Kythera, the island of celestial Aphrodite



1. Welcome to the Island

Located in the north-west of Crete, Kythera constitutes one of the seven Ionian Islands. Its administration, however, belongs to the Attica Region, as administrative and fiscal affairs are settled mostly in Piraeus. The island is sparsely populated, counting up to approximately 4000-5000 residents. During summer, the island bustles with life thanks to the numerous tourists that visit it.


2. Etymology

According to Plato, Kythera was the island of celestial Aphrodite, goddess of Love. Homer makes references to Kythera in his epic poem The Iliad, while other ancient Greek writers strongly relate goddess Aphrodite with the island, by calling her Kythereia Aprodite (Akythiros is someone devoid of any allure and attractiveness). Isidore, on the other hand, claims that the island was named after the Kythereia Aprodite and not the other way around. He is the very first who explains the meaning of the verb Keftho and connects it with the island and the goddess. Keftho means to hide the Love, as those who make love on the island of Kythera discover their hidden passion. Other significant writers of the ancient times, such as Herodotus, Dionysius, Aristotle and Xenophon, mention the existence of an island named Kythera in their work.


3. Mythological Facts

According to the Greek mythology, the birth of Aphrodite defined the future of the island. In Hesiod’s Theogony, when Cronus castrated Uranus (Sky), his genitals fell into the waters of Kythera and, from the sea foams, Aphrodite emerged. Then the sea currents drifted her to Paphos, Cyprus, where the goddess was worshipped and declared as patron-goddess of the island. The goddess was therefore named Kythereia, after the island. At this point, it is worth mentioning that Kythera obtained the homeric characterization zathea, i.e. the sacred, divine island, as the very first temple dedicated to Aphrodite was built there.


4. Transportations

The island has a modernised airport (National Airport Alexandros Aristotelous Onassis). Both Olympic Air and Sky Express airlines operate scheduled flights to and from Athens all year long. The flights last 30 minutes and good ticket offers can be found, especially during the off-season. In addition, there are coastal shipping links to and from the ports of Piraeus and Kasteli (Crete). There are also ferries to Kalamata, Gythio and, on a daily basis, to Neapoli.



5. Life on Kythera

Kythera is full of restaurants, taverns, musical events, bars, traditional coffee houses and shops. You can take lessons in fine arts, music, dancing and singing or join the local theatre group, choir, philharmonic orchestra or conservatory. As far as physical activity is concerned, local sports clubs and gyms offer lessons on martial arts (aikido, kenpo, kick boxing), yoga and pilates. You can also join outdoor group activities, such as canyoning, cycling, hiking etc. Regarding education, there are nurseries, primary schools and a secondary school, as well as extracurricular (group and private) classes on foreign languages and school subject.


6. Attractions

There is a large number of attractions on the island: traditional villages with unique architecture, caves, castles, medieval buildings, waterfalls, picturesque harbours, mountaintop monasteries, small churches, traditional outdoor markets, gorges etc.