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Kea is the nearest inhabited Cycladic island to the mainland and is particularly easy to reach from Athens airport – take a bus to Lavrion and ferries run from there. Oddly enough, neither it nor its neighbour Kythnos, have ever achieved the same popularity with foreign tourists as they have with Athenians. Consequently, since the Athenians arrive in hordes in August but stay at home at most other times, Kea is usually blissfully empty. Except in August.
That’s a shame because it has so much going for it. The port of Korissia is a sunny, relaxing place lined with the statutory restaurants from which you can watch what sea traffic there is; beyond it is a long wide sandy beach making excursions to other parts of the island unnecessary. But well worth the trouble: the only road strikes NE to a couple of quiet sandy bays, Gialiskari and Otzias whilst, in the opposite direction it climbs up to the spine and takes you south, first stopping at the chora, Ioulis, an enchanting town to explore with a 6th century lion carved out of a rock on its outskirts.
Continuing south the road takes you to the charmingly named Pisses, yet another wide sandy bay with a small hotel/taverna, and then on to the rather smart area of Koundouros Bay where many Greeks have built smart second homes, all happily constructed in local stone. Kythnos is a good island for walking and the energetic may get as far as the classical remains at Karthea in the extreme SE.
To reach Kea you need no domestic flight, just a short ferry trip; and it is easily combined with Kythnos. With luck, you could even connect in Kythnos with ferries continuing to Serifos and Sifnos.