A little slice of paradise right under our nose
Everyone loves the Cycladic islands. It’s the archetypal image that everyone associates with Greece, whitewashed houses and churches, blue shutters, domes and sandy beaches. The more famous islands of Mykonos and Santorini continue to be the biggest draws but could we possibly enjoy these postcard views without fighting our way through the crowds? We doubted it too but yes you can and the name is Kimolos.
Just 4 hours away from Athens on the fast ferry or a flight to nearby Milos and a short ferry crossing and you’re there. From the minute you set foot on this little island, you know things are going to be different. No garish tourist signs, no one there trying to sell you a room for the night. Just a cute port, crystal clear waters and a few cafes where you can immediately enter “island time”. There is no need to rush after all, there are only 37 square kilometres to explore. You notice straight away that people act differently here. They stop to greet neighbours when driving on the road, they smile a lot and are welcoming to visitors but not in an over the top way that may seem disingenuous.
The main settlement is the Chora, or Chorio to be more precise. It has all the hallmarks of a Cycladic main ‘town’ but it’s even cuter than most. Little cobbled streets, squares with churches, restaurants and children’s voices all around. The whole place feels like it’s been touched by an artist’s brush. There are interesting shops selling beautiful artworks and gifts, the bars aren’t loud or aimed at cheap tourist deals and there are a whole host of eating options. The biggest surprise is the open air library set up by a local voluntary initiative called ‘Kimolistes’. There are in fact two spots set up already with more planned for the future. They are built using local materials, giving the feeling of driftwood carrying books to the shore. This unique local initiative does more than organise these libraries. They are involved in various creative pursuits, they put on events, clean beaches and work with the hill walking/hiking society. It’s an incredible feat for an island with just 400 full time inhabitants. The week we visited, and as the sun was setting, painting the Chorio with warm colours, we saw a number of people moving books around the cobbled streets. It gave you a warm feeling that literature and sharing what it can give us means so much to this little corner of the world.
All this culture does make one hungry though and Kimolos doesn’t disappoint there either. You can’t leave the island without trying ladenia, a local pizza without the cheese. It sounds simple but it’s extraordinarily tasty. Drag yourself away from the sea views and come to one of the bakeries at the Chorio early in the morning. The smell of the ladenia baking will stay with you for a while. For cheese lovers, there is a version called tirenia which is also pretty special. Even a basic Greek salad, or choriatiki to give it its actual name, is elevated in Kimolos because of a great local cheese called ‘xino’. A light, creamy, almost cheese spread that when combined with local capers make even a simple tomato taste unique.
It won’t be difficult to get a good meal here. The simpler the restaurant, the better in fact. Our favourite was ‘I kali kardia’ on the main road into the Chorio. A café (kafenio), which also serves everything from breakfast to lunch and dinner. Home cooking at its best, exactly what you’d want from an island like this. The owner is a character you won’t forget as he seems to work 24 hours a day, both here and at the very modern café at the port. They even seem to have class here when they’re sending you on your way!
It’s Greece though and you’ll probably be visiting in the summer. What’s the beach report? Well it’s good news on that front too. The water is so clear that you can even swim in the port. In fact, getting there early in the morning and seeing the fishing boats come in will make you feel you’re in a real life painting. The stretch that includes Bonatsa and Kalamitsi is ideal for families. There are shallow waters, a couple of beach bars with a few sun loungers and plenty of free space for everyone to enjoy. Prassa beach will provide you with the Instagram moments to make your colleagues back at work green with envy. The water is bluer than blue and the sand practically white. If you’re lucky enough to avoid the famous northerly winds, don’t miss out on a boat trip. The uninhabited Polygeos island across the water will compensate you with colours that make boats look like they’re floating in mid air.
This tiny island also shows its class when it comes to its accommodation options. There are some beautiful hotels here, from a renovated windmill with views to die for, to beachfront locations and rooms built on the outskirts of the Chorio. Anything you want, you’ll find here but with that extra touch to make it all the more unforgettable. That’s the thread that will be running through your entire holiday here though. Simply unforgettable.
This article was first published in Australian newspaper Neos Kosmos on 30th July 2016. Reproduced by kind permission, all rights reserved.