Kea is known for many things. It has exceptional beaches and one of the best system of walking paths and trails of any Greek island. Kea is a hiker's paradise with numbered routes that take you through a variety of landcapes to remote coves and the ruins of ancient cities.
The restaurants on Kea are among the best in Greece and the summer features a number of cultural events, and an outdoor movie theater with new first-run movies (usually in English) that change every 2 days.
Because of its proximity to Athens (just 2 hours by bus and ferry) Kea has always been popular with Athenians who have holiday homes here that they only use on occasional weekends in the summer and for much of August. But come any other time and you won't even see them. If you are looking for an island that is close to Athens but has the feeling of an island much further away, then Kea may be the place for you.
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). 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.
What to Do
On many of the beaches of Kea there are water sports and beach volley. If you like fishing, you won't be alone, and there is also a mini golf course.
There are many sandy beaches on Kea, and just to mention a few, there is Otzias, Koundouros and Korissia. At Koundouros you'll find most of the watersports.
There is not much nightlife to talk about here. Ioulis and Koundouros seem to be the best places to go for a bit of it, but the two villages rather have taverns and cafes than bars and clubs.
There are some excellent local specialties to be tried out in the taverns of Ioulis, Koundouros, Korissia and Vourkari. The local sausages, pork dish "Paspala", cheese and wine are a must, as well as some of the sweets made of local honey.
There are not many tacky souvenir shops on Kea, in stead, you'll find a lot of handmade ceramics, carved wood and leatherwear.
There is a local bus which will take you to the main villages. I have not found any info on car or bike renting, though..
It is a little bit difficult to get here since there are not many boat connections. The best thing to do is to fly to Athens, and then take the ferryboat or hydrofoil over.