Nisoi Koufonisia is a pair of islands in the Middle Cyclades. Located to the northeast of Skhinousa, the islands are Kato Koufonisia to the southwest and Epano Koufonisia (or Pano Koufonissa) to the northeast. Kato and Epano refer to the ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ islands.
The main Koufonisia town is an active spot with a harbor of its own, providing tourists with provisions and accommodation. In recent years, several berths have been created in the harbor on the Epano Koufonisia. The island provides some shelter from the northerlies but is vulnerable to wind from the south.
Koufonisia is now administrated by the municipality of Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades.
Navigation and Anchoring
The whole of Koufonisia and its anchorages are open to the meltemi with only a few coves and covered channels providing some comfort. Anchoring at the Koufonisia basin and between Dhrima and Andikaros is most recommended.
Anchoring suggestion across the bays is less than five meters. Holding overall is decent as the seabed is mostly sand and weed.
Alternatively, there is a ferry terminal at the Koufonisia village that can take you around the anchorages and to and from nearby islands such as Naxos.
History of Koufonisia
Although it has not been corroborated, the island of Koufonisia got its name from the term ‘Koufos Limin’, which means a ‘lee port’ in Latin. This is ironic as the island offers very little protection from strong winds in all directions.
The island used to be known for its ancient caves. What was left of its ruins were excavated and shifted out for preservation in the neighboring Naxos Museum. Since the island was historically inhabited during the Hellenistic and Roman eras, the excavation also found utensils and personal artifacts.
As with other islands, Koufonisia also had its fair share of battles at the hands of Venetians, Romans, and Turks in ancient times. Ultimately, it was annexed by the Greek order in the early 1800s.
Historical texts suggest that Koufonissia had a decent population until the second world war, after which a rise in unemployment forced many to leave for nearby islands like Naxos and Athens in search of jobs. Legend has it that during these years, there was only one apothecary in the Lesser Cyclades, who often failed to sail to the island due to unfavorable sea conditions.
Today, only a few hundreds live on the island, with the majority of them dwelling in Epano Koufonisia. Fishing is a primary occupation.
Places of Interest In and Around Koufonisia
There is not much for sightseeing at Koufonisia except for ruins and a well-maintained church. Apart from the local culture in the chora, you can explore the beaches and the bays. There is also some Cycladic architecture to see in the village, most notably the ‘Steosa’, a peculiar form of ceiling make that is prevalent across the homes on the island.
There is a church called the Church of Panagia in Kato Koufonisi, which is said to be built on top of ancient ruins.
The Epano Koufonisia village also has a standout windmill right at the entrance of the bay. This is visible from a distance and is said to be the most recognizable quality of Koufonisia.
The island of Keros is also known for its rich Cycladic architecture. However, most of it is in ruins and unrecognizable.
Reasons to Visit
Apart from the usual sightseeing and resting, you can also partake in:
- Stroll ashore or take a dip in the clear waters of beach Pori
- Religious festival celebrations
- Local wedding traditions
Koufonisia is a decent provisioning stop. You will find electricity boxes, water provisions, and food here. Berths for tourists and hotel accommodation are also available, but they may not be active throughout the year. Small cafes and tavernas offering local food line the shore of Epano Koufonisia.
Kato Koufonisia is not suited for provisioning.