How to avoid mass tourism in Greece
Imagine waking up in a small paradise up in the mountains. You saunter to your terrace, from where you can see the beautiful blue sea and an old Venetian castle. Then, Vanessa, the manager, comes along and greets you with a hearty ‘kalimèra!’ (good morning), a big smile, and delicious breakfast. And now you know for sure – you’re on vacation in Greece.
Yup, sure enough, this is what our mornings were like when we stayed at the delightful El Sol Hotel, run by the enterprising Vanessa and her 21-year-old daughter.
Kythira is a rather popular wedding destination and El Sol is the ideal place for your guests to stay at. In fact, Vanessa even secretly told me that she will be the very best mother-in-law ever after all those conversations she’s had with mother-in-laws at so many big, fat Greek weddings!
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In my opinion, Kythera is the perfect alternate Greek experience that those of us who despise overtourism are looking for. It really isn’t Santorini or Crete. There are no hordes of tourists at this rather unknown island and everything is so charmingly, authentically Greek. Quick tip: try to travel during the shoulder season. So, May-June or September-October are good times, and definitely more sustainable. This is because locals who depend on tourism incomes will be able to benefit during a time when their sources are running dry. Not a bad view, eh? Here I am, at the El Sol Hotel, a locally owned and run establishment in Kythera. Vanessa, the fierce and fabulous entrepreneur, and her awesome 21-year-old daughter, are a team beyond compare. I not only had an exceptional experience, I also got to keep sustainability in mind and enjoy guilt-free hospitality – after all, my money stayed with the locals rather than benefiting corporations that exploit destinations. What a win-win! #supportlocal #sustainabletravel #gogreen #livelocal #eatlocal #greece #kythera #travelrebel #belgianingreece #sustainabletourism #sustainability #travel #love #gogreen #supportlocal #europe #travelrebel #ilovegriekenland #kythera #crete #greece🇬🇷 #greekislands #overtourism #griekenland #santorini #authentictravel
Kythira – beautiful and unknown
Kythira is a relatively unknown gem, a beautiful Greek island where you will not find mass tourism like that in Santorini or Crete. Just about 4,000 people live here. Fun fact: you will regularly hear Australian music as many of the previous generations emigrated to the land down under and are now coming back to find their roots or reconnect with family.
According to ancient Greek mythology, Kythira is the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. (Of course, there are several other theories about the birthplace of this goddess, as well, but this island’s character surely does fit in with this narrative.)
Best time to visit
Travel as often as possible outside the high season. Also, during the off-season months of May, June, September and October, the temperature is still great in Kythira, so you can fully enjoy your holiday.
By traveling outside the high season, you ensure a more continuous stream of income for the locals and avoid the crowds. It is also often a lot cheaper on your pocket. WIN-WIN!
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Quaint, charming, beautiful: three words that try to capture the essence of these small villages in Kythira as I stroll through them. I say ‘try’ because words really cannot do them justice. Neither can pictures. You really have to be here, totally immersed in this experience, this place, to know what I’m talking about. #greece #islandlife #kythera #europe #discover #explore #travelrebel #thattravelblog #liveinthemoment #sustainabletravel #greece🇬🇷 #kythiraisland #kythera #kythira #griekenland
Hike to your heart’s content
Kythira is the ideal destination if you like to go hiking. You will find more than 100 kilometers of trails along the beautiful coast, mountains, and more than 60 villages just waiting to be discovered.
At Pyrgos House, Frank will be happy to help you develop the perfect route and you can also receive some Dutch-language guidance, if you want.
More fun activities on the island of Kythera
Pyrgos House doesn’t just specialize in walking tours. Here, you can also book a Greek cooking workshop, taste olive oil, learn to make soap… the list is endless.
Are you very adventurous? Go canyoning, sailing, mountain biking, sea kayaking or diving.
A bit of a foodie? Taste the local cuisine at Trattamento near the beach or enjoy an evening under the trees at Platanos, sipping on some Fatourada (local herbal liqueur with a delicious cinnamon taste).
Another local delicacy that you should try is the pure thyme honey. Head out on Sunday morning and check out the selection at the local market.
Oh, definitely explore the coastal village of Avlemonas, with its picturesque bays and romantic atmosphere. Near Avlemonas, you can find the largest and most beautiful beach, Paleopolis.
Tip: combine your trip to Kythera with a citytrip in Athene
Neraida Waterfall Kythera
Another must-do activity is going to the Neraida waterfall. Take a towel and a book with you so that you can spend a few hours in the lap of nature there. Trust me, it’s totally worth it (and quite therapeutic!).
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There’s something about waterfalls that makes me forget everything bad. It’s almost as if the rush of water sweeps away all my worries, all that anxiety, and all those things that take up so much space in my mind unnecessarily. For that brief moment, all that’s left is a calmness and serenity unlike any other. And that, rebels, is something I keep trying to go back to again and again. 📸 By @thibaut_octave Customized TravelRebel jacket by @touchofgold.me #notsponsored just a big fan of this #ladyboss #womenempoweringwomen #naturebaby #nature #oneearth #greece #europe #connect #motherearth #travelrebel #kythiraisland #greatoutdoors #kythera #griekenland #greece🇬🇷 #lpgreen @ilovegriekenland @lonelyplanetnl
The Facebook group Kythira Green calls on residents and tourists to keep the island clean. A simple slogan, ‘Kythira Green, Kythira Clean’, helps remind people to resist the use of plastic.
Smart and sustainable travel tips
- Combine a trip to Athens with a few days in Kythira.
- Opt for locally operated restaurants and hotels, so you can be sure that your money will stay with the locals and have a positive impact.
- Buy artisan souvenirs and let the many typical magnets (that are actually made in China) pass you by.
- Do not accept plastic bags with a purchase.
- Do not accept plastic cups when you order take-away coffee. Ask for a recycled cardboard cup… or even better: bring your own reusable cup!
- Always say in advance that you do not want a plastic straw and bring your own sustainable straw.
- Take your refillable drinking bottle with you everywhere! So easy, so environmentally friendly.
- Always take your own reusable bag with you. (Have you seen our new eco-friendly TravelRebel tote bags?)
And, of course, do let me know how your very own Kythira adventure turns out! Happy traveling, rebels.