Koufonisia is a small group of three islets, east of Naxos and west of Amorgos; these are Pano Koufonisi and Kato Koufonisi, and long-deserted Keros, and they are separated by a narrow 200 m wide strait. They were named Koufonisia, meaning hollow islands, because of the huge caves which gave the impression to pirates who viewed them from a distance that the islands were hollow. Out of the three islands, nowadays Pano Koufonisi is the only populated one. Koufonisia are a favorite destination for those who seek to relax on their holidays, and look for sheltered golden sand beaches, small natural pools of turquoise waters, feasts in the original ‘island way’ and fresh seafood.
Fishing Boats at Koufonissia.
On Pano Koufonisi, the best beaches are at Loutro, Parianos, Foinikas, Fanos, Italida, and Pori where one can windsurf as well. On Kato Koufonisi, visit the solitary paradise sandy beaches at Panagia, Detis, and Nero. One can also tour the island by boat and admire the sea caves as well as the nearby islets Glaronisi, Prasoura, Voulgari, Tsouloufi, Lazaros and Megali Plaka; all of them have been designated as areas of great natural beauty.
Worth seeing is the white windmill which stands at the port entrance as if welcoming visitors. Chora is further up: a typical Cyclades village with white-washed houses and picturesque alleys. In the center you will see Agios Georgios church, the island’s patron saint. Rent a bicycle and tour the island following the shoreline. Visit the inland area and hike along the paths from Chora to Pano Meria.
By Yanni Haviaras - Own work, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1066632
Locals simply love a good feast. On April 23, feast day for Agios Georgios, the island patron saint, the master of the ceremony takes the Saint’s icon around, escorted by fishing boats which sail along the shoreline. The “Fisherman’s Feast” takes place on June 24 and delicious kakavia seafood soup is offered to all. On August 15 the locals sail to Kato Koufonisi for the big feast in honor of Panagia (Virgin Mary).
According to archaeological findings, Koufonisia have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Excavations in Epano Mili brought to light evidence that dates back to the earliest period of Cycladic civilization. One of the most important findings from this period is a fryer-shaped vessel with a nine-ray star on it, exhibited in Naxos museum. Excavations on the east shore brought to light remains dating to Hellenistic and Roman times.
In the course of history, Koufonisia followed the fate of the rest of Cyclades islands. They were dominated by the Venetians and the Turks, who, mostly in the 17th c., fought for the rule of the Aegean Sea. Residents of Koufonisia, often joined forces with the residents of Mani or with pirates, who were using the channel between Pano and Kato Koufonisi as a safe shelter. Koufonisia were set free along with the rest of Cyclades islands and incorporated into the Greek state in 1830. During the German occupation in World War II (1941–1945), the islands' residents faced hard times. Just after the war, the island had 1000 inhabitants, however, since then, many of them left and migrated to Athens and elsewhere to find work.
There are many places of interest that someone should visit during their stay on Koufonisia, such as the central and the back port, the piscatorial shelter, the carnagio, the windmills and the churches of Agios Georgios, Agios Nikolaos and Profitis Ilias. The fishermen in their small boats form a characteristic picture of the island. The full-moon nights and Keros' view in the moonlight are a unique experience for the visitors. According to the residents of Koufonisi, the contour of the deserted island in the night resembles a female, prostrated Cycladic statuette. According to the same description, the first full moon (on 21 of June) is coming up from the womb of this female figure. The church of Virgin Mary is one of the most important sights on Koufonisi, whereas in Keros apart from the archaeological findings, one can enjoy a captivating sunrise.