Time your visit right and you can have this island to yourself, avoiding the Athenian summer invasion. Like its neighbour Kea, Kythnos attracts relatively few foreigners, and even the majority of Greek arrivals are not tourists, but folks full of aches and pains who come to soak in the thermal spa at Loutrá; the locals often call their island Thermia.
Since the closure of the iron mines in 1940, the 1,500 islanders have got by as best they could by fishing, farming (mostly figs and vines), basket-weaving and making ceramics; the one thing that has stopped the population from dropping any further is the construction of a harbour mole in 1974, allowing ships to dock.
Perhaps to make up for its slow start, Kythnos became the first Greek island (1982) to get all of its electricity from renewable sources – wind in the winter and sun in the summer, inspiring similar projects on Mykonos, Kárpathos, Samothráki and Crete. Maybe because of their frugal lives, Kythniots tend to celebrate panegyria with gusto, donning their traditional costumes; carnival is a big event here. There are quiet sandy beaches, a rugged interior great for walkers, and welcoming people. Best of all, it’s the kind of island where old men still offer to take you fishing.
Images by Akerbeltz, chris, EnKayTee, FocalPoint, klazien1711, Roman Klementschitz