inaccessibility and lack of people, combined with awe-inspiring landscapes, with large spirals coming up from the sea is breath-taking.
If you're looking for lovely beaches, but also seek Greek culinary treats, plus fascinating scenery with a dash of adventure, throw in excellent hiking both on an off the radar Greek Island which is delightfully laid back, you've found your match. Kimolos is what many call the "real Greece" and has it all: volcanic rocks, rich flora, azure skies, turquoise and aquamarine waters, rich flora and fauna, and it's unspoiled with far less tourism than other islands in the Cyclades.
The stunning church of Panagia Ikonomou
Church of Panagia Odigitria - Inside of the Kimolos Crown Jewel, dating back to 1592
As if on a movie set of the Blue Lagoon, on a Cycladic island surrounded by the teal tint of the Aegean, and a mere 20 minute ferry ride from big brother, Milos Island lies calm and serene. The Cyclades experience that does not involve the hordes of caldera gawking tourists on Santorini, nor the "party like it's 1999" revelers on Paradise and Super Paradise Beach on Mykonos Island.
I found Kimolos while searching for an Aegean island less traveled. My goal was to not only meet the locals, but to blend in with them, to mingle as an inhabitant of the island. I wished to encounter a slower pace, even in the high season. Kimolos is surrounded by piercing sunlight and azure waters, and is so peaceful and off the tourist trail that perhaps Thoreau or Hemingway might have found solace on the island.
Catch of the day
Friendly locals will invite you into their home for a meal
Kimolos is located in the southwest of the Cyclades, and around 90 miles from Athens. It takes approximately 6-7 hours to arrive as the ferries make many stops at islands along the way. It has no airport, which means there are no charters with hordes of Europeans with seven day, six night package deal vacationers who cannot enter. However, one can fly to Milos and then take the 20 minute ferry to the Kimolos port of Psathi.
Fishing Boats in remote coves
Fishing remains a main industry on the island
Strangely, with Milos being so close, just a stone's throw away, the island still remains under the tourist radar. Kimolos gets crowded for two months of the year. The high season tourist months being July and August. Furthermore, there are no cruise ships arriving either. This preserves a truly, authentic culture, creating a laid back vibe, where locals live at their own pace, attracting authentic travelers.
As I enter the Psathi, the only port on the island, I immediately notice this fact of not only tourists, but even locals. Recalling, that 30 minutes ago I was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Milos, in comparison, something was strangely different. There is a tranquil sensuality, a peacefulness that I can't quite wrap my head around. I just know that this is going to be a special place.
Donkeys, goats, sheep and horses roam the island
Horses of Kimolos against a terraced, mountain back drop
I meet with vice mayor, Taskis Sardis, who quickly greets me with "Welcome to "Kimolo mou, paradiso mou," which means Kimolos, my paradise. A phrase that the noble locals like to use to express their feelings about their blissful Shangri-La.
Most of the year you'll have find a secluded beach all to yourself
Volcanic rock formations make for stunning swimming areas
We sit at Ehinousa Restaurant chatting and chowing down over a Horiatiki, the traditional Greek salad, Souvlaki, the tender lamb on skewers, and a local focaccia-like bread, simple and lite with tomatoes, onion, and olive oil, that the locals call Ladenia. This bread quickly becomes a new foodie favorite of mine. Although not exactly pizza, the soft, fluffy bread is addicting. I'm reminded that the Greeks also invented pizza.
I want to get the lay of the land, and who better than the vice mayor to give me the scoop. Sardis reminds me, "This is not Mykonos or Santorini. We live a slow paced life, and we like it that way. We cater to tourists who seek out an authentic Greek island, where they can relax and join in with our local people."
Sardis takes me to my hotel, or "rooms to let". The quiet and peaceful Prezanis rooms and restaurant are located in Chorio, which literally means village.
Kimolos - stunning island backdrop
Sardis is quick to point out, "Kimolos has no hotels on this island, but there are plenty of rooms to rent," or as the signs say around the island, "rooms to let," in Choria Town and the beach areas of Psathi, Aliki, Bonatsa and Kalamitsi. The locals on the island own family run properties, where rooms have been created as rentals to tourists. This island is looking better by the minute.
Getting too far away or lost is not an option. All roads eventually lead back to the one village and capital of Chorio, pronounced "Horio" and the Kastro or Castle. Yet, the island of 38 Kilometers (around 23 miles to circumnavigate the tiny island), holds amazing peaks and valleys perfect for hiking.
Chorio - the quaint village is part of a castle
Getting lost on an island of a few hundred people was an enthrallment with this tiny, lava island. You can walk for miles without seeing a soul. When you do meet the rare local fisherman, women tending to their gardens or clothes lines, or locals picking olives, these moments are magical.
The pulse of the island revolves around Chorio, its lone settlement. The stunning village personifies classic Cycladic architecture, with small alleys, small eateries, and churches all dressed in white.
Kimolos is filled with 80 churches and chapels. You'll find churches throughout the island.
Chorio is actually part of the "Kastro" or castle. There you will find some remarkable post-Byzantine churches that will take your breath away. Eight have been characterized as historical monuments. The crown jewel is the cathedral of Panagia Odigitria.
Chorio revolves around the castle in the center of town, which also houses the Folklore and Archaeological museum. The sunken town of Ellinika used to exist here. The rich history of Kimolos dates back 6,500 years.
Despite the small size of the island, Kimolos is full of churches. The religious islanders have built more than eighty churches throughout the island, some in the most remote places on the island. Each church reflects experiences and faith in God. The religious islanders scattered churches around the island that were built because of a dream or a sign.
The local gastronomy contains hearty dishes made from local ingredients
Inside of Chorio you will find crosses on every street or path. The church of "Christos" or God is of particular interest as it is the oldest church on Kimolos. Another gem is the small church of Panagia Eluosa, which was built in the ruins of St. Methodia's cell.
Not surprisingly, almost any nightlife centers around Chorio. Wanting to take me on a tour of the island, vice mayor Sardis suggests that he will be my tour guide for a day. He reminds me that to explore the island, one has to go off road and that I will need to ride on the island's one, lone fire engine. I've always wanted to be paraded around on a fire engine as if I'd just won the World Series or Super Bowl.
A healthy salad made of olives, tomatoes, capers, and local cactus
On the slow paced island of Kimolos - sharing a meal is a way of life.
I'm charmed, and this further validates my choice of Kimolos as the off the beaten path, Cyclades that I want to experience and explore. Very far from my youthful summers partying on Ios, Kimolos the polar opposite of los.
The fire engine turns out to be a little bigger than an SUV or a Ford truck. As vice mayor Sardis parades me around the island on bumpy dirt roads, I'm taken back by the charm of the island. Having only one main road forces exploration, and takes you off road, through dirt side paths accessible best and traversed by a Jeep 4x4. You can traverse 38 kilometers or 23 miles easily in a day.
Levenia is a local bread toped with onion and tomato
Sardis greets each passerby that we meet. As I quickly learn, it's fair to say that everyone knows each other on this tiny island. Hospitality abounds throughout the island.
Along the way, we are greeted by local fisherman hauling in the catch of the day, who roll out the red carpet, offering us Meze, Greek appetizers, washed down with Retsina wine and ouzo. Whomever crosses our paths the feeling of "filoxenia", considering the foreigner as a friend, does not go unnoticed.
Kimolos - is filled with open spaces, coves, and fishing boats abound
The island is ripe to be explored. We discover secluded beaches with not a soul in sight. Due to its volcanic landscapes, and sheer natural beauty, and lack of uniformity, mixed rock formations of all shapes and sizes, compete with silky sand, providing quite an alternative beach experience.
The shiny lace beaches of Kimolos present an awesome beach experience, where no two beaches are alike. The chances are high that you will share the seaside with only a couple of other passersby.
A local Kimolos native shows off her cooking skills
As a hiking enthusiast, and similar to many Greek Islands, the best way to explore the land is by foot. There are numerous paved narrow streets and marked paths all over the island. You will be spellbound and take in experiences of a lifetime.
Kimolos has many beaches from which to choose and a good many of which I explored. Rema and Karas beaches are remote and created the feeling of being in natural swimming pools. Klima and Prasa, which are filled with white sand and azure waters. Monastiria, Soufi, Agioklima are in some of the spectacular bays where one could enjoy a swim, and dive from high off the rocks into the deep blue Aegean Sea. Prasa is a white sand beach popular among locals. The beaches of Aliki are have both sand and pebbles.
Skiadi is a mushroom like rock formation perhaps created from volcanic explosions in the Aegean Sea
Another highlight is the Gerakias cave. Dive into the sparkling waters, and walk its shallow waters inside the cave.
For the perfect ending to any day on Kimolos Island, take a drive to Ellinika Beach for its impressive sunsets, and marvel at the spellbinding rock formations straight out at sea of Aspragremna, where there are remains and wreckages of the ancient city of Kimolos as well as the ancient tombs.
Aspragremna - breathtaking white, jagged, uniform rocks sticking out from the sea.
On my last day I took a 2 hour hike from town to perhaps the island's most famous attraction. In the north-western part of Kimolos, on the west of a hill called Sklavos, lies a huge stone rock, formed in the shape a mushroom which residents call Skiadi, a natural rock formation attributed to the type of rocks and high gusts of wind in the area. The rock seems to be out of a lost world or a movie set. It is characterized as a geological monument of Atlantis in the Aegean Sea. The hike embraces the western coast of the island and overlooks a large part of Milos.
If you're looking for a hidden retreat, a lesser traveled Greek island experience, where you'll be welcomed with open arms by friendly villagers, may feast on traditional Greek delicacies, and be lured in by stunning scenery and dazzling, reclusive beaches, then Kimolos may just be right for you.