Kimolos ...an oasis in the Cyclades
Almost untouched by the passage of time, Kimolos is an ideal destination for those who seek contact during their holiday with the Greek countryside, local people and their traditional lifestyle. The innumerable sandy and rocky beaches of the island form a tapestry of natural beauty for summer visitors. Their variety lends a special charm to each one. Fifteen minutes distant, neighbouring Polyaigos, one of the biggest uninhabited islands of the Aegean sea, offers additional attractions, even for the most demanding tastes.
Apart from the sun and the sea however, there are also other reasons why one should visit this corner of the Cyclades, not only in the summer, but throughout the whole year. Because of their volcanic origin, Kimolos and Polyaigos have a stunning variety of rocks forming colourful and impressive shapes along the coasts and in the interior as well.
Geographic isolation from continental Greece resulted in biological differentiation in both islands. Thus, today the region has a unique flora and fauna, since many of the species encountered here are endemic or rare. Two species of reptiles, the viper Macrovipera schweizerii and the lizard Podarcis milensis live exclusively in these islands, as well as in the neighbouring island of Milos. In the deep blue waters around the island swims the Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus, a species which is under the threat of extinction all over the world. Thus, north west Kimolos and Polyaigos have been included in the NATURA 2000 Network, which protects the most environmentally sensitive areas of Europe.
Kimolos also lends itself to walks in the country. Tourists can enjoy the landscape wandering around traditional kalderimia (steep, narrow lanes paved with stone and whitewashed) and admire the innumerable terraces made by farmers in order to make use of every piece of farming land.
Throughout the island there are memorials of a vanished way of life: stone threshing floors (alonia),where yoked animals walked in circles to tread the grain and the "katikies" - small buildings, often cut into the rocks, where cultivators stayed when working on the land. Donkeys still serve as a precious means of transport for elderly people, a custom now under the threat of extinction!
There are many churches and chapels (more than 80) mostly built from the 16th to the 18th century. A large number of churches adorn the main village of Horio, and there are small white chapels all over the island.
The most distinctive church in Kimolos bears the name of the Virgin Mary of Hodigitria, with an icon of theVirgin crafted in the 15th century. In the Kastro (the medieval castle from the Venetian era) in the centre of Horio, the oldest church, dedicated to the Birth of Christ and built in 1592, is well worth a visit, while particularly impressive is the church of Agios Ioannis Chrysostomos. Both churches have been designated as monuments of exceptional historical value by the Greek Ministry of Culture.
Finally, it is worth strolling round the narrow lanes in Horio, which is built in and around the Kastro. Above its three gates, one can see the coats of arms from the time of the Venetian occupation. The white-washed houses of Horio with their blue windows and courtyards full of flowers are typical of the cycladic architecture.
Particularly picturesque is also the settlement of Goupa, where fishermen keep their boats in caves dug into the rocks, the "sirmata". Undoubtedly, Kimolos is a small paradise one is strongly recommended to discover.
A few words about the island
Kimolos lies in the south-west Cyclades, north-west of Milos, 86 nautical miles from Piraeus. The island covers an area of 36 sq km with a coastline of 38 kilometres, forming numerous bays, islets, spectacular beaches and marine caves. One can reach Kimolos from the port of Piraeus, from where there is a daily ship in the summertime. Alternatively, you can travel to Milos by ship or plane. The distance from Milos, from where there is a frequent daily service, is hardly a mile.
The island has been called Kimolos since ancient times; it was named after Kimolos who was, according to mythology, the first inhabitant. It was also called Ehinoussa, either from the Greek word for the sea urchins that are still abundant around the rocky coasts or possibly because of the occurrence of vipers here (ehidna is the Greek word for the viper). The name Arzantiera (Argentiera = made of silver) was given to the island by the seamen of the west (13th and 14th century AD.), no doubt because of the outcrops of white rock.
The island is mountainous and the highest peak is Paleokastro (365m.). The vegetation is sparse and rainfall limited. There are a few streams, but they run only in winter. The most important capes of the island are Gerakia in the north , Ag. Georgios in the south and Petalida in the west. The coasts in the south and east are sandy while the ones in the north are rocky. Bonatsa, Soufi and Ellinika are some of the most beautiful beaches.
Polyaigos (that is to say, a place of many goats) or Polivos, is an uninhabited island east of Kimolos. It is rocky and arid, with remarkable coasts and beaches. Between the two islands lie two small islets, Ag. Efstathios and Ag. Georgios, named after their respective chapels.
Most of the population of Kimolos live in the main settlement, Horio. Here, you can find almost all the shops and services you might need. A short distance away, is the quiet picturesque port of Psathi, altogether different from the busy ports of the large islands. The population of the island has declined dramatically in the past decades and today, it has only 500 permanent residents.
Kimolos was mainly an agricultural island but a sizeable proportion of the population earned their living from the sea. Today agriculture is less important, although the island continues to produce meat and cheese of excellent quality. Many families depend on mining, in Prassa or on neighbouring Milos. Tourism has grown steadily in recent years. Many of the traditional island trades and professions still survive as part of the local way of life, for example, those of the blacksmith, the fisherman, the tailor and the folk musician.