Kythira's Back Roads

You’ll need your own transport to explore the back roads that thread between Kythira’s scattered villages, which pass orchards and vineyards, olive groves and stands of cypress.

In the south, the small Museum of Byzantine & Post-Byzantine Art in Kato Livadi, 6km north of Hora, houses icons and frescoes salvaged from churches all over the island. Spanning a shallow stream bed just north, incongruous Katouni Bridge, built by the British in the 19th century, is the largest stone bridge in Greece. Head southeast, following spectacular twisty roads, to reach the mauve-grey stone beach at Fyri Ammos.

Avlemonas, further up the coast, is a former fishing village turned exquisite resort. A spotless vision of blue and dazzling white, with footpaths leading across the rocks to ladders that drop into the limpid turquoise waters (good snorkelling), it’s basically everything the Greek island experience is supposed to be. The closest beaches lie to the west: first comes broad, pebbled Paleopoli Beach, then Kaladi Beach, in a separate cove and accessed via a staircase.

Few traces survive of ancient Paleopoli, just inland, but you can spend an enjoyable hour hiking up and around the hill that once held the Temple of Aphrodite, marking the birthplace of the goddess of beauty. There's not a lot left of it today, but the quiet, barren wind- and sun-battered hilltop has its own special kind of romance.

Much more substantial ruins survive of Kythira’s medieval capital, Paliohora, in the north. It’s a magnificent spot, set on a craggy pinnacle at the confluence of two deep-cut gorges. In theory it was safely hidden from enemy ships, but it was destroyed by a Turkish fleet in 1537. Strewn with the tumbledown remains of chapels and mansions, the isolated hilltop can now be reached by driving a 4km dead-end road east of Potamos, the last 2km of which is unsurfaced, or following the delightful parallel hiking trail.

Kythira has a web of quiet country roads spinning out over the island, and one of the most enjoyable things to do here is to slowly drive around, going where whim and road take you (the island's so small that you won't be able to get too lost!). At the end of the road you might find yourself on a dramatic headland, at a tranquil beach, in a pretty village or at a half-forgotten church.

Worth a Trip: Mylopotamos

The delightful village of Mylopotamos nestles in a small valley 13km north of Hora (Kythira). The tables of charming kafeneio (coffee house) O Platanos fill its tiny central square, which is flanked on one side by the walled channel of a babbling stream that's populated by tame ducks and geese. As it flows northwest towards the sea, the stream cuts ever deeper into the wooded hillside, along a gorge that once held 22 watermills. Only one now survives – Mylopotamos means ‘Mill on the River’ – but a ravishing little footpath still follows the stream, leading through luxuriant greenery to the aquamarine pool of the Neraïda (Water Nymph) waterfall.

A separate hike, signposted along the left-hand fork in the road north of the village square, takes 15 minutes to reach the older village of Kato Hora. Make your way behind a castellated 19th-century villa here and you’ll find the extraordinary ruins of Mylopotamos' Venetian-era kastro, a magical warren of abandoned churches and fortified houses, liberally overgrown with colourful flowers.