This Overlooked Greek Island Is A Hidden Paradise Of Serene Beaches And Tasty Food

It's hard to turn your cheek from the alluring ritz and leisure of the Greek islands that will have you gravitating towards their appealing white cottages and gold-glossed sand. While islands like Santorini and Mykonos remain among the most popular, Koufonisia — a triad of islands — remains a hidden Greek gem. Pano Koufonissi is the most developed of the trio, while Kato Koufonisi is uninhabited with no permanent residents. The third island, Keros, remains closed to the public in an effort to preserve its sacred archaeological sites. Kato and Pano are separated by an expansive sea channel, requiring a boat charter to move between them.

Budget travelers will love this underrated Greek island. However, it rarely receives the recognition it deserves, primarily because of its far-flung location from Athens. Nevertheless, it's still a prominent vacation destination among the 227 inhabited Greek islands and home to some of the most glistening and vibrant-toned waters in the Cycladic islands. The beauty of Koufonisia isn't found in luxury but rather in the joy of living in raw nature. 

The economic structure of Koufonisia only recently began to catch on to modern developments in the 1980s, and the town still remains somewhat rural and remote. Koufonisia tends to be quieter than its Santorini sister, retaining its identity as, first and foremost, a small fisherman's village. Aside from its rugged beauty, the islands beckon guests with a string of sun-soaked beaches and indulgent food that treats them to the very best of Greek cuisine.

Explore the beaches of Koufonisia

There are too many beaches to count on Koufonisia, with more than one dreamy escape that emulates photos flashed across the covers of luxury coastal travel guides. Sunbathers and swimmers will want to head to the eastern side of this gorgeous Greek island, where nearly all of Koufonisia's most enamoring beaches reside. It's unlikely you'll find any umbrellas or beach blankets perched on the sand banks of many of these golden beaches.

Fanos and Platia Pounta are two pristine beaches that offer an idyllic escape, with the former attracting younger, more daring crowds that often surf. If you're looking for a little more buzz and action, Fanos has a small string of beach bars on the cusp of its shore. However, Pori is said to be the most radiant and charming beach on this island. It is especially perfect for an all-day beach outing, with an Italian-style beach bar lining the shore. Pori Beach also hosts a three-day music festival in July. 

Nestled in the cove of the rocks is a natural swimming pool that's perhaps the most delightful waterhole experience on the entire island. Travelers hoping to explore off the beaten path can find Laki and Nero Beach, located just across the channel on the island of Kato Koufonisi. While not as convenient to reach, the nearly vacant sand dunes and peaceful respite from the rest of the world make them an alluring voyage.

Indulge in a colorful, culinary oasis

Pita bread, hummus, and falafels — many of us are all too familiar with the scrumptious cuisine attributed to Greek culture. From historic tavernas to upscale Mediterranean kitchens, it's hard to resist the food in the place where mithizra (Koufonisia's staple cheese) and chickpeas are at the helm of the dining table. Given the small size of the island, restaurant operating hours tend to fluctuate with the seasons. Dining establishments may stay open for extended hours during the high seasons but often close in the afternoons to relieve their staff with a bit of rest.

Koufonisia's age-old heritage as a fishing village is responsible for the plentiful supply of seafood that forms the basis of staple foods on this island. Vinegar-marinated octopus, fried calamari, fish soup, and the grilled catch of the day are all essential maritime plates you'll likely come across on Koufonisia. Of course, a slew of land-based dishes, like patatato (stewed goats with potatoes) and cabbage rolls with beef tartare, complement the seafood-forward culinary landscape.

A trendy open-air restaurant, Tzet delivers the best of Mediterranean cuisine, but its menu doesn't stop there. Wood-fired pizzas, innovative aperitifs, and a long-running wine list make this spot the perfect all-day eatery underneath the sun. Alternatively, Melissa dives deep into the native cuisine of this island, from land to sea. Octopus stifado and goat stew only scratch the surface of the food offerings at this vintage taverna, complemented by a traditional spread of Greek starter plates.