"Nature hides itself" Of all the characteristic essences of pre-Socratic thought, this phrase describes fully the mystic character of Kea's natural environment. The closest Cycladic island to Attica, leaves the bulk of its visitors clueless as to the multitude of facets of its natural and rural areas, visible only to the restless traveler. It seems like Tzia unfolds an infinite, impenetrable cape over herself. One would think that the same elaborate binding of the island trunk built with stone, the stone walls and the cobblestone streets, the same binding keeps together, like a tightly woven mesh, the important historical facets of the island to-date.
For the visitor who wants to become particularly well acquainted with the wildlife/ outdoors in Kea, there are 8 pathways in different regions, which expose the majority of natural and historic riches of the island. There is a specially marked network of 35 km. of paths, of which at least 2/3 are well-preserved historical stone paths. The creation of this network is the result of the implementation of the "Mapping cultural paths of interest" program that is under development in 15 islands under the supervision of the Greek Department of Culture of the Autonomous Local Government of the Cyclades. The goal of the program is the rescue and promotion of natural and historical areas of the islands and to foster a movement towards a viable development of eco-tourism and cultural tourism.
The suggested itineraries combine the variety of beauty found in the interior mountainous areas of Kea with descents to remote beaches. They reveal to travelers trajectories, landscapes and ecosystems and lead them to forgotten monuments of the outdoors. Simultaneously, they facilitate access to areas of traditional farming and cattle raising vocations.
1. LEON ITINERARY
This itinerary combines the natural with the historical landscape of the island in an ideal way. Coming out of the northeast exit of the Hora, you will come to a number of small paths branching off the main pathway, towards various springs. The main element of the walk is the deep green valley on the western part, which the Hora settlement flanks. The itinerary initially leads to the ancient Lion, carved some thousand years ago out of a huge rock. The next stop is "horastasi" and Benjamin's Spring. The cobblestone road slopes downward towards Dosonari, amidst lush green vegetation. It arrives at the estate of Lazaridis, and its "warehouse" which embodies part of an ancient rectangular turret, then it crosses the small plateau of Kambia. The itinerary continues in a deep gorge of wild naturalbeauty. After Kokkinoi, the path meets the first houses of Otzias, on Diaselli, where is encounter the flowing spring by the same name. The itinerary is completed on the sandy beaches of Otzias.
2. ELIXOS ITINERARY
Starting from the TAXI station in Ioulis (Hora), travelers should follow the rural road from Ioulis to Korissia, until they enter the pedestrian walk to Mylopotamos. There they find the neoclassical spring of Saint Constantinos. The well-built cobblestone road, redone in the first post-revolutionary years of the 1820s, is in need of repair today. In Mylopotamos the traveler has a choice between penetrating the Flea area or exiting towards the paved road to Korissia. The first choice leads to the lush valley of Mylopotamos river. The torrent used to support 13 water mills, 11 of which are still visible on its banks: a monumental complex of pre-industrial age technology whose structure and function still impresses the traveler. This itinerary is further enhanced by ancient sites of farming, all the way to Flea, the richest spring on the island of Kea since times past.
3. ARISTEOS ITINERARY
Ioulida-Messaria-Profitis Elias-Astra-Ellinika-Agios Symeon-Karthaia
This is the longest path in the footpath network and it offers views of the internal parts of the island. It connects Ioulis (Hora) with the site of Ancient Karthaia. It traverses the forest of royal oaks at Profitis Elias, the highest point of the island, goes through small village settlements here and there, encountering springs, orchards, historical churches, ruins of ancient buildings. Characteristic are the shadowed cobblestone path of Prophet Elias, the springs in Messaria, Astra & Ellinika, the small Byzantine church of St Nicholas in Ellinika, St Stephan and St Simon. The itinerary continues on the marks of the ancient road between Ioulis and Karthaia, chiseled on the foot of the mountain Caucasus and it ends at the ancient ruins and beaches of Karthaia. The itinerary for a large sectio coincides with the rural road of Ioulis-Ellinika-St Simon as the road has replaced at these points the ancient cobblestone footpath. The itinerary may be done in segments, starting at one of the roads accessible in between settlements towards another.
4. OAK TREE ITINERARY
Episkopi Monastery-Sotira-Pera Meria-Tria Maderika-Sykamia
The itinerary towards the east of the island, through one of the densest areas of the Kea oak forest. Start at Episkopi Monastery, an important Byzantine monument of the island, with structural elements from all the historical periods embedded in the main chapel and its support areas. The main element of the itinerary is the lush vegetation, unique to the Cyclades area. The fiirst stop is the Sotiras Orchard and Springs, then the itinerary proceeds to traverse the disperse settlement of Perameria. Then it descends a treeless, rocky landscape, with a stop at the historical site and spring of Tria Maderika. The arrival to the quiet Sykamia bay comes after coming down a spiraling path on an abruptly sloped mountain. This itinerary is connected with the ARISTAIOS at Messaria, with a special marking, giving the traveler the opportunity to change destination.
5. Kato Meria-Kalodouka-Vathipotamos springs
The Kalodouka Springs, with ancient cultivation terracing and Vathipotamos Springs with theirorchards are confirmed springs from which Ancient Karthaia used to get its water.
6. Stavroudaki-Hartsidio- Vathipotamos Springs-Karthaia
Points of interest are the shady Hartsidio area where one can see ruins of a classic- Hellenistic period turret, its cobblestone path, after which it passes the Vathipotamos river leads into the same named gorge, the walk through the gorge towards Mikres Poles (the Karthaia Beaches) next to riverine vegetation, the ancient ruin sites on the Aspri Vigla hills the ancient spring edifice of Vathipotamos and various farm houses with ancient structural elements.
7. Havouna-Agios Taxiarhis-Pigadaki-Karthaia
Points of interest are the small church of Taxiarhis, the Pigadaki area with impressive samples of an extensive ancient farm, the close but historically important beach of Kaliskia.
These three itineraries (5-6-7) meet each other at significant points to form southern Kea's path network with naturalist and historically interesting areas.
8. ITINERARY SIRIOS
Ellinika-Vrysses-Saint Filippos-Saint Symeon
You may take this itinerary either from the Ellinika village or that of Aghios Symeon with the common destination Vrysses and Saint Filippos. The network for the most part is cobblestone. The hub for both areas is Vrysses. There they unite into one path, ending on the saint Filippos beach. This area is one of unique natural beauty. Characteristics of this itinerary is the crossing of the lushly vegetated Vryssorema, the descent on sharply sloped hills, the presence of water in springs in a very arid area, the multitude of stone structures to hold water, supporting small scale farming around the springs and the pristine beach of Saint Filippos.