The warm, buttery Oia sunsets in Santorini, the southern charm of Crete, and the mazes of whitewashed buildings in Mykonos are some of the main attractions luring travelers to Greece. While it’s true that these are some must-see sites on your Mediterranean vacation, for me the ultimate treasure is one many travelers miss. A defining trait of my slow travel experience is making the major tourist destinations supporting characters rather than the main focus of the trips. My love of slow travel tied in seamlessly with my visit to the stunning island of Kythira. Ready to fall in love? Here are the four activities that shouldn’t be missed.
1. Experience a hiker’s paradise The slow travel movement is connected with sustainability, and one of Kythira’s main activities highlights responsible tourism. The region’s hiking project began as a way to make old trails and paths more accessible, which evolved into an ecotourism and sustainability endeavor. The trails are all easily marked, providing a route to beautiful, untapped valleys and serene mountain views. If blazing eco-friendly trails aren’t alluring enough, Kythira boasts some impressive caves beckoning to be explored, and its landscape rivals that of any other Grecian island.
2. Get a glimpse of local life Plenty of places in Greece made me feel at home, but Kythira’s way of warmly revealing itself became the most welcoming. I spent my time there learning about the olive-picking season and how the olive groves affect the island’s inhabitants. My experiential trip to Xenonas Fos ke Choros enabled me to not only live in a more traditional small town but also brought me closer to a simpler, more relaxing way of life in Greece. All the residents were cordial and I found the best way to catch up on island gossip was to show up to the open market in Potamos in your Sunday best. Because slow travel allowed me to make more personal connections, I realized that each of the towns have something to offer beyond their quaint exterior. Even just sampling some delicious traditional food at a local taverna can prompt a deeper appreciation.
3. Live the sea lover’s dream Mythology marks Kythira as the birthplace of Aphrodite, likely due to its beauty beyond compare. The intoxicating shorelines draw you down from the hilltops, revealing small, sandy beaches and unforgettably blue Mediterranean water. The benefit of spending time on such a small island is that there isn’t much more to do than relax and take in the gorgeous scenery. One of the more memorable views I uncovered was a small church clinging to a cliff at the edge of the water. Legend is that this church, Agios Nikolaos o Krasas, was built by a ship captain after being saved at sea. It is a breathtaking homage.
4. Discover a historical haven You can find the icon of Panagia Myrtidiotissa (the black Madonna), Byzantine historical sites, castles, and archeological remnants on this island, with dozens of interesting stories accompanying their presence. Of course, the quickest way to learn all about the folklore is to hear it from a local. My favorite part of uncovering the history was exploring the abandoned water mills and ancient fresco in the medieval villages of Kato Chora and Paleochora. Adding to the attraction of the island are dozens of small churches, cathedrals and monasteries for you to visit.
Very few places I’ve been have made it as hard for me to leave as Kythira. I came to know the island so well, and when I left, I felt like I was saying goodbye to a little bit of home. This is a feeling you can’t get from hurriedly taking a tour bus through the historic sites. Slowing down and appreciating everything allowed me to open up a special place in my heart for Greece.
Article by Abbie Synan, originally from Pennsylvania, now calls the world her home. After years of working in medical administration, she took to a nomadic lifestyle and has spent the last two years exploring new cities, writing, volunteering and consulting. She is constantly searching for exciting experiences, taking photographs and writing stories to share on Speck On The Globe and Pink Pangea, the community for women who love to travel.
This article was originally published on Pink Pangea.