Kea is for travellers who think creatively. Kea is for those of us who breathe deeply and become high on mountain air and a salt breeze from the sea. Kea is for people who will walk for five miles to stand on the steps of an ancient temple where a lost city once honored their gods (a must-see! Ancient Karthea!!). Because even though Kea has beaches as beautiful as any of the other Cyclades islands, where it really shines is inland with ancient terraced fields everywhere and fertile valleys and ravines that wind through the mountains. The island has a network of ancient footpaths and roads and anyone who loves walking will appreciate its tough beauty.
Though it appears barren when you first approach the bay of Άγιος Νικόλαος by ferry Kea is rich in olive trees, fruit trees, almond trees and the oak trees whose acorns, which were used to make dye, were the primary livelihood of the inhabitants for centuries.
Ioulida, Kea’s capital, is spectacular. A rare village perched on the slopes of a couple mountains. You can wander around the streets and alleyways for hours and become completely lost in the jumble of streets and steps, or you can hang out in the several village squares, each one with restaurants and cafes, peopled by locals and Athenians and the occasional ambitious tourist on his way to see the smiling Lion.
Wandering through the jumble of streets you’re safe, for all cars must not enter the village. Only donkeys prevail here! Continuing along you will pass the Cathedral of Agios Spyridon and at the end of the village you will find yourself on the old stone road that takes you past the spring of Kounderis. The whole area is very green with olives and fig trees as well as fields on the terraced mountainside. A little past the cemetery and a small whitewashed church is the Lion of Kea, a huge statue carved out of granite from the 6th century BC. This is the journey that most foreign travelers take and well worth the walk which is level and quite easy to make on the old road. Not much is known about the Lion and why he is smiling, but they say in the old days Lions used to roam the hills chasing the nymphs. Beyond the lion is yet another spring, this one called the Spring of Benjamin, with it’s troughs for the animals and marble columns. The path continues on to Otzias if you are the type who loves walking.
In fact the walking is great in Kea since much of the old road network still exist as do the footpaths which go all over the island. They are numbered on the map and many have signposts that tell you the distance in minutes from the next village.