Kea or Tzia as the island is also commonly known, is the westernmost island of the Cyclades group. Its shoreline is 85 kilometers and its surface area covers 131 square kilometers.The port is just 40 miles from Piraeus and 16 miles from Lavrion, making it the closest island the Cyclades group to Athens. There are daily sailings from Lavrion, and travel time is about one hour. There are also boat connections to Syros and Kithnos from the island.
Due to its proximity to Attica, Kéa is an easily accessible beauty with a scenery variety: steep mountains, small fields, olive groves, vineyards, valleys, picturesque coves, exciting hiking trails and off-the-beaten-track beaches. On the island with the largest oak forest in the Cyclades bird-watching is a real delight. For those who are into geology, there are plenty of small caves (like in Kálamos and in Áyios Timótheos). 36 km long cobbled trails will lead you to the four city-states of the ancient times: Ioulis, Karthaia, Koressia, Poiessa). Situated in the centre of the island, at the site of the ancient city-state by the same name, the capital of Kéa (or Tziá), Ioulis, is a very picturesque town with ceramic-tile roofed houses, cobbled streets, arched passages, steps and squares.
Kea stands out for its rich flora. Visitors can admire its woods of royal oak, one of the few remaining oak woods in the Aegean. Acorn oaks grow in the central and eastern parts of the island. The island claims 16 of the 1,300 plant species endemic to Greece. Five of these have been designated rare, and southeastern is protected under the Natura 2000 program. Wild orchids, medicinal herbs, aromatic shrubs, rare mushrooms, multicolored lichens, chestnut trees, maples, Phoenician junipers, terebinths, Judas trees, crocuses, irises, bellflowers, anemones, wild roses, hyacinths, wild gladiolas, asphodels, and Spanish broom carpet the island, creating a unique palette of colors and perfuming the air with their fragrances to the delight of all nature-loving visitors and inhabitants. Kea's coast curves into small bays and coves; it's also riddled with sea caves. The expansive Ayios Nikolaos Bay, one of the Mediterranean's largest natural harbors, is on the island's northwest coast while Otzias, on the east, is open to northerly winds. Harbors on the island's northwest are at Koundouros, while there is also anchorage at Poles and Spathi coves on the eastern coast and Poisses on the western coast.
In the area of Cavo Doro there are also many more or less ancient shipwrecks. It is believed that the Greek ships were wrecked here on the way back from Troy. As technology has advanced, the passage is now safer and became a challenge for people who enjoy sailing; in a way, passing by Cavo Doro is considered to be an extra badge of skill for sailors. In Kea’s waters lies the wreck of the Britannic, sister ship to the Titanic, a favourite destination for diving enthusiasts.
In terms of its history, Kea was once called the Water Island, Ydroussa, and it is believed that the name is connected to the water nymphs, that lived here according to mythology. Because it was such a pretty island, the gods' got jealous, and sent a lion to ravage the land. The nymphs fled, and as a subsequence, the island dried out. The Keans then asked Apollo's son Aristaeus for help, and he built a temple to Zeus, who apart from being the highest god, also was the one who sent rain. This pleased him, and the nymphs and waters returned, giving Kea a fertile soil with good crops. The island has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and later on, in the 6th cent., The poet Simonides was born here. The island was quite prosperous and it was known for its Kean Law, which made all citizens who lived to be 70 commit suicide by drinking hemlock, which still grows on the island. In the 13th century, the island was ruled by the Venetians, and 300 years later by the Turks. Meanwhile, Kea was often raided by pirates, and the locals suffered greatly. It is therefore not surprising that Kea was one of the first Greek islands to enroll in the War of Independence in 1821. In 1930, it was liberated.
What to See : The most famous sight on the island is the Lion of Kea, or Lionda. It is a big, archaic sculpture of the mythical lion (see history). Visit the exhibits evidencing prehistoric human life in the Neolithic settlement of Kefalá (3,300-3,200 BC) and in the early Cycladic settlement of Agia Irene. The monastery of Panagia Kastriani is also worth a visit, and you can even stay here in one of its cells. The monastery dates back to the 18th century. In Ioulis there are also a few interesting churches, as well as an ancient acropolis. There are also ancient remains of temples in Korissia.
Kea is one of the most visited islands for the aficionados of sailing, due to its proximity to the Attica land. The area between Cape Sounio, Kea and Makronissos (means “Long Island” in Greek) is named Cavo Doro (Kafireas during the ancient times). Due to different steams and winds blowing from several directions it is considered to be one of the most difficult passages in the Mediterranean Sea. Actually, the meaning of Cavo Doro is not “Cape Gold” but a paraphrase of Cavo Duro, which mean Hard Cape.
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